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 馃槈

Photo credit:  Michal Lucky

Amen! You鈥檝e been making chocolate for years now and I鈥檓 struck at how connected to your customers and general audience you鈥檝e 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鈥檇 recommend to someone who鈥檚 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, Mara帽贸n, Peru. This was one of our very first bars. The Mara帽贸n 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 Mara帽贸n dark and the Yirgacheffe coffee with peanuts!

You can still pick the Mara帽贸n 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 Mara帽贸n 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鈥檚 so viscous when it鈥檚 liquid, it can almost stand up on its own, but it鈥檚 well worth it.

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

If you鈥檇 like to be notified of blog updates and upcoming online chocolate tastings, please sign up 37 Chocolates newsletter. It鈥檚 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鈥檝e heard from some friends that they don鈥檛 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鈥檝e heard from some friends that they don鈥檛 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鈥檛 find the strength to answer a simple email. Maybe you鈥檝e 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鈥檇 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鈥檝e been lucky to rely on your support in these crazy times and I鈥檓 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鈥檚 my favorite testimonial from Dorothy in Texas.

鈥淭he Acalli 51% bar is delightful! Wouldn鈥檛 have tried it without your recommendation. You are an authentic chocolate sommelier.鈥

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鈥檚 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 鈥 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 脡clat 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鈥檛 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 脡clat 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鈥檚 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聽Eclat Chocolate聽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聽Eclat Chocolate’s website聽for free shipping on your purchase of $50 of more. The聽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聽Kimberly Yang聽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聽sign up to my newsletter!聽聽It鈥檚 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聽with six chocolate tastings in nine days!聽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,聽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:聽wine & chocolate pairing event at Grace Winery in聽Glen Mills.聽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 (!),聽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鈥檚 really the best way to keep in touch.

5 Myths about Pairing Wine and Chocolate

Two years into my chocolate journey, I decided to learn the secrets to pairing wine with chocolate. Having no idea where to start, I brought my entire chocolate stash to Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery in Kennett Square one day, while the winemaker, Virginia Mitchell, poured all of the wine. After two hours of sipping, tasting, and dumping, we came up with very successful duos where the proverbial whole tasted better than the sum of its part.

Looking back on that afternoon, I realize our inexperience was a blessing in disguise. We approached pairings with an open mind, which made us consider unusual combinations, like a 100% dark chocolate with a dry red wine or milk chocolate with a white wine.

Since then, I鈥檝e collaborated with sommeliers and winemakers, clubhouse managers and chefs to create successful, memorable wine and chocolate pairings. As I interacted with wine experts, I discovered their idea of matching wine with chocolate was sometimes regimented by a set of rules that didn鈥檛 seem to take the diversity of the chocolate world into consideration. For instance, some sommeliers are set on serving a sweet wine with chocolate. Others are convinced that white wine won’t go with chocolate. On the internet, I鈥檝e shaken my head when a podcast host claimed 鈥測ou can鈥檛 pair Champagne with chocolate!鈥.

The world of chocolate is vast and these rules are based on a limited exposure to fine chocolate. Granted, pairing wine and chocolate is tricky 鈥 a chocolate that goes well with a Merlot from a specific winery may not go with ALL the Merlots 鈥 so I understand the need to rely on some guidelines. After two years of leading my own wine & chocolate tastings, I鈥檝e created my own set of rules which help me come up with the sweetest pairings. I鈥檓 sharing them here as I debunk five common myths on the topic.

Make sure to read until the very end for a special offer on my video training on how to pitch, design, and lead a chocolate lecture and wine & chocolate pairing event.

MYTH# 1: DRY RED WINES DON鈥橳 PAIR WITH DARK CHOCOLATE

This myth is widely spread in the wine industry, where experts claim the dark chocolate will clash with the tannins in red wine. Sure, a dark chocolate from the grocery store isn’t the best thing to nibble alongside a glass of red. However, I鈥檝e had dozens of chance to debunk this myth.

