Thoughts (and chocolate) for Loving Day and Juneteenth

Hello! Happy solstice, a day to mark planetary shifts!

Below are a couple of my social media posts on two other big days in June — Loving Day, and Juneteenth — plus chocolate to go with them!

Enjoy!

Valerie Beck is in Chicago, Illinois.
June 11 at 2:19 PM ·

Happy Loving Day tomorrow, June 12!

No, it’s not another Valentine’s Day, though it could be! Loving Day celebrates interracial marriage, by marking the anniversary of the unanimous US Supreme Court decision in 1967 in the case of Loving v Virginia, which said no state can make interracial marriage illegal, and that blacks and whites and anybody else can legally marry each other or anyone of any background. This recognition of freedom to marry who you choose also underpins the later 2015 US decision recognizing same-sex marriage, so happy Pride Month too!

It always seemed like common sense or basic human rights to me, to live as you choose and love whom you choose, without interference from government, oligarchs, vigilantes, or anyone else. Maybe that’s in part because as you may know, I come from a mixed race and mixed religion family! In case you’re curious, this post in another one of my blogs, Diary of My Disastrous Law Career, gives you a bit of background on my family, plus fun vintage photos!

So, I’ve gathered here today some delicious craft chocolate that explicitly represents love — Chocolatasm‘s Hawaii salt chocolate hearts, the Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate Love & Happiness raspberry orange olive oil chocolate bar, and the Violet Sky Onward & Upward Love rose and pistachio chocolate bar on which I collaborated, plus Love-themed snacking cacao by Good King Cacao — to say happy Loving Day, and here’s to our human birthright of love, liberty, and unity! May we deepen and expand these elements in our hearts and in our world, for the Golden Age of empathy and equality!

#lovingday

Valerie Beck is in Chicago, Illinois.
Yesterday at 1:10 PM ·

Hello! Happy #Juneteenth!

This date [June 19] marks the ending of (1st-wave) slavery in the United States. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, during the Civil War over slavery, yet enslaved people achieved liberation over an elongated period of time, culminating on June 19, 1865, in Texas.

But wait, you or people of the future may ask: aren’t all people born free, as expressions of the One Great Soul, and isn’t it true that no political or social (or tech-med) structure shall violate the fundamental principles that people are to care for people (e.g. love thy neighbor) and exercise their own liberty and free will while respecting that of others?

Of course!

To celebrate eternal inviolable liberty, how about a delicious liberation brunch of Crow & Moss Chocolate of Michigan, and Xocolatl Chocolate cacao nibs, on cinnamon toast with berries, all organic?

But wait, you may ask: what makes this a liberation brunch? Here comes one of my it’s-all-connected stories : )

My mother often made cinnamon toast for us kids when we were growing up, so I always think of her when I make it! She spent part of her childhood in Michigan, on a small family farm in a township that had been illegally racially integrated since its founding in the 1860s. That’s not a typo: racial mixing was illegal in the US, mixing of the One Human Family, in the North too. But people in Mom’s area did it anyway because it was ethical and practical, sending their black children and their white children to the same school for example. When my mother spent a summer with relatives in the South as a little girl in the 1950s (the time of 2nd-wave slavery: brutal “Jim Crow” apartheid), she was horrified by the abuses against black people. Now the laws have changed, and segregation is illegal, yet it happens in many ways including incarceration where prisoners work for the state or corporations for little or no pay (part of 3rd-wave slavery), or consider West Africa where over 2 million black kids work in hazardous or slavery conditions on cacao farms so corporations can sell cheap chocolate.

Mom never bought Aunt Jemima “slavery syrup,” and doesn’t buy slavery chocolate. Voilà! @ Chicago, Illinois

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Valerie Beck

Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift

Craft Chocolate Activism, Brokering, Consulting, Distribution

www.chocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

IG: @chocolateuplift

Women Entrepreneurs Making Social Impact [slides, chocolate ordering links]

Hello!

harvard women chocolate presentation
A selection of women-made or -led ethical chocolate brands

What a blast to give a zoom presentation for an amazing group of my Harvard College women classmates today about *Women Entrepreneurs Making Social Impact,* and to share my journey and mission of Uplift Through Chocolate!

Here is the link to my slides; be sure to open them all the way to see the information and links in the Notes sections! Enjoy, and scroll down this page for online shopping links to woman-owned retailers and woman-owned or -led brands!

20180902_182005
We are Harvard and proud: outside my former dorm Stoughton (left in photo) a couple of years ago for Convocation. Here are the slides to my talk today for Harvard women classmates.

