On Motherhood and Chocolate

A cute hand and the cult Pump Street Chocolate Sourdough & Sea Salt chocolate

As we near the fourth anniversary of the 37 Chocolates challenge, I find myself reflecting on my chocolate journey. From its early days, that journey has been intertwined with my role as a mother. After my second daughter was born, I returned to the corporate job that I’d had for years. I lasted 14 months. I was unhappy, I didn’t belong there anymore. I wish I could say it was easy to leave. It wasn’t. I agonized for months over I’d do next. I was scared of the unknown so I bought myself time. We changed my job title. I looked for other jobs. During that time, I kept looking at my baby. I felt so guilty be such a sorry version of a grown up. What was the point of bringing this baby into the world if my choices conveyed there was nothing more to aspire in life than pay bills and wallow in self-pity? I had to do better — for her and for me.

Ultimately, my body called it quits. I left the job, released the first version of my food survival for French expats in the US, and spent the rest of the summer shooting chocolate reviews with an iPhone laid on an upside down box of diapers. I won’t say “the rest is history” but it was the beginning of a new life.

Chocolate isn’t “just” chocolate for me. It’s a vehicle to find meaning in life and show my children how you can craft your own path and create a life you’re proud of. Sharing bars with my kids is one of my life’s joy. It’s a reminder of the life choices I made to be a better role model. A happy parent. A better adult. May they see it. May they remember it.


My French Book, v2.0

Estelle Livre Croissan
Look, I wrote a book!!

It’s been a little quiet here but for good reason: I launched the second edition of my French book! To say I am ecstatic is a huge understatement: from the content, updated after the “37 Chocolates” challenge, to the new cover, designed by Dan McShane, I am THRILLED at the improvements I have been able to bring to this edition. The book is a “food survival guide” for French expats in the US. It is written in French but printed in the US and, at the moment, exclusively sold online through a platform called Gumroad. It will make a great gift for the francophile in your life 🙂

A bit of background on the book. When I moved from France to the US in 2002, nothing had prepared me for the cultural shock I experienced at the grocery store. Milk was sold in the refrigerated section, there was no crème fraîche but a product called “sour cream”, flour was “all-purpose”, yeast dehydrated, and baking powder sold in ginormous containers. The first time I went to a grocery store on my own, I spent 2 hours reading labels.

Parliament Chocolate, a California-based bean-to-bar maker

The idea for my food survival guide was born 10 years ago, after I shared the result of my research on American dairy and baking products on my French blog. These posts inspired an actual book, which I first released in 2015.  In my book, I walk expats through two of the most daunting aisles of an American grocery store, namely, the dairy and baking aisles, then help them pick meat, eggs, potatoes (nope, there’s no Russett overseas), organic food, and, of course, chocolate. My goal is to give expats the keys to understand their new food environment so they can spend less time at the grocery store and more time enjoying their new American life.

The “37 chocolates” challenge had started as an offshoot of the book: if you remember, on the first video, I mention stumbling upon a grumpy expat’s comment online, who was complaining that American chocolate was bad. “I’ll show you”, I thought, and, at the last minute, made US-made bean-to-bar chocolate the focus of my challenge.

Dick Taylor is a bean-to-bar chocolate-maker I recommend in my book

Today, I am particularly proud of the chocolate section of the book, which I believe provides a blueprint for a casual chocolate eater to expand their horizon and start dipping their toes into the world of handcrafted, single origin chocolate.If you already like Lindt and Endangered Species, why not look for Theo, then move on to TCHO? You could then give Olive and Sinclair a try,  move on to Dick Taylor, before sailing off to your next chocolate adventure.

The last three makers are the newest additions to the chocolate section. I selected them for their chocolate-making style, which I believe will please French palates, as much as for the American touch they bring to their bars.  I love that TCHO calls its chocolate “new American chocolate” or that Olive and Sinclair uses brown sugar to sweeten their bars. This is my favorite kind of food, food that embraces its roots, does not pretend to be what it’s not, and  I hope my readers will give these bars a try.

What I really wish, though? Find the grumpy expat to make him sit through my 37 reviews.

