**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:
Please click to watch my 3-minute “sizzle reel” video montage of TV segments, click here for my speaker’s one-sheet, and see below for my short and long bios. Thank you!
Chocolate expert and Harvard grad Valerie Beck is a chocolate industry entrepreneur, pioneer, and activist. Creator of the original chocolate tours, which she expanded to cities across the US with a team of 50, she is also a chocolate consultant, broker, and speaker, as well as a cheerful and engaging media personality.
She founded Chocolate Uplift to provide chocolate services to the trade, to the public, and to cacao growing nations, such as wholesale distribution of bean-to-bar chocolate, consulting to craft chocolate makers, and speaking engagements for groups and organizations of all kinds.
Chocolate expert Valerie Beck is a pioneering entrepreneur in chocolate and hospitality. Valerie created the original Chicago Chocolate Tours, which she expanded to 4 cities across the US, grew to 50 employees, and ran for 10 years, educating and entertaining tens of thousands of people about the history, health benefits, production, and selection of first-class chocolate. Valerie’s business Chocolate Uplift currently brokers and distributes bean-to-bar chocolate made by craft artisan chocolate makers, and provides consulting services to cacao growers and chocolate makers, always with a focus on ethical chocolate and sustainability. In fact, her 5 Ss of first-class craft chocolate are: slavery-free, soy-free and industrial additive-free, sustainable, small-batch, and scrumptious!
A Chicago native, Valerie graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. After practicing law in Europe and the US, she founded the chocolate tours and Chocolate Uplift, and is also a popular speaker, writer, chocolate show judge, and media personality.
She started the Chocolate Freedom Project to end child slave labor on the cacao farms that produce cocoa beans for big chocolate brands, and supports formerly trafficked kids at a West African rescue center. She has also taught as an adjunct professor at Kendall College and UCLA Extension, spreading chocolate knowledge to new generations, and continues to work with students through her virtual tutoring business Valerie’s Infinity Tutoring.
Valerie’s mission is Uplift Through Chocolate, because chocolate can improve our mood and the world!
Valerie Beck, founder of Chocolate Uplift bean-to-bar chocolate distribution and consulting, and of the original Chicago Chocolate Tours nationwide, also known as Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours, is a cheerful chocolate expert on TV and radio and in print, and has been profiled in multiple media outlets such as NBC, ABC, WGN TV, WGN Radio, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, and Crain’s Chicago Business.
She is an upbeat and engaging speaker and blogger on all things chocolate. She speaks frequently on topics such as the history and health benefits of chocolate, such as in her presentation “What’s in Your Chocolate: Making Conscious Chocolate Choices,” where she teaches how to interpret labels to discern what’s really in your chocolate bar, and discusses her 5 Ss of first-class craft chocolate, which are: slavery-free, soy-free and industrial additive-free, sustainable, small-batch, and scrumptious! She also speaks on business and motivational topics, with a chocolate twist, such as in her presentation on “The ABCs of Sweet Success: Attitude, Belief, Commitment.”
Her chocolate consulting work ranges from helping brands create and launch new chocolate bars, to helping cacao growing nations promote their products.
Valerie is also a popular judge at chocolate competitions such as the annual World of Chocolate event in Chicago, and at business plan and innovation competitions.
Valerie is a pioneer in the business of chocolate tourism and other chocolate services to the public, to the trade, and to cocoa growing nations. Chocolate Uplift is the umbrella for all of these offerings. Chocolate Uplift provides entertaining and educational services to the public including trips to chocolate festivals around the world, and chocolate wellness seminars. Chocolate Uplift also provides valuable services to the chocolate industry, such as consulting to chocolate brands particularly in the small-batch and fine chocolate categories, distributing bean-to-bar chocolate from makers to retailers, importing fair trade cocoa beans and chocolate baking discs directly from ethical sources, and arranging origin trips to cocoa farms for bean-to-bar chocolate makers and others. In addition, Valerie consults for cocoa growing nations such as Ecuador, to promote their ethical cacao and chocolate.
A Chicago native, Valerie created the first chocolate tours when she founded Chicago Chocolate Tours in 2005, to introduce chocolate lovers to small-batch chocolate shops and bakeries. With her team of “Choc Stars” she grew the business to become a well-known and award-winning tour company serving tens of thousands of chocolate lovers, with 50 employees, which opened in Philadelphia and Boston in 2009, and developed footprints in additional cities. In 2016, Valerie relaunched the business as Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours, with renewed focus on sustainable cacao and artisan chocolate.
Valerie invented the concept of the chocolate tour years earlier, when she was a 19-year-old Harvard College senior studying abroad at the Sorbonne in Paris. She had been focused on chocolate since announcing at age 4 that she would drink milk only if it were chocolate. In Paris she fell in love with truly fine chocolate, and started taking her friends on informal excursions she developed to her favorite chocolate and pastry locations there and in Belgium.
Later, after graduating from Harvard Law School, Valerie practiced law in Chicago and Europe, and took the opportunity during her years in Europe to deepen her knowledge of chocolate and pastry.
Her awards include Influential Woman in Business from the Daily Herald Business Ledger, and Top 100 Woman Owned Businesses from the Philadelphia Business Journal. She has mentored many other entrepreneurs through Women’s Innovation Network – WIN, the Chicago City Treasurer’s small business program, and through private consulting.
Her philanthropy of choice for her business is CARE, which helps women and families around the world exit poverty through entrepreneurship. Valerie is also exploring and creating projects such as her Chocolate Freedom Walk to help children forced into slave labor on the West African cacao farms that produce the bulk of the world’s chocolate, while she promotes fair trade and socially responsible chocolate. She started the Chocolate Freedom Project to end child slave labor on the cacao farms that produce cocoa beans for big chocolate brands, and supports formerly trafficked kids at a West African rescue center. She has also taught as an adjunct professor at Kendall College and UCLA Extension, spreading chocolate knowledge to new generations. Valerie continues to work with students through her virtual tutoring business Valerie’s Infinity Tutoring.
Valerie’s mission is Uplift Through Chocolate, because chocolate can change everything from our mood, to the world!
Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift
Craft Chocolate Activism, Brokering, Consulting, Distribution
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
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 email@example.com!
Here are my slides again from this presentation, and thank you to all who made the event possible and all who attended!
When you hear “El Salvador,” what do you think? If you take a look at this wonderful new 1-minute-23-second video from Belú Cacao of El Salvador, on which I was thrilled to do a bit of remote behind-the-scenes consulting, you might think “gorgeous, clean, nature, cacao, chocolate, women in business!”
Belú Cacao is a woman-owned craft chocolate company, and I am thrilled to work with amazing founder Emily de Urías in getting her bars ready for and now successful in the US market! Her chocolate of course meets my 5 Ss of first-class craft chocolate, in that it is
Should we revive the Chocolate Travel Club and visit El Salvador?
By the way, the business is called Belú because that is founder Emily’s young daughter’s nickname. Emily’s husband Carlos is super supportive of the business, and they are a fabulous family, using their education and professionalism to boost their community and nation and our world. (In case you’re wondering, Emily speaks perfect English, as my Spanish is known to be awful, especially as it gets tangled up with my French, German, and bad Italian!)