We are celebrating the 100-year anniversary of women’s right to vote here in the US, and I applaud my classmates who organized a video chat series for us featuring stories of women’s activism! Our college reunion next month was canceled due to the coronavirus situation (stay well, and keep perspective: 11 million people die each year from poor diet — including from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes caused by eating industrial Big Food — that’s 1 in 5 deaths globally and that’s 50 times more than have died from covid-19, so why haven’t we shut down Big Food and the outlets like Amazon that sell it?), and we are moving forward with our own events, virtually!

I gathered beautiful and delicious craft chocolate bars shown here from woman-owned or -led brands, to wave around on-screen, along with the fascinating book 1491 (click for a related article by the book’s author in The Atlantic) about life in the Americas before Columbus — we can learn a lot from the societies of indigenous people, like the one that had a grandmothers council of wise women to approve or reject political plans — which includes information about the role of cacao and chocolate.

Also recommended: the excellent documentary Setting the Bar, which gives insights into the role of women in a cacao-growing region today and features several of my dear clients and friends, and an awesome article called “The Chocolate-Brewing Witches of Colonial Latin America!”

(Those links are also in my slides.)

ecuador cacao pod
Cacao: immunity-boosting superfood!

 

Mother’s Day is coming! Where to buy the amazing craft chocolate bars I discussed in my presentation, which meet my 5 Ss of

  1. slavery-free (remember to look for the cacao country of origin)
  2. soy-free / industrial additive-free
  3. sustainable
  4. small-batch, and
  5. scrumptious:

 

Woman-owned retailers, carrying woman-owned or -led craft chocolate brands, order online or by phone and tell them I sent you

Beacon Hill Chocolates in Boston

    • Look for:
      • Bixby Chocolate of Maine
      • Ritual Chocolate of Utah

 

Cocoa + Co. in Chicago

    • Look for:
      • Xocolatl Chocolate of Atlanta

 

Gourmet Boutique in Boston

    • Look for:
      • Askanya Chocolate of Haiti

 

Rare Bird Preserves in Oak Park, Illinois

    • Look for:
      • Bixby Chocolate of Maine
      • Ritual Chocolate of Utah

 

Direct from woman-owned brands, order online and tell them I sent you

  • Askanya Chocolate of Haiti, ships from New York City, use coupon code ASKCHOCO2020 for 20% off
  • Fresco Chocolate of Washington State
  • Good King snacking cacao from Honduras and Indonesia, ships from Seattle, free shipping

 

Male-owned retailer, carrying some great woman-owned brands, order online and tell him I sent you

Yahara Chocolate of Wisconsin

    • Look for:
      • Belú Cacao of El Salvador
      • Chequessett Chocolate of Cape Cod, Massachusetts
      • Fruition Chocolate of New York State
      • Xocolatl Chocolate of Atlanta

 

Male-owned retailer, carrying some great woman-owned brands, open for walk-ins, tell him I sent you

Totto’s Market of Chicago

    • Look for:
      • 9th & Larkin of San Francisco
      • Chocolate Tree of Scotland
      • Good King snacking cacao of Honduras and Indonesia by way of Seattle

 

Most of the women chocolate makers and retailers I spoke with the other day in preparation for my presentation basically said the same thing: any income still coming in goes to their employees during these days of virus pandemonium. So whether you shop with a retailer or directly with a brand, you are helping their (mostly women) employees!

 

womenmade incountry chocolate
A selection of woman-made in-country chocolate: the chocolate bars were made in the same country where the cacao was grown, which means more profit and pride for local teams than if the cacao were exported without making a finished product

As you may know, my business Chocolate Uplift generally doesn’t sell chocolate to the public since closing the subscription box part of the business; instead, I sell and distribute craft chocolate bars like the ones listed above wholesale to retailers like the ones listed above, and also provide consulting services to chocolate makers and cacao farm owners, and speaking engagements to the public and for meetings and events.

I also operate a free “chocolate-finder” service: if there’s a type of chocolate or a flavor or a brand you want, and you don’t know where to order it, ask me and I’ll find out and tell you!

Thank you, and keep eating real chocolate!

Onward and upward!

Your friend in chocolate,
Valerie

valerie chocolate hug
Sending you a chocolate hug, as we move toward a world that nourishes people and planet! That’s Uplift Through Chocolate!

Valerie Beck

Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift

Craft Chocolate Brokering, Consulting, Distribution

http://www.chocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

IG: @chocolateuplift

[Article] Uplift Through Cacao: Tanzania Cacao from Kokoa Kamili

Hello!

tanzania cacao
Delicious craft chocolate made from ethical Kokoa Kamili Tanzania cacao, and Kokoa Kamili cacao nibs, gathered in my kitchen

Thinking of Earth Day, and dreaming of global health systems that work for people and planet, I’m excited to share an inspiring article in Saveur on cacao from the innovative Kokoa Kamili cacao social enterprise in Tanzania.

