Title image with product shot of various chocolates

At Beta 5 Creating Chocolate Is A Work Of Art

14 Jun

You’d be excused for thinking the storefront of a chocolatier hidden in an industrial area of Vancouver wouldn’t be particularly busy on a Thursday afternoon. But the steady traffic of customers showed that people obviously know where to find them.

BETA5 Retail Space

Beta 5 was created by Adam Chandler and Jessica Rosinski, who had a creative vision for pushing the boundaries of chocolate. The name Beta 5 refers to the form-5 beta crystal structure, a stable form of cocoa butter crystallization that is created when chocolate is properly tempered.

I visited Beta 5 to learn about their unique approach to chocolate. As Adam gave me a tour of their kitchens, he shared their philosophy and how they take great care in the process, opting for methods that are more time consuming but yield a better product.

BETA5 Adam Portrait infront of fridge holding tray of choclates

Why did you start Beta 5?

Adam: It was the desire to have a creative outlet.

I had spent 10 years in the industry working for other people and while I still had my own creative vision, it was always being influenced by the people I worked for.

In pastry, you are limited in the opportunities available to you, so the purpose of Beta 5 was to have a space where we could explore our creative vision we saw for pastry and chocolate.

BETA5 CreamPuffs

What inspires your work?

Adam: There’s not really one thing in particular. For a lot of the core product, it starts with the ingredient. We want to showcase the qualities of main ingredient.

For example for the Okanagan dark chocolate cherries, we don’t want either the chocolate or the cherries to overwhelm each other. We search for the best quality cherries we can find and then pair them with chocolate that goes well with those particular cherries.

There’s a lot of stuff we do that is a lot more out of the box. In those instances we pull inspiration from any number of places. An idea like camping, outer space or tropical vacation and then work backwards and try to tell the story. We use textures, flavours and colours that convey the bigger idea and start to tell the story.

BETA5 chocolate production

What makes Beta 5 different?

Adam: The creative approach we take. While we want to do things differently, we really want to challenge ourselves and see what is possible.

A lot of others do what has been done before. We like to push the boundaries, using vegetables and different ingredients that you wouldn’t necessarily think of when you think of pastry and chocolate.

We want to explore the possibilities of those types of ingredients to create something different and add something new to the conversation.

A lot of chocolate is rich and comforting and perfect for winter. We paired cucumber, mint and chocolate because we wanted to come up with a flavour that would be light, crisp and refreshing. Something that people would want to eat in summer.

verdantforce product photo

What are the values that drive Beta 5?

Adam: The two things more important to us than creativity are quality and consistency.

Our creativity has no value if we aren’t putting out a quality product, consistently. We want people to depend on us as a supplier and know that everything we produce is the highest quality. We need to develop that trust so we can push the envelope and have people take a risk and try the new things we create.

Describe a typical day at Beta 5

Adam: There really isn’t a typical day at Beta 5. We designed it that way.

Things are much more repetitive in bigger production environments and we wanted to be inspired to come to work.

BETA5 chocolate production

We run a small, well-trained production team who are trained in everything. Each day there is a lot of variety. The day could be spent making bars or caramelizing nuts or pebbles or polishing and painting molds. The only typical part is that it’s a day spent around chocolate.

For me the variety makes for a more enjoyable experience.

At Saul Good Gift Co. many of our gift baskets include Beta 5’s delicious chocolates. You can see the full section here

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Title image with wine and champagne bottles and glasses

Are Wine, Spirits or Alcohol a Good Corporate Gift?

30 May

For those who enjoy alcohol a thoughtfully selected bottle may seem like the perfect gift.

And while that might be true for people in your personal life, it’s tricky when it comes to corporate gifts.

Alcohol is a controversial gift for reasons that may not be obvious. Consider how much you know about the person.

Two people with thought blue bubble above their heads

Assumptions can be risky when you don’t know any of the following information:

  • Personal struggles with alcoholism or addiction. Many recovering addicts aren’t necessarily open about their battles with alcohol, especially in their professional environments.
  • Challenging family history with alcohol. People with relatives that have a history of alcoholism may have strong aversions to alcohol.
  • Religion. Some of the religions that may avoid alcohol include branches of Christianity, Muslims, Jainism and Buddhists.
  • Personal preference. Some people avoid alcohol for weight loss, health, mental wellbeing and athletic goals. Others only like certain types of alcohol.
  • Corporate policies. Some workplaces have corporate policies about receiving alcohol.

