Chocolove Blog

  • Bite The Ears Off, Right?

    When faced with a chocolate bunny, after admiring its sheen and calculating that enough people have seen it and it is likely not to look or taste so great a week from now, ya bite the ears off.

    We are making chocolate bunnies in the factory today just for fun and for employees. I had to taste as it is my main job—the keeper of the taste. I must admit to a certain child-like demeanor that overcomes me: a giggly-like feeling as I approach the bunny. And when those ears snap and that chocolate is in my mouth I am taken back to my childhood.

    When I was boy, we celebrated Easter and everyone had a basket filled with various candies and of course the pièce de résistance was the large chocolate bunny. Picture the seven Easter baskets on the dining room table Easter morning. They were not there the night before so it was quite a sight. Of course we kids were up at the crack of dawn, but could only eat a couple jelly beans before church and the bunny had to wait.

    One year, my older brother, who would often get started first, commented that his bunny tasted bitter. And like some extended version of the Life cereal “Mikey Likes It” commercial mixed with "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," we five kids circled the table and variously tasted our bunnies and watched each other as we did. And yes, they were all bitter and not the usual milk chocolate.

    We convened and discussed the pros and cons of asking my mom about this. My mom informed us that it was not bad chocolate, but it was, in fact, dark chocolate. She commented with a slight resignation (coming from having bought the bunnies and staying up late to create such a wonderful Easter display) that she liked dark chocolate and if we ate it we would acquire a taste for it. Hmm... I thought to myself. I guess I could eat it because an acquired taste sounded like a good thing to have.

    My brothers and sisters were locked in solidarity and disdain for the dark and so, one by one, I traded away my marshmallow bunnies, my jelly beans, and my small chocolates to amass a basket full of dark chocolate bunnies—albeit with some bite marks. My mother did not see the trading floor but had some comment on all the bunnies in my basket at the end of the trading day. I recall thinking that if I ate enough I would like it quicker and I ate so much chocolate that I experienced a mild euphoria and a sense of well being. Later on when I started Chocolove, I reflected on the formative moments in my life and eating an entire dark chocolate bunny and feeling good afterwards was certainly one.

    Easter is Sunday, April 16th and even though Chocolove does not sell chocolate bunnies, we do make a large assortment of chocolate bars in a variety of Easter-like colors. I think an assortment of Chocolove mini bars make a great addition to an Easter basket, and our Dark Chocolate Covered Salted Almonds make great small chocolate "eggs".

    Happy Easter from Chocolove.

  • Happy Valentine's Day

    On February 13, 1992, I found myself standing in a craft store checkout line, clutching chocolate molds, little boxes, heart stickers, ribbon and the like. I was surrounded and probably looking wide eyed. Even though I was a tan, six-feet-two surfer dude, with salt-bleached hair in a craft store, I was flanked and surrounded by four crafty women at the checkout line. They had sized me up and had the "you-ain’t-from-around-here-are-you" look. And bless her heart, one was not as shy as the others and began to quiz me, to see what I knew and how she might help me. And soon the others chimed in with advice on what type of chocolate and how to temper and so on. All the while, my head moving in various directions, nodding and trying to remember it all. The store clerk was a little nonplussed to see people not checking out and to hear such a fuss over a surfer dude, who was sure to wipe out on his effort to make chocolate truffles for Valentine’s Day. To my credit, I did not drop my armload and bolt and I did not bail on my half-baked plan.

    That night, I labored and toiled in the kitchen. Not a surface, pan, or bowl was free of cocoa powder or chocolate. I was a mess and after 6 hours of espresso extracting, brandied cherry squeezing, chocolate tempering, mixing and stirring, some brandy drinking, and a whole lotta taste testing along the way, I was done. I was wired and rattled. I oddly felt the same emotion as riding a big wave in the dark: I could not see it, only feel it. Eight hours later it was February 14, and I was at work with a chocolate hangover, sheepishly handing out little boxes of four truffles to the ladies at work.

    Later in the day I was phoned by one who had to go home due to her experience: “OH MY GOD! What did you put in those truffles?” “Espresso in some and brandied cherries in others" I explained, and added, “I didn’t expect you would eat them all at once.”

    February 14, 1992 was a turning point for me. That day made an impression on me and I learned I could make something that people truly enjoyed. It is still the core of what we do: work hard to make great chocolate so that people can have an amazing moment and a great day.

    Happy Valentine’s Day.

  • When I Was A Kid

    When I was a kid I looked forward to candy. Seems trite to write, but true. I knew where the best candy was sold and knew what it cost—I was a candy expert of sorts. I hustled to earn a dime and I bought candy. When I got my chores done and if I didn’t have anything to do, I would walk to the store, taking care along the way to look for bottles to return. When I got there I bought candy. I would walk home eating candy.

    One of my favorites was peanut butter cups. Back then they tasted better than they taste today: they tasted like peanut butter and like chocolate. I still remember the summer day, as a teen with a job and on lunch break, walking out of the store, opening the pack as I walked and was ready to be satisfied as I bit into one and slowed to stand still and had to turn over the package and give it a squinty eye look at the ingredient list. "What the heck is TBHQ and what else did they change in this to make it taste so bad?" I asked myself.

