There’s a resurgence happening in the world of chocolate, a changing of the guard as it were, and it’s making for an extraordinarily exciting scene right here in Alberta.
While old school chocolatiers will never truly go out of style, they’re now up against more and more competition from newcomers in chocolate making. Whereas a decade ago chocolate was sourced from no-name suppliers and used to make truffles, caramels, and other bonbons, nowadays “bean-to-bar” has become the norm.
Chocolatiers are carefully selecting their chocolate from ethical sources, and in some cases these local chocolate makers are actually getting their beans straight from cacao plantations, and then grinding, winnowing, conching, and re ning them into their own handmade chocolate.
Either way, not only does it move towards ensuring that the cacao farmers themselves receive fair and equitable wages for the product they are selling, it creates a diversified experience for the end consumer, making it virtually impossible for any two chocolates to taste the same.
Formerly known as Moth Chocolate, this Calgary spot specializes in single origin bars sourced from select countries, emphasizing fair and direct trade. Owner Geordan Spicer honed her craft interning at Omnom in Iceland, and has since continued to educate herself by reading and watching whatever she has been able to get her hands on pertaining to bean-to-bar chocolate.
When asked about her take on chocolate in Alberta, she says, “there is a handful of awesome individuals getting going in Alberta’s chocolate making industry. I think that we all started around the same time, and although our emphasis is on varying aspects of cacao, we all share similar ideals towards ethical sourcing.”
Anne Sellmer’s chocolates are basically the dictionary definition of “too pretty too eat.” Moulded into a variety of shapes, and hand painted three or more times to look like works of art, she has embraced the fact that we really do eat with our eyes first.
The best part is, they live up to expectations in the flavour department too, and have won awards both nationally and internationally to attest to that. With chocolate sourced from Central America, all the way to Africa, it’s like taking your taste buds on a trip without ever getting on an airplane.
Sellmer has also paired up with other Calgary businesses like Phil & Sebastian, Eau Claire Distillery, and Porter’s Tonic, to showcase the myriad of flavours that can work in tandem with chocolate. “Although our focus is more on high end ingredients, at the end of the day it’s also just about what tastes good,” Sellmer says.
Based in Okotoks, just south of Calgary, Old Coal is seizing the potential of the ingredient that is chocolate. Owner Jolene Kolk’s grandfather worked as a blacksmith, inspiring her company’s namesake viewing coal not only as a source of energy, but also a symbol of craftsmanship and family.
Jolene prides herself on producing creative and unexpected treats, often in collaboration with other
local businesses. For example, her fan favourite “beeramels” came together with the help of Village Brewery’s Blacksmith Ale. “By using as much local inspiration as possible, we are able to bring a new, imaginative side of chocolate to our amazing customers,” Kolk says. You can order all of Old Coal’s chocolate creations online.
Sweet Lollapalooza may be a mouthful to say, but when it comes to Brett Roy’s chocolate, it’s an oh-so-pleasant mouthful at that. Sourcing some of the world’s rarest cacao, like Peru’s Pure Nacional, it’s both the quality of the ingredients and the calibre of Roy’s training that make his chocolates stand out.
Having worked in Australia, North America, and at the Valrhona Grand Chocolate School in France, he’s combined all of his experiences into award-winning products, receiving 14 accolades from the 2017 International Chocolate Awards and being named one of the top 10 chocolatiers in North America.
“You could sum up our approach as this,” Roy says, “We source the very best ingredients, make sure these ingredients are ethically sourced, and then annually train with the best chocolatiers and teachers around the world to continuously hone our craft.”
Jācek Chocolate Couture
Perhaps one of the most well-known of the chocolatiers and chocolate makers in the province, Jacek now has three stores including locations in Edmonton, Sherwood Park, and Canmore. Taking inspiration from the fashion world, owner Jacqueline Jacek releases chocolate truffle collections that change with the seasons, so customers can always expect something unique, exciting, and cutting edge. In addition to the truffles, she also offers single origin bars from Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, and the Dominican Republic.
Taste testing each of the 70% bars side by side is a testament to just how distinctive cacao from different regions really is; the newly renovated Sherwood Park location is complete with a tasting room. “We want to educate people,” Jacek says, “(customers) can come and see beans being sorted and roasted, and learn about the chocolate making process.” This education is creating more discerning customers, which Jacek believes will only help grow and expand chocolate in Alberta.
Cococo Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut
With locations across Canada, Cococo is no small player in Alberta’s chocolate scene, and an important player at that. Based in Calgary, they offer an array of products, all hand made to perfection. Award winning options, such as their sea salt caramels, come in unique flavours from Thai ginger sea salt chocolate caramel, to Hawaiian sea salt raspberry caramel.
In the test kitchen they constantly push boundaries, which leads to the invention of chocolates like their rosemary fusion bar, a blend of rosemary, thyme, and habanero sea salt that has won the hearts of not only local customers, but judges at the International Chocolate Awards. Arguably it’s this creativity and innovation that spawned high-end chocolate in Alberta, and set the stage for other chocolatiers to get involved and hone their craft. The best part is, they continue to emphasize sustainability by using Rainforest Alliance certified chocolate and cocoa butter.