Build Better Relationships With The Right Gift

Gifts are about building and nurturing relationships and you jeopardize that if the gift offends the receiver.

When gifting alcohol it’s important to be 100% certain that it will be well received. In a professional setting, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.

When selecting a gift for someone consider the purpose for the gift:

  • Is it for a business or personal milestone?
  • Are they a client or employee?
  • Is it going to a group or individual

By customizing the gift so it’s appropriate to the occasion, you’ll create a more meaningful experience.

hands receiving a gift with red bow on top

If the gift will be received in the person’s workplace, it’s an opportunity for them to also receive public recognition and feel special.

Obviously we are big fans of gift boxes. The experience of receiving a box, opening it and finding beautifully curated items gives people a prolonged experience of joy compared to opening a gift bag that obviously has a bottle inside.

What ever you decide, put yourself in the receiver’s shoes, how would you feel if you received the gift? Does it feel meaningful?

If you need help selecting a gift for any occasion, check out our gift guide below to help you decide the right type of basket for the occasion.

Gift guide flowchart

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The #1 Habit Of High Producing Real Estate Agents

18 May

Real estate is more about people than properties.

Since 78% of real estate sellers and 63% of buyers still find their agent via recommendation from someone they know, the relationships you create with your clients will determine the success of your business.

Your brand is the level of customer service you provide. Exceptional experiences create memorable stories your clients will tell their friends and family while saying “You need to chat with MY agent”.

At Saul Good Gift Co, we have a unique insight into how Real Estate Agents conduct their business. We get to see the trade secrets of the best in the business and what sets them apart.

Unfortunately we have also had too many regular opportunities to squirm in discomfort at some of the tactics other agents use that completely miss the mark.

The distinction between the two is not what they are doing, but how they are doing it.

High Producing Real Estate Agents Make Their Clients The Hero

All memorable stories have a hero.

Every great hero experiences a challenge they need to overcome. If the hero could resolve his or her own problem, there wouldn’t be a problem in the first place.

They need a guide.

The guide is the character that has the knowledge and skills to help the hero overcome their personal obstacles to be victorious in their endeavour.

Your client is the hero. You are their trusted guide.

For people to feel like they are the hero, they must feel like they are the most important character in the story, not just another transaction.

silhouettes of 2 super heros

Understanding The Hero’s Journey

Throughout, their entire journey, even before you become their agent, you must make your client feel like the hero.  You need to deeply understand their expressed, and unexpressed needs. Your hero will tell you what they want from the transaction. These will be the bare basics of the service that you provide to them. What goes without saying.

The gaps in their experience and knowledge are their unexpressed needs. Your job is to find out not only what their real estate goals are, but who they are as a person so you can anticipate their needs and what are the emotional reasons behind their real estate transaction.

Blue banner with gold star and gold button to download guide

Learn as much as you can about your hero beyond the basics, for example:

  • What is their personality type?
  • What makes them nervous about their real estate journey?
  • What are their preferences? What don’t they like about this kitchen, what do they like about that one?
  • What are their schedules?
  • What are their hobbies, who are their children, their pets?
  • What is their preferred form of communication?
  • What are they passionate about?
  • What types of food do they like?

houses

As you build your relationship over time, the more you learn about your hero, the more opportunities you’ll have to make their journey in real estate with you a memorable one.

Easing the Hero’s Journey

What is the trademark of every great hero?

Courage.

Most heroes don’t buy or sell homes on a regular basis. It’s both scary and exciting. Even if they have done it in the past, they probably don’t feel confident going to battle the dragon again this time. Their decisions include the well-being of their family, the vision they have for their future, and even their identity. This is a huge adventure for them and has the potential to be very stressful.

You on the other hand, buy and sell houses every day. You could slay that dragon in your sleep. Your role as the hero’s guide is to help them remove the frustration, stress, and self-doubt, on their journey to buy or sell their house.