    That day I stopped buying peanut butter cups; I felt betrayed. Since then I have tried peanut butter cups occasionally only to feel, uh, not satisfied. Those formative experiences and the ability to remember food tastes for years after have come together in the last year (yes, we worked on it for a year to get it right). We at Chocolove have created that great taste I remember from when I was a kid.

    So I am very happy to announce the new line of Chocolove peanut butter cups and almond butter cups; made in the Chocolove factory in Boulder, Colorado with real chocolate, real peanut butter, and real almond butter. There are milk and dark chocolate versions of each. We shape them in a traditional shape but form them European style (yes, Mr. Patrick Peeters packed a premium Peanut butter cup), so they also look like the premium chocolate treat they are.

    The kid in me is again walking, snacking, and happy… eating peanut butter cups.

    (Purchase your nut butter cups now on!)

  • Happy Sacher Torte Day

    Funny how life’s events move in orbits and return again at various times and ways. Today (December 5) is such a day, as it is Sacher Torte Day. Coincidentally, today our maître chocolatier Patrick Peeters was hand decorating Sacher Torte Petit Fours on the enrobing machine. When I told him today is National Sacher Torte Day, he chuckled in slight disbelief, asking, “is there such a day?” and checking my eyes for a twinkle.

    Many, many years ago as a young man, I traveled Europe in the typical knapsack-on-my-back fashion. Even then at the age of 21, I was reading guidebooks and planning itinerary around taste experiences. Having read that the world's best chocolate cake was made and served in Vienna, I found my way there. There in a very nice hotel and a very expensive café for my young man’s wallet, I sat and ate what was to be a great cake. It was great in that I was 100% present to experience it, for not only was it so expensive, and I wanted to remember in a way I could recall all its nuances years later. I also lingered because Vienna was bone cold that time of year, and especially that year, and the café was warm and had a wonderful aroma, din and feeling of life is grand.

    Years later as still a young man but a little older, living in California, and working as a tea-taster of sorts, I had spare time to pursue the making of this great cake and talked my way into the kitchen of the best eatery in town. Could I apprentice in the kitchen and learn the kitchen craft and focus on making one thing, Sacher Torte, I asked and the restaurateur accepted. Soon enough, I was making way more cakes than I thought possible and I was up to my elbows in pots and pans; some of the line cooks piled on and took delight in my arrangement. I of course vowed to make the best of it and made some good, but not very good, cakes; but not as good as I remember. I think this work as apprentice pastry chef served me well and was a formative experience in shaping what today is a substantial taste memory bank in chocolate flavor.

    Full circle, we have Sacher Torte made by Chef Patrick Peeters in Petit Fours. Yes, he made a limited edition box set of 16 exquisite petit four cakes. These will be internet-only sales, and they are available for purchase on the website now.

    I have eaten 8 so far today and still hungry for more. Under the influence of 8, I must say I have a feeling that life is grand and I am willing to believe Sacher Torte may be the best chocolate cake in the world.

  • Fifteen More Reasons To Give Thanks

    On the theme of being thankful, we are happy to announce that the Non-GMO Project has verified 15 of our flavors. We have added the Non-GMO Project seal to the wrappers of the verified products and will be using these wrappers soon. You will start seeing these Non-GMO Project verified bars in retail stores over the next few weeks and months.

    Chocolove is Non-GMO Project Verfied - 15 Flavors

    We enrolled in the Non-GMO Project over 16 months ago and had no idea the Belgian-made products we use would take so long to get verified. The review periods were also lengthy and we didn't realize just how much work was involved, which of our vendors would comply, and which would refuse to try. However, despite hundreds of emails and hundreds of hours of work, we are thankful to finally have 15 flavors verified. We will update the website with this new information and the list of 15 soon.

    Human nature is such that a question quickly follows: what about the other 10 flavors Chocolove makes?  And the answer is, we are diligently working on it and have some progress, but as of now, we are still in-process. We are committed to herding all the flavors into the corral and getting the branding iron on them, but some are a little more inclined to roam than others.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  • Metamorphosis

    For me, the change of packaging from horizontal to vertical was something so emotionally challenging that to now have it completed was on the scale of a metamorphosis. To be clear, Chocolove embarked upon yet another change over the last few months; a change that not only retains the vertical aspect so many retail stores demand, but brings back many of the graphic elements that you and I know and love.

    This includes the return of the embossed gold seal. In this revision, we tried to bring the best of all historical wrapper designs to each and every flavor. It was a challenge to harmonize the look and feel of all the various flavors while retaining the colors and elements you look for when you shop.

    The latest and greatest version of the packing began shipping September 1st and you should start seeing them in stores in early October. Thanks for your patience as we transitioned.

  • New Hazelnuts in Milk Chocolate Taste

    Hazelnut in milk chocolate is a classic European traditional flavor combination. Something funny happened last year, our usual Hazelnut vendor sold out and we were forced to search for alternate vendors. And in that search, we found several vendors who could sell us raw hazelnuts. Now that we have an innovation center and a classically trained master chocolatier, the task of roasting several varieties in several degrees of roast, is, well fun.

