December 2020 Online Chocolate Tasting Schedule + A Spicy Chai Bar

Last Sunday, I hosted an online chocolate tasting with Karl and Marina Hogarth of Hogarth Chocolate in New Zealand. We tried four amazing bars, including a rich gianduia and a playful sweet potato milk chocolate. I was thrilled to see many familiar faces on my screen and left the Zoom hangout with a massive smile on my face.

Building the 37 Chocolates online tasting community has been the highlight of my year. Seeing you show up over and again for these chocolate hangouts fill me with so much joy, that I’ve planned not one but TWO chocolate tastings next month. Read on to learn more about what’s in store and if you’d like to order some Hogarth Chocolate bars, you can do so on the 37 Chocolates e-shop (you’ve got to try the Buttered Toast & Sea Salt Bar!)

Here’s what Adel said about the Hogarth Chocolate chocolate love fest:

“It was such a great event, again. You seem to have a steady group of followers and it’s starting to feel like meeting up with friends when we gather at your tastings. You have an amazing ability to assemble a collection of bars that everyone enjoys, may they be newcomers or seasoned pro tasters. I’m always happy to participate.”

Upcoming Events

On Sunday, December 6, you’ll have a chance to meet Carol Morse, founder of Acalli Chocolate in New Orleans. Her company was on Melissa Clarks’ list of top 13 chocolate-makers for the New York Times last February but it’s been on mine for years! Five years ago, the 65% Milk & Nibs bar blew my taste buds away with its bold, tart fruit notes and, to this day, it remains one of my desert island chocolate. 

Carol Morse, Founder of Acalli Chocolate

During the two-hour tasting, you’ll get to sample the three bars pictured above + a mystery dark chocolate. This tasting is for you if you love boldly flavored chocolate. Tickets are $58 per US household.

The following week, on Saturday, December 12, you’ll discover three bars by Violet Sky, a chocolate-maker based in South Bend, Indiana. Founder Hans Westerink is a chocolate poet and I’ve been a fan of his work since the 37 Chocolates challenge. His chocolate is silky smooth, with lots of nuanced flavors. Hans already added the event to his (very full) calendar and I’m excited for his participation!

Tickets for the tasting are $52/household and include three 77% (vegan) dark chocolate bars: one single origin (either Venezuela or Guatemala), another made with Bourbon barrel-aged cacao nibs, and a bar coated with maple sugar.

For this last ticketed event of 2020, I’ve also asked chocolate educator Hazel Lee to join the party. Hazel lives in the UK and she’s the creator of the Taste with Colour Chocolate Flavour map pictured with the Violet Sky bars. She’ll be telling us how connecting flavor with color inspired her to create her map. 

New on the 37 Chocolates Shop

In four words: dark chocolate + spicy chai.

In three words: I am obsessed.

You can order it here.

If you’d like to be notified of blog updates and upcoming online chocolate tastings, please sign up 37 Chocolates newsletter, as I don’t always post new events on the blog.

October 2020 Online Chocolate Tastings with Qantu Chocolate

2020 has been full of surprises. Some weren’t good, others much better. On one hand, it wasn’t easy to kiss goodbye to my beloved wine and chocolate pairing events. On the other, I’m now excited to reach an audience way beyond my one-mile-square town. Since I started hosting chocolate tastings on Zoom this spring, I’ve met chocolate-lovers in Philadelphia and Seattle, New York City and Puerto Rico. What’s more, I can now invite special guests to my events, such as my favorite chocolate-makers, so my attendees can feel more connected to their food. Can you imagine if talking to a restaurant chef for an hour after a special meal? That’s how it feels to be part of a 37 Chocolates event.

As we ease into fall, I’d like to virtually cross the Canadian border and introduce you to one of my all-time favorite makers: Qantu Chocolate in Montreal, Canada. We currently have two tastings scheduled: one for US-based guests on Wednesday, October 14 at 6 PM ET, and one for Canadian residents on Sunday, October 18, at 2 PM ET. You can sign up for the US event right below. Head to Qantu Chocolate’s website to be part of the Canadian party.

Qantu Chocolate makes some of the finest chocolate around and trust me, I’ve had hundreds! Their bars are the little black dress of my chocolate stash: classic, elegant, and beautiful in many settings. I’m particularly fond of their 70% Gran Blanco, which will be part of both events. It’s very mild, with beautiful citrus aromatics. It seems to pair with almost any light to medium body wines (both white and red), it’s stellar with orange liqueur, and delightful with tea. Did I mention I’m a fan?

You’ll receive three full size bars with your ticket: the 70% Gran Blanco, the 70% Chuncho aka Golden Bean Award and Gold Medal at the Academy of Chocolate Awards 2018, and the Silk Road, a beautiful bar inspired by the fragrant spices of the Silk Road. You’ll be joined by company founders Elfi Maldonado and Maxime Simard who will answer your questions, both in French or English. You’ll also receive a list of pairing wine, tea, and fruit recommendations prior to the tasting, so you can try my favorite pairings at home. 

Elfi’s on my right and Maxime’s on my left

This event is online, but I promise the feeling of connection is there. Here’s what a previous guest said about my previous, Colombia-inspired event.