5 Things I Did Not Know About Chocolate

2015-10-26 15.07.34Before the “37 Chocolates” challenge, all I really knew about chocolate was that it was made from cacao beans grown in faraway countries and that making it was a labor-intensive process. That was about it. As the challenge unfolded, I have learned interesting, puzzling, sometimes disturbing facts about cacao and chocolate that I’d like to share with you today.

1) There is “cacao” and then there is “cocoa”. I always knew about “cocoa” but “cacao”? I thought that was the French term for “cacao”! As it turns out, the term “cacao” is usually used to refer to the bean of the fruit of the cacao tree but, once fermented, it is typically referred to as “cocoa”. This is the explanation I found on the Equal Exchange website as well as in the book called Raising the Bar, The Future of Fine Chocolate.

2) Ivory Coast is the #1 producing region of cacao beans in the world.

3) Shockingly, the cacao grown in West African plantations, including those in Ivory Coast, has been associated with child slavery. The topic is well documented – in 2014, CNN even devoted an entire documentary on the issue – and a corporation like Nestle cannot guarantee that the cacao used its chocolate products does not involve child slavery. To me, that meant farewell to most mass-produced chocolate candy bars that are the most likely to contain cacao from West Africa.

As a consumer, feel free to ask a manufacturer about the origin of the cacao used in their chocolate products. To learn more about the issue of child slavery in cacao plantation, check the CNN Freedom Project page.

4) A 70% chocolate is not a 70% chocolate. Let me explain: the 70% chocolate bars you buy at the grocery store are usually made from a blend of cacao beans formulated to taste like what we have come to associate to “chocolate”. If you are mostly used to these bars, your first taste of a quality, single origin chocolate, will send you to a land of both delight and confusion.

I will never forget my first taste of a 70% Madagascar chocolate, whose complete lack of bitterness and bright citrus notes totally threw my taste buds off: that bar did NOT taste like chocolate! As you further explore the world of single origin chocolate, you will discover that an 80% bar is not always darker or more bitter than a 70% chocolate bar from the grocery store and you may find that a 70%, single origin chocolate is too sweet for your taste. In the world of single origin chocolate, the percentage of cacao specified on a wrapper is not an indication of how dark, bitter, or “chocolate-y” your bar will be.

If you are not familiar with the notion of single origin chocolate, check this article on The Kitchn website.

5) A chocolate-maker is not a chocolatier. It took me months before I realized you could not use these terms interchangeably. A chocolate-maker makes chocolate from scratch, starting from cacao beans.  A chocolatier uses already-made chocolate, typically referred to “couverture chocolate”,  to use in his or her chocolate creations (think truffles and bonbons, or even bars.) I like to say that chocolate-makers express their personality by making chocolate and chocolatiers by making chocolate confections.

To learn more about the steps involved in the chocolate-making process, check this article by Ecole Chocolat.

Now, tell me, what are some facts about chocolate you have learned through this post?


American Chocolate at the Grocery Store

Mokaccino, a beautiful, creamy creation by TCHO

When I first committed to sample and review 37 chocolates between June and October of 2015, I knew my first reviews would feature chocolate bars from the grocery store. A few reasons for that: first, it’s so much easier to start a daunting project with what you already know and grocery store chocolate was really all I knew until last spring. Second, I wanted to feature bars my friends (who made up most of my audience back in June) could easily find if they wanted to follow me on my journey: my friend Stephanie did just that in the early days, which was quite neat! Finally, I realized that many people don’t know about all their chocolate options at their local grocery store. While a candy aisle is typically stocked with overly sweet options, you will often be able to find better chocolate natural and organic section of your store. To help you start your own chocolate journey, here is a list of bars I reviewed as part of the challenge that  I think you’ll enjoy.

In the Candy Aisle

Ghirardelli Chocolate “Evening Dream” – 60% Cacao (Review #3)


You can watch a detailed review of the Evening Dream bar here.

Ghirardelli is a San-Francisco-based chocolate-maker whose chocolate products are widely available in American grocery stores. While I am not a fan of many of their chocolates, most notably the filled version, I do like the balance of flavors of this 60% bar. If you like the texture of Lindt chocolate, I think you will enjoy this bar.