The Best Chocolate In Africa

How one Tanzania chocolate company is helping farmers grow better cacao—and demand a better price.

Hilary Hueler

April 7, 2020

Working with 4,000 farmers in the lush Kilombero Valley, Kokoa Kamili ferments and dries the cacao, providing quality cacao to many of the craft chocolate makers I work with — such as those whose chocolate bars are pictured here and below — and uplifting growers with higher pay in the process!

The cacao and the resulting chocolate meet my 5 Ss:

  • slavery-free
  • soy-free and industrial additive-free
  • sustainable
  • small-batch
  • scrumptious!

tanzania new
Additional wonderful craft chocolate brands I work with who buy cacao from Kokoa Kamili (also gathered in my kitchen)

Enjoy this wonderful article with excellent descriptions and photos of the cacao process and of the beautiful local environment, and keep eating real chocolate that supports people and planet!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

tanzania fans
Introducing Kokoa Kamili co-founder Simran Bindra (back right) to Lan (front right) and Brian (back left) of 9th & Larkin Chocolate, who had already purchased his cacao and made delicious chocolate from it, at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle

Valerie Beck

Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift

Craft Chocolate Brokering, Consulting, Distribution

http://www.chocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

IG: @chocolateuplift

tanzania chefs choc

tanzania dandelion nibs

tanzania dandelion

tanzania kokoa kamili

Romance Around the Corner

Happy chocolatey Valentine’s Day!

romance around the corner
Romance Around the Corner, by yours truly, is a spiritual and practical guide to attracting the man of your dreams! Pairs well with chocolate!

It’s all about love:

Here’s the book I wrote in 2005 on how to attract the man of your dreams, Romance Around the Corner; it still works ; ) — I used to give seminars on the 8 steps in the book and we saw 6 marriages and many relationships happen due to the program — and I find it pairs well with Xocolatl Chocolate‘s exquisite Love & Happiness bar, which consists of raspberries and blood orange-infused olive oil swirled into ethically-made 2-ingredient dark chocolate (cacao and sugar, all you need)!

Find the book on Amazon (it’s part spiritual growth guide, part practical how-to, part mini-memoir), and find delicious Xocolatl Chocolate bars at @ammasumma, @theavondalecoffeeclub, @cocoaandcochi, @honeycreeperchocolate, @rarebirdpreserves, @reprisecoffeeroasters, and @yaharachocolate!

Onward and upward!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

valerie in pink
Cheers with hot chocolate, to love and chocolate!

Valerie Beck

Craft Chocolate Brokering, Consulting, Distribution

http://www.chocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

Instagram @chocolateuplift

love and happinesscacao and sugarback of the bookback of the bar

My 2017 Chocolate Maker of the Year, and the Power of Reinvention

by Valerie Beck, Chocolate Muse

“Your power to choose the direction of your life allows you to reinvent yourself, to change your future, and to powerfully influence the rest of creation.” —Stephen Covey

IMG_20170124_085904_823
New beginnings: reinvented Chocolate Naive, best of 2017!

Magic at hand: Chocolate Naive, reinvented inside and out, comes from the innovating and iconoclastic mind of Domantas Uzpalis, my Chocolate Uplift 2017 Chocolate Maker of the Year!

Domantas uses custom technology, proprietary processes, creative concepts, and unique flavor profiles involving housemade inclusions, to create the exquisite taste, outrageously smooth and seamless texture, and mind-expanding experience of this one-of-a-kind brand, making it my best-in-show when he previewed his newly reimagined line at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco in January 2017! Domantas combines a kind heart and a scientific mind, both enlivened with keen humor, and his chocolate blends simplicity and sophistication, reinvented with authentic precision.

Chocolate Naive is made in Vilnius, Lithuania, and perhaps like that historically fascinating and contemporary cutting-edge city just a 1.5 hour flight from Stockholm or a 2.5 hour flight from Paris, the chocolate is simple yet sophisticated, elegant while whimsical, worldly yet naive.

For example, Chocolate Naive’s angelic Kefir chocolate bar, part of the brand’s Forager collection, is silky and delicious. I included it in my June Chocolate Uplift craft chocolate subscription boxes to rapturous welcome by subscribers, as it brings a refreshing yet gentle tang from Domantas’s housemade kefir, which he blends into his exquisite craft chocolate, in this case on Bolivia cacao. The kefir isn’t layered upon the chocolate, or sandwiched between chocolate, it’s *in* the chocolate, for a marvelously smooth journey. (If you’re wondering what is kefir, click to learn more!) The bar is a probiotic paradise, in a dance of double fermentation, as both kefir and chocolate are fermented foods!