    Chef Patrick handled this possible problem as an opportunity to not only get hazelnuts, but upgrade our hazelnuts. Hazelnut flavor peaks a few days after roasting, like coffee. Fortunately we have a coffee roaster and so we now buy raw hazelnuts and roast to just the right temperature for maximum flavor and then seal that flavor into the milk chocolate.

    And while we were tuning up the flavor we tried several levels of salt and arrived at the better version of a European classics, fresh roasted hazelnuts in milk chocolate with a sprinkle of salt. Coming soon to a store near you.

  • Chocolove's Anniversary

    August 2016 marks the 21st anniversary of Chocolove selling chocolate bars. We started with the recognition that there were no US-based premium chocolate companies. Premium chocolate was a part of European daily life, so why not American daily life? Having traveled extensively through the years, I knew that premium chocolate would be something Americans would want. After extensive taste sessions, we were happy to learn that Americans could tell the difference in great chocolate and would pay a little more to get a lot more satisfaction.

    Chocolove went to market in 1995 with four chocolate bar flavors: Dark 55%, Dark with Cocoa Nibs, Milk 33%, and Milk with Cocoa Nibs. At that time, we were the first US-made chocolate bar to declare cocoa content, and the first to use cocoa nibs in bars. Our package was inspired by my father’s collection of postage stamps and envelopes, and also from a personal experience of receiving a package of chocolate from Switzerland. To bolster and compliment the package and love theme, we printed love poems inside the wrappers.

    We make our products with the awareness that people reach for Chocolove to share love, to reward themselves, and to pursue happiness. We know we are in the happiness business and we measure success by the number of people made happier each day.

    The Chocolove philosophy was, and still is, to make a great chocolate bar that everyone can enjoy; not only because of our great and fresh taste, but because of our truly great value in terms of price point for the quality that we deliver.

    As of January 2016, we have three new flavors: Extreme Dark 88%, and two filled bars, Salted Caramel in Dark, and Salted Almond Butter in Dark. The pillows of chocolate with filling inside these last two bars allow us to deliver more delightful flavors and more intense satisfaction.

    In 2015, we brought on board a master chocolatier/chef de chocolate, Patrick Peeters. He is a Belgian who is classically trained and worked his way up to master chocolatier over many years. He creates new taste treats for us daily and has some great new products for you in 2017.

  • Happy Father's Day

    While I may have learned to cook from my mother, it was my from my father that I learned about enterprise. Growing up in a family of five kids, I was his helper; perhaps because I was willing to listen, wanting to learn, or because I found it more interesting to be working than not. Frequently, my father would take me with him when he worked, which often translated into me working long hours with low pay, often for peanuts, literally.

    However, some of our endeavors were more classic-natured and make for good story telling. His father had owned a small soft-drink company in the late 1930s. So it was no surprise that my father knew how to make great lemonade. I can still recall (over 4 decades later) going to the SunMart  grocery store and watching my father negotiate with the Produce Manager to buy lugs of lemons. Then we would clear the shelf of bags of sugar, empty the Dixie Cup shelf, and finally make a major dent in the bagged ice freezer. It was one heavy grocery cart.

    My father's scale of doing a lemonade stand had me wide-eyed and oh-my-gosh-looking.  True to his and my dynamic natures, he put me to work in the sun and assured me I would sell more if he were in the shade, behind the scenes. I set up my stand of homemade fresh-squeezed lemonade on the edge of our property, which was the edge of the golf course next to the Number 4 tee. I learned the fine art of balancing sweet and sour and water and ice. I learned customer service first hand. I did so well at selling lemonade that I was shut down by the golf course club house because I was cutting into their revenue.  Even though technically I was on my property, I was forced to cease and desist. Ah, the early business lessons.

    While setting up an enterprise may not be in the cards this Father’s Day, perhaps a glass of lemonade, paired with a Chocolove Orange Peel in Dark Chocolate will be.

  • A Memorial Day Reflection

    On Memorial Day I remember my neighbor, Bill Johnston, who was like a father to me. Bill was a WWII veteran and was also a POW. He explained early on in our over-a-decade-long relationship that war was hell, and there would be no questions or stories on the matter. He did this with a slight Scottish accent and emphatically, like William Forester in the movie Finding Forester. Over the years he would, on his own, occasionally offer up anecdotes of early years of his life to help me understand him and the world, but never in a self-aggrandizing manner.

    He was a great story teller in the tradition and manner consistent with New Orleans storytelling and the 1930s. Bill, along with his wife Shirley, were English literature scholars and professors. Like parents, they provided encouragement in a general sense, helped me learn to read and write better, supported my love of poetry, and even made a personal loan to help Chocolove during the formative years. The loan has long since been repaid.

    On Memorial Day I reflect on my many years with Bill and ponder what other debts I owed and whether they have been paid. While it is not a repayment, per se, I give thanks to Bill and Shirley Johnston for their role in helping Chocolove grow.

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