“I had such a wonderful time at your chocolate tasting this evening—thank you for an event that was as delicious as it was fascinating! Such an incredible group of participants, too! I loved hearing about the single origin … chocolate bars, and they are some of the best chocolate I’ve had. It reminded me of a family trip to Ecuador a few years back, where we visited a cacao plantation and got to see their whole growing, roasting and chocolate-making operation. 
I’m so glad I got to participate, and I look forward to future events.”
– T., California 

So, will I see you then? Remember you can email me at estelle(at)37chocolates.com to schedule a private (online) tasting chocolate or corporate (online) event… Holidays are coming soon!

If you’d like to be notified of blog updates and upcoming online chocolate tastings, please sign up 37 Chocolates newsletter.

Interview with Hasnaâ Ferreira, Founder of Hasnaâ Chocolats Grands Crus in Bordeaux, France

Hasnaâ Ferreira, founder of Hasnaâ Chocolats Grands Crus

There aren’t a lot of women bean-to-bar makers in the US, but there are even fewer in France. In fact, I was aware of zero female chocolate-makers in my homeland until I discovered Hasnaâ Chocolats Grands Crus a couple of years ago on Instagram. When I did, I was immediately drawn to Hasnaâ’s pistachio and raspberry wonder’barre and her kind personality. I took note of the company’s two retail shops in Bordeaux and promised myself to visit her chocolate mousse bar one day (yes, internet, a single origin chocolate mousse bar.)

Well, that day hasn’t come yet, but I did meet Hasnaâ Ferreira in Colombia last year. She and I were part of the same cacao sourcing trip organized by cacao broker Uncommon Cacao (merci to Denise Castronovo of Castronovo Chocolate for having me along.) Between bus rides on dirt roads and cacao plantation visits, I got plenty of opportunity to get to know her.

Born and raised on Morocco, Hasnaâ launched her company back in 2014 after a formal chocolatier training. Today, her chocolate repertoire covers everything from serious, two-ingredient bars to crowd-pleasing bonbons, all presented in eye-catching packaging (her husband, Vincent, was once a creative director, so he knows the importance of strong visuals.)

While her dark chocolate bars have a coarser texture that I like, I’m personally quite fond of her dark milk chocolate line (the Arhuacos is my fave.) Perhaps more importantly, the French woman goes above and beyond to positively impact the lives of her sourcing partners. A few months after returning from Colombia, Hasnaâ welcomed the brother of an Arhuaco* farmer in her Bordeaux workshop to teach him chocolate-making.

*The Arhuacos are an indigenous tribe in Colombia.

This summer, Bar & Cocoa started carrying Hasnaâ Chocolats Grands Crus in the US, so I thought you’d like to meet Hasnaâ before placing an order. You won’t find chocolate mousse on the site but I trust you to whip up a batch at home.

A couple of notes: we carried the interview in French; you’ll find both English and French versions hereafter. All photos are by Hasnaâ Chocolats Grands Crus.

Hello Hasnaâ and thank you for answering my questions. You’re the first woman who started turning cacao beans into chocolate in France, what motivated you to do that?

This is a second career for me. I was under the wrong impression that all chocolatiers worked straight from cacao beans and it wasn’t until I formally trained as a chocolatier that realized it wasn’t the case.

I find it both interesting and rewarding to work from the bean, as it allows you to express your sensibility through the first production stages of the chocolate-making production (i.e. roasting, conching). There are also not that many women [in the bean-to-bar chocolate industry], so that’s an additional motivation for me.

Bonjour Hasnaâ et merci de te livrer au jeu de l’interview avec moi. Tu as été la première femme en France qui s’est lancée dans la transformation des fèves de cacao, qu’est-ce qui a motivé cette démarche ?

En effet, je suis issue de la reconversion. Je pensais à tort que tout les chocolatiers travaillaient à partir de la fève. C’est pendant mon CAP chocolatier, que j’ai eu la confirmation du contraire.

Je trouve cela intéressant et enrichissant de travailler à partir de la fève. Cela permet d’exprimer sa sensibilité et de l’affirmer en jouant sur les premières étapes de la fabrication (torréfaction, conchage…) De plus, Il n’y a pas beaucoup de femmes [dans le chocolat bean-to-bar], alors c’est une motivation de plus.

When we met in Colombia last year, I got the impression that you only worked with beans from native cacao varieties, is that right?

That’s essentially it, but [I source from] Tanzania, India and other the countries that are not part of the Amazon basin and do not have native cacao trees. Since the quality of their beans is sublime and the societal impact is positive, we take them anyway.

Lorsque nous nous sommes rencontrées en Colombie l’an passé, j’ai cru comprendre que tu ne travaillais qu’avec des fèves issues de cacao natif, est-ce que tu peux le confirmer ?

C’est essentiellement ça. Mais [je source de] la Tanzanie, l’Inde et tous les pays qui ne font pas partie du bassin amazonien et n’ont pas de cacaoyers natifs. Mais comme la qualité de leurs fèves est sublime et que l’impact sociétal est positif, nous les prenons quand même.

Hasnaâ checking out drying beans

How do you choose your beans for your chocolate?

There are several criteria: origin, variety, quality of post harvest treatment, environmental and societal impact. We favor the diversity of origins, so we can draw a fairly large map for our customers.

Comment choisis-tu tes fèves pour ton chocolat ?