As are all of the bars in my subscription boxes and at my speaking engagements, where Kefir has also been a huge hit, it’s also sustainable, child-slavery-free (yes, you read that correctly, and if you’ve been following, you know that raising awareness of and eradicating child slave labor in cacao and chocolate is a mission of mine through my #chocolatefreedomproject; click for a Fortune Magazine video and article on child slave labor in Big Chocolate), soy-free, small-batch, and scrumptious. And the Kefir bar seems particularly well suited for breakfast! Click for the unboxing video!

IMG_20171214_143456_088
Subtle intensity – or intense subtlety? – is created in the Spices bar from Chocolate Naive by Domantas Uzpalis, my Chocolate Uplift 2017 Chocolate Maker of the Year.

Then in December 2017 I selected Chocolate Naive’s Spices chocolate bar, part of the Equator collection, with its bold and warm intensity, for my subscription boxes, and it too was a massive success.  It contains a special house blend of cinnamon, ancho pepper, and vanilla, adding winter warmth and sultry spice to the luscious chocolate into which it is seamlessly mixed, all with signature saturated flavor, again evoking simplicity and sophistication simultaneously. (There’s no December unboxing video yet; I’m looking for a new videographer for my unboxing videos — can you help??)

And then there’s the Tahini bar with housemade tahini, the Porcini bar with locally foraged mushrooms, the Peanut Butter bar with housemade peanut butter – you get the idea! And the idea is big.

IMG_20170510_095111_005
Watch for this luscious yet controlled bar in my January Chocolate Uplift craft chocolate subscription boxes!

Chocolate Naive was founded in 2010, and reinvented inside and out for the recent relaunch. New Naive presents exquisite chocolate bars made from new recipes, eliminating soy lecithin, and based on just cacao and sugar — all you need! Click to see why I don’t want soy lecithin in my chocolate; short answer: because it’s an industrial slurry processed with hexane and acetone, with effects on and implications for flavor, texture, and health.

Indeed, the craft chocolate movement generally involves a reimagining of 20th century corporate business models that were based on maximum profit extraction and conformity of product, at the expense of personal, public, or environmental health and justice. Instead, in the craft mindset, elements such as real flavor, direct trade, individuality within community, social justice, delicious healthfulness, and sustainable production are paramount.

I have enormous respect for Domantas for reworking and redefining his recipes and techniques — no easy process — and for creating a new line that showcases his precision and purity with increased fidelity. He makes difficult look easy, and taste amazing. That’s power.

IMG_20170912_121552_979
Naive nano_lots: micro batch, mega depth

And Domantas didn’t stop there: after reinventing Chocolate Naive, he did it again! In mid 2017 he launched his Nano_Lot collection, limited edition chocolate bars made from micro batches of exclusive cacao. The depth and uniqueness of flavor achieved in the nano_lot bars continues the Naive project of extending our conception of what chocolate tastes like and what the texture feels like. We expect bean-to-bar chocolate to tell us a story, to engage us with a certain complexity, moving into new universes compared with one-note industrial chocolate. Here, the multi-dimensionality of the stories that Domantas tells with his nano_lots goes deep, and invites pause and repose, with eyes closed — or jumping, dancing, and cavorting, eyes open!

The nano_lot package inserts explain fascinating details of the scientific or geologic elements and processes behind these magnificent bars, such as cacao fermentation notes, chocolate flavor profiles, and history of the unique cacao farms from which Domantas sourced these limited-quantity highest-quality cacaos.

Domantas told me that with such small batches of cacao, he has just one chance to get it right. And he succeeds! What would you say to a Chocolate Uplift Travel Club trip to Vilnius in 2018, to see and learn more for ourselves, as Domantas spins cacao into chocolate?

IMG_20171201_084308_727
More on my instagram: #naivefever

Meanwhile, why the delightful logo of the man riding an impossible old fashioned penny-farthing bicycle with a missing back wheel, making it a sort of unicycle, possibly uphill, or perhaps off a cliff of naivete as the drawing seems to teeter at the top of the text? Domantas charmingly told me that the logo and business name represent his perspective that to think he can make first-class chocolate in Lithuania, he must be a fool, or naive. We know he is a genius, and leader.

Domantas says:

“Chocolate is as luxuriant as my most vivid dream and as humble as my simple reality.”