Scharffen-Berger Bittersweet – 70% Cacao (Review #4)


You can watch a detailed review of this bar here.

When Scharffen-Berger was founded back in 1997, it was the first new American chocolate-making company in 50 years (source.) Although Scharffen-Berger chocolate is known for its quality baking chocolate, I also enjoy some of their eating bars, with a preference for the bittersweet variety. This one has a firm snap, smooth texture, and a bright, long finish. A little will go a long way.

In the Natural & Organic Section of the Grocery Store

Theo Chocolate (Review #1)


For many years, Theo Chocolate had been my drug of choice to fuel my chocolate addiction: I even used to order 12-bar cases on Amazon! On top of featuring organic and fair trade ingredients, I have always liked the fact their chocolate is easy to find, inexpensive, and fun to eat. In addition, unlike most mass-produced chocolate, Theo Chocolate does not use any soy lecithin in their bars, which is good news if you or someone you know is allergic to soy. I have a soft spot for their inclusion bar: cherry almond, anyone? Although I reviewed the dark chocolate, sea salt, and almond bar as part of my challenge, I actually like the balance of flavor of its milk chocolate counterpart even better. Note that the dark chocolate has a much drier texture than a Ghirardelli or Lindt chocolate.

TCHO (Reviews #7, 15, and 24)


Watch my review of TCHO 70% Ghana bar here, 53% Milk Chocolate here, and Mokaccino bar here.

A relative newcomer to the world of chocolate, TCHO currently makes some of my favorite grocery store bars. Not only do I like their chocolate, I also happen to love the work the company does to educate customers on chocolate production and flavor. On the front of the packaging, you’ll find some approachable, brief tasting notes. On the back, more detail on the flavors, which should help you decide if the bar is for you. I ended up reviewing three bars as part of the challenge: the 70% Ghana, a traditional, quality dark chocolate, the 53% Milk, which is the creamiest, most satisfying dark milk chocolate I have found in grocery store, and my absolute favorite, the Mokaccino bar, which features the perfect balance of chocolate and coffee.

You’ll actually find TCHO in the natural and organic sections of larger grocery stores, such as Wegman’s on the East Coast, as well as in some natural and organic stores. 

Your turn! What are some of your favorite chocolate bars from the grocery store?

Interview with Mackenzie Rivers, founder of Map Chocolate

Photo credit: Mackenzie Rivers
This interview was originally published on my French blog, but I think it will feel more at home here. Map Chocolate is one of  my favorite chocolate-makers. Any bars by Map Chocolate would be a wonderful introduction to the world of craft chocolate.
I discovered Map Chocolate while researching craft chocolate-makers on Instagram. At the time, the only chocolate I consumed was mass-produced, mostly because I had a few favorite brands and was not sold on the idea of spending $8-$10 on a small chocolate bar. However, I did want to make the leap to the world of craft chocolate, so I went looking for makers to lead me there. I turned to Instagram to discover the world of small makers. I saw grinders and melangeurs, shiny tempered chocolate and bloomed chocolate that reminded you of moon craters. I discovered LetterPress Chocolate and Dick Taylor, Violet Sky and Acalli.

Right when I started my “37 Chocolates” challenge, I stumbled upon Map Chocolate’s Instagram account. I fell in love with the maker’s sense of aesthetics, the composition of her photos, which was pretty, but not precious. Did I mention the captions? I read them like poetry.

When I went to Map Chocolate’s website, it became obvious that Map Chocolate was chocolate with a soul. Yes, its chocolate is made of organic cacao from small cacao farmers and no, it does not contain any lecithin, but that’s not all. I read the chocolate descriptions like chapters of a novel and, for the first time, I did not feel intimidated when reading about single origin cacao. I did not know a thing about the difference between a cacao from Belize, Madagascar, or Tumbes in Peru, but I suddenly wanted to know more. I knew right then that $8 would get me chocolate and a map I would gladly want to follow.

Please tell us about Map Chocolate. 