Il y a plusieurs critères : l’origine, la variété, la qualité du traitement post-récolte, l’impact environnemental et sociétal. Nous privilégions la diversité des origines, comme ça nous dessinons une carte assez large pour nos clients.

In addition to bean-to-bar chocolate, your chocolate factory is known for its chocolate mousse bar. Is this another way to let your clients know about different origins?

A very gourmand way. We notice that customers can feel the difference. A mousse made with a bean-to-bar chocolate is more intense and has a much longer finish in the mouth. Customers are delighted.

En plus des tablettes bean-to-bar, ta chocolaterie est connue pour son bar à mousse au chocolat. Est-ce une autre manière de faire connaitre différentes origines à tes client.e.s ?

Une manière très gourmande. Nous avons remarqué que les clients ressentaient la différence. Une mousse avec un chocolat bean-to-bar est plus intense et a beaucoup plus de longueur en bouche. Les clients sont ravis.

Chocolate mousse!

What is the reaction of your customers when they discover the bean-to-bar for the first time?

I pay close attention to the reaction of our customers who often discover bean-to-bar the first time with us. They’re often surprised by the strength and authenticity of our chocolates. For example, the Piura Blanco has been a revelatory chocolate for some because of its very clear grapefruit notes. One person once told me: “you put a lot of grapefruit in it.” I had to explain it was the natural flavor of the cacao bean.

Quelle est la réaction de tes client.e.s quand ils découvrent le bean-to-bar pour la première fois ?

J’observe attentivement nos clients qui ont souvent découvert le bean-to-bar chez nous. Ils sont souvent surpris par la force et l’authenticité de nos chocolats. Par exemple, le Piura Blanco a été un chocolat révélateur pour certains car il a des notes de pamplemousse très marquées. [Une] personne a dit : “Vous avez mis beaucoup de pamplemousse dedans”. J’ai dû confirmer que c’était la saveur naturelle de la fève.

Oh I love this anecdote! This bars goes so well with orange, we tested on the plane with Denise [Castronovo of Castronovo Chocolate]!

Same for the Bolivia chocolate, another person told me: “There is too much honey in it.”

Oh j’adore cette anecdote ! Cette tablette se marie bien avec l’orange, on avait testé dans l’avion avec Denise [Castronovo de Castronono Chocolate] !

Pareil pour le chocolat de Bolivie, une autre personne m’a dit : “Il y a trop de miel dedans”.

Hasnaâ at the chocolate mousse bar

Last fall, you welcomes Hernan’s brother Francisco to train him on bean-to-bar making. What was your motivation and what’s your memory of that time?

First of all, it was to help him and share our know-how with him. [The Arhuacos] are already great at growing cacao trees and fermenting cacao beans. However, they don’t know how to do everything else, so [welcoming Francisco] was a way of giving back to this community. The experience has grown into a powerful memory.

À l’automne dernier tu avais reçu le frère d’Hernan, Francisco, pour le former au bean-to-bar. Quelle a été ta motivation et que gardes-tu comme souvenir de cet apprentissage ?

C’est d’abord pour l’aider et pour partager avec lui tout notre savoir faire. [Les Arhuacos] savent très bien cultiver des cacaoyers et travailler la fève en fermentation. En revanche, ils ne savent pas faire tout le reste. Alors, pour nous c’était une façon de rendre un peu à cette communauté. J’en garde un souvenir très marquant.

Do you have specific memory to share?

He never runs, he embraces slowness. He didn’t eat much. He doesn’t understand the concept of eating at fixed times. Above all, he thought we ate a lot (appetizer, entrée, dessert). Also, he sowed the fruit stones at home because that’s what they do in nature! It was funny.

Also, he didn’t know the principle of time difference. His family did not understand that it was dark at home while it was still daylight where they were.

Un souvenir précis à partager ?

Il ne court jamais, il fait l’éloge de la lenteur. Il ne mangeait pas beaucoup. Il ne comprend pas le concept de manger à heures fixes. Et surtout il trouvait qu’on mangeait beaucoup (entrée, plat et dessert). Aussi, il semait les noyaux de fruits à la maison parce que dans la nature ils font comme ça ! C’était drôle.

Aussi, il ne connaissait pas le principe du décalage horaire. Sa famille ne comprenait pas qu’il faisait nuit chez nous pendant qu’il faisait jour chez eux.

An anecdote to share?

Vincent was preparing our first dark milk chocolate, which included Arhuacos. And since [Francisco] is not a chocolate-maker, he added the cocoa butter without paying attention to its temperature. As a result, the milk powder in the chocolate warmed up a bit, which changed the taste and texture of the chocolate. We then decided to use it in the mousses because the texture was not suitable for bars. Since then, it’s become our bestselling mousse, so we decided to make all our chocolate for the mousses.

Une anecdote à partager ?

Vincent était entrain de préparer notre premier chocolat dark milk notamment l’arhuacos. Et comme [Francisco] n’est pas chocolatier, il a ajouté le beurre de cacao sans faire attention à la température. Du coup, la poudre de lait dans le chocolat a un peu chauffé ce qui a changé le goût et la texture du chocolat. Nous avions décidé alors de l’utiliser pour les mousses car la texture n’était pas adaptée pour les tablettes. Depuis c’était la meilleure vente chez mousse et on a décidé de fabriquer tout notre chocolat pour les mousses.

I understand he made his first bars?