The first step is to start with a dark chocolate with gently roasted, specialty grade cacao beans. Over-roasting will cause bitter compounds to develop (see this bean comparison post for an explicit visual), which will indeed clash with your red wine. OK, but where can one find these bars? Follow my rule and you’ll find out.

Rule #1: Skip the candy aisle and get some quality (and pricier) bars from a local coffee shop, specialty food store, or on a craft chocolate website like Bar & Cocoa or Caputo’s Market.

You can also email me at estelle(at)37chocolates.com for specific chocolate recommendations. I suggest starting with an approachable cacao origin like Madagascar. The cacao beans’ natural sweetness and berry notes make for crowd-pleasing, versatile bars. I’m partial to Fruition Chocolate Works’ Madagascar Sambirano 74% Dark Chocolate, which plays well against a medium-bodied Merlot. Give it a shot and tell me what you think.

MYTH #2: YOU SHOULD PAIR DARK CHOCOLATE WITH A SWEET WINE

Ask a wine expert to pick a bottle of wine to accompany a piece of dark chocolate and the odds are, they鈥檒l choose a sweet wine. Depending on the budget, this could be a Madeira, Port, or Muscat. In France, the popular choice is Mas Amiel’s AOC Maury. Now, there鈥檚 nothing wrong about serving a dessert wine with chocolate 鈥 in fact, one of my favorite pairing is a 100% Madagascar dark chocolate with a Concord grape wine (!) 鈥 but you’ll be missing out on some delectable unions.

Rule #2: Not all dark chocolate is bitter, which means you don鈥檛 need to rely on the sweetness of a wine to balance its flavor out.

Go ahead, experiment and you’ll fall like me for Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery’s Cabernet Franc with 脜kesson Organic’s 100% Madagascar Criollo or Acalli Chocolate’s 81% Barataria Blend.

Another trick is to keep a stash of chocolate bars made with a high percentage of white cacao beans. Cacao beans are typically purple, which indicates the presence of tannins. Using that logic, I theorized that chocolate made with white beans lacked tannins, so they could go well with dry red wines and guess what? It works! OK, but how do you spot bars made with white beans? Look for the world 鈥渂lanco鈥 or “Porcelana” on the wrapper. 鈥淧iura Blanco鈥 or 鈥淕ran Blanco鈥 are usually a good sign 鈥 I have a soft spot for Qantu Chocolat’s 70% Gran Blanco, which I consider the little black dress of my chocolate tastings.

MYTH #3: (RED) WINE AND CHOCOLATE ARE A NATURAL PAIRING

I stumble upon this myth on social media, usually from people who鈥檙e interested in one of my upcoming events. 鈥淲ine and chocolate, how can you go wrong?!鈥 While I appreciate the sentiment, the reality is you can go wrong bringing wine and chocolate together.

For one, the bitterness of a industrial dark chocolate will clash with dry red wine. Thankfully, the bars I feature at my events are not bitter. In fact, some don’t even taste like typical chocolate at all. These bars won’t clash with red wine but a strong bodied wine will overpower them.

Here’s an example. I once ordered a glass of Grenache at a restaurant. The wine was dry, full-bodied, with strong berry notes 鈥 it was delicious. I thought the fruitiness would be a perfect match for the jammy, French Broad Chocolate 71% India bar I carried in my purse that night. While both shared a flavor profile, the wine was too loud and took over the conversation, so to speak.

Grenache + French Broad India
French Broad Chocolate’s 71% India Dark Chocolate and a glass of Grenache

This shouldn’t have been a surprise because of my third rule.

Rule #3: Red wine and chocolate aren鈥檛 a natural pairing, but if you look for a chocolate with a body similar to the wine鈥檚, you may find some delightful matches.

As such, a better companion for the Grenache would have been a bold dark chocolate with an 80% cacao content 鈥 think Castronovo Chocolate’s 80% Arhuaco Village or 脜kesson Organic’s 100% Madagascar Criollo.