It was the beans that drew me in. I walked into the Chocolate Alchemy warehouse and was so shocked–I had no idea that chocolate did not just come from one type of cocoa bean. Or that there were so many types of beans, grown in so many places. The fact that there is not just “one” bean, from one place, is incredible, because it means there is not “one” chocolate. Which meant, why the heck does it all mostly taste the same? Aside from Theo, I had never tried craft chocolate, so I went from seeing the beans to saying “I want to make chocolate.”

To me, this is what craft chocolate offers: chocolate as something real, not the idea of chocolate as one standardized flavor. That was a year and a half ago; I made chocolate for nine months before I made the leap into opening my online shops. I gave a lot away to family and friends to try, my son and his friends ate it every day, I threw out mistakes, and loved every minute. I was at a crossroads in my life and during that nine months I started working for Chocolate Alchemy (the “father” of bean-to-bar craft chocolate) and every day I would ask John a question about beans or roasting, the chemistry behind chocolate, equipment, etc. He is like the Wikipedia of chocolate! I became immersed in the world of small batch chocolate making, and the world of beans. So I have been very fortunate to have people encouraging me and believing in what I am doing, willing to taste my chocolate, and to give me, a new chocolate maker, a try. And that is why my company is called Map Chocolate: map stands for Mackenzie and People. No boundaries, finding open roads, and each of us discovering our path. I am thrilled every time I send out a bar.

And as a side note: when I was looking for molds I wanted square ones. I found my molds and when they arrived from Belgium (possibly the smallest order they’d ever had, I bought a total of 3, and could make 6 bars at a time), the invoice had the name of the mold listed as Scheherazade. She is the narrator storyteller behind the ancient stories A Thousand and One Arabian Nights…that seemed like a good sign.

Photo credit: Mackenzie Rivers

Could you give us a glimpse into a day at Map Chocolate? Is there such thing as a typical day when you are a chocolate-maker?

Because I work part time at Chocolate Alchemy (John supplies and makes bean to bar equipment, beans + supplies, and information), as well as being the sole proprietor of Map I have to be efficient and try to stick to a schedule. I divide the basic chocolate making over 3 days, then fill in everything else in the mornings and evenings. One day is for roasting, making test batches, and making my sipping chocolates. Roasting is when I often get my inspiration for my bars, because at this point it is truly about the beans; I get the first hints of what chocolate the beans might become, and, for me, it is the area that requires the most skill and intuition. I use a barrel roaster, which also gives me a good way to gauge the roast depending on the aroma, and how it changes and shifts during the roast. The second day I reserve for tempering/molding bars, and nothing else; I still hand-temper, so there’s a lot going on that day. The third day is for wrapping bars and creating my wrappers, and then on day four I try to fill orders, box, and ship. The actual melanging/conching takes place 24/7. I built my website and do all the maintenance/uploading products, and I create my packaging, which I fit in early in the mornings. If I were an animal I would be a mule: stubborn, persistent, not afraid to work, a bit quirky, often with a mind of its own. But “Mule Chocolate” does not have the same ring 🙂

Photo credit: Mackenzie Rivers

Your sense of aesthetics and product descriptions are one of the things that set Map Chocolate from other chocolate-makers. Which are some of the artists and writers that inspire you?

Always in the back of my head is advice about writing by Ernest Hemingway: say one true thing. I want this to come through in what I am making, as well as what I write. I think his quote is from A Moveable Feast. I try to write and stay true to what the voice in my head is saying, and if it feels difficult or a struggle then I know that is a sign that I am not listening, and it isn’t true to my voice. I hope that what I write will open a window, not necessarily point a route to a certain path. As a chocolate maker I’m just a guide: I choose the bean, decide the %, craft it to what I think tastes good, and choose how it will be presented, but then it leaves my hands. Chocolate might be a small thing, but I think there is something amazing about it beyond taste that not only makes us happy, but carries within it the journey of the bean, and awakens memories. This is the story part of it for me, and what I love is that I might say “notes of lemon and birdsong” but then every person has their own notion of what that bird might sound like. Or maybe they will then ask themselves, what would that taste like?