Yes, I taught him more than that. He learned to make pâtes de fruits, jams, and pralines.

Il a réalisé ses premières tablettes, il me semble ?

Oui, je lui ai même montré plus que ça. Il a appris à faire des pâtes de fruits, de la confiture et des pralinés.

Which three Hasnaâ bars would you recommend to someone who’s not yet familiar with your world? Also, do you have a favorite origin?

Idukki 71%, Tanzania 74%, and Chuncho 75%.

Idukki: full-bodied and floral.

Tanzania: balanced and elegant.

Chuncho: fresh and intense.

My favorite is wild Bolivia but we don’t have it right now.

Quelles sont les trois tablettes Hasnaâ que tu recommenderais à quelqu’un qui ne connait pas encore ton univers ? Et toi, tu as une origine chouchoute ?

Idukki 71%, Tanzanie 74% et Chuncho 75%

Idukki : charnu et fleuri.

Tanzanie : équilibré et raffiné.

Chuncho : frais, Intense

Mon préféré c’est le Bolivie sauvage mais on ne l’a pas actuellement.

Your company’s been around for six years now, what do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?

I’m especially proud of working from the cacao bean because it’s a real accomplishment here in France. What’s great is being in contact with the raw product and above all close to the producers and contribute to providing them with the income they deserve.

Ton entreprise existe depuis 6 ans, de quoi es-tu le plus fière ?

Je suis surtout fière du travail de la fève, car ici en France c’est un véritable exploit. Ce qui est génial c’est d’être au contact du produit brut et surtout proche des producteurs et contribuer à leur fournir le revenu qu’ils méritent.

What can we wish you for the future? Do you have a final word?

To keep doing my best and continue to please customers. I’m very happy to be at Bar and Cocoa, it’s a great opportunity for us!

Qu’est-ce qu’on peut te souhaiter pour la suite ? Un mot pour finir ?

De continuer à faire de mon mieux et de continuer à plaire à les clients. Je suis très heureuse d’être chez Bar and Cocoa, pour nous c’est génial !

If you’d like to be notified of blog updates like this one and upcoming online chocolate tastings, please sign up 37 Chocolates newsletter.

Wine & Chocolate Pairing + Upcoming Zoom Tasting

A photo of an early wine & chocolate tasting by my sweet photographer friend Becca Mathias

It’s been weeks since we adjusted into a new normal, but every once in a while, I get a glimpse of life “before.” On Friday, for instance, I had a brief, masked meeting with a sommelier. We talked about my latest Zoom tasting, shared wine book titles (Wine Girl* is a must read) and favorite brands of gin (Forthave Spirits is my fave). The conversation was fun, it made me miss the camaraderie I built with wine industry professionals before COVID. 

The good news is that I’m playing with wine & chocolate pairings again, albeit on my own. It will be a while before we can safely gather in a room sans mask, so you can count on me for fun tastings in the fall and winter. I don’t always post about events on the blog, so please sign up to the 37 Chocolates newsletter to be notified of all future tastings.

* Affiliate link.

Upcoming Events

In-Person-ish Tasting: Self-Guided Wine & Chocolate Pairing

I’m thrilled to partner again with Harvest Ridge Winery in Toughkenamon, PA, on a wine & chocolate pairing on Sunday, August 23, 2020. Tickets are $25/person and feature four summery pairings, including a red sangria. Please note this is a self-guided tasting and that the number of spots is very limited for safety reasons. I won’t be at the event, but I did curate all of the chocolate. You can sign up here.

Zoom Chocolate Tasting: A Trip to Colombia

Join me on Thursday, September 17, at 6 PM ET for a tasting experience inspired by my trip to Colombia last summer. Tickets are $52/US household and include three (3) full size bars by Castronovo Chocolate, one of the most awarded chocolate-maker in the USA.

During this 90-minute tasting, you’ll discover quirky facts about life on cacao plantations (spoiler: machetes are involved), learn about the indigenous people known as the Arhuacos, and eat through three single origin bars, each featuring a different Colombian cacao. This is my most popular tasting and the one featured on the Local Mouthful podcast! You can sign up below.

“You are very well suited to lead these classes. I appreciated your efforts to draw participation by all the guests and that your joyful personality really came through. This can be challenging with a virtual format but it worked because of you.” – C.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: THANK YOU for your kind words and support during these very weird times. I’ve loved getting to know you through Zoom tastings and I look forward to seeing you again, whether on my screen or with a mask in town. Until then, please stay safe.

CBD Craft Chocolate: an Interview with Iris Stork, Co-Founder Of Solkiki

Bob Spink and Iris Stork, founders or Solkiki. Photo credit:  Michal Lucky

Disclaimer: Solkiki gifted me both of their CBD bars prior to this interview.

Fine, I’ll admit: Solkiki got me at CBD. Once you read this brilliant piece of reporting on cannabidiol (CBD), my guess is you’ll feel the same. Sadly, my only experience with CBD-infused edibles left me unimpressed (who knew gummy bears could taste that bad?), so I haven’t ingested as much CBD as I thought I would by now. That was until Solkiki sent me one of each of their CBD bars all the way from the UK.