My Chocolate Uplift box customers say:

“Perfection of smoothness like I never tasted, with a completely rare and different flavor!”

 

“Wonderful and delicious inside and out.”

 

“The Kefir bar!!!! Oh my!!!!!!”

 

20180101_170101

In gratitude and delight, here’s to Chocolate Naive’s deliciously deceptive saturated simplicity, and to dear Domantas Uzpalis, Chocolate Uplift 2017 Chocolate Maker of the Year!

Scroll for more Naive, and “keep eating real chocolate!”

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Valerie Beck
Founder Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours and Chocolate Uplift
Sustainable Craft Chocolate & Cacao Distribution
wholesale, retail, subscription box, tours
www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com
social: @chocolateuplift

Uplift Through Chocolate!

IMG_20161119_094352
Old Naive…

IMG_20170720_083826_365
and New Naive, reformulated inside and out! Here’s the sultry Super Dark on grapefruit chez moi…

IMG_20170207_111731_860
…and more New Naive, sustainable and scrumptious! Pro tip: don’t miss the beautiful stories on the back of each package!

IMG_20171113_103120_276
Chocolate Naive’s newest fantastic nano_lot, made from Colombia cacao from a biodiverse farm on the Ariari River and selected as one of the best Colombian cacaos of 2017, debuted at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, in November 2017, and I immediately claimed it and everything else I could : )  This new bar gives me notes of banana and bread, with a finish of sweet almond and dry lemon, amid layers of dense yet inviting complexity that deliver shades of bright wood or forest. That’s all from the cacao, and Domantas’s working of it!

20171204_215231
New: find Chocolate Naive’s Nicalizo Nicaragua nano_lot at Reprise Coffee Roasters, near Chicago, which roasts Nicaragua coffee! I also distribute additional Naive to additional locations, such as: 4121 Main in Pittsburgh, Honeycreeper Chocolate in Birmingham, and Mmelo Boutique Confections in Columbus!

20180101_143714
Reimagined Chocolate Naive inspired awe and ecstasy at the January 2017 New Naive launch at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco.

IMG_20170319_130920_497
Chocolate Naive’s Ambrosia bar is made with local Lithuanian bee pollen.

20171113_073329
Silly and quirky at the 2017 Northwest Chocolate Festival, with big kisses to my ultra esteemed first 3 Chocolate Makers of the Year: Domantas Uzpalis of Chocolate Naive, 2017; Taylor Kennedy of Sirene Chocolate, 2015; Hans Westerink of Violet Sky Chocolate, 2016. It is a deep joy and a great honor to work with these gentlemen of chocolate, and to distribute and share their artistry! And it was fun to introduce them to each other!

20171113_073427
3, 2, 1, Naive: Taylor, yours truly, and Domantas at the Chocolate Naive booth at the Northwest Chocolate Festival!

IMG_20170602_172341_977
Power at hand: beloved Chocolate Naive, 2017 champion! #naivefever

Love at First Taste: 3 Chocolate Loves of 2016, part 3

By Valerie Beck, “Chocolate Muse,” and CEO/Founder of Chocolate Uplift and Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours

How do you like your drinking chocolate?

The Mayans liked their drinking chocolate hot, the Aztecs liked it cold, Montezuma liked it in golden goblets before visiting his harem, George Washington liked it with cream, Marie Antoinette liked it with orange blossom, the Marquis de Sade liked it as more suited to the seductive arts than Champagne, and I like it raw thanks to my chocolate beverage pick of 2016: Drink Cacoco!

Let me be clear: I’m not generally a fan of raw chocolate due to its often muddy flavors – roasting can bring out and clarifies flavors. 

Yet I love raw cacao, on my grapefruit at breakfast for example, for its delicious and often nutty flavor depending on the cacao, as well as its lively and invigorating properties and nutrients. 

Cacao is a superfood, rich in magnesium, iron, antioxidants, fiber, potassium, more. It lowers heart disease and stroke risk, and lowers blood pressure, while boosting brain function, blood flow, and of course mood!

Drink Cacoco takes raw cacao to a new level – or back to its pre-industrial glory – by retaining its liveliness and blending in herbs the way some of the historical celebrities above did, while on a mission to provide sustainable and nutrient-dense drinking chocolate that honors and protects the rainforest.

Drink Cacoco founders Erick Koon, Liam Blackmon, and Tony Portugal experimented with superfoods like cacao, and have created an outrageously smooth blended drinking chocolate that you mix with water – shaken, not stirred as Erick reminded me (I tried it both ways and it really is better shaken!) – for an incredibly flavorful yet light beverage, all natural with no industrial chemicals or “nasties,” that leaves you feeling uplifted and alive.