The difference between you and your competitors, is how well you ease your hero’s journey. The easier you make it easy for them, the more relaxed and comfortable with you and the process they’ll feel.

powerful fist pumps

Anticipating The Hero’s Needs

Know what your hero needs before they know. This means putting yourself in their shoes and empathizing with their experience. It means picking up non-verbal cues such as vocal tone, facial expressions and body language. Listen carefully, learn to read in between the lines and pick on what people’s hot buttons are.

Look for ways that you can anticipate your hero’s needs and provide solutions to anticipated problems upfront. This can be as simple as telling them where to find free parking at a viewing in a busy area.

Pro-active communication is key. Keep them informed throughout the entire process. Don’t make them chase you when they are starting to worry or feel disconnected. By communicating with them regularly, you’ll avoid frustration and build trust.

While the home is the transaction, how the person feels at the end of the transaction is what’s important.

How Do YOU Make Your Client The Hero?

We’d love to hear your stories. Comment below and share them with us. We might even feature them in a future article!

Blue banner with gold star and gold button to download guide

5 heartfelt ways to give your mom the perfect staycation

5 Heartfelt Ways To Give Your Mom The Perfect Staycation

03 May

Mother’s Day is a great time to let your mom know that you appreciate everything she does.

Moms have busy, often stressful lives and can struggle to carve out time for themselves. And while she might love to take a vacation, it isn’t always possible (and let’s face it, they aren’t necessarily relaxing).

Since we think moms deserve a day of pampering, we’ve put together a list of our best tips for making her day special, while enjoying the luxuries available to you in your home town.

1. Make A Staycation Schedule

Moms spends their time making decisions, organizing and managing the family. They are great at looking after everyone else and often put themselves last.

Without a staycation schedule, it will be easy for your mom to fall into the usual routine. By having a plan in advance, you can make any preparations necessary. Then all she needs to do is kickback, relax, and enjoy herself. If you are really creative you could even print out a schedule as a keepsake.

2. Get Rid Of Distractions

One of the best things about traveling is stepping out of the day-to-day, unplugging, and enjoying time with the family. Recreate that feeling at home for Mom by turning off devices for the day.

Another way to help Mom relax is to clean the house so she won’t start thinking about everything needing to get done. After all, it’s supposed to be a vacation at home!

3. Create Spa Moments

Even if Mom doesn’t spend a whole day for a spa retreat, you can create spa “moments” throughout the day!

  • Let her sleep in. A good night of sleep and not needing to rush out of bed feels like a treat.
  • Give her some luxurious time for self-care by running a bath with some beautiful bath salts. Set the mood with a gorgeous candle and some relaxing music.
  • Mix 1 cup of brown sugar with ⅓ cup of almond or jojoba oil for a sugar scrub that will rock her world.
  • Infuse filtered water or coconut water with fruit, mint or cucumber.

staycation

4. Treat Her Tastebuds

Sharing a meal together at a nice restaurant is a great way to make Mom feel special. She’ll get to eat delicious food, in good company and won’t need to hassle over cooking and cleaning!

Try a farm-to-table restaurant, or visit your local farmer’s market and pack a picnic to take on a hike. For a real treat, get Mom some local artisan chocolate.

5. Tick Something Off Her Bucket List

While your mom might not get to climb Everest this Mother’s Day, we bet she has a list of activities she’s wanted to try but hasn’t found the time.

Maybe she’s been eager to learn how to dance. Or, you could sign her up for that cheese-making or pottery class she always wanted to try. You might even try exploring a new local area she hasn’t been to.

With a little consideration you’ll find there are lots of great activities close to home that will help you create a day your mom won’t forget.

Got another great staycation tip?

Let us know in the comments, and we’ll update the post with the best ideas (and credit you).

Title images of MEC staff in front of a MEC storefront

Inside MEC HQ: 3 Tips Employers Can Learn from Employee Recognition Initiatives

06 Apr

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is a company with a mission. They want to inspire people to lead active outdoor lifestyles while being environmentally sustainable and respectful to the world around them. We think we’re in love!

MEC values their culture and strive to create an environment full of people that share their passion for the outdoors, and for social and environmental change. Water cooler chat is often about recent or planned outdoor adventures, current issues, or simply where to find the best locally grown produce.

In 2016 MEC’s employee engagement was rated at 74%, an impressive 8% higher than the national average. In 2016 they were also recognized as one of Canada’s Greenest Employers.