Solkiki makes good chocolate and by good, I mean award-winning, boldly flavored bars that so happen to be vegan. Since 2008, founders Iris Stork and Bob Spink have blown tastebuds away with inventive bars like The Elvis with salted peanuts and bananas or Dutch Breakfast Cake, a 70% dark chocolate with spiced cake crumbs, alongside high percentage, single origin dark chocolate. Their product range is wide (43 bars!), but every variety I’ve tried has packed a ton of flavor. If anyone would make CBD-infused chocolate taste good, I knew it would be Iris and Bob. Here’s the video proof:

In addition to making great chocolate, Iris and Bob are such nice people. They show a lot of gratitude for their audience by actually engaging with them on Instagram. They answer comments and direct messages by writing whole sentences, if not paragraphs!!! (Yes I used three exclamation marks because IT IS A BIG DEAL!!!). I appreciate that so much, I swear it makes the chocolate taste better.

We could all use an extra dose of kind right now, so I sat down with Iris to talk about CBD chocolate, working with a spouse, and what bars she’d recommend ordering beside the 33mg CBD and 77mg CBD bars. I hope you enjoy.

You are known for your delicious vegan bars and you recently added CBD chocolate to your line-up, what motivated that decision?

The CBD bars were at least 2 years ago, Bob is just checking that. Ah he says it was 2017. It always takes a while for things to get noticed.

We met Daisy and Bart from Daiba at a fair in 2016, we tried their CBD oil and got chatting about how our bars would taste with their CBD oil. There was a lot of bad CBD oil at the market at the time (low amount of CBD) and the chocolate that we did find with CBD oil was also made with industrial chocolate. We felt that people deserved better CBD and also deserved better chocolate, the flavours were much better when we made it!

Solkiki CBD 77mg Photo credit:  Michal Lucky

CBD has a very strong taste, was it challenging to create CBD chocolate that tasted good?

We experimented with CBD oil because we liked the flavours, we’re selling it because there is a demand for it. Often, we design bars just for ourselves. So, we never know if people like it. It’s a huge bonus if they do of course.

It was a challenge to create a nice chocolate with CBD oil. We tried lots of different cacaos and different percentages, different recipes with different fat content and different amounts of CBD oil.

That sounds like a lot of work!

We’re just having a discussion on how many experiments we did. Bob says about 30 before we chose our recipes, I honestly don’t remember, but there were many.

When we’re after a certain flavour, flavour combo or idea, we go for as long as we need to, we don’t do short cuts, life is too short to be so short. We stop when we feel confident it can’t be improved.

We’re always working on experiments in the background. This morning as well, but I can’t tell you what it is yet. We’ve done about 7 experiments this week. Some are for our exclusive subscriptions and others are for our core range.

Solkiki CBD 33 mg. Photo credit:  Michal Lucky

Could you tell us more about the chocolate base you used for your CBD bars? Lots of people do not know about cacao varieties, so what do you think they should know about the Gran Nativo Blanco?

The chocolate base is 63% Gran Nativo Blanco. It’s a dark milk, but without dairy of course, since we don’t use animal products, but made with a coconut milk. The coconut milk is very understated and most people don’t even detect it.

The Gran Nativo is a Piura and a typical Piura in the sense that it is fruity and tangy and contains lots of white cacao beans, which in our hands helps create a creamy chocolate. We source this cacao through Luis [Mancini] from Cacaotales in Northwest Peru.

Do you mean they naturally contain more cocoa butter?

It’s not a particular fatty bean I would say, when I said creamy chocolate, I meant the white beans bring a softer profile in this case to the flavour of the chocolate. Not so much the structure or texture.

Craft chocolate remains a niche in the chocolate industry. Do you find that your CBD bars help draw a new clientele to your brand? Do customers come to you for CBD chocolate and browse the rest of your selection?

There is a different audience for CBD, I’m sure it helps promote craft chocolate. At the fairs (before Corona[virus]) we meet people who are just interested in CBD. After chatting a bit with them and tasting our chocolate, a lot of them walk away with a few extra bars without CBD. So, we hope we create more interest this way for craft chocolate.

It works the other way around too. Some people come to us for the craft chocolate and by coming to us they can try CBD for the first time and they then get more into the CBD this way.

We all have to help each other we feel. Good chocolate introduces good CBD. Like what you do helps the craft chocolate industry and hopefully interviewing us helps the movement and everything too 😉

Photo credit:  Michal Lucky

Amen! You’ve been making chocolate for years now and I’m struck at how connected to your customers and general audience you’ve stayed. You promptly reply to Instagram direct messages and take time to connect with us despite a busy schedule. How important is it for you? Am I the only person who comments on it?

We hear it a lot. I was a bit surprised at first when people starting commenting on us responding to them and sometimes even late at night or at the weekend. For us it was just common decency. We do sincerely appreciate everyone’s personal interest in us and our chocolate. People take time to connect with us and we feel it’s normal to respond back. Often people assume we are a huge business, this is obviously not the case. We are very busy, but we both make it a priority to respond as quickly as we can as it is the people that reach out to us that allow us to keep making chocolate. We are very grateful for the life we have and the opportunity to make a difference with our chocolate.

Do you feel that this personal touch is part of the Solkiki brand?

I’m not sure that a personal touch is part of our Solkiki brand, I hadn’t really thought of it in that way. It almost sounds corporate that way. I suppose it is a part of Solkiki as it’s just a part of us.

I know what you mean, people often don’t respond back when we ask something, but I do find that when I respond to people online or send them a personal message back they’re really suprised! Then they’re really lovely back, it is appreciated, so that is wonderful.