The highly-regarded Ecuador cacao is organic and ethically sourced (no child labor in this supply chain of course!), and the cool origami-style packaging uses no glue and is compostable, all in alignment with the founders’ mission to “revive the world through chocolate.”
Sounds like my own mission of “Uplift Through Chocolate” and my #chocolatefreedomproject, doesn’t it! It’s said that “great minds think alike” – and drink chocolate alike? 🙂

Erick sent me the Midnight Mystic and the Fire Walker blends, both of which I adore, after I met him through the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle. To be more precise, I met him when we were both chocolate scouting around town after the festival! 

Meanwhile, the Drink Cacoco kickstarter raised over $73,000, and new blends are coming! Maybe we’ll get some into my Chocolate Uplift craft chocolate subscription boxes!

Cheers to my chocolate beverage pick of 2016, delicious Drink Cacoco!

Click for my 2016 chocolate bar and chocolate bonbon picks, and see my instagram for daily chocolate as we move forward into a delicious and courageous 2017, exploring our themes of taste, health, sustainability, justice for people and planet, and uplift!
Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Valerie Beck
Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift and Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours

Chocolate services to the trade and the public: Brokering, Consulting, Speaking, Subscriptions, Tours

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

Love at First Taste: 3 Chocolate Loves of 2016, Part 2

By Valerie Beck, Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift and Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours, and “chocolate muse”

 “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

Do you call filled chocolates “bonbons” (technically any filled chocolates), “truffles” (chocolates filled with ganache), or chocolates?

Or do you just call them delicious!

Selecting my favorite chocolate bar, chocolate bonbon, and chocolate beverage of the year is never easy, because I get to taste so many wonderful creations by so many talented and hard working people.

So here we go for bonbons –

My 2016 bonbons (or truffles, or chocolates) of the year are by…

Chocolatasm

I first encountered Chocolatasm on Instagram. The business is run by chef and chocolatier Paul John Kearins, an Englishman in Blue Ridge, Georgia, and it was chocolate love at first chocolate sight.

I was intrigued by Paul’s unique flavor combinations like the blueberry sesame confection (in my photo above), and also by the pristine and well-organized kitchen in which he takes enticing snapshots of his chocolate artistry.

I had to learn more, and reached out to Paul, who proved as kind, generous, and humorous as he is artistic, accomplished, and professional.

When I tasted Paul’s creations, it was even deeper love at first taste, due to unique and thoroughly successful flavor combinations, plus superlative chocolate!

Paul has started collaborating with marvelous Mackenzie Rivers of map chocolate of Oregon (see my photo above), in that he uses custom bean-to-bar chocolate by map as the couverture for his bonbons, instead of using an often very delicious yet more common or commercial type of chefs chocolate. 

This partnership gives his chocolates exciting new dimensions, because his brilliant flavor combinations get to dance with truly unique chocolate. 

Moreover, map chocolate is made with traceable cacao, free of child slave labor in the supply chain. And it contains no soy lecithin, so the taste is more immediate, the texture is richer without slickness, there are no solvents present like hexane or acetone, and the health benefits are uncompromised!

All of this is critically important to Paul of course, who selects his chocolate with great care, and matches it to his flavor combinations with delicious thoughtfulness.

As an example, Chocolatasm’s smoked pear truffle in Peru 45% milk chocolate (photo above) plunges you into layers of rich flavor. The milk chocolate adds a wonderful tang, while graciously sharing the stage with smoked pear. A sommelier client and I selected this bonbon for a Port pairing because the deep flavors of the truffle absolutely sang with a vintage port.

I asked Paul how he thinks up flavor ideas, and he described how he has always had access to a rich cache of olfactory memory. He can remember smells and flavors from the past, and can perceive in his mind how to combine them in new ways. 

Paul was born in London, worked as a chef and chocolatier there and in Amsterdam, and now lives and creates in the US, 90 miles north of Atlanta in a town located within the gorgeous wooded mountain landscape of the Chattahoochee Forest. 

Paul’s history and memories provide such a benefit for us, the chocolate lovers, who get to enjoy Chocolatasm delights such as strawberry balsamic truffles with black pepper, or cranberry cabernet chocolates.

I look forward to writing another photo-filled blog post about Chocolatasm after I visit Paul’s beautifully situated kitchen this spring!

But first, there’s more…

As enthusiastic as I am about Chocolatasm’s bonbons, the chocolate bars are also exciting and innovative!