Pull quote and polaroid-style photos of MEC staff

According to Gallup, a critical component of employee engagement is recognition. Workplace recognition motivates employees, providing a self of accomplishment and helps them to feel valued. It also helps increase productivity and retention.

At Saul Good Gift Co, we’re proud to work with MEC to help them provide ongoing recognition to their employees. We’re inspired by this company and the good they are trying to do in the world. We wanted to see what’s under the hood at MEC HQ and what they are doing that makes MEC such a great company to work for. We talked to Anne Scott, MEC’s HR Coordinator to get the inside scoop.

What does MEC’s employee recognition program look like?

Anne: We recognize employees in a number of different ways at MEC, and sometimes a gift box adds a celebratory touch.  Some examples of when we might do this would be: the kick-off or completion of big projects, thank-you gifts for jobs well done, recognizing employee life events like newborns or weddings, and celebrating work events like milestone anniversaries, new managers, new store openings etc.

What challenges were you trying to solve when recognizing your employees?

Anne: We wanted to have some consistency in what employees received for certain events, which is very difficult with having locations across the country. We needed to make it easy for us – having a “go-to” vendor for each type of gift.

We strive to have good quality and meaningful gifts and awards. Something that is reflective of MEC’s values as well as the values of the recipient.

Pull quote and flat-lay image of sample products included in gift baskets

This means aligning ourselves with companies like Saul Good Gift Co, that are ethical, local, community oriented, and have sustainable practices as it relates to environmental impact.

What has been the impact of your employee recognition initiatives? 

Anne: We hear many comments about how receiving the gift is thoughtful, and that it makes staff feel appreciated. We’ve found that receiving a gift box is exciting and meaningful for people. They really feel valued because it’s noticed by colleagues when it arrives, making for a celebration of sort.

How has Saul Good Gift Co helped you achieve your employee recognition goals?

Anne: At MEC we care about how and where the products we sell are made – it’s important to our members and our staff. Saul Good Gift Co makes sure that their ingredients are presented in a way that exudes “local” and their statement or story about what drives them. This is something that is very appreciated by MEC staff, so the visibility of these stories within the gift itself is very important. It helps us, as an employer, convey to our employees that we care.

The quality and variety of the product surpasses that of any other “gift basket” vendor that I’ve been able to find. The team at Saul Good is responsive, flexible and personable – which makes them a pleasure to deal with.

3 Tips other employers can learn from MEC’s employee recognition initiatives

1. Make it about more than work.

MEC makes a point to celebrate milestones in people’s lives as well as their good work. This makes people feel important and valued beyond the work they do.

2. Where there is an opportunity, celebrate your employee with their colleagues.

MEC found that gifts are meaningful for people. The celebration that comes with receiving a gift elevates the feeling of appreciation.

3. Align your company values with the gifts and recognition you deliver.

At MEC gifts are selected because they are local, sustainable and have a story. For example, Saul Good Gift Co, products come from Vancouver artisans. They are packaged by Starworks Packaging & Assembly, a social enterprise established by the Developmental Disabilities Association. When a MEC employee receives one of these gifts, they feel connected to their local community and know that MEC cares.

Our favourite gift baskets for MEC staff include the Department Party, Confectionist and Fancy-Full.

Product shots of the gift baskets showing their ingredients

 

Soft, chewy, handmade caramels

08 Dec

 

artisan-caramel-box

 

Soft, chewy, handmade caramels are an old-fashioned treat made with simple ingredients. Traditional recipes have you combine a mixture of cream, butter and sugars over medium-high heat and voila — caramel!

 

On paper, it seems simple but a great caramel is more than the sum of its ingredients. Many of my personal attempts at caramel making have ended in disaster. The mixture has either burned or crystallized, resulting in a grainy mess. Caramel making is harder than it looks, I’m happy to leave it to the professionals.

 

Imagine my delight when my friends at Saul Good Gift Co. offered to send me a box full of handmade artisan caramels. All of the caramels, none of the kitchen disaster — yes please!

 

One thing I love about Saul Good’s gift boxes is the exterior packaging.The box is decorated with an artful rendering of Canada and a personalized gift tag. It’s slightly mysterious. At first glance, you wouldn’t be able to guess what is inside. This little bit of suspense adds to the fun of opening the gift.

