Chocolate Uplift and HLSWA

**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:

Brands in our sets

9th & Larkin Chocolate of San Francisco, woman-owned, Lan puts her husband to work roasting cacao sometimes

Baiani Chocolates of Brazil, wife/husband-owned, wife Juliana is the chocolate maker

Crow & Moss Chocolate of Michigan, husband is chocolate maker, wife does their graphic design

Dick Taylor Chocolate of Eureka, California

Honest Chocolate of Cape Town, South Africa

Manoa Chocolate of Hawaii

Xocolatl Chocolate of Atlanta, wife/husband-owned, signatory to the Nestle and Cargill v Doe amicus brief linked below

VAICACAO of Italy, wife/husband-owned, both are chocolate makers

US retailers who will ship anywhere

Cocoa & Co., woman-owned in Chicago

Gourmet Boutique, woman-owned in Boston

Honeycreeper Chocolate, woman-owned in Birmingham, Alabama

Rare Bird Preserves, woman-owned in Oak Park, Illinois

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.

Thank you!

Valerie

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

Feel free to follow me or say hi on Instagram at @chocolateuplift!

**

Hello!

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

Valerie Beck (HLS ’96)

Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift

Craft Chocolate Distribution and Consulting

Click for more about me, including bios and video!

Welcome Letter

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!

Thank you, and happy holidays!

Valerie

Valerie Beck (HLS ‘96)

Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift 

Craft Chocolate Distribution and Consulting

www.chocolateuplift.com

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!

*****

Cacao pod from Ecuador

Ethical Chocolate

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!

Cacao nibs
In the grinder
Chocolate goes with everything!

*****

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:

Photo by 9th & Larkin Chocolate

Craft chocolate brand in Hawaii tasting kit:

Photo by Manoa Chocolate

Craft chocolate brand in Brazil tasting kit:

Craft chocolate brand in Europe tasting kits:

Craft chocolate brand in South Africa tasting kit:

Photo by Honest Chocolate

*****

Cacao

Info on Nestle and Cargill v. Doe

Washington Post article

Video debrief featuring the attorney who made the recent argument before the Supreme Court, and other attorneys involved

Amicus brief filed by craft chocolate makers (including Xocolatl Chocolate, which we are tasting in our US Mainland kits)

Symposium of articles about the case from Just Security, based at the Reiss Center on Law and Security at New York University School of Law

*****

Thank you and keep eating real chocolate!

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!

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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

Wisconsin event: The Full Chocolate

full-chocolate-graphic

 

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!

*****

Hello!

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!

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Here is some of the scrumptiousness I’m bringing to Yahara Chocolate for dear Brook, the store owner, who is assembling an amazing collection of craft chocolate, wouldn’t you agree!

IMG_20190727_173159_832
I’m also bringing the outrageously delicious new Mint Brownie bar by Violet Sky Chocolate; Brook selected it at his daughter’s insistence!

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!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Valerie Beck

Founder, Chocolate Uplift

craft chocolate promotion

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/valeriebeck/

Chocolate and Gender

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What a blast to give a talk and craft chocolate tasting for the amazing ladies of my Alumnae-i Network of Harvard Women group, at heavenly Hannah’s Bretzel in Chicago!

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)!

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We sampled these wonderful craft chocolate bars by Askinosie Chocolate, Dandelion Chocolate, Gotham Chocolates, Taza Chocolate, and Violet Sky Chocolate, which are all slavery-free, sustainable, soy-free and lecithin-free, small-batch, and scrumptious! We also sampled cacao from Cacao Marquez, and had coffee from Hannah’s Bretzel, our generous venue host where all of these chocolate bars are available (so is the delicious fresh pretzel)!

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With ANHW Chicago Chapter President Litcy Kurisinkal (left)

Need a “sweet speaker” for your group? Click for my speaking engagement info or contact me at chocolateuplift@gmail.com!

Here are my slides again from this presentation, and thank you to all who made the event possible and all who attended!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

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Valerie Beck

Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift

https://www.linkedin.com/in/valeriebeck/

New Additional Blog – Diary of My Disastrous Law Career

20190506_162457

Hello there!

