chocolate shreds balls sticksPerhaps the best piece of business wisdom — certainly an item from the Top 5, and yet usually ignored — is that a customer who presents a problem is one ready to buy more stuff and gives  the company a chance to cement greater loyalty.*

In that spirit, and with the hope that #BitterChocolate will soon apply only to actual high-percentage-cocoa-solid and low-percentage-sugar “baking” chocolate, noted here are some current, saddening challenges for the world of chocolate.

  • Cacao fruit needs to be picked in West Africa and sent into processing without using child slavery, a tragedy recently brought to the fore again with the current case against Hershey, Cargill and ADM.
  • Ebola has to be contained and then cured so that its concentric circles of misery don’t damage the reputation of Ivory Coast caca and create Ghanaian smuggling cartels
  • The income cacao harvesters derive from their cacao fields has to increase so it will be easier for the Peru government to help farmers transition to coffee and chocolate from coca
  • While quality control gets ever more complicated, it still doesn’t excuse letting chocolate get exposed to pork — particularly not for chocolate heading to Muslim countries or for having lead and cadmium leech into anyone’s product
  • Finally (not, not really) there is the ongoing threat and potential for price fixing and collusion among Big Chocolate as they search for higher corporate profits.

Just a reminder, you always have the choice if the bad news is too sad to bring into your life a bit more Scandal, in this case the Japanese rock band with the catchy pop tune Bitter Chocolate

which it should be noted has nothing to do with chocolate, bitter or any other sort, but is just your “typical,” J-pop, #GrrlPwr, teen break-up lament.

*1) Of course, you have to convince the customer that the problem is satisfactorily resolved.
2) Briefly and with all typical caveats about generalizing, the biz-theory is that if unhappy customers don’t tell you the problem they may never come back, instead spreading their unhappy story to friends/acquaintances/social media contacts. Unhappy customers made happy, not only come back, but statistics say they’ll buy even more than before, and are more likely to become loyal, brand ambassadors who share the story of how the company cares so much about its customers that it goes out of the way to fix the bad.
3) While it may be easiest to lie and say the problem is fixed, it’s best to actually fix it not just for them, but all other customers as well … don’t worry there will be other problems so you will never run out of opportunities to grow the business by building from the foundation of customer problems and problem customers.

#chocolate #businessadvice #BigChocolate #Scandal #JPop #politics

St. Pat’s Celebratory Liquor/Chocolate Brown/Brown Cake

St PatrickWe probably should think about snakes or the wonders of religious belief or most anything else that would abet our soul’s salvation … or even business. Instead, our attention during the annual celebration of St. Patrick turns to chocolate and liquor. This doesn’t mean “chocolate liquor,” cacao transmogrified into a pure, liquid mode. It means specifically considering interesting ways to combine chocolate and liquor — explored this year, as every year by assistant baker Theo Pandero (see discussion and recipe below).

Not wholly coincidentally, the internet recently coughed up a post by Belgian Chef Eddy Van Damme (tri-author of the college text, On Baking).

It is an easy to follow primer on creating little chocolate cups of liquor with the potential for double pleasure as chocolate affects many people in the same pleasurable way as alcohol. Turns out,chocolate is sometimes even used by alcoholics in recovery as a replacement for the more damaging vice.

All of which is a long path back to what we are actually doing to combine chocolate and liquor in the store. Basically, we’re constricted by law from offering something too thoroughly alcoholically infused, although Theo tried again (as he did in 2012, recipe here to change hearts and minds. In the spirit of his 2012 St. Pat’s black/white cake, he shared with the back room his black/black (and recommended white ice cream) cake, which is heavily infused with chocolate in the cake and icing — making it more factually a brown/brown (and recommended vanilla ice cream, which could also be an Irish liqueur infused vanilla frozen yogurt).

Of course, just because you won’t find it in our front of the store cases do we want to keep the pleasure all to our selves. For those playing along at home, this is what Theo is willing to share in terms of recipe:

The St. Pat’s Black/Black

For the Cake

  • 1 ½ cup stout
  • 1 cup (two sticks) butter
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa power
  • 1 ½ cups blue agave nectar
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • ½ cup stevia
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¾ cup tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

For the Icing

  • 7 oz. dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp. light (or light whipping) cream
  • 4 tbsp. Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 tsp. espresso

1) Preheat over to 350 degrees and butter/spray bundt pan.
2) Simmer stout and butter. Add cocoa and agave when simmering.
3) Whisk together flour, stevia, baking soda, salt.
4) Beat eggs.
5) Slowly mix dry ingredients, wet ingredients, eggs and sour cream in one large bowl.
6) Pour into bundt pan and heat 35-40 minutes or until inserted knife comes out clean.
7) Transfer to cooling rack and await icing.
8) Use double boiler to melt chocolate.
9) Stir in cream and liqueur and, when blended, espresso.
10) Drizzle, pour or spread over cake.

If by chance you should also require a melancholy song to add to the chocolate and liquor buzz peer pressure often requires in celebration of the day, there’s always Tom Lehrer’s Irish Ballad.

Frosted “Not Yet” Carolina Chocolate Drops

Could bluegrass be the chocolate of music? We don’t really think so, but that doesn’t make us any less the fans of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, The band, which infuses a sense of political and musical history into its sound, snatched up a Grammy in 2010 for Genuine Negro Jig and is now doing the media circuit to support its new release, Leaving Eden.

Admittedly none of this has much to do with CAC … EXCEPT that we are inspired by our interest to try and match them up with some sort of creation. We’re not finished yet, but the current working draft — it is unlikely we’ll publish the final — recipe in their honor is:

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
4 oz. semi sweet chocolate, melted
1/2 c. milk
1 2/3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. crushed pistachios

Mocha Chocolate Frosting
6 tbsp. cocoa
6 tbsp. espresso
6 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. confectioners sugar

Cream shortening and sugar. Add egg, vanilla and melted chocolate. Add milk and dry ingredients. Ball on spoon and drop on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until edges crisp or tops start to hard.

Whip ingredients for frosting. Frost cooled cookies.

And enjoy the music:

<iframe width=”350″ height=”225″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/1Iy4iIaycdo?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>




Choco Trail and Town

Burlington, Ontario, has decided to sell itself to travelers as “chocolate town.” The city fathers (and mothers) have created the Burlington Chocolate Trail, which tries, somehow, to build a bridge between the 2000 year history of the bean and a mid-sized Canadian city — and one with a ready-made theme song at its disposal:

While that all seems like a bit too much specious touristy marketing, there are folks here at CAC who might be getting a closer look at (the non-Hershey, Penna.) “chocolate town.” The province’s Royal Botanical Garden currently features Chocolate: The Exhibition, something, which like the right cacao bean, does seem worth going out of one’s way for.

Didn’t Go Well?

Like New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween and other celebrations of expectation and (often) excess, St. Valentine’s Day can leave some hearts saddened and unsated in a way even chocolate can’t salve. If this hour finds you to be one of those, we suggest a peek or purchase of Steve Almond’s Candy Freak, his search for nostalgia laden, meh tasting chocolate bars. Of course if not in the mood for even a read, take a listen to his 2005 Soundcheck interview:

Or if you have real psychic pains to ease there is always the 2012 Soundcheck VD salute to Creepy Love Songs: