Chocolate starts the year concerned with melting, and that remains a major theme throughout 2014. For some varietals trying to break into the Latin American or South Asian markets, it is proximity to the equator that poses the greatest technical challenge. Scientific modifications to cacao’s chemistry may be necessary to thwart disaster.
For others, concerns about proper storage, handling and shelf stability are secondary to packaging and new recycling rules. Here in the Lower Mainland, businesses that conduct trade in packaged goods will be responsible for the end user recycling that packaging. This loosely translates into new taxes and levies retailers will need to either charge or absorb.
Chocolate is a strong, independent sign, which does not make it easy to emulsify. Chocolatiers the world over will be working on developing new flavour profiles and deciding how quickly they can take them to market. Commodity prices will be rising, as bulk inventories remain downward trending. Foreign currencies used to hedge against rising prices will also be going up, causing much consternation at retail.
Surprises will be a theme for chocolate this year, especially small batch artisan chocolate crafted for Valentines and Easter. Expect a baby boom pre-Christmas as a result of the former.
Chocolate lives in a creative and artistic sphere, and dreams of putting its imagination and skills into concrete form. Many varieties will manifest this talent and find the appropriate outlet, while some might meet resistance. Don’t worry — consumers can get past that. If you are a bonbon, changes to your appearance are in the cards for the second half of the year. Romance for dark chocolate, 70% or higher, is the new black.
2014 sees chocolate break out of its reclusive cycle. There is a possibility chocolate could be put on a pedestal, and obsessed over. Chocolate refuses to be thought of as a co-conspirator, demanding unbridled affection. It is a force to be reckoned with this coming year.
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This month Lisa Part reprises her role as Mink’s guest blog contributor.
Make Someone Happy With Chocolate
It is surprising how many people think of chocolate as being a cheat’s gift, as something that they might buy without putting any real thought into it at all. It may surprise you even more to know that we think this notion is wronger than a wrong thing that studied at Wrong University. Chocolate as a gift is something that can be tailor made, created for someone with real passion and given for a variety of reasons. Not only that, it actually has a really strong history behind it that is very interesting and covers many different countries across the world
When did buying chocolate for someone become popular?
To discover the origins of chocolate as a gifting item, you have to go right back into the annals of history, when people had to make their own entertainment (and consequently ended up with rather large families). In fact, you have to go right back to The Aztecs, who had entirely the right notion about cocoa. They believed it was a gift from the Gods and therefore something that was suitable to give to noble people and royalty. They made their own versions of a cocoa type drink to give out and for years kept it as their own. If the Spaniards hadn’t invaded Aztec lands and demanded that they hand over their cocoa beans so that people across the world could enjoy them, Mink Chocolates might not exist today. That’s a sad thought…
Once cocoa beans had started to traverse the continents, other cultures started to pick up on this notion of it being something rich and spectacular to indulge in or give as a gift.
You know Casanova? He passed alcohol over for chocolate, believing that it was cocoa that gave him his legendary virility, rather than the quaffing of fine wines many others were known for. He didn’t seem to struggle much did he?
However, in relatively modern times, it’s the plucky sugar loving Brits we have to thank for really making the notion of chocolate as a gift take off – and believe it or not, it took a war for it to actually become a reality. It was Queen Victoria who took it upon herself to send troops who were fighting in the Boer War boxes of fancy chocolates, to cheer them up and give them a little taste of home as they battled in foreign climes and missed their loved ones. This idea caught on all across Europe so that by the mid 20th Century, chocolate was the gift to give to anyone you loved. In fact it was Edwin Starr who sang:
“War, huh yeah – what is it good for? Absolutely nothing, uh huh, War, huh yeah – what is it good for? Well I got a box of chocolates in the last one, uh huh”.
OK, might have made that last bit up…
Why give chocolate today?
A little history lesson is always good, but it’s the here and now that’s important and people need to get used to the idea that giving real, good quality chocolate is a thoughtful and kind gift with a lot of feeling behind it. You can:
Really make someone smile…
Harking back to good old Queen Victoria – a woman best known for not being amused, she might have done well to have a little bit of the old dark cocoa solids herself from time to time, (it might have made her laugh bit more, for one thing). See, the notion that chocolate can help with depression is not a new one. The signs and symptoms of depression in women are often such that they report a craving for sweet, carbohydrate based foods either generally or at certain times of the month. That’s why giving a box of good quality dark chocolate can not only be thoughtful, but actually help to improve someone’s mood. Two of the main minerals in chocolate and in particular dark chocolate are Magnesium and Chromium, known for being good at relaxing people and boosting serotonin in the brain. It really is worth a try for anyone who needs a little cheering up. In moderation, it’s a good thing to enjoy.
