A Dream Come True + April Chocolate Tasting

Photo credit: Ruth Kennison, The Chocolate Project

Ever since I started my chocolate journey, I dreamed of connecting a loyal community of chocolate lovers with cacao, aka the source of our favorite food. Through a series of serendipitous encounters and good old-fashioned teamwork, that dream came true this month. 

On March 13, Melanie told us about how her team in Guatemala processes cacao beans into chocolate at Diego’s Chocolate. She went all out for us, cutting a fresh cacao pod, grinding cacao beans, and answering our many questions about their chocolate-process. Nico, the US distributor of Diego’s Chocolate, translated her explanations to non-Spanish makers like me. It was an amazing experience and the awe on every attendee’s faces made this tasting one for the books. 

If you missed Diego’s Chocolate tasting, don’t worry, you’ll have an opportunity to connect with another chocolate-maker on April 10.

Upcoming Online Tasting

A pioneer of the bean-to-bar movement, Amano Chocolate has been turning carefully sourced cacao beans into instant chocolate classics for 15 years. If you’ve had the company’s Dos Rios Bar, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If not, sign up to my next tasting to find out!

On Saturday, April 10, at 2 PM ET // 11 AM PT, you’ll sample three (vegan!) bars by Amano Chocolate and share your impressions with the group. Art Pollard, co-founder of Amano Chocolate, and his son Aaron Pollard, vice president and chocolate-maker, will share the stories behind each bar and answer your questions on their chocolate. I’m planning to bring a twist to the tasting, but I can’t say too much now 🙂 Tickets are $52/household and include three chocolate bars shipped to a US-based address. I saved a few spots to international attendees, please email me at estelle(at)37chocolates.com to arrange shipping.

On a side note, you can watch a 20-minute interview of Denise Castronovo by Seth Godin here. You’ll be hearing the story behind the Castronovo Chocolate 80% Arhuacos dark chocolate so many of you love. 

I hope to see you soon! If you’d like to schedule a private tasting for your family or team, please fill out the following form

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

Cocoa Nib Recipes + February/MArch Chocolate Tastings

February in Pennsylvania is a lot more exciting than it seems. Between Groundhog Day, snow storms, and (online) chocolate tastings, we’re barely thinking about summer; we’re too busy shoveling our sidewalks.

No matter where you live, I hope you are healthy and hopeful about the weeks ahead. If “eating more chocolate,” is one of your 2021 resolutions, I hope you’ll try your hands at making drinking chocolate from cocoa nibs and attend an upcoming 37 Chocolates tasting. Scroll down to learn more!

Cocoa Nibs: Recipes Outside of the (Granola) Box

There are so many ways to use cocoa (or cacao) nibs beside sprinkling them on oatmeal or adding them to smoothies. I like brewing them to make cacao tea, use them instead of nuts in brownies, and even turn them into a cup of hot chocolate. Find out how in my latest piece for Edible Delmarva’s website.

Upcoming Zoom Chocolate Tastings

On Sunday, February 28 at 2 PM ET, you’ll have a chance to follow me on a virtual trip to Colombia. This tasting was inspired by a trip I took to Colombia with chocolate-maker Denise Castronovo in 2019. During this 90-minute tasting, you’ll be discovering quirky facts about life on cacao plantations and taste through three single origin chocolate bars by Castronovo Chocolate.

Tickets are $67/household and include three full size bars shipped to your home. Curious on what to expect? Listen to food writer Joy Manning’s experience with a previous Colombian-themed tasting on the Local Mouthful podcast. 

Ever since I launched 37 Chocolates, my goal has been to build a community to explore the world of chocolate at large and connect with incredible makers in the US and beyond. In fall of last year, I fell head over heels with Diego’s Chocolate in Guatemala and I want YOU to discover the company’s story and chocolates, too. You’ll understand why after watching this video.

On Saturday, March 13 at 7 PM ET, we’ll thus be tasting Diego’s Chocolate Mayan chocolate rolls. Founder Diego Cumes developed his signature chocolate based on his grandmother’s drinking chocolate recipe. Every roll is 100% handcrafted in Guatemala, from the roasting and winnowing of the cocoa beans to the dyeing of the wrapper.

Nico Silverman, the company’s US distributor, will join the event to answer your questions and tell us how his previous job at Etsy led him to meet Diego and his team. I can’t wait for you to meet him. Tickets are $67/household and include four chocolate rolls shipped to your home.

Please sign up 37 Chocolates newsletter to be notified of blog updates and upcoming online chocolate tastings. For corporate and private tastings, please fill out this form and I’ll get back to you within 48 hours.