Do you have any employees?

No employees, it’s just Bob and I. The kids help us eat chocolate, haha, very helpful, they help out with tastings often and also little things like putting stickers on things etc. I made ‘palate training’ part of our homeschooling haha.

They’re absolutely amazing by the way, I think children’s palates are better than ours, they just need bigger vocabularies, I think.

How do you manage to separate personal and professional lives? Or do you even try?

There are of course good sides and more challenging sides to that. It’s a great question.

There are always so many things to discuss, creatively, practically, social media that goes on for 24/7, so it’s a bit of a conveyor belt of work that never stops, so it’s always challenging to compartmentalise. We’re often talking chocolate in one way or another, but we have other interests as well which helps a lot and takes us away from chocolate.

You have to try to have a variety in your life, that goes for everyone I think. It keeps life interesting.

Photo credit:  Michal Lucky

You have a large selection of bars on the site, what are four bars you’d recommend to someone who’s new to your brand?

I was talking it over earlier with Bob which bars we would recommend. It’s always surprisingly difficult to recommend just a few because the bars are all so different in their own ways, [it] could be the types of inclusions or the different cacao we use. We like to be creative with our flavours, but we are also always very interested to make the cacao shine in its own glory and terroir, we do our best to bring out the right flavours and create a nice balance of flavour and experience.

When people come to us at fairs and they are a bit overwhelmed with choice, as we have a lot of bars, I typically then start them out on our 60% salted caramel, dark (coconut) milk, Marañón, Peru. This was one of our very first bars. The Marañón cacao has a great story behind it since it was a cacao that was one thought to have been lost for about a century. But most of all, it has a very pleasant flavour! People who like dark chocolate like it and people who like milk like it. The salt is ground through the chocolate and grinding ingredients through the chocolate is something that bean-to-bar makers can do.

Another chocolate we want to recommend is our latest release, it’s called ‘So Woke’. It’s a cacao butter bar, it doesn’t contain any (plant) milks of any kind, but it does contain a lot of coffee and a very nice coffee at that, it was the nicest we could find. I know you have tried this bar. We included this bar into our ‘Taste of 2073‘ range. This is a collection of future chocolate that is made without any plant based milks nor any other type of milk, we’re sourcing ingredients that we think will be easier to source, that don’t need a lot of water to create, are traditional and sustainable ingredients. We feel that chocolate-making will be moving into more sustainable directions and we want to show that you can make amazing chocolate without relying on unsustainable or cruel ingredients, but not compromise on flavour at all!

Then, we are also proud of our single estate or single source chocolate. We often recommend our 70% dark chocolate, Chililique, Peru to people that are looking for dark chocolate that is a bit unusual and more fruity. It’s a good chocolate to start people on when they are being introduced to craft chocolate, it also pairs really well with various wines, liquors and other drinks, so we are told over and over.

So far, I recommended a dark milk bar, a cacao butter bar, a dark bar, which leaves me a white. Oh yeah, the 70% Chililique bar won so many awards, I can’t mention them all. Same as with my white bar recommendation, the Yirgacheffe coffee & red skin peanut white chocolate bar. We ground the roast peanuts through the chocolate, together with the Ethiopian coffee to get a smooth mouthfeel. This bar also won a crazy amount of awards and is one of the bars that many people keep coming back to us for. The coffee is understated in this bar, think of a hint, rather than a shot of coffee. Completely different than our So Woke white chocolate.

I was going to pick the Marañón dark and the Yirgacheffe coffee with peanuts!

You can still pick the Marañón dark if you mean the 68%. This was also one of our very first bars and we won so many awards with that bar. We love the flavours in the Marañón cacao. There are very clear honey notes, alongside red grapefruit which is more of a rare finding with dark chocolate we think. The 68% is just cacao beans and sugar, no added cacao butter. It means the bar has a slow melt, but your flavour journey, whilst you let the chocolate melt, is much longer. That chocolate is also a pain to temper haha, it’s so viscous when it’s liquid, it can almost stand up on its own, but it’s well worth it.

You can order Solkiki chocolate at solkiki.co.uk and follow Iris and Bob on Instagram.

If you’d like to be notified of blog updates and upcoming online chocolate tastings, please sign up 37 Chocolates newsletter. It’s the best way to keep in touch since I don’t always list events on this blog.

A Place to Start

The news of the past 10 days have been upsetting, to say the least. Like you, I’ve sometimes felt like curling up on the couch with all. the. chocolate. However, avoidance has never been a good way to solve a problem, so this is what I did instead:

Next, I’ll be tuning in to conversations moderated by Megan Giller, author of Bean-to-Bar, on making the craft chocolate world more inclusive. These discussions will take place every Friday for the next three weeks and, if you love and care about chocolate, I hope you consider joining, too.

I’ve heard from some friends that they don’t know where to start their anti-racism journey or how to communicate about it. The important thing, I think, is to get started. I hope the handful of resources above will help you do just that. As always, you can leave a comment and share your resources.

The news of the past 10 days have been upsetting, to say the least. Like you, I’ve sometimes felt like curling up on the couch with all. the. chocolate. However, avoidance has never been a good way to solve a problem, so this is what I did instead:

Next, I’ll be tuning in to conversations moderated by Megan Giller, author of Bean-to-Bar, on making the craft chocolate world more inclusive. These discussions will take place every Friday for the next three weeks and, if you love and care about chocolate, I hope you consider joining, too.