MYTH #4: WHITE WINE DOESN鈥橳 PAIR WELL WITH CHOCOLATE

I don鈥檛 know what the foundation of this myth is, but follow my next rule and you’ll be a white-wine-and-chocolate convert.

Rule #4: Pick a barely tannic dark chocolate like Amano Chocolate’s 70% Dos Rios dark chocolate or Qantu Chocolat’s 70% Gran Blanco to pair with white wine. 

I love Dos Rios because of its unusual, delicate notes of bergamot and lavender, which play well against a floral white wine like a Spanish Albari帽o. As for Gran Blanco, it’s fantastic with Chardonnay. Other stronger, fruitier bars will work, too, and you’ll fall for the raisin notes of Wm. Chocolate’s 68% Belize Dark Chocolate with a crisp glass of Gr眉ner Veltliner.

Alternatively, you could serve a crisp white wine with a rich, creamy dark chocolate. The wine helps cut through the richness of the chocolate, so you get a very balanced sensation in the mouth.

MYTH #5: CHAMPAGNE (OR SPARKLING WINE) DOESN鈥橳 PAIR WITH CHOCOLATE

First, a reminder that Champagne only refers to the sparkling wine originating from the region of Champagne in France! Cava isn’t Champagne and neither is Prosecco. With that settled, I know lots of people enamored with the idea of holding a glass of Champagne in one hand, and a piece of chocolate in the other. Add a sequin dress to the mix and you got a fantasy new year鈥檚 party.

Personally, I think Champagne is perfect on its own, so I don鈥檛 feel compelled to pair it with any food. If you reallllllly want to eat something with Champagne, consider making goug猫res, the light, airy puffs baked with Gruy猫re. That’s what the French would do.

But back to chocolate.

When the opportunity arose to experiment with Champagne last year, I jumped at it and had four empty flutes to show for it. Better yet, I discovered that bubbles and chocolate can be a match made in heaven.

Rule #5: Drink Champagne with white chocolate (YES IT IS REAL CHOCOLATE!!!) or a creamy dark milk chocolate.

The most memorable pairing that evening was a dry, slightly bitter Champagne with Violet Sky Chocolate’s Pine and Citrus bar. Oh, did that make my tongue sing! The irony is that the Champagne rep’ thought that bottle wouldn鈥檛 go with any chocolate. The magic there came from the bitter orange that bridged the Champagne’s bitterness with the intense dark chocolate. Swoon.

Another good partner to a glass of bubbly would be chocolate truffles 鈥 my friend Sophia Rea, founder of Projet Chocolat, is quite fond of Teuscher’s Champagne truffles.

So yes, you can pair Champagne (and other sparkling wines, for that matter) with chocolate 鈥 sequin dress optional.


I hope I’ve convinced you that wine and chocolate do go together. As a chocolate sommelier, I found wine & chocolate tastings to be a fantastic way to introduce fine, craft chocolate (call it bean-to-bar, if you prefer) to a larger audience.

If you’d like to learn how I pitch, design, and lead an engaging chocolate lecture AND wine & chocolate pairing event, sign up for the video training I created for chocolate industry professionals. Use code “cheers” for 15% off the list price.聽

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Winter 2019/2020 Chocolate Tastings in Chester County

As 2019 is coming to a close, I’d like to thank you for being part of the 37 Chocolates journey. Thank you for attending a tasting, listening to a chocolate story, shopping at a pop-up, and referring me to prestigious venues. This year, you’ve also trusted me with birthday celebrations 鈥 how amazing is that?  You’ve helped make 2019 stellar and for that, I am grateful.

The holiday season is now in full swing and I know many of you could use a last minute gift idea. If so, I hope to see you this Saturday, December 14 from 1-5 PM at Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery in Kennett Square for a chocolate pop-up sale. This will be part of their annual Sip & Shop event and YES, I’m bringing the white chocolate with lemon & sea salt!

