Chocolate is love: I’ve assembled a small number of retail Valentine’s Day craft chocolate gift sets, and I’d love to send one to you or your gift recipient if you wish! The chocolate in these sets is, as always,
Happy Valentine’s Day season! To celebrate, I’m holding seated chocolate tastings, and I hope you’ll join me!
Details for Chicago chocolate tastings:
What: This Valentine’s Day season, tour the world of chocolate without leaving your seat, during this 90-minute chocolate tasting led by chocolate expert and original chocolate tours founder Valerie Beck. Why is chocolate associated with love? Why does it lift our mood? We’ll focus on the answers, and on sustainable bean-to-bar chocolate. And we’ll taste a lot of top craft chocolate brands at this fun, fascinating, and delicious seated chocolate tasting! Great for couples, singles, or girls’ day out!
When: Friday and Saturday, February 1 and 2, 2019, 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm.
Cost: $45 per person, or $35 per student or senior. Includes chocolate samples. You can purchase tickets for the chocolate tastings directly through Valerie’s PayPal link.
Details for Los Angeles chocolate tasting, including Letterpress Chocolate micro-factory tour:
What: This Valentine’s Day, explore the world of chocolate at LA’s local small-batch artisan chocolate manufactory, Letterpress Chocolate, during this 90-minute chocolate tasting event led by chocolate expert and original chocolate tours founder Valerie Beck. Why is chocolate associated with love? Why does it lift our mood? We’ll focus on the answers, and on sustainable bean-to-bar chocolate made onsite. And we’ll taste a lot of luscious Letterpress Chocolate at this fun, fascinating, and delicious chocolate tasting and factory tour! Great for couples, singles, or girls’ night out!
I’m commuting between Los Angeles and Chicago this winter, to teach a class at UCLA Extension on International Business Law, to promote craft chocolate like local LA small-batch wonder Letterpress Chocolate, and to thaw out from Chicago winters!
I don’t drive, and LA is a very car-focused city as you know, so this adds a layer of adventure!
To support cacao and chocolate that are slavery-free and sustainable, you can use the #chocolatefreedomproject hashtag, purchase transparent-trade chocolate, and let brands know you care about what’s in your chocolate, and who grew your cacao.
Need a lift? The awesome group Culinary Historians of Chicago just uploaded the podcast of the upbeat chocolate- and giggle-filled talk I gave for them in September 2017, and here it is!
It’s called “From Cacao to Craft Chocolate: Stories from the Past, Sustainability for the Future,” and I hope you enjoy it! [Note: Podcast ends abruptly during question period due to technical issues.]
Need a talk and tasting for your group? Here are some details!
The Cocoa Barometer 2018 report is out, and it reminds us that 2.1 million children work on cacao farms in West Africa, so that shelves in the US and Europe and elsewhere can stay stocked with cheap chocolate.
The report also points out that
“not a single company or government is anywhere near the sector-wide objective to eliminate child labour. It is high time for efforts to be increased. In that light, it is important to stress that child labour is a symptom of deeper problems; without tackling systemic poverty and a lack of local infrastructures, child labour will not be eradicated.”
Social justice Sunday / sustainability Sunday! Reports show 2.1 million children work on cacao farms in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, so shelves in the US and Europe and elsewhere can stay stocked with cheap chocolate from big brands.
The Cacao Barometer 2018 report has been released, and reminds us that the cause of child labor is poverty. The authors emphasize that “not a single company or government is anywhere near reaching the sector-wide objective of the elimination of child labour, and not even near their commitments of a 70% reduction of child labour by 2020.” You can see the report on my blog at http://www.chocolateuplift.com.
Do you agree we can vote with our $, €, voices, and ethics? Companies will act when we demand it. We are empowered:
We can tell Hershey/Nestle/Mars/Mondelez/Ferrero(Nutella)/Callebaut and other big brands – and the retailers who carry them – that we want farmers to be paid a living wage instead of 50 cents per day, and that we want the brands to use #slaveryfree cacao and let kids go to school.
As I highlight in my talks, we can also buy craft chocolate and can read labels to make sure we see:
1. the cacao country of origin, just as a bottle of wine tells you where the grapes are from; if a brand has no transparency on who grew the cacao, ask what they’re hiding,
2. a small-batch brand that cares about human rights and sustainability in cacao, which also leads to better flavor through better agricultural practices and fair payments, and
3. a soy-free brand / clean ingredients, as chemical additives often go with low-quality cacao from non-sustainable sources in industrial processing.