Photo credit: Mackenzie Rivers

I love the seasonality of some of your chocolate collections – I have a soft spot for the Squirrel Stash – could you share some of the chocolate creations you are working on for this winter?

I love creating collections! They came about because the truth for me is that big bars of chocolate can be daunting, and not just the price. What if I take a bite and I don’t like it? what if I unwrap it and now I’m faced with this big bar and I don’t want it to go to waste? And when I was first trying craft chocolate, how was I supposed to choose an Ecuador Camino Verde over a Bolivia? What exactly does a Bolivia mean when it comes to chocolate? The packaging out there implies the buyer must already know what an Ecuador tastes like, and the typical tasting notes only help perpetuate and widen this chasm. There is no reference point; for me, when I eat chocolate it takes me somewhere, either back in time or clarifies the present moment. I want to share this with the people who are trying my chocolate. Also, the flip side of that is that I selfishly don’t want to just make (or eat) the same old thing, and I think chocolate is as seasonal as any real food. So, for this year I have a 25 piece collection for the holidays that is inspired by the winter sky (various hues of dark, a few flickers of bright, and alpenglow will all be in there) a small 9-piece collection inspired by Admiral Byrd called Packing List: Antarctica (he had chocolate and coffee on his packing list), and another small set called The Tip of the Iceberg which features nine different salts atop one origin.

Photo credit: Mackenzie Rivers

Craft chocolate can be expensive. In my experience, many people (I was one of them) feel intimidated by the idea of spending $10 for 2-3 oz of fine chocolate. Some argue their palate is not as refined to appreciate the experience of fine chocolate. As a craft chocolate-maker, what words would you have for someone who is about to dip their toes in the water of craft chocolate?

It all begins with intention. I think that is the gift of anything handcrafted: our intentions shape the world, so if we buy something handcrafted, or from a small farmer who might have actually been the person who lovingly pruned the apple trees, we are then acting out of awareness. It is the goal of mass marketing to get us to choose what we are told we should choose, to act out of habit and blindness.

As a starting point I would say choose based on the packaging, which might seem contrary to “it’s what’s inside that matters,” but if the outer layers are beautiful, thoughtful, have been created with details at the forefront, then that is a good indicator of what is to come inside.This is not to say fancy or expensive, just created with a respect for both the chocolate and the person who might enjoy it. I recently had a bar from a newer, small maker in Australia (Smooth Chocolator) and the packaging was simple albeit stunning. And the experience of opening it was so satisfying, just lovely; as wonderful as opening a new book and seeing the first page, reading the first sentence and having the words drawing you in, instantly. I could feel the maker’s care and love for what they are doing.

The “value” or reason to buy craft chocolate is because it is not just another bar on a long assembly line of sameness, but a glimpse into how the maker sees the world through chocolate. Craft chocolate provides not just the (hopefully wonderful) experience of tasting chocolate, but a real connection…that’s not something a factory does, or is intended to do. Because Map is so small, even in the world of small batch makers, it often feels like it is a tiny bird attempting to migrate and navigate amidst big jetliners and more than a few well-funded Lear jets, plus there is all that headwind from chocolate critics and “experts.” That said, what I believe is that the best stories travel far, and size has nothing to do with it.

You can watch my review of two of Map Chocolate bars here.

The “37 Chocolates” Recap

Nashville-based maker Olive & Sinclair uses the prettiest wrappers.

If you’d like to follow in my chocolate footsteps, here is a list of the 37 chocolates I sampled as part of my challenge. Be warned, though, 37 is a bigger number than you think! A few facts about the challenge:

  • The challenge started in June 2015 and ended on October 31, 2015.
  • All of the chocolate featured as part of the challenge is made in the US.
  • My reviews featured a mix of grocery store and craft chocolate bars.
  • I decided very early on that I would not post negative reviews, so let’s just say I ate over 40 bars between June and October.
  • 17 of the 37 bars are made in California. This year, my goal is to sample more bars from non-California makers.
  • My most popular video is the one featuring the Mast Brothers Goat Milk Chocolate, thanks to the recent scandal brought to light by Dallas-based food blogger Scott.
  • All bars are made from bean-to-bar by chocolate-makers except for two, which are made by Chuao, a chocolatier. Unlike a chocolate-maker, who crafts his or her bars from cacao beans, a chocolatier works with chocolate that’s already been made called “couverture chocolate.”