 

 

saul-good-gift-co-packaging

 

 

Inside the box, I found a friendly little postcard and a Fresh Sheet. The Fresh Sheet lists the flavours of the caramels and details about the artisan makers on one side. On the other side, it lists details about the Saul Good Gift Co. I peeled back the wrapping paper to discover a sparkling selection of assorted caramels. It was hard to know where to start. I consulted the Fresh Sheet for the descriptions before digging in.

 

 

fresh-sheet

 

 

I decided to start with a classic Salted Caramel made by Kitchening & Co. from Langley, BC. The folks at Kitchening & Co. are famous for their French macarons and classic chewy cookies . Their caramels do not disappoint. They are generously sized so you can split one in half to share or save it for later. The texture is firm and they have a deep caramelized sugar flavour with a subtle hint of salt. These are a perfectly nostalgic treat.

 

 

artisan-caramel-gift

 

The other two caramel flavours in the box come from Roselle Desserts. Roselle Desserts is a Toronto-based treat shop. I spent more time than I care to admit scrolling through their Instagram. Everything they make looks so tempting. First, I tried their Passionfruit Mango caramel. I am a huge fan of mango so I was happy with the rich, tropical, slightly floral flavor. Next, I tried the raspberry version. It was like eating rich, buttery toast with jam…minus the toast. I really enjoyed the soft texture of these caramels, they were easy to eat.

 

This assortment of caramels would make a great holiday corporate gift for a small office. The individually wrapped caramels can easily be shared with a crowd. I ate more than my fair share and had plenty to share with friends and family.

 

Check out my unboxing video to see what it’s like to get a gift box from Saul Good Gift Co.

 

 

About the Author & Photographer

Jasmine

Jasmine Lukuku is a professional sweet tooth who spends much of her time baking, eating, photographing and writing about treats. She co-founded chocolatecodex.com to share her love of fine chocolate with the world. Follow Jasmine: @chocolatecodex

 

 

 

 

 

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At East Van Roasters, Chocolate is a Vehicle for Social Change

11 Nov

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Vancouver has many fine chocolate shops but East Van Roasters is one-of-a-kind. Located in the Downtown Eastside, EVR is a business with social change baked right into the DNA.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

Head Chocolate Maker and Director, Shelley Bolton founded East Van Roasters in 2013 as a non-profit social enterprise. Her mission was to create a training and employment program for the women residents of the Rainier Hotel located above the chocolate factory on Carrall Street.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

The women in the program face multiple barriers to employment and East Van Roasters serves as a place where they can develop skills and build their resumes before rejoining the general workforce.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Head Chocolate Maker and Director, Shelley Bolton. Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

The business recently expanded to include a second location half a block away. The new location houses a retail bakery as well as the confection production facilities, while the original location operates as the Vancouver’s only bean-to-bar chocolate factory/coffee shop.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

The social impact of East Van Roasters extends beyond the local level. The chocolate at EVR is made in-house from responsibly sourced cacao beans. This means that the farmers that grew the beans were paid fairly. This is chocolate you can feel good about buying and giving as a gift.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

Making chocolate is a long process that requires skill and attention to detail. Shelley and her team start with carefully selected raw cacao beans. The beans are sorted, roasted, cracked, winnowed, ground, refined and tempered before being molded into fine chocolate bars and bonbons.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

If you are a dark chocolate purist, you should try their single origin bars. They are made to highlight the unique flavour properties of the cacao beans. For a real treat, try a couple of bars side-by-side and observe the differences. A bar made of beans from Madagascar will taste drastically different to a bar made of Ecuadorian beans.

 

Jasmine Lukuku of ChocolateCodex. Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Jasmine Lukuku of Chocolate Codex. Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

If you prefer a sweeter treat, EVR has a selection of flavoured bars and delightful filled chocolates and truffles. Some recent standouts include the chocolate dipped cacao nib toffee and layered truffles featuring pâte de fruit. The fillings and inclusions are all selected to work in harmony with the chocolate. Love Nutella? EVR sells its own chocolate nut butters; perfect for slathering on toast or eating with a spoon.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

Saul Good is proud to include East Van Roasters chocolate in many of our Vancouver Gift Baskets and Canada gift baskets. 

 

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About the Author

Jasmine

 

 

Jasmine Lukuku is a professional sweet tooth who spends much of her time baking, eating, photographing and writing about treats.