Happy New Year + January & Valentine’s Day Chocolate Tastings

In March of 2020, my chocolate business brought in a revenue of exactly $0. For days, I spent hours refunding tickets of cancelled live events. I was heartbroken. Was this the end of the business I’d spent five years building?

Sad as I was, I still cared a lot about chocolate and quickly committed to post bi-weekly live chocolate reviews on Facebook. To my surprise, several of you showed up to watch every. single. video. Interacting with you became the highlight of my week. You motivated me to keep going and a couple of months later, you became the first paid customers for my Zoom chocolate tastings.

It’s been six months since I hosted that first event. I now have customers I’d never dreamed of having and am booking tastings weeks in advance with the loveliest people.

2020 brought the previous iteration of my business to a halt and March was the month I came the closest with failure. I spent days dancing with it, looking at it from each angle and that intimacy made me lose my fear from it. After all, here I was, still standing, still smiling, and still going. A lightheartedness has emerged from my encounter with failure, which makes running a business so much more fun.

As 2021 brings new promises, I’m looking forward to getting to know you even better and excited for the new relationships ahead. Stay safe, healthy, lighthearted, and remember to eat lots of chocolate!

Upcoming Zoom Chocolate Tastings

The Acalli Chocolate tasting on January 16 sold out weeks ago, so I added an online event the next day day to welcome people on the waitlist.

For this one-hour tasting, I selected three bars to accommodate the tastes of a birthday lady. There’ll be a sweet, 64% dark chocolate and two dark milk chocolate, including the fabulous sweet potato milk chocolate bar by Hogarth Chocolate.

Tickets are $58/household and should be purchased by Monday, January 11, 2021. There are 10 total spots available.

Tickets for this event are no longer available.

Boho Chocolate likes their chocolate dark and spicy – think 87% dark chocolate and warming chai spices – so the New-England-based company was a natural fit for Valentine’s Day’s chocolate tasting on Sunday, February 14.

During this 2-hour event, you’ll sample four (4) bars by Boho Chocolate and share your impressions with both the group and Charlie Burke, founder of Boho Chocolate.

Your ticket includes the following vegan (dairy-free) 3-oz bars shipped to your home with USPS Priority Mail or UPS Ground:

  • 87% Dark Chocolate
  • 70% Belize Single Origin Dark Chocolate
  • 70% Dark Chocolate + Spicy Chai
  • 62% Dark Lemongrass and Ginger

Tickets are $67 vs. $72 per household with the code “37CHOCOLATES”.

I’ve truly been grateful for your trust, loyalty, and support in 2020, and I hope to see you again soon as part of another Zoom chocolate tasting. Please leave a comment if you’d like to be part of a specific tasting or meet a particular maker. I love hearing back from you!

Please sign up 37 Chocolates newsletter to be notified of blog updates and upcoming online chocolate tastings. For corporate and private tastings, please fill out this form and I’ll get back to you within 48 hours.

Holiday Gift Guide + January 2021 Online Chocolate Tasting Schedule

This post contains affiliate links.

In an ideal world, I’d publish a gift guide on the blog the day after Thanksgiving, complete with photos and product descriptions. However this is the real world so I’ll simply recommend my top 5 books for new chocolate enthusiasts, this fabulous book by Natalie Nixon on creativity, these drinking chocolate cups by Cocoa Nouveau, this chocolate pairing guide by Projet Chocolat, and a couple of jars of Soom’s delectable chocolate tahini (use code 37chocolates10 for 10% off your order.) Also, check out Map Chocolate’s cool gift guide on Instagram.

If you’re in the mood for chocolate bars, head out to the 37 Chocolates e-shop and maybe you’ll grab the last Bourbon-aged chocolate by Violet Sky or this milk chocolate with buttered toast with sea salt by Hogarth Chocolate. A seat to a chocolate tasting also makes for a great gift, scroll down to learn more about January’s Zoom event.

Upcoming Zoom Chocolate Tasting

This month’s tasting with Acalli Chocolate filled out quickly, so I added a date on Saturday, January 16 for another 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. 

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 bold flavors. Tickets are $58 per US household.

I wish you a beautiful and safe holiday season, filled with good health and chocolate. If you’re struggling to juggle remote-schooling duties with work, please know you are not alone. I recently shared the challenges of parenting while running a business in a pandemic in this Instagram video — I hope it will give you some comfort.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. You can also fill out this form to book a private or corporate tasting for your team. 

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

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.