Ready for the recap? You can watch my review of each chocolate by simply clicking on the name of each variety. Please leave a comment if you’d like to report a broken link, share tasting notes, or recommend some bars. Thanks and enjoy the reviews!

LA-based maker LetterPress Chocolate customized the wrapper of the Ucuyali bar for my challenge.

The 37 Chocolates Recap

* marks a personal favorite

Introductory Video

#1: Theo, Dark Chocolate Salted Almond

  • Made in Seattle, Washington.
  • Find in the natural organic section of well-stocked supermarkets, at natural grocery stores, or order online.

#2: Endangered Species, 72% Dark Chocolate with Bluberries

  • Made in Indianapolis, Indiana.
  • Find in the natural organic section of well-stocked supermarkets. Target also carries some varieties.

#3: Ghirardelli, Midnight Dream, 60% Dark Chocolate

  • Made in San Francisco, California.
  • Find in the candy aisle of your grocery store. Note that not all stores carry the 60% bar which is my favorite dark chocolate by Ghirardelli.

#4: Scharffen Berger, 70% Bittersweet Dark Chocolate

  • Made in San Francisco, California
  • Find in the candy aisle of your grocery store or order online.

#5: Twenty-Four Blackbirds, Madagascar, 72% Dark Chocolate

#6: Woodblock Chocolate, Dark Milk Chocolate

#7: TCHO, 70% Ghana Chocolate

  • Made in Berkeley, California
  • Find in the natural and organic section of larger grocery stores (Wegman’s), World Market, and some natural and organic stores or order online.

#8: Acalli, 65% Dark Milk Chocolate with Nibs*

#9: Mast Brothers, Dark Goat Milk Chocolate

Please read this article on Quartz before considering purchasing Mast Brothers chocolate.

  • Made in Brooklyn, New York.
  • Find at select gourmet stores or order online.

#10: Woodblock Chocolate, Sea Salt and Nibs Dark Chocolate

#11: Taza, Vanilla 50% Dark Chocolate

  • Made in Sommersville, Massachusetts.
  • Find at natural and organic stores or order online.

#12: Olive and Sinclair, 75% Dark Chocolate*

  • Made in Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Find at select Whole Foods Market and gourmet stores or order online.

#13: Nathan Miller, Buttermilk 55% Dark Chocolate*

#14: Scharffen Berger, Pistachio 72% Dark Chocolate (contains milk)

  • Made in San Francisco, California.
  • Find in the candy aisle of your grocery store or order online.

#15: TCHO, Cocoa, 53% Milk Chocolate*

  • Made in Berkeley, California.
  • Find in the natural and organic section of larger grocery stores (Wegman’s), World Market, and some natural and organic stores or order online.

#16: Potomac Chocolate, Cuyagua, 70% Dark Chocolate*

#17: Cacao Atlanta, Patanemo*

  • Made in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • The bar is sold out but you can check the current chocolate bar selection online here.

#18: Taza Cinnamon Disc, 50% Dark Chocolate

  • Made in Sommersville, Massachusetts.
  • Find at natural and organic stores or order online.

#19: Guittard Chocolate Chips, 55% Cacao*

#20 and 21: Mast Brothers, Cow Milk and Brooklyn Blend

Please read this article on Quartz before considering purchasing Mast Brothers chocolate.

  • Made in Brooklyn, New York.
  • Find at select gourmet stores or order online.

#22 and 23: Chuao, Salted Chocolate Crunch and Firecracker

  • Made in San Diego, California.
  • Find at larger grocery stores or order online. Target also carries some varieties.

#24: TCHO, Mokaccino, Milk Chocolate*

  • Made in Berkeley, California.
  • Find at the natural and organic section of larger grocery stores (Wegman’s), World Market, and some natural and organic stores or order online.