Grace Winery October 2019
Photo credit: Becca Mathias

December Tasting

Sunday, December 22, 2019, 5-7 PM Wine & Chocolate pairing at Grace Winery in Glen Mills, PA. Tickets are $42.63/person and include four pairings and one 1-oz bar to take home. There are only 8 spots left, so save your spot now.

Read Becca Mathias’ account of our previous tasting at Grace Winery in this blog post.

Grace Winery Line-Up
Photo credit: Becca Mathias

February Tastings

Friday, February 7, 2020, 6:30-8 PM: Wine & Chocolate pairing at Grace Winery in Glen Mills, PA. The event is SOLD OUT but you can add your name  the waitlist.

Sunday, February 16, 2020 at 2 PM 鈥 4 PM: Wine & Chocolate pairing event at Harvest Ridge Winery’s tasting room in Toughkenamon, PA. Tickets are $30/person and must be ordered online prior to the event. Price includes four pairings.

Read Becca Mathias’ account of our previous tasting at Harvest Ridge Winery in this blog post.

Saturday, February 15, 2020 from 10-11 AM: FREE chocolate tasting and storytelling at the Kennett Library. We’ll be sampling three bars from two new French chocolate-makers. Spoiler: there’ll be chocolate with caramelized passion fruit. Sign-up information available in 2020.

Thursday, February 20, 2020, from 7-9 PM: wine & chocolate pairing at Bittersweet Kitchen in Media. Tickets are $40/person and are available here. Price includes 3 pairings + hors d’oeuvre. 

Friday, February 21, 2020, 6-8 PM (SOLD OUT): Wine & Chocolate Pairing at Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery in Kennett Square. Tickets are $35/person ($30 for wine club members). RSVP by phone at (484) 899-8013, by email at info@galerestate.com or stop by the tasting room.

Read Becca Mathias’ account of our previous tasting at Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery in this blog post.

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

What makes chocolate bitter?

Chocolate Envelopes
Chocolate blind tasting

At a recent chocolate lecture, I asked the crowd what each type of chocolate evoked to them. White chocolate? Not real chocolate (ahem.) Milk chocolate? Sweet. When I said “dark chocolate”, the answer was unanimous:聽bitter. I wasn’t really surprised. The first time I tried a 99% bar, I almost spit it up. Thankfully, the 37 Chocolates challenge made me realize that a good dark chocolate didn’t have to taste bitter. In fact, some beans make an excellent 100% dark chocolate bar, without a trace of bitterness. So, why are some dark chocolate bars bitter? To answer that question, we need to look at the ingredients in chocolate.

To make chocolate, you need cacao or cocoa beans (it’s really the same thing.) Genetics, fermentation, and roasting will all impact chocolate flavor. Cacao is an agricultural product and not all beans are created equal. Just like a Granny Smith apple is more acidic than a Gala, some cacao beans are more bitter than others. Fermentation is a complicated topic, but it’s easy to imagine the results of bad fermentation (mold.)

Now, let’s take a look at roasting. I had long heard rumors of big companies over-roasting their beans, but I’d never seen evidence of that. All of this changed last summer when I got my hands on a roasted cacao bean husk* from a very large chocolate company.聽I won’t tell you which one, but I bet you can guess.

Overroasted Cacao

On my left, a roasted cacao bean husk from that large chocolate company. On my right, a cocoa bean from Sierra Nevada in Colombia roasted by much smaller, award-winning chocolate company. The bean on the left was over-roasted, to the point of being burnt. What does burnt food taste like?

Bitter.

However, dark chocolate doesn’t have to taste bitter. The combination of quality cacao beans, careful fermentation, and gentle roasting can create beautiful, intense, but not bitter dark chocolate. Granted, those bars won’t cost the same as industrial chocolate, but which color cacao bean would you rather put in your body? So head to your local coffee shop or specialty food store and start browsing the chocolate section. Your taste buds will thank you.

* The husk is the outside part of a cacao bean, one that is removed and discarded during the chocolate-making process (the fancy name is “winnowed.”) Inside the husk is the cacao nib, which will ground into chocolate.聽

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Fall 2019 Chester County Chocolate Tastings

Chocolate Wine Harvest Ridge
Photo: Becca Mathias Photography.