I’ve heard from some friends that they don’t know where to start their anti-racism journey or how to communicate about it. The important thing, I think, is to get started. I hope the handful of resources above will help you do just that. As always, you can leave a comment and share your resources.

It’s happening: Online Chocolate Tasting

They say showing up is half the battle. While the adage has proven true for me, there has been days last month where I couldn’t find the strength to answer a simple email. Maybe you’ve felt that way, too.

When I first started hosting live tastings on the 37 Chocolates Facebook page, I was feeling sad about I’d lost and scared about the future. But you kept showing up, so I started focusing on the next video I’d host instead of the local tastings I’d cancelled. Slowly but surely, I started feeling hopeful again.

Thank you so much for tuning in every Tuesday and Thursday at 3 PM ET on Facebook. Interacting with you has been one of the greatest joys of this quarantine (Bonjour Claire! Hello Juanett!). I’ve been lucky to rely on your support in these crazy times and I’m grateful for the orders you insisted on placing on the 37 Chocolates online shop. You helped me get back on my (chocolate) feet and support my beloved chocolate-makers. I appreciate your trust in the selection and loved hearing how the Tasting Set challenged your perception of chocolate. Here’s my favorite testimonial from Dorothy in Texas.

“The Acalli 51% bar is delightful! Wouldn’t have tried it without your recommendation. You are an authentic chocolate sommelier.”

I am grateful.

If you’d like to keep up online shop updates (the next tasting set will be available soon and I won’t talk about it here), please sign up to the 37 Chocolates newsletter. It’s the best way to keep in touch.

Upcoming (Online) Events

Photo by Rodrigo Flores on Unsplash

Next on the chocolate agenda, a Zoom chocolate tasting on Sunday, May 31 inspired by the cacao trip I took in Colombia last year. Tickets are $50 per household and include three full size Castronovo Chocolate bars.

To avoid shipping delays, the event is limited to US residents only and tickets must be purchased by Friday, May 22.  Sign up info is available here. Attendance is limited to 12 screens and there are already only 5 spots left! The event is SOLD OUT!

I’ve scheduled another tasting on Sunday, June 7, on the same topic and with the same chocolate bars. Sign up information is available here. I hope to see you on my tablet one either one of these days.

I look forward to seeing you online this month. Until then, be safe and eat chocolate!

Classic Chocolate Truffles Recipe

Photo by amirali mirhashemian on Unsplash

COVID-19 threw a wrench in our holiday celebrations this year, didn’t it? Confinement orders translated into intimate Passover Seders. Bare grocery shelves will rob Easter dinner of its rich cakes. My solution to turn your next dinner into a celebration? Make a batch of truffles.

Truffles are within any home cook’s reach: if you can warm up cream, then you can make truffles. If you have kids, enroll their help! Once the ganache* is ready, little chefs will enjoy shaping the chocolate balls (yay for chocolate-covered hands!) and pick toppings — crushed pretzels truffles, anyone?

The recipe below is quite straightforward, as long as you follow one rule: don’t boil the cream. This will cause the cocoa butter to separate, resulting in a layer of fat on top of your ganache. If this ever happens, place the truffle mixture in the fridge until the fat starts just begins to harden, about 15 minutes. Use a spatula to incorporate the fat into the truffle mixture and place in the fridge for another 10 minutes. Phew, crisis averted.

I recommend using Éclat Chocolate 71% chocolate chips (available at their West Chester store) which you can buy in 1-lb bags. The chips have a complex flavor with a nice acidity. If you can’t find them, use another high quality chocolate like Guittard Bittersweet Chocolate.

* Ganache is the French word for a cream and chocolate mixture. It sounds fancy, but it’s actually an old-fashioned way to say “idiot.”

Classic Chocolate TruffleS

Makes 20-24 truffles

Ingredients

100 g (3.5 oz or 1/2 cup) heavy cream
200 g (7 oz) 60-70% dark chocolate, finely chopped OR high quality chocolate chips from Éclat Chocolate or Guittard Bittersweet Chocolate
For garnish: finely chopped nuts, cacao powder, vermicelli, or crushed pretzels

Preparation

Place the chopped chocolate in a glass or Pyrex bowl.

In a small pan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Watch the pot closely to prevent the cream from boiling.

Pour the cream over the chocolate, cover, and let rest for 2 minutes.

Using a spatula, stir the chocolate until the mixture is smooth and shiny.

Transfer to a rectangular Pyrex dish and let the ganache harden for 2-4 hours at room temperature or 30 minutes in the fridge.

When ready to shape the truffles, place each garnish in its own little bowl.

Using a small cookie scoop or tablespoon, scoop the ganache into tablespoon portion. Using your hands, shape into small balls, then roll in the garnish of your choice. This is the most satisfying, but also messiest part. Wear an apron if you must!

Serve immediately, preferably with a glass of Champagne, or store in the fridge in an airtight container. The truffles are best enjoyed at at room temperature.

To be notified of future blog posts and events, please sign up to my newsletter!  It’s really the best way to keep in touch.