For example: dark chocolate from Honduran cacao with Ethiopian coffee and lemon, or a white chocolate with muscovado sugar and lime that turns people who think they don’t like white chocolate into people who realize they’d simply never tried the right or real white chocolate!

If you’re in Chicago, you can pick up Chocolatasm bars at Foodease or Beatrix Streeterville – tell them Valerie the Chocolate Lady sent you! : )

Could the bars be part of a forthcoming Chocolate Uplift craft chocolate subscription box

Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here’s to Chocolatasm, my 2016 bonbon love, where craft couverture meets endless imagination, international perspectives, and top chef professionalism, for new journeys into deep deliciousness.

Whether you call chocolates “bonbons,” “truffles,” or “chocolates,” Chocolatasm adds a new word of love to the chocolate lexicon!

Want more chocolate?

Click for my chocolate bar love of 2016,

Click for my chocolate beverage love of 2016 – coming soon, and

Click for my 2015 picks!

Onward and upward into a 2017 filled with love and light, taste and delight!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

– Let it go to your head: here I am in my Chocolatasm cap! –

Valerie Beck 

Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift and Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours 

Chocolate services to the trade and the public: Brokering, Consulting, Speaking, Subscriptions, Tours

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com 

chocolateuplift@gmail.com 

@chocolateuplift 

Uplift Through Chocolate!

Love at First Taste: 3 Chocolate Loves of 2016, Part 1

by Valerie Beck, Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift and Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours, and “chocolate muse”

Do you believe in love at first sight?
How about love at first taste?

I’ve experienced both – including in chocolate!

I love it when I read a chocolate bar label that lists a cacao origin, and clean ingredients such as just cacao and sugar.

The cacao origin – such as Ecuador, Guatemala, Belize, Madagascar, etc. – tells me where the cocoa beans came from that made the chocolate, just as a wine labels tells you what vineyard in California or Chile or France grew the grapes.
If the bar doesn’t list a cacao origin, as most commercial big brand chocolate bars do not, where is this mystery cacao from? No mystery: most likely the commercial cacao came from Ivory Coast, where around 70% of the world’s cacao comes from, and where 2.1 million children work in hazardous conditions on cocoa farms instead of going to school. Hence, my #chocolatefreedomproject.

By contrast, when chocolate makers purchase cacao for quality instead of quantity, and pay sometimes 5 times the price of bulk cacao, they are proud to list the cacao origin on their label, and to encourage us to get to know that origin and their particular artistry using those particular cocoa beans.

I love reading a clean label, with no soy lecithin, vanillin, unpronounceables, abbreviations, or dissimulations, such as added “flavors” which whether natural or artificial could be derived from anything and could be processed with unlisted solvents.

And love at first taste!

Isn’t it magical when something tastes so amazing that it seems to stir memories of past and future, while focusing your attention deeply into the present moment, so that all else falls away?

If you want to see hundreds of chocolate items I loved in 2016 – from so much artistry and scrumptiousness I got to sample at trade shows, festivals, competitions, shops, cafes, and my office – please see my Chocolate Uplift instagram of daily chocolate! Applause and gratitude to all of the amazing chocolate makers, entrepreneurs, and professionals who contribute such amazing artistry and are part of the chocolate revolution!

I selected 3 favorites from so many fabulous favorites of 2016, because they tell the story of love at first sight and first taste so precisely; one chocolate bar, one chocolate bonbon, one chocolate beverage. Here’s the first:

1. Chocolate Bar Love: Violet Sky Chocolate

Violet Sky Chocolate impresses me with bold flavors, even when there are no flavors added and the cacao sings solo. When I tasted my first piece of a Violet Sky chocolate bar, I was standing up and had to sit down to experience the power of the chocolate without falling over, and to reflect upon the taste as it opened and developed!

Indeed, Violet Sky Founder and chocolate maker Hans Westerink told me he chose the name Violet Sky because when you eat his chocolate, he wants you to slow down and notice the beauty that surrounds us.
Hans is soft-spoken, empathic, and philosophic, and clearly has fun thinking about and experimenting with unique culinary ideas and tactics. The cacao he selects sings a beautiful song, which Hans crafts, amplifies, and directs in the Violet Sky manufactory in sweet South Bend, Indiana, around 2 hours from Chicago. He lets his chocolate express art and nature, and creativity and purity, sometimes turned to high volume!

For example, his rye barrel aged Haiti 77% chocolate bar with blueberry salt has deep complexity under an initial bold burst. He ages the cacao in a rye barrel from a local distillery, roasts the cacao in a coffee roaster, and the magic of his bean-to-bar chocolate continues underway.