On her podcast two years ago, my friend Lauren Heineck asked what cacao meant for me. “A source of wonder,” I replied. It’s amazing that a seed can reveal nutty, floral, or fruity notes, depending on its variety, don’t you think? That’s the sense of wonder I strive to spark at my chocolate tastings, so when I hear: “Oh wow I didn’t know chocolate could taste like this”, I know I’ve succeeded.

But chocolate is more than a yummy food. It’s what I pull from my purse to bring comfort to a friend. It’s the topic I bring up when my Lyft driver says he’s from Ghana. It’s what gathers people at my table. When I was in Colombia last June, I met a lot of people who looked nothing like me. Often times, we didn’t even speak the same language. Everyday, though, we sat at the same table. Everyday, we communicated through pictures Google Translate. All because of chocolate.

That feeling of connection is what you’ll experience at this fall’s tastings. You’ll experience wonder through the smoothest and creamiest texture, and from the stories I’ve been lucky to receive for the past four years. I hope to share them with you at one of these Philadelphia area events.

Thursday, October 3, 7-8:30 PM – Chocolate Lecture + Tasting, Clean Slate Goods, Kennett Square, PA

What?聽A 90-minute chocolate tasting around the theme “Every Chocolate has a Story.” Come hear about Robin, Yesid, Duvis, and Denise during this 90-minute event featuring three chocolate bars featuring beans from plantations I’ve visited. You’ll leave the event hopeful and uplifted.

The event is for you if:聽recent headlines on cacao farmers left you depressed and you’re ready to hear uplifting stories about ethically-sourced cacao.

Where? At Clean Slate Goods, a fair trade boutique in downtown Kennett Square.

How do I sign up? Tickets are $15, you can purchase them here.

Sunday, October 6, 2-4 PM – Wine & Chocolate Pairing at Harvest Ridge Winery Tasting Room, Toughkenamon, P

Chocolate Wine Harvest Castronovo Akesson
Photo: Becca Mathias Photography.

What? A 2-hour tasting featuring four wine & chocolate pairings. Spoiler: there’ll be peanut butter chocolate. You鈥檒l learn chocolate-tasting basics, nibble on cocoa beans, and discover the secret behind successful pairings (spoiler: it involves a lot of tasting).

The event is for you if: your BFF is in town and you鈥檇 like to treat her to a memorable afternoon. Here’s what our February tasting was like.

How do I sign up? Tickets are $30/person and must be purchased online.

Friday, October 18, 6:30-8 PM – Wine & Chocolate Pairing Event, Grace Winery, Glen Mills, PA (SOLD OUT)

What?聽A wine & chocolate pairing event at聽Grace Winery,聽a dreamy venue located off Route 1. The setting is so peaceful, with alpacas and donkeys on the property. Book a room at the historical inn if you can!

The event is for you if: you already signed up for the event because the event is SOLD OUT!

How do I sign up? You can add your name to the waitlist聽or sign up to the 37 Chocolates newsletter so you never miss another event.

Saturday, October 26, 10-11 AM – Colombian Chocolate Tasting at the Kennett Library

Denise + Pedro
Denise Castronovo of Castronovo Chocolate introduces her dark milk chocolate to Don Pedro Diego Bolivar, one of the farmers behind her award-winning Sierra Nevada 63% dark milk chocolate. Photo credit: Vincent Ferreira of Hasnaa Chocolats.

 

What? A one-hour workshop where you’ll hear about my recent Colombian trip (spoiler #1: I’ll talk about XXL spiders) and eat three chocolates featuring cacao beans from plantations I visited. Spoiler #2: expect to get emotional.

The event is for you if:聽it’s never too early for chocolate.

How do I sign up? Registration is required on this聽Google Form.

Good to聽know: This is the only FREE tasting I’ll hold this fall. The library’s hosting a kids storytime at the same time downstairs.

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