Hooray for Chocolate!

By Judee Fong

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Photo by: Judee Fong Pure Lovin Chocolates' co-owner Cyndy Blackburn.

On a mission to investigate chocolate’s healthy benefits, I decided to nibble, oops, I mean, “research” a few of the smaller, local chocolatiers in Victoria.

Bernard Callibault’s website tells me the healthiest benefits are in dark chocolate’s abundance of flavonoids, the natural compound in cacao beans that gives some chocolate a bittersweet taste. Milk chocolate contains fewer flavonoids because it’s diluted with milk and contains more sugar. White chocolate contains no cacao liquor and, therefore, no flavonoids. Great! I never liked white “chocolate” anyway.

The Cleveland Clinic claims that flavonoids improve blood flow to the brain and to the heart; helps lower blood pressure and reduces the risk of blood clots. Flavonoids are also found in fruits, vegetables, herbs, legumes, nuts and grains.

Chocolate, especially dark, is rich in antioxidants, protecting us from some cancers and slowing the signs of aging. Fitday states dark chocolate’s low-glycemic index won’t cause huge spikes in blood sugar levels, if eaten in moderation. The Mayo Clinic defines moderation as 85 grams of chocolate containing 65 per cent or more cacao content to be beneficial. They also recommended adjusting one’s daily caloric intake by 450 or adding more exercise to compensate for the treat.

My first stop is Pure Lovin Chocolates, owned by chocolatier Leah Blackburn and her mom Cyndy Blackburn. A Mother’s Day gift of vegan chocolate truffles from Leah prompted the two women to start their vegan line of chocolates. I watched Cyndy packaging delectable assortments of truffles in raspberry, sea salt, hazelnut, mint, chai tea and espresso flavours.

“Our chocolates don’t use any dairy or soy,” says Leah. “We use coconut milk because it’s dairy-free. The coconut cream mimics the fat content of regular dairy cream. We use only organic ingredients. The taste of Fair Trade 72 per cent dark chocolate with the flavours of the various fillings makes it difficult to detect any coconut flavour. Our chocolates are simple, appealing and pure with no preservatives.”

Eagerly, I bit into a dark Espresso Truffle. The rich, creamy ganache tucked sinfully inside the dark chocolate, tasted too delicious to be healthy and vegan. For research purposes, I also sampled a Dark Raspberry Truffle. I departed Pure Lovin’s kitchen thinking you don’t have to be vegan to indulge in these impressive chocolates.
Angela Pappas, owner and chocolatier of Fort Street’s Chocolat, enjoys the taste of 85 per cent dark chocolate. “I don’t eat a lot of dairy and have always loved my sugarless dark chocolates,” she says. “The taste of the 85 per cent chocolate isn’t bitter to me at all.” Chocolat carries a range of 55 per cent to 85 per cent dark chocolates in a variety of fillings, truffles and bars including delicious mugs of specialty hot chocolates. I was fascinated to learn that Chocolat has the exclusive rights to sell the “rarest chocolate” in the world, Fortunato No.4 made with Pure Nacional, a cacao plant believed destroyed in 1916 and then rediscovered in Peru in 2007. The cacao plant was DNA tested to confirm this was the same rare plant. It’s the rarest chocolate because it survived and adapted to create purple and white cacao beans, producing a bitterless chocolate with an exceptional flavour.

“My Fortunato Truffle is small, decadent and should be enjoyed slowly, never swallowed quickly!” Angela offered me one. I did not gulp the tiny truffle down in one bite but slowly nibbled and savoured the rich dark chocolate with its delicate flavour — heavenly!
The mouthwatering display of handcrafted chocolates grabs my attention at Victoria’s Dutch Bakery. Brook Schaddelee, third-generation chocolatier, tells me, “Growing up in the bakery business, I remember watching my dad and uncles making the chocolates and pastries and thinking, ‘I'd like to do that.’ Brook says, “We usually keep to our popular cherries, ginger, nuts and creams made without preservatives and using the original recipes. We use Belgian chocolate for all our darks. If you start with a good source of chocolate, then you'll have the start of excellent chocolates.” Savouring my Dark Chocolate Kahlua, I nodded in blissful agreement, trying to contain my ear-to-ear grin. This research is fun and I feel so much healthier!

Terrible Truffles chocolatier David Booth is also a genial Innkeeper, sharing duties with his wife Vlasta and mother-in-law, Mila, at Humboldt House.

“I learned a lot of the techniques and working with chocolate at Murchie's and at Montreal’s La Brioche Lyonnaise where I honed my pastry and chocolate making skills,” says David. “This all became a good fit for the bed and breakfast.”

Wanting a sassy name for his popular chocolates, David settled on Terrible Truffles because they were deemed so terribly delicious by all his guests. I learned from David that contrary to popular beliefs, chocolate contains only a trace amount of caffeine. Theobromate is the enzyme in chocolate that gives us energy and that feel-good feeling.

David makes small batches of handcrafted truffles, using a good quality chocolate, fresh local dairy, pure cane sugar, no other fats except the cocao butter, pure vanilla, no preservatives, no soy and some liqueurs in the fillings to extend the life of the truffles.

I was offered a Classic Dark Chocolate with a hint of orange brandy. The truffle caressed my tongue, melted slowly in my mouth and left me with that feel-good feeling. I barely started my research, but Victoria is clearly a city meant for chocolate lovers!

Contacts for:
Pure Lovin’ Chocolates 250-508-1498 or purelovinchocolate@gmail.com and locations on www.purelovinchocolate.com
Chocolat 250-381-0131 or chocolatvictoria@gmail.com and www.chocolatvictoria.ca
Terrible Truffles is 250-383-0152 or dbooth@humboldthouse.com www.terribletruffles.com
The Dutch Bakery is 250-385-1012 or dutchbakeryvictoria@gmail.com and www.thedutchbakery.com



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