**Update 12/16/2020: What a fun, fascinating, and delicious chocolate tasting we had today via video conference! Thank you for your awesome participation, or for visiting this page even if you didn’t have the chance to join the call!
As promised, here are links to shop the craft chocolate bars from the different sets, plus links to retailers who buy wholesale from me and where you can find multiple craft chocolate brands including many of the below; please note that not all bars are available in all countries at the current time:
Yahara Chocolate of Wisconsin, possibly the most extensive selection of craft chocolate anywhere
Please tell any of the brands or retailers I sent you!
I’d love to hear what you choose or what your favorites were from your set, or your thoughts on Nestle and Cargill v Doe, or thoughts or questions on anything else.
I am excited and thankful for a special virtual chocolate tasting for the Harvard Law School Women’s Alliance, with my sister alumnae!
Below is the welcome letter going out with the craft chocolate tasting kits, and below that is information on the chocolate bars in the kits, and on how to recognize ethical chocolate, as well as updates on Nestle and Cargill v. Doe, a case about child slave labor in Big Chocolate brands in which the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments earlier this month.
Thank you, and enjoy!
Valerie Beck (HLS ’96)
Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift
Craft Chocolate Distribution and Consulting
Hello and welcome to our virtual chocolate tasting!
The craft chocolate bars I’ve selected are enclosed, and we’re going to have a fun, fascinating, and delicious time!
Here is our plan:
1. Anticipation: Please don’t eat the chocolate yet! (Step 1 is the hardest!) We can taste it together during the Final 2020 Chapters Call:
Date: Wednesday, December 16
Time: 10:15 AM (PDT) / 1:15 PM (EDT) to 11:30 AM (PDT) / 2:30 PM (EDT)
Dial-in: Details to arrive electronically
2. Storage: I recommend storing your chocolate in a cool, dry place, and not in the refrigerator where the moisture can cause the chocolate to “bloom,” or develop chalkiness.
3. Tasting: During the call, I’ll walk us through a guided tasting so that we can talk about the history and health benefits of chocolate, how to recognize ethical chocolate, and a related recent Supreme Court case, and so that we can simply enjoy craft chocolate and a festive gathering!
For more information in advance about the chocolate bars in your kit and on craft chocolate in general — such as about my 5 Ss of first-class chocolate: slavery-free, soy-free, sustainable, small-batch, and scrumptious — please see www.chocolateuplift.com/hlswa.
I look forward to our virtual chocolate tasting, and am grateful to HLSWA for hosting this special event!
P.S. Here is my favorite Aztec-inspired hot chocolate recipe; feel free to sip during our presentation:
4 tablespoons drinking chocolate mix or finely chopped chocolate bar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon orange zest
Whisk dry ingredients with up to 1 cup hot water or your favorite milk, top with orange zest, and enjoy!
Commercial chocolate / big-brand chocolate comes from a supply chain with child labor, forced labor, and deforestation and other environmental degradations.
How to recognize and choose craft chocolate instead, which nourishes people and planet?
Look for my 5 Ss of first-class chocolate:
*slavery-free — Look for the cacao country of origin on the label. If you see none, chances are you have non-traceable bulk cacao, which comes from tainted supply chains.
*soy-free — Look for the presence or absence of soy lecithin or other processed ingredients on the label. These indicate industrial chocolate and also have negative health effects.
*sustainable — Does the brand tell you about the cacao they sourced, and about their packaging?
*small-batch — The big brands are all complicit in child labor, farmer poverty, deforestation, and overuse of chemical pesticides. Look for small brands making a difference.
*scrumptious! — Chocolate is about enjoyment!
Tasting kits for our HLSWA virtual event
Chocolate bars in most US Mainland tasting kits:
@crowandmosschocolate Bolivian Rose Salt chocolate bar, made from Colombian cacao plus cane sugar, with a gentle sprinkling of Bolivian pink salt. This fruit-forward bar reminds me of childhood visits to Michigan, where my mom spent part of her childhood on a small family farm!
@dicktaylorchocolate Brazil, made in Eureka, California, is sophisticated and rich, and reminds me of the years I lived in Europe, where the idea to create the world’s first chocolate tours came to me, as a chocolate-obsessed exchange student in Paris in 1989!
@xocolatlchocolate Kissed Mermaids, made in Atlanta, is light, bright, and topped with cacao nibs, and you know how excited I get about cacao nibs, and about blue and white! A cheerful bar! Plus, this is the first batch on Uganda cacao (instead of Costa Rica), grown by the Semuliki Forest collective of around 1,000 family farmers, and I love the rich notes of warm spice on a core note of straight-ahead chocolate!
Alternate bar in NY/NJ kits:
Chocolate bars in a San Francisco tasting kit:
Craft chocolate brand in Hawaii tasting kit:
Craft chocolate brand in Brazil tasting kit:
Craft chocolate brand in Europe tasting kits:
Craft chocolate brand in South Africa tasting kit:
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!
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.
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!