Tell someone you love them
Don’t say it with flowers. Flowers don’t taste nice with a cup of coffee. You know, our aforementioned Mr Casanova did actually have a point. It was believed that chocolate could not only help to increase libido if you were in a relationship – hence the rush on cocoa based comestibles on Valentines Day – but would also help your wilted ego pep up in the event that you got dumped, too. It is said in times gone by that French Doctors used to prescribe (or recommend at the very least) chocolate to anyone suffering from a broken heart as it would help them recover and improve their mood. Just don’t go into their surgery and ask them to write you a prescription for a bar of Certifiably Nutty…
Say thank you
It’s easy to say “thank you” to someone (though not enough people do these days generally) but you can really show you’re grateful to someone by giving them a gift box of chocolates – especially so if you tailor it to their own personal likes. Picking out someone’s favorite flavors, tastes and sensations and gifting them a box of really good chocolate is so much nicer than buying something off the shelf from the local grocery store.
Do it just because
Sometimes you don’t need a reason at all. Sometimes a surprise is the nicest thing. Hey, it’s Tuesday! It’s Happy Tuesday Chocolate Day! That could work, right? I like your shoes, I bought you a box of Mink Chocolates because they’re so nice…I think we’re the same size. I’ve got a party coming up next weekend, can I borrow them….? Oh well, it was worth a shot…
Four years ago, a woman called me from out of country, wanting to buy Easter chocolate for her daughter who was in first year university here. We chatted briefly, and agreed on a nice representation of seasonal novelties for the basket. I learned this was the daughter’s first time away from home, and that the mother was a touch anxious. The university wasn’t that far out of my way, so I offered to personally deliver it.
Without giving away too much of the surprise, I made arrangements to meet the daughter in the lobby of her student residence. It was a gorgeous spring day and I remember the cherry blossoms being in full bloom as I walked across the campus parking lot. I don’t remember too much else about that meeting save for her being a little wary of a stranger bearing gifts.
The next year, her mother called me again a few days before Easter, and told me how thrilled the daughter was to get the treats the year before, and would I mind personally delivering them again. I said it would be my pleasure and we put together a nice arrangement of rabbits and eggs and assorted other chocolates. I texted the daughter and we made arrangements to meet at a popular bakery café not too far from the university where she’d be cramming for exams.
I arrived at the prescribed time to find about 50 or 60 kids, noses buried in their laptops, coffees and diet cokes strewn about, music blaring, and not a clue as to what she looked like. I held the Easter basket aloft and yelled out her name. She came from across the room, shyly and just a bit embarrassed. I wished her a happy Easter, good luck on her exams, and took my leave.
Last year, her mom called me again. By now we were old friends. She remarked how happy she was that we had this little thing going on, a tradition of sorts, a way for her to be close to her daughter while being very far away. She commented on how important it was to build memories, and asked about my family.
Now the daughter was living in a shared rental house, again not too far out of my way. We made arrangements by text, and I showed up that morning on time, yet it was a full ten minutes before she opened the front door. I venture to say she had been asleep all of an hour. Her mascara was streaked, obviously hung-over, perhaps still drunk, a sea of beer cans and empty pizza boxes and overflowing ashtrays giving testament to the goings-on the night before.
The sun was too bright for her to look at me directly, so with head down and hand shielding her eyes the exchange took place, this time with an embarrassment not borne of being singled out in front of strangers, but doing what college kids do after exams, hoping it doesn’t get back to the parental units.
Well, the tradition continues and this year the mother asked me to include a Mermaid’s Choice chocolate bar with the rest of the Easter treats. She told me that her daughter had worked a forestry internship in Quesnel, BC, last summer, and while riding in the back of a pickup truck with another intern, was offered a bite of what she said was the most amazing thing she’d ever had. She of course recognized the brand from three years worth of Easter treats, but never had she fallen so in love with any chocolate as that particular one after just one small shared piece. The mother squirreled away this little tidbit and was giddy at the thought she’d be able to really surprise her daughter this year.
Sidebar: Mink chocolate is sold exclusively at the two Mink cafes in the Lower Mainland, and online, but periodically carried by Bella Flora Studio, a wonderful florist in Nelson, BC, and by my dear friend Shecky at Bo Peep Boutique in Quesnel.
I’m guessing this unidentified intern walked into my friend’s store and bought that chocolate and then shared it the next day with the daughter in the back of a pickup truck on a logging road in the bush, far from school and even farther from home. I got a kick out of the coincidence and called Shecky immediately. I told her the story beginning to end. We had a good laugh, and hung up. Five minutes later she texted me that her husband Mike, who works for West Fraser Timber, the company that the daughter was interning for, not only knew her, but that she was a great gal and likely coming back this summer.
I emailed the mom later that evening, and told her in spite of our geographic difference, the world was indeed a small place. I’m scheduled to make a fourth Easter delivery to the daughter this week. The exchange will take mere moments, and the small talk will still be small, but this time long enough to drop West Fraser Timber and Mike’s name and let her know the chocolate guy is keeping tabs on her.
Mink Chocolates Inc.,
Mink A Chocolate Cafe Ltd.
Call toll free: 1.866.283.5181