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Gift ideas for the fine cacao and chocolate lover 2016

Wondering what to gift the serious chocophile in your life? Here are 10 ideas for the holiday season.

FCCI Calendar 2017: Chocolate Makers of North America

The cover of our 2017 calendar, featuring Steve DeVries of DeVries Chocolate in Denver, Colorado.

1. The Gift of Time(-Tracking)

Our Chocolate Makers of North America 2017 calendar — the result of chocolatier and photographer Maya Schoop-Rutten’s year of travel and exploration — includes photos of individuals from twelve North American chocolate makers in the spaces where they work. It also highlights some of the many global events supporting fine cacao and chocolate. Thanks to the generosity of Maya and all the chocolate makers involved, proceeds from the calendar will support FCCI.

If you’d prefer an edible calendar, it’s still not too late to order Dandelion Chocolate’s impressive, confection-filled Advent Calendar.

Cost: $20 for the paper calendar; $85 for the chocolate one. Plus shipping.

2. Hot Chocolate Making Kit

Perhaps the most satisfying hot chocolate is made at home on the stovetop by melting fine chocolate into water or milk (or cream!). A hot chocolate making kit could include some or all of the following:

  1. the must: drinking chocolate from companies that make the chocolate themselves, e.g. Askinosie, Castronovo, Dick Taylor, Fruition, Mindo, Ritual, Soma, Taza, Theo, Twenty-Four Blackbirds;

  2. luxurious servingware: There are countless options for servingware at a wide variety of price points. Consider enjoying hot chocolate from a Colombian La Chamba pot (Project Chocolat) in a demitasse cup — just the right size for a reasonable serving.;

  3. a molinillo, immersion blender, or milk frother;

  4. spices and extracts;

  5. recipes: from books (e.g. Michael Turback’s Hot Chocolate or, for a Francophile, Jean-Paul Hévin’s Chocolat Chaud) or the web (e.g. Paul Young’s Aztec Hot Chocolate; Maricel Presilla’s Hot Chocolate Agasajo, Hot Chocolate with Máchica; Mitsitam Café’s Classic Mexican Hot Chocolate).

Cost: Choose your own adventure.

3. Historical Chocolate Artifacts

If you enjoy the thrill of the search, there is a world of fun to be had in finding historical chocolate artifacts like vintage advertisements, antique chocolate pots and serving sets, or rare books on cacao and chocolate. Online, start with Ebay, Etsy, and Google to get the lay of the land. Offline, try antique shops, flea markets, rare or used book stores, and estate auctions. (Some keywords to get you started with servingware — “mancerina,” “trembleuse,” or “moustache cup” — all historical vessels for drinking chocolate.) Rest assured that a historical chocolate artifact is a gift to be remembered.

Cost: From pennies to thousands of dollars.

4. Books

Every fine chocolate lover needs to read at least two books: Maricel Presilla’s The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes and Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe’s The True History of Chocolate. Beyond that, one could read for years and never come close to finishing the literature on chocolate.

Cost: Usually between $10 to $30 each.

5. Education

The Ecole Chocolate Professional School of Chocolate Arts offers a variety of courses. For chocolate enthusiasts in particular, their Chocolate Flavor 101 is a 4-week online class in learning how to taste consciously. Taught by talented chocolatier Richard Tango-Lowy.

Cost: $55 + the cost of a book and chocolate to taste.

6. Award-Winning Chocolate

The Academy of Chocolate, Good Food Awards, and International Chocolate Awards all provide starting points for exploring fine chocolate. Each awards program has different criteria and judging protocol if you want to get geeky and explore the variety. Let your chocolate giftees judge the products for themselves by providing a sampling of the finalists or winners. Beyond this, the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund certifies growers of high quality, flavor cacao; companies working with this cacao produce bars, which can be located for purchasing here.

Cost: It’s up to you.

7. Chocolate Subscription

Purchasing a subscription or Community Supported Chocolate share provides a consumer with great perks: access to rare or special edition chocolate, a steady supply of bars, and often inside scoops on the biz or educational materials. It also provides growing small businesses with a measure of community financial support as they do their work. The fine chocolate market offers several options right now, e.g. French Broad Chocolate, Lonohana Chocolate, Madre Chocolate, Rogue Chocolatier, Somerville Chocolate, Videri Chocolate.

Cost: Variable.

8. Chocolate Money

Exploring the world of fine chocolate requires financial investment; a gift certificate to an excellent chocolate shop will help your giftee take their chocolate love to the next level. Below are links to a few of the best-stocked North American specialty chocolate shops offering gift certificates. You can’t go wrong with any of these, though we also strongly recommend supporting local specialty shops in your area:

  1. Bi-Rite gift card (San Francisco, CA)

  2. Chocosphere gift certificate (web based)

  3. Cacao Portland gift certificate (Portland, OR)

  4. Formaggio Kitchen gift card (web and Cambridge and Boston, MA, New York, NY)

  5. The Chocolate Garage Future Chocolate (web and Palo Alto, CA)

  6. Chocolopolis gift card (web and Seattle, WA)

Cost: Ranges from $25 to $500.

9. Cocoa Pods

Cocoa pods make for interesting home decor conversation pieces. The Cocoa Pod shop currently sells whole dried cocoa pods and open empty dried cocoa pods collected directly from cocoa growers in Ecuador.

Cost: $19.95 each + shipping.

10. Good Works

Last but certainly not least, there are a number of organizations involved in non-profit, philanthropic and/or academic pursuits in the name of fine cacao and chocolate. A donation in the name of your giftee will foster their ability to continue this work. Here are a few that we admire:

  1. Equal Exchange, in collaboration with Cooperative Development Foundation, is raising funds to support Ecuador earthquake relief toward concrete goals. Donations will directly support repairs to the property of cacao farmer organizations Fortaleza del Valle and UOPROCAE.

  2. The Cocoa Research Centre at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine offers an adopt a cocoa tree/plot program to support the invaluable International Cocoa Genebank Trinidad.

  3. The Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund seeks donations to support their work in preserving fine cacao varieties.

  4. Donations to Yellow Seed can provide more small cacao farmers visibility and access to markets for their products.

Cost: It’s up to you.

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