I’ve started a new blog, a memoir of my days as a lawyer, called Diary of My Disastrous Law Career: From Harvard to Heaven Help Me, and the first post is up!

Chocolate forever, Harvard always, but lawyer no more — I left that career almost 20 years ago, and the blog tells you why. Read at your own risk. Plus: fun vintage photos.

Onward and upward!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

https://diaryofmydisastrouslawcareer.blogspot.com/

 

 

Chocolate & Harvard Autumn 2017

harvard yard
Time travel: “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” #antoinedesaintexupery
I’m enjoying stepping back in time in Harvard Yard, where I – and so many before me and after me – spent so much time, and moving forward in time with the relatively new colorful chairs sprinkled about, which encourage people to linger in the Yard and take their time! Of course, we used to sit on the Widener Library steps for community time, and on the Henry Moore sculpture outside Lamont Library, sometimes while eating chocolate, naturally. Such time was very important indeed!
#HarvardAutumn2017

What a happy visit to home sweet Harvard, plus Boston and Cambridge sweet spots!
Itinerary:

  • give a talk at my alma mater Harvard Law School – on alternative careers for lawyers – and connect with students,
  • scout awesome chocolate nearby,
  • chat with great local retailers, including some we used to visit on my chocolate tours in Boston,
  • visit the Taza Chocolate factory,
  • see fabulous old friends and new, and
  • visit beautiful old favorite spaces and new!

I always feel so happy to be back among these red bricks where I went to college and law school!

Scroll for the story through photos, and “keep eating chocolate!”

Valerie

Valerie Beck

Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift

Craft Chocolate & Cacao Distribution

Wholesale & Retail, Subscription Box & Tours

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

mdw to bos
Somewhere over the sunrise: Chicago to Boston!

mdw to bos with violet sky
“Truth never damages a cause that is just.” #Gandhi In the air with Violet Sky Chocolate: this is the lovely brandy barrel aged Monte Grande Guatemala 72% chocolate, from cacao aged in a honey brandy barrel before being refined into chocolate, which I pulled from my bag to make in-flight trail mix! Here’s to truthful, transparent chocolate!

home sweet harvard
Happy landing at home sweet Harvard, my undergrad and law school alma mater!

sweet speaker at alma mater harvard law
Sweet talk: what a treat to speak to students at my alma mater #harvardlawschool on alternative careers for lawyers, at a leadership conference organized by the Harvard Women’s Law Association and Ms. JD!
🏛
My message to these high-achieving super-professional students: follow your passions and goals, not someone else’s. And if your passion is BigLaw, have a back-up passion, because today only 19% of equity partners are women, and they are paid 80% of what the men receive.
⁉️
Entrepreneurship is an exciting alternative, and has been a meaningful and delicious one for me!
It was fun and an honor to share war stories from my law firm days, and origin stories of my original chocolate tours business, to chat afterward with such wonderful and thoughtful students about what is on their minds, and to share Chocotenango chocolate bars which were enormously popular!

hls
Harvard Law School – love the addition of picnic tables for community and outdoor studying

 

charles river
“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” #Thoreau
I’ve passed every season here, multiple times, and it’s always fresh to be back, to be forward!
#HarvardAutumn2017

homemade trail mix
I always travel with homemade chocolate trail mix – glamour mix!

home
“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” #Emerson
And every night! From home sweet Harvard, back to sweet home Chicago!

From Harvard to Paris to Chocolate Uplift

From Harvard to Paris to Chocolate Uplift

By Valerie Beck, founder of Chicago Chocolate Tours and Chocolate Uplift

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.

Quincy House at Harvard, where I woke up with a special dream
Quincy House at Harvard, where I woke up with a special dream

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.

Debauve et Gallais, the Paris chocolate shop where I tasted the bonbon that changed my life
Debauve et Gallais, the Paris chocolate shop where I tasted the bonbon that changed my life

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.

Pralinette Chocolates Bruges
Pralinette Chocolates Bruges

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.

As a 19-year-old Harvard senior in Paris, where I created the first chocolate tour
As a 19-year-old Harvard senior in Paris, where I created the first chocolate tour

I’m grateful it all flowed from a thought I woke up with when we were at Harvard.