What would the Holidays be without chocolate?
Real chocolate; the stuff dreams are made of, the kind that melts in the mouth like butter, with subtle flavors that remind one of a good, vintage wine, exploding on the palate and satisfying the deepest hunger. For after all, real chocolate is food.
Lucky for us, here in Taos, we don’t have to go terribly far to source some of the world’s very best, bean-to-bar chocolate!
Bean-to-bar is chocolate produced by processing cocoa beans in-house, rather than melting chocolate from a large manufacturer. Some are in fact, large companies that own the entire process for economic reasons; others aim to control the whole process to improve quality, working conditions, and/or environmental impact.
Chokola, a family owned, small batch artisanal chocolate company aims to do it all. In the few short years since opening their flagship store on Juan Largo lane off the Plaza, owners Deborah Vincent and Javier Abad who met in Venezuela in 2003, have grown their small company beyond their wildest dreams.
Moving to Taos in 2015 with a young family, (Debi’s grandmother was Taos folk singer and social activist Jenny Vincent), Deborah and Javi made the Land of Enchantment their base as they continued traveling to learn more about their shared passion; chocolate.
A trip back to Caracas, Venezuela to meet and learn from renowned chocolate makers Chloe Doutre-Roussel and Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe would change the course of their lives forever.
Six months later, they opened Chokola.
The bars they have become famous for, feature limited edition wrappers designed by local artists including Larry Bell, Erin Currier and Zoe Zimmerman among others. Debi is an Art Historian and quite naturally pays homage to her academic and Taos roots.
The couple’s shared vision has paid off. After winning two prestigious Good Food Awards in 2018 (see site linked below this post), Chokola Bean to Bar has gone on to win even more awards this year.
“This has been an amazing year we are so grateful for the support we’ve received from the Taos community and our visitors,” Debi told me when I talked with her recently, “ and we are also thrilled to represent the state of New Mexico in national and international competitions.”
Chokola won two Gold medals in the Northwest Chocolate Festival Awards, a respected international competition, one in the dark chocolate category and the other and the confection category. The festival was held in Seattle. The world’s top education workshops, 20+ countries of global exhibitors, came together on the Northwest Coast to revel in indulgent chocolate tastings!
Then just this past weekend, the couple took Bronze as finalists of the International Chocolate awards, a worldwide competition. The International Chocolate Awards had announced the Grand Jury Finalists of the World Final Competition which was held 7-12 October, 2019 in Florence, Italy. The event last weekend, was held in Guatemala.
As we chatted, Debi’s son Sebastian came to where we sat, to say hello. He lives in Los Angeles where he is at University studying Business.
“We are thinking of opening another store there in the near future,” Debi told me. “Taos will always be home, but it’s time to stretch our wings.” She smiled.
Quite natural – once children begin to discover their own wings also. The couple’s daughter is now 15 and soon the proverbial nest will be empty. “For now, we are just tossing the idea around.” Sebastian chimed in. But how perfect having a brilliant businessman built right in, I thought. For the moment however, Debi and Javi continue to make their bars and bon-bons aqui en Taos!
“I’m back to the bon-bons!” Debi laughed. Her chocolate origins started with confectionary over two decades ago in Venezuela. Before Javier and bean-to-bar. “Full circle to where I began.”
Last but not least, Chokola is once again nominated for the prestigious nationwide Good Foods Awards.
“We have already won 2 awards in 2018, bringing the first ever Good Foods Awards to New Mexico.” Said Debi. “This year we got nominated as finalist Good Food Awards 2020 with our Tanzania + Nibs origin bar.”
I left with the bar in my bag. It tasted like home, or close enough. The distance from where I was born on the tip of the African highveld, is not too far from the country bordering Kenya.
For much more information on Chokola and all their awards, as well as to order online, please visit the sites linked below.
All images thanks to Chokola