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
Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift
Craft Chocolate Brokering, Consulting, Distribution
Update: here are the slides from my talk on The Full Chocolate: Where Chocolate Comes From and What’s in Your Chocolate, at an exciting and delicious event held August 2, 2019, at amazing Yahara Chocolate in sweet historic Stoughton, Wisconsin! As always, please see the comments section of each slide for the juicy info and video links!
In addition, below are some photos from the event; more are on my Instagram under hashtag #WisconsinAugust2019. Thank you and hope to see you next time!
Are you a chocolate lover in the Madison, Wisconsin, area? I’m excited to give a talk on The Full Chocolate — how chocolate goes from bean to bar — with craft chocolate tasting at Yahara Chocolate in Stoughton, WI, Friday 8/2/19 at 7pm, and to host informal tastings there Saturday 8/3/19 from 10am to 3pm!
We’re going to have around 10 different chocolate bars to sample, plus cacao beans, nibs, and pulp! Details are here for Friday, and here for Saturday. Hope to see you there!
Fun side note: my first-year dorm at Harvard College and the town where Yahara Chocolate is located are both called Stoughton! Here are some photos from my return to Stoughton (the dorm) to serve as a Convocation Marshal and welcome the new first-year students last fall (I brought chocolate to that too, for the new students in my old dorm, and for my alumni friends). It’s all connected!
Meanwhile, see you in Stoughton, Wisconsin, if you’re around!
The head of the Chicago chapter asked if I could speak on chocolate and gender, and in fact this is a topic with interesting historical aspects. For example, would you be surprised to know that Aztec emperor Montezuma drank chocolate before visiting his wives, or that today much of the work on specialty cacao farms that grow some of the best cacao in the world is done by women?
Click here if you’re curious to see slides I shared during our delicious afternoon (my notes or video links to various relevant YouTube videos are in the comments to each slide)!
Need a “sweet speaker” for your group? Click for my speaking engagement info or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Here are my slides again from this presentation, and thank you to all who made the event possible and all who attended!
… 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!
November 2014 marks the 9th anniversary of my chocolate services business. The dream that led me here started more years ago than that, when I was in college. Here’s the essay I wrote for my college reunion book this coming spring, describing the chain of events.
One day toward the end of our junior year at Harvard, I woke up thinking of Paris. The thought stayed with me, indeed it permeated me, and I decided to spend the next semester in Paris.
As you’ll recall, studying abroad wasn’t common in those days. My roommates had no reason to expect I’d abandon them. Professors raised an eyebrow when signing a form stating that my Sorbonne courses would give me the same credit as Harvard courses. No one knew what to make of my announcement that I was going to study in Paris. I didn’t know what to make of it either. I loved being at Harvard. I only knew that Paris was calling, and I had to answer.
My semester in Paris was transformative. I loved the lifestyle, the history, my classes, the soft lavender early morning air, and the chocolate. Above all, the chocolate. I had been a chocolate maniac all my life: at age four I declared to my mother that the only way I was going to drink milk was if it were chocolate.
I can still taste in my mind the first piece of fine French chocolate I had during my semester in Paris. I had gone “chocolate scouting” – as normal a thing for me to do as finding my classes, the bookstores, and the Seine – and I selected a square of ganache at the great French chocolate house Debauve et Gallais. The richness, power, and purity of flavor in that tiny, perfect bonbon made me determined to enjoy chocolate of exalted quality for the rest of my life, and to take others with me on the journey of fine chocolate.
I began immediately. I asked a few Sorbonne friends if they wanted to come with me and sample the best chocolate and pastries in Paris. They looked at me for a moment as though I had invited them on a tour of paradise, which in fact I had. They said yes, and off we went on the first chocolate tour that I created. I didn’t call it a tour, or imagine that I would grow the concept into an international chocolate tourism and chocolate services business. I was simply sharing my passion.
After we had eaten our way through the truffles and chocolate croissants of Paris, I decided we needed to go to Belgium and do the same thing. And we did. We celebrated my 20th birthday in the glorious chocolate shops of Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges and Ghent, during a weekend in December of our senior year. Thus took place the first chocolate travel club trip that I created; I didn’t imagine that there would be more.
Today, after a not atypical career diversion into the practice of law, and some additional time in the chocolate and pastry centers of Europe, my passion, mission, and career are one: “uplift through chocolate.” I founded a business 9 years ago which was the first chocolate tour company, then I expanded into multiple cities, and now the company has grown to provide chocolate services such as tours, travel, and “Eat Chocolate, Be Skinny” wellness seminars for the chocolate-loving public, and consulting and importing for professional chefs and chocolatiers as well as for cocoa-growing and chocolate-producing nations.
The next step is to continue the current chocolate revolution by ending the child slave labor practices and other monstrous abuses that occur behind 70% of the world’s chocolate, and by replacing slavery chocolate with delicious fair trade chocolate for the public and culinary professionals. Chocolate can uplift chocolate lovers, chocolate workers, cocoa growing nations, and the planet. For irregularly-timed posts chronicling some of this journey, you can join me on my blog at http://www.chocolateuplift.com.
I’m grateful it all flowed from a thought I woke up with when we were at Harvard.