#25 and 26: Dick Taylor, Belize and Black Fig Bars*

#27, 28, and 29: Dandelion Chocolate Tasting Set – Mantuano, Venezuela, San Francisco de Macorís, Dominican Republic, and Ambanja, Madagascar*

#30: LetterPress Chocolate, Maranon Bar, 70% Dark Chocolate*

  • Made in Los Angeles, California.
  • Find at pop-up events in the Los Angeles area or order online.

#31: LetterPress Chocolate, Mystery Bar, 70% Dark Chocolate*

  • Made in Los Angeles, California.
  • Find at pop-up events in the Los Angeles area or order online.

#32: Violet Sky, Belize, 77% Dark Chocolate with Candied Lavender & Vanilla Dust*

#33, Violet Sky, Banana Split, White Chocolate

#34 and 35, Chocolate Alchemist, Clasico and Philly Blend*

#36 and 37, Map Chocolate, Dear Mr. Finley and Le Chocolat Chaud*

My Chocolate Plans for 2016

2015-11-09 16.39.08.jpg
A few wrappers of some of the bars I tried last year.

Happy new year, everyone, I hope January is already off a great, chocolate-y start! While 2015 has revealed my passion for craft chocolate, 2016 will be the year I will investing in said passion. Although I have learned a lot from  many makers last year, I have recently enrolled in the Chocolate Flavor 101 Class by Ecole Chocolat to learn more more about cacao production and chocolate flavor: have you ever wondered why chocolate tastes so different at different times of the day?

In 2016, also want to share my passion with more people. I have found the world of chocolate to be very intimidating to the non-initiated like I was was 6 months ago. In June of last year, I probably had the same questions you have had: why is craft chocolate so expensive? What is the big deal about single origin? Is my palate refined enough to perceive the “notes of hibiscus” mentioned on the chocolate wrapper?

60+ bars later, I now know that you should not worry about having a sophisticated palate to appreciate good chocolate and I am on a mission to convince you that appreciating craft chocolate is within everyone’s reach. How? Well, here’s the plan.

2015-11-29 15.54.19
A lovely bar by Map Chocolate

First, I will reopen my online craft chocolate shop this month. I will be carrying bars from two of my current favorite craft chocolate-makers: Map Chocolate will be back on my shelves, but I’ll be also welcoming a new maker just in time for Valentine’s Day. The selection process for these bars is simple. Are the flavors balanced? Does the chocolate give me chills? Also, do my friends like it? Yes, the bars do have to be made of ethically grown, organic cacao, but if the answer to all three previous questions is yes, into the shop they go!

let's meet

Next, I want to let you sample craft chocolate. Local Chester county friends can meet me from 2-4 at the Galer Estate winery in Kennett Square on Sunday, January 17th (this coming Sunday) to learn about my French book, using social media to promote your work, and my passion for chocolate. You’ll also meet Robert Campbell, Philadelphia’s only bean-to bar chocolate-maker, who will be there with his delicious chocolate bars  – wait until you try the Clasico! I hope to see many of you then but stay tuned for more chocolate-tasting dates. You can find more details here.

Finally, I’ll be sharing interviews with makers so they can share their answers to your questions on their chocolate-making process. Again, why is craft chocolate so expensive?!

2016 promises to be an exciting year and I hope you’ll follow me on this delicious ride.


Photo: In The Eye Photography

Bonjour and welcome to the “37 Chocolates” blog! My name is Estelle Tracy, I am a chocolate addict, French food bloggerauthor, and social media strategist, and you may know me from the 37 Chocolates challenge. In June of 2015, I committed to sample 37 US-made chocolates by my 37th birthday on Halloween of that year. What started as a delicious excuse to eat a lot of chocolate turned out to be a life-changing journey that revealed my passion for craft chocolate and the people behind their bars. Needless to say, I have not stopped eating or reviewing chocolate.

The challenge was originally documented on my YouTube channel then promoted on Facebook and Instagram  (check #37chocolates.) My 2016 resolution is to gather all my reviews on this blog, as well as share interviews with chocolate-makers, feature new artisans, share my thoughts on the perfect chocolate bar size, and what makes a good chocolate-wrapper.

Until then, enjoy my introductory video dated June 2015 – note that I have learned to relax since.