Monday, January 16, 2023

Consider a Kind of Chocolate College


You might think you'd have to be a bit cocoa-crazy to want to join a chocolate-of-the-month subscription box club, but Cococlectic could convince even a casual chocolate lover. That's its whole point--think of each shipment as a chocolate education in a box, backed up with Zoom tastings with the small batch producers themselves. (Yet another one of those positives that have come thanks to the terrible pandemic.)

What you see above are the four bars I got in a sample shipment (yep, I'm singing for my freebie), from Fresco Artisan Chocolate in Lynden, WA. Note--and this is typical of each month's shipment--we're talking bars sans any bells-and-whistles, even the delicious and striking kind you might get with, say, an Omnom Black and Burnt Barley (to pick one of my favorite artisan chocolate experiences). Nope, here you're going to learn to distinguish different geographic sources for cocoa bean, so you can pick out the the sweet fig jam notes from Ghana versus the grapefruit zip from Madagascar.

Heck, they even teach you how to eat chocolate. Turns out most of us have been doing it wrong all our lives, but then again, nobody needs to have that Snickers bar sit in their mouthful too long. Instead, what's recommended by Cococlectic is to break off small pieces, smell the aroma, and then let the bite melt on your tongue. It's a slow process, but what you find is more and more comes into focus, kind of like when you settle yourself into what you at first think is a dark room (fitting for chocolate, no?). Try to put yourself in a wine tasting mood. Each shipment comes with a handy, visual tasting flavor wheel with taste descriptors, suggesting you might find everything from a vegetative cooked green olive note to a caramel, molasses one, with a possible soupçon of earthy mushroom along the way.

The best part of fine, craft bean-to-bar chocolate is you need less of it to be satisfied. All that rich cocoa goodness floods you taste buds, sort of coats them if you really keep your teeth at bay and let the chocolate melt. You don't need gobs it in an impossible effort to be pleased that only ends with you feeling grossly stuffed.

A card in your box provides more information about each purveyor--their history, their methods, their sources. Every bar is "all vegan, non-GMO, fair-trade, ethically sourced," their press releases points out, continuing, "Cococlectic’s chocolate bars do not contain any soy, gluten, dairy or nut, but they may be produced in a facility that handles these ingredients." So it's good for you chocolate! Plus, the San Francisco-based Cococlectic, which began in 2014, is a women-owned and minority diverse-owned business. (That's co-founders Doreen Leong and Brett Wallace, below.)

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