 

She co-founded chocolatecodex.com to share her love of fine chocolate with the world. Follow Jasmine: @chocolatecodex

 

 

 

 

About the Photographer

leah bio

 

 

Leah Villalobos Bartok is a mother, hiker and lifestyle photojournalist. She has a unique ability to document stories and capture personalities.   

 

View more of her work on Instagram: @photogbyleahv and browse through her site www.photographybyleah.ca 

The Art of Appreciation: how to value people in the workplace

06 Nov

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Top 5 Tips for Meaningful Appreciation

 

 

1) Be public. Always appreciate your team with the whole group present as it makes your statement public and recognized by others. No matter how righteous or private people may be, most people care about how they’re perceived by others. Showing appreciation publicly makes people feel good and creates an open culture where it’s the norm to acknowledge solid team work and achievement. When people feel appreciated, they are more productive, innovative and creative.

 

 

2) Be direct and personal. Attribute your appreciation to an individual and call people out by name. Tell everyone what they did and how it helped you personally. Appreciating colleagues and employees can have incredible results. It can help everyone be more productive as individuals and teams.

 

 

“Dan, I appreciate your creativity from our meeting yesterday with Acme as it helped me provide assurance to the client that we’re the right team for the job.”

 

 

3) Quality counts. It’s all about perception. Recognition through corporate gifts and awards can have a profound effect on relationships. When one receives something of prestige it reiterates the value of the relationship. If a gift is perceived as cheap or of low quality, it can result in the recipient feeling undervalued or at worst humiliated.

 

 

4) Business is all about people and relationships. Appreciation doesn’t have to take the form of executive gifts and fancy luxuries, it can be the small tokens of appreciation given in the right way that makes people feel valued by an organization. We all work way too long and hard to not enjoy our jobs. Be good to each other, because it feels good and it’s great for business too!

 

 

5) Enjoy the Results! The process of appreciating colleagues and employees can have incredible results helping everyone be more productive as individuals and teams. If done well appreciation can make the recipients feel amazing, acknowledged and empowered. If done poorly it can have the opposite effect leaving recipients resentful and questioning their relationship. Unfortunately, it’s not always the thought that counts, it’s in the execution that appreciation maximizes value within your business.

 

 

Where does chocolate come from?

25 Oct

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

topbanner-local-artisan-gift-guide

 

Chocolate is one of our most cherished foods. We love to eat it and we often give chocolate as a gift. Despite our enthusiasm, most people don’t know how chocolate is made. Fine chocolate is often associated with countries such as Belgium, France, and Switzerland but where does it really come from? How does the humble cacao bean become a fancy bon-bon?

 

I recently traveled to Ecuador to learn more about this process and see how chocolate is made from tree to bar.

 

Growing Cacao

Cacao plants prefer to grow under tree cover in the tropical rainforests. These forests are located within 20 degrees north or south of the equator. This means that the majority of chocolate begins its life on small farms in developing nations. Farmers are the unsung heroes of the chocolate world.

 

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Cacao blossoms and cacao tree

Harvesting Cacao

The fruit is typically harvested by hand using machetes or sticks with sharp blades. The bright white pulp of a healthy cacao fruit tastes incredible. It is sweet and tangy, but it doesn’t taste like chocolate. The chocolate flavor is developed in the beans through a series of steps in the post-harvest process.

 

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Cacao fruit

The Fermentation Process

Once the fruit is harvested, the beans and pulp are removed and placed into boxes where they are covered with banana leaves and left to ferment. Fermentation is one of the most important steps in the flavor development process. In recent years, farmers and chocolate makers have been experimenting with different fermentation processes to improve cacao flavor.

 

 

Drying the Cacao

After fermentation is complete, the cacao is spread out on drying beds. The beans are occasionally raked to ensure even drying. Once dry, the beans can be sold on the international market as raw cocoa beans or they can be further processed.

 

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Cacao beans before and after drying

Sorting, Roasting, Cracking and Winnowing

The beans are then sorted to remove flawed beans before roasting. In Ecuador, my hosts used a homemade roasting drum but many people use ovens or coffee roasters. The roasting process contributes to the final chocolate flavor.