🌟 Empathy ends poverty.
That’s my #chocolatefreedomproject; join me!
You can also check out CREER Africa, a nonprofit children’s rescue center in Ivory Coast, which helps kids who escaped from cacao slavery or other trafficking and which I support by donating meals to the kids at the center, as a way to make a difference.
By Valerie Beck, Chocolate Broker, Distributor, Speaker, Muse
The Good Food Awards are the Oscars of US-made artisan food, recognizing sustainability, social impact, and deliciousness, and the 8th annual awards celebration last night in San Francisco was a celebration of good food indeed, including amazing craft chocolate and spectacular confections!
There were 199 winners in 15 categories, and I’m outrageously proud of and impressed by those craft chocolate makers and confectioners with whom I have the honor to work or represent, who were recognized onstage:
Months prior to the awards, I encouraged clients and contacts to enter from around the country, including some who hadn’t entered before, such as Xocolatl, first time entrant and already a winner!
I was also thrilled to be invited help behind the scenes last September in San Francisco, coordinating the judging process at the blind tasting – I didn’t want to be a judge because I wouldn’t want anyone to imagine that I chose my clients and contacts to win, even if subconsciously – and it was inspiring to see so much enthusiasm and so much wonderful sustainable food!
Scroll for scenes, including of the fabulous afterparty at AirBnB headquarters where we were able to sample exquisiteness from winners in all categories, from cheese and bread, to fish and charcuterie, to beer and spirits, pickles and pantry, and of course chocolate and confections!
“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
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.
2017 Chocolate Uplift Chocolate Maker of the Year…
…Domantas Uzpalis, founder of Chocolate 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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
“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!!!!!!”
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,
Founder Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours and Chocolate Uplift
Sustainable Craft Chocolate & Cacao Distribution
wholesale, retail, subscription box, tours www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com
Uplift Through Chocolate!
Chocolate Naive Spices bar in my December 2017 Chocolate Uplift craft chocolate subscription boxes
I sampled the Kefir bar to my audience when I spoke at the 2017 Northwest Chocolate Festival on Chocolate Health Benefits: Body, Mind, Soul
Lights, camera, action: behind the scenes while taping the unboxing video featuring Naive’s Kefir bar
Chocolate Naive Kefir bar in my June 2017 Chocolate Uplift craft chocolate subscription boxes
… across from Widener Library, one of many favorite Harvard spots where I spent a lot of time back when!
Aztec revivalism: Mexican hot chocolate at L.A.Burdick’s in Harvard Sq, an old favorite sip at an old favorite cafe!
New and old: thoroughly exquisute Castronovo Chocolate at #cardullos, a super special #harvardsquare shop I’ve been visiting since freshman year when I would buy the chocolate bars that were available then! What a treat to connect with the new owner of this classic shop, over new chocolate, an ancient delicacy! And yes I took off my scarf and took this picture; standard operating procedure! : )
Brunch recap, at amazing #aldenandharlow in #harvardsquare: loved this fabulous, inventive, and warm cinnamon roll, with berries, pistachios, and white chocolate – plus the cleverly named “ubiquitous kale salad” which was creatively freshened with creamy pistachio dressing, and all the other delicious not-shown food we ate! – while catching up with a very dear friend from college! The restaurant is in the same location as beloved former Casablanca cafe, next to the Brattle Theater which still shows classic and independent films on its single screen; so much fun to go back to school and to old places and old-spaces-turned-new!
Taza Chocolate factory tour – from bean to bar!
Scrumptious Taza souvenir – not shown: all my many other scrumptious Taza souvenirs!
Some of the smaller stone grinders at Taza Chocolate in Somerville, outside of Boston, home of stone-ground sustainable slavery-free soy-free chocolate!
Chocolate love at Taza HQ
Macaron Cafe now available at Gourmet Boutique in Boston, former chocolate tour stop
Chequessett Chocolate available at Beacon Hill Chocolates, down the hill from where I lived during law school
Chocolate scouting in Boston’s Copley Square; chocolate tour guests used to pose on the steps of the Boston Public Library in between chocolate stops!