Two Makers, Two Seasons, Two News Stories

Hello there, and happy equinox!

gothamandoboloattottos

Summer and fall seem to be dancing together today in Chicago, as warm sunshine mingles with crisp air. As we enter a new season filled with new abundance, two dear craft chocolate maker clients are new at Totto’s Market (which is also new), and, they are in the news!

Gotham Chocolates is a sophisticated bean-to-bar brand by acclaimed chef Ron Paprocki of Michelin-starred Gotham Bar and Grill in New York City. Chef Ron converted a corner of his pastry kitchen into a chocolate manufactory to make pure, clean, flavorful craft chocolate for bars, bonbons, and desserts. Click here to read about Chef Ron’s background and vision; what a coincidence that he and I each lived in Germany for some years. When I first met Ron and tasted his chocolates in NYC a few years ago, I was thrilled with the exquisite precision and beauty of his work, and I’m thrilled with the new Artisan line that he has launched since, using a variety of specialty cacaos!

ÓBOLO Chocolate (the name means gift or small contribution in Spanish) is an inventive bean-to-bar brand by Midwesterner Mark Gerrits who moved to Chile for adventure after college and is still there. He founded his chocolate company in 2013, and ÓBOLO has gained B-Corporation status reflecting standards for social and environmental justice. I tasted the chocolate for the first time last year, and loved its lively use of Peru cacao. This year Mark updated his packaging, bar thickness and mould, and added a new Flavors of Chile line of bars, sharing a confident and unique new presentation in the world of craft chocolate. Click here for a story on the brand’s use of biodynamic Chilean inclusions such as herbs that grow in the Atacama desert or berries from Patagonia.

You can find a selection of Gotham Chocolates at these wonderful upscale retailers: Hannah’s Bretzel, Honeycreeper Chocolate, and Totto’s Market. Find ÓBOLO Chocolate at wonderful upscale Cocoa + Co. and Totto’s Market.

Congratulations to these two elegant and artistic craft chocolate brands as autumn begins in the Northern Hemisphere including in New York for Gotham and here in Chicago, and as spring begins in the Southern Hemisphere including in Santiago for ÓBOLO!

Wishing you a delicious season, whichever one is blowing in where you are,

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

valeriewindycity

Valerie Beck

Chocolate Broker

Sweet Speaker

Founder of the original chocolate tours

Instagram @chocolateuplift

LinkedIn

http://www.chocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

 

The Community of Chocolate: Cocoa + Co.

by Valerie Beck

When people ask me where to find bean-to-bar chocolate, or slavery-free / ethical chocolate, there’s a new store I now add to the list: Cocoa + Co. in Chicago.

Handful of paradise on opening day at Cocoa + Co.
Handful of paradise on opening day at Cocoa + Co.

People also often ask me for a good chocolate cafe or coffee shop in Chicago, and I add Cocoa + Co. to that list too.

Spicy hot chocolate at Cocoa + Co. #aztecrevivalism
Spicy hot chocolate at Cocoa + Co. #aztecrevivalism

And, when people ask me how to tell if a chocolate bar comes from ethical sources, I give them the answer – below.

But first, imagine a chocolate shop where you can support the community of fair trade and direct trade cacao growers, support the community of artisan chocolate makers and chefs, and enjoy your own community of friends while enjoying some of the finest chocolate brands in the world. Such are the glories at Cocoa + Co.!

Store owner Kim Hack carries some of my favorite bean-to-bar chocolate brands, such as Dick Taylor and Original Beans. I’ve also found new favorites through her, such as Marou and Omnom, which I’d followed on Instagram and finally tasted and fell in love with after buying them at Kim’s shop!

Look what came home with me from Cocoa and Co.: Omnom Chocolate
Look what came home with me: Omnom Chocolate

Kim also brings in fresh local pastry and bonbons, has space for private chocolate tasting parties, serves luscious drinking chocolate, and has a well-curated chocolate grocery and cookbook selection.

Chocolate covered s'mores bonbons made for Cocoa and Co. by Veruca Chocolate
Chocolate covered s’mores bonbons made for Cocoa + Co. by Veruca Chocolates
Pretzel croissant by Beurrage and drinking chocolate at Cocoa + Co.
Pretzel croissant by Beurrage and drinking chocolate at Cocoa + Co.

These are wonderful components of the community of chocolate, wouldn’t you agree!

Back to our question of how to tell if the chocolate bar in your hand comes from ethical sources: read the label for what it says, and for what it doesn’t say.

That is: look first for the origin. If you see a country or an estate of origin listed, chances are already high you’re holding a bar of ethical chocolate. Just as a bottle of wine or bag of coffee tells you what country or estate the product comes from, an ethical chocolate bar will tell you that too. The label might say Peru, or Madagascar, or the Camino Verde Estate in Ecuador which I visited last year, or another location, so that you’ll know the source of the cacao that went into making the chocolate.

Marou Chocolate, made with cacao from Vietnam
Marou Chocolate, made with cacao from Vietnam

You can also look for a fair trade symbol, but there are multiple certifications and an ethical cacao farm may or may not have them.

Now look for what the label doesn’t say: if no origin is listed, you can be relatively sure the cocoa beans came from West Africa, which produces over 60% of the world’s chocolate, and which does so with a scarred supply chain often involving diseased cacao trees, poor flavor bulk cacao, and even child slave labor. This is the supply chain of the big chocolate manufacturers who sell in grocery stores and advertise on TV. And this is why I’m organizing a Chocolate Freedom Walk, to raise awareness of where our chocolate comes from, and to promote ethical chocolate with fun tastings and giveaways at my speaking engagements and along the route.

Ethical cacao is not only ethical, it tastes infinitely better, gives you various flavors such as earthy or fruity based on the soil (terroir) and the art of the chocolate maker, needs no artificial ingredients, and gives you the health benefits that you’ve heard about. And it includes you in the sweet chocolate community of growers, makers, and enjoyers, which you can also join at Cocoa + Co.

three tarts
Brownie by Three Tarts Bakery at Cocoa + Co.
old town
Chicago’s newest chocolate shop is located in the lovely Old Town neighborhood
cocanu and john kiras
Cocanu meets John & Kira’s – the latter are dear Philly friends from my days opening Chocolate Tours across the country! – at Cocoa + Co.
with Cocoa + Co. owner Kim Hack (left) on opening day at her shop
with Cocoa + Co. owner Kim Hack (left) on opening day at her shop

Onward and upward!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Valerie Beck

Chocolate Expert, Sweet Speaker, Chocolate Consultant

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

www.chocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

@chocolateuplift