I’ve seen people at one of my tastings fight over who got to take home the rest of one of his maple vanilla bars. Don’t like maple? Don’t worry: the bar tastes like the best pancake brunch in chocolate bar form! And real maple, as we have here, tastes really amazing.

When I shared Violet Sky’s brandy barrel aged Belize red wine salt chocolate bar with a non chocolate lover, she instantly converted into a chocolate lover! And ate the rest of the bar! That’s the power of real chocolate.

I selected Violet Sky for the very first run of my Chocolate Uplift craft chocolate subscription boxes, in November 2016, to enthusiastic feedback. Each box includes 4 chocolate bars, curated by me, and the bars are always sustainable and child-slavery-free, soy-free, small-batch, and scrumptious. Click for my unboxing video featuring a Violet Sky bar!

There was so much deliciousness from so many makers in 2016! Truly, more than ever! How to choose a winner among winners? Delicious and sustainable origins, clean ingredients, and uniquely and distinctively bold and vibrant interpretations make Violet Sky Chocolate my Chocolate Bar Love of 2016!

I’ll share details of my visit to Hans’s magic chocolate manufactory later (sneak peek photo above!) [update: click to see the excursion to Violet Sky on which I took some top Kendall College students!], and I’ll also share the other 2 chocolate loves of 2016 I’m excited to describe for you:

2. Chocolate Bonbon Love – click for my 2016 winner.

3. Chocolate Beverage Love – my 2016 winner is announced here.

Want more now? Check out my selected chocolate loves of 2015!

Meanwhile, I wish you a happy and delicious new year as we start a 2017 filled with as much beauty, truth, and love as we give, create, and perceive!

Thank you for your readership and business, and keep eating real chocolate!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

– with Hans of Violet Sky –

Valerie Beck

Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift and Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours

Chocolate Services: Brokering, Consulting, Speaking, Subscriptions, Tours

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

@chocolateuplift

Uplift Through Chocolate!

Who Labors for Chocolate?

Hello there, and happy Labor Day in the USA!

picnic
My picnic this Labor Day weekend included exquisite bean-to-bar chocolate by Dick Taylor, made from direct trade cacao from Belize!

A note on my Chocolate Freedom Project this Labor Day, which brings awareness of and alternatives to child labor on Ivory Coast cacao farms where Big Chocolate buys cocoa beans. Solutions that we can implement as customers include choosing fair trade and direct trade chocolate, which is better for foodie, farmer, family, and field.

Solutions that I recommend to my country clients and cacao farmer clients as a chocolate consultant include making chocolate in-country from sustainably grown cacao, instead of exporting all the cacao.

As this article entitled

Africa produces 75% of cocoa but gets 2% of $100b chocolate market revenue

reminds us: “The formula for the wealth of nations is clear: rich nations add value to exports, poor nations export raw materials.”

The revolution has begun! : )

Have a happy, thoughtful, and delicious Labor Day!

Cocoa
Photo: Ghana Business News article referenced above

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

summer 2016

Valerie Beck

Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift and Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com/chocolate-tours

social media: @chocolateuplift

Haiti is Here

by Valerie Beck, chocolate consultant

image
Grown in Haiti: Haitian Chocolate Project kickstarter launches Thursday 1/28

Update – click for the kickstarter campaign:

https:// http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/272592294/the-haitian-chocolate-project-bar-one

What would you say to delicious bean-to-bar chocolate made from gentle cacao grown on the lush yet historically impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti, where cacao farmers are working to raise their families and communities out of poverty?

Fund the new Haitian Chocolate Project kickstarter campaign, launching Thursday, January 28, 2016, and you’re funding new fermentation boxes to make this good cacao better, and to further farmers’ abilities to lift their families and communities out of poverty by getting their cacao to the US market.

image
Sensational San Francisco, where I’ll lead a custom chocolate adventure for top funders

Kickstarter rewards include Bisou Chocolate made with these gentle Haitian cocoa beans, and also my new chocolate tasting video, and a trip through San Francisco’s top chocolate shops, kitchens, and bakeries led by yours truly with the Haitian Chocolate Project founders.

2016-01-27 08.43.39
Beautiful Bisou Chocolate, making new chocolate bars from Haitian cacao for you

I’m thrilled to be an advisor to this project, and the kickstarter link is coming soon!

Update – here’s the link:

https:// http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/272592294/the-haitian-chocolate-project-bar-one

Delicious thanks!

Your friend in chocolate,
Valerie

image
In San Francisco, where I sampled our first batch of lovely Haitian cacao.  Onward and upward!

Valerie Beck
CEO/Founder Chocolate Uplift
www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com
www.chocolateuplift.com
social media @chocolateuplift