Chocolate in the time of Coronavirus

My oldest daughter turned 13 last week. Soon after she was born, as a 34-week preemie, she was whisked into the NICU so her growth could be monitored. Her hospital stay was expected to last “5 days.” Instead, she was hospitalized for 28 days. During that time, I remember being sad, angry, and discouraged. I was also so busy obsessing at her discharge date that I’d forgotten to plan for our new life together. 

Those grueling four weeks taught me two valuable lessons: learn to surrender when you’re not in control but remember to plan for better days.

The past three weeks have been a whirlwind of event cancellations, Zoom-schooling, and batch cooking. When anxiety kicks in, I open the windows and let the blossoming trees remind me that life goes on.

Upcoming Internet Events

On Facebook

While waiting for the storm to pass, I’ve created new routines to create a sense of normalcy. Last week, I committed to go live on the 37 Chocolates Facebook page every Tuesday and Thursday at 3 PM ET until schools reopen. You can already watch the recordings of last week’s videos here and here.

Warning: you may order ALL the Chocolatasm Ginger Tiramisu bars after watching the second video.

Tomorrow’s live will exceptionally be held on the Facebook Page of My French Recipe, a cooking school based in Plano, TX. At 3 PM ET, I’ll be debunking 5 myths about chocolate, click here to add the event on your Facebook calendar.

On Instagram

I’ve convinced Christopher Curtin of Eclat Chocolate in West Chester, PA, to join me for a Q/A on Instagram this Wednesday, April 1 at 3 PM. Chris has run a successful chocolate business for 15 years and I look forward to him sharing his wisdom with us all. Until then, use code “STAYHOME” on Eclat Chocolate’s website for free shipping on your purchase of $50 of more. The Bourbon Pecan Cubes are especially delicious.

Support 37 Chocolates

I’m fortunate to have a roof over my head and food on the table. Without a physical shop or office, I don’t have to worry about paying rent or employees. The best way to support 37 Chocolates at this time is by ordering chocolate from your favorite chocolate-maker’s website. If you’re local, PLEASE consider supporting my existing tasting partners in the Brandywine Valley. Without them, there is no 37 Chocolates tasting.


If you are in the chocolate industry, now would be a good time to invest in yourself and watch my video training on how to “pitch, design, and lead a chocolate tasting and pairing event.” Use code “cheers” for 15% the list price. You could also take advantage of this time to discover the keys to crowdfunding success by watching recordings of the talk that Emily Stone of Uncommon Cacao, Enna Grazier of Enna Chocolate, and I gave at the most recent Fine Chocolate Industry Association Elevate conference. Part 1 is available here and Part 2 here — thanks to Thanks Kimberly Yang for recording these videos.


Thanks so much for your support, I look forward to “seeing” you on Facebook. Until, be strong, stay home, and remember that this too shall pass.

To be notified of future events, please sign up to my newsletter!  It’s really the best way to keep in touch.

March/April 2020 Chocolate tastings in Chester County & Delaware + Hello San Francisco

** March 16, 2020 edit: most of these events are now cancelled because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Please be safe and I’ll see you in happier, healthier times. **

The past Valentine’s Day season was one for the books with six chocolate tastings in nine days! We paired chocolate with wine, of course, but also tasted two interpretations of the same wild Bolivian cacao bean at the Kennett Library on Saturday. If you missed the chance to geek out with us, don’t worry, you can watch the recording of the Bolivian tasting on Facebook.

French chocolate tasting at the Kennett Library (February 2020)

You can look forward to more chocolate pairings this spring, not only with wine, but with tea, beer, and coffee too! Until then, read Everything You Don’t Know About Chocolate in the New York Times. Melissa Clarks has done a superb job explaining highlighting what makes fine chocolate special. 

March events & tastings

Friday, March 6, 1:30 PM: Emily Stone of Uncommon Cacao and Enna Grazier of Enna Chocolate, and I will be sharing our Keys to Crowdfunding Success at the Fine Chocolate Industry Association’s Elevate Conference in San Francisco. Sign up information is available here.

Saturday, March 7 and Sunday, March 8: find me at the Castronovo Chocolate booth at the Craft Chocolate Experience at the Palace of Fine Arts. Ticket information available on the event’s website.

Friday, March 13, 6-8 PM: wine & chocolate pairing event at Grace Winery in Glen Mills. Tickets are $42.63/person and include 4 pairings plus one 1-oz bar to take home. Since our February 7 event sold out in 6 days (!), get your tickets now if you’re eager to join!

Thursday, March 26, 6-8 PM: beer & chocolate pairing at Braeloch Brewing. Tickets are $25/person and include 4 pairings. Tickets available on Eventbrite.

Photo credit: Manki Kim on Unsplash

Sunday, March 29, 3-4:30 PM: tea & chocolate Pairing at Brew HaHa! in Greenville, DE (yes, that super cute one). Tickets are $20/person and include 4 pairings. 4 spots are still available The event is SOLD OUT but you can put your name on the waitlist (this would make for a lovely mother-and-daughter date).

April tasting

Photo credit: Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Sunday, April 5, 3-4:30 PM: coffee & chocolate pairing event at Little Goat Coffee Roasters in Newark, DE. I’m thrilled to partner with Newark’s coffee darling on my very first coffee pairing event. 5 spots are still available, please click here to sign up.

To be notified of future events, please sign up to my newsletter!  It’s really the best way to keep in touch.