 

Once the beans are roasted, they are cracked and winnowed. Winnowing is the process of removing the paper-like skin from the beans. It is tedious work when done by hand, so most chocolate producers use machines to help with this process.

 

Cacao beans that have been roasted and winnowed are called cacao nibs. You can find cacao nibs in many stores. They make a great alternative to nuts for snacking or baking.

 

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Nibs

Refining the Chocolate

Cacao nibs are ground down to a paste called chocolate liquor. This paste is combined with sugar and refined further to make the sweet chocolate we know and love. This process can take several days and requires attention to detail in order to attain the ideal flavor and texture.

 

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Chocolate being refined with a tabletop melanger

Tempering and Molding

The refined chocolate is poured into a container and cooled. Some chocolate makers will age their chocolate as that can improve the flavour. This solid, refined chocolate is then melted, tempered and molded into chocolate bars or bonbons.

 

tempering-and-molding-chocolate-bars

Tempering and molding chocolate bars

 

When all of these steps are completed with care, the result is high-quality chocolate. Unfortunately, the majority of chocolate on the market is not produced to such rigorous standards. Industrial chocolate makers often cut costs by purchasing poor quality beans that have not been properly handled post-harvest. These cost cutting practices also result in low wages for farmers who rely on the cacao trade to survive.

 

The "Fancy-full" gift by Saul Good Gift Co.

The “Fancy-full” gift by Saul Good Gift Co.

 

The good news is that many chocolate makers are transparent about their sourcing practices. Chocolate makers such as East Van Roasters and Sirene even include sourcing information on their packaging and websites. Saul Good Gift Co. works with chocolate makers and chocolatiers who are committed to sourcing high-quality cacao and chocolate products.

 

 

For more information on buying good quality chocolate, check out this guide to chocolate bar packaging by Chocolate Codex, Buying Good Chocolate: Reading the Label

 topbanner-local-artisan-gift-guide

About the author

Jasmine

Jasmine Lukuku is a professional sweet tooth who spends much of her time baking, eating, photographing and writing about treats.

She co-founded chocolatecodex.com to share her love of fine chocolate with the world. Follow Jasmine: @chocolatecodex

 

Toronto confection masters

26 Sep

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We love to brag about the incredible talent we feature in our gift baskets. In previous stories, we have showcased a sampling of artisans from BC (3 Brilliant BC Mompreneurs)  and from Alberta  (Artisans from the Heart of Alberta). In the story below, we are highlighting three fabulous Toronto confectioners featured in our newly-curated Canada gift baskets. Please stay tuned for more stories about our artisans from Ontario and all across Canada.

David H. Chow – Engineer-turned-pastry chef

David has a dynamic approach to chocolate and pastry. In his previous life, he was an engineer. If you look at his work over time, you can see the thought process that could only originate from the mind of an engineer. David explores his craft like an art and a science that flows and evolves. We can never predict what David will try next. The only constant variable is that he is continually recognized as one of Toronto’s top pastry chefs and chocolatiers.

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Over the past decade, David has cultivated a unique style that has sent ripples all over the world. His legendary status does not change his child-like curiosity and warm demeanor. You can visit his Toronto shops and explore his repertoire. You can also sample his delightful products in our Canada gift baskets.

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Laura Slack Chocolate – Edible art

Laura Slack creates edible art. She has been a baker since childhood and she has trained professionally throughout her life. From gorgeously designed chocolate bars to large chocolate skulls, you can rely on Laura to please your eyes, palette, heart and mind.

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The packaging and structure of Laura’s confections demonstrate the top-shelf quality. When you experience her products, you will taste the thoughtfulness and expertise that she pours into each hand-crafted creation. You can find Laura’s incredible products in our Canada gift baskets. You can also find her Lion’s Paw liquid salted caramel truffle on the dessert menu at Nota Bene Restaurant.

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Roselle (Steph & Bruce) – French-inspired desserts

These two lovebirds met while honing their craft in France. Their collaborative style is rooted in French traditions and their experience is international. Steph and Bruce have both worked in Michelin-starred kitchens in Europe and Asia.

 

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Roselle was created with a lot of heart and soul. It was a dream that floated through their minds during travels abroad. This dream then landed back in Toronto where they created a venue for their creations. You can visit their shop in Toronto and find their delightful creations in our Canada gift baskets (below).

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