Chocolate is delicious. It’s one of the undeniable facts of life, standing among such truths as “The Star Wars prequels are way worse than the originals” and “British people have the best accents.” Migrating from the Americas to Europe in the late 16th century, chocolate has taken the world by sweet, diabetes-giving storm. Chocolate, if you didn’t know, comes from the Theobroma (which translates to “food of the gods) tree that grows in Central America, the northern parts of South America, and Mexico. That tree produces cacao pods, in which are found the cacao seeds, or beans, that are eventually made into chocolate as we know it today. One of the firsts forms of chocolate were drinks that the Mesoamerican people made; contrary to modern hot chocolate, they were bitter and filled with ground chili pepper. Once Europeans got a hold of the stuff, they figured they could make it better by removing the chili and sweetening it. Probably a good move. The art of chocolate making has only grown since then, with the advent of hard chocolate bars coming during the industrial revolution. Today, chocolate is one of the most popular types of sweets available; and it isn’t hard to see why.
From high-end confections to misshapen and questionably tasty easter bunnies, you can have chocolate practically any way you want. Heck, you can even have chocolate Jesus, and I’m not talking about the song! But what if you want your chocolate local? Well, luckily for anyone wanting to try out some sweets of a more “indie” variety, per se, there’s Jennifer’s Chocolates, the local mecca for all things cocoa. And I, along with a group from the Nakusp Public Library, got to go there for the library’s “Willy Wonka Day.”
Said fictional chocolate factory it ain’t, for one being bereft of orange midget slavery, but Jennifer Cross still makes more than her fair share of delicious confections. The cool thing is, so did we! Yep, everybody got to (sorta) make their very own chocolates, with a lot of help from Jennifer, of course. We started with some sponge toffee, which Lee Coates broke up with all the enthusiasm of a polygonal miner. Then, we dipped it in a big chocolate melter. After that. We did the same thing with truffles, and then maraschino cherries. If you’re beginning to see why Jennifer’s the perfect person to own a chocolate shop, you got it. “I just love dipping things in chocolate. I’m a chocolatier, after all. Even if its already chocolate, why not dip it into chocolate?”
Once it was all dipped and done, we got to sample our creations. The toffee, being basically just sugar and corn syrup, was incredibly sweet, probably sweet enough to make Ebenezer Scrooge gag. The truffles and chocolate-covered cherries were more my style, and quite enjoyable. With their tasty jobs done, the children filed out the door, and I got to ask Jennifer a couple questions.
A: “What got you into chocolate making?”
J: “I made chocolate truffles first, just because I found a recipe—I liked cooking anyway—and then the second batch didn’t turn out well, so I got frustrated. That led me to looking up a course on chocolate making, and that’s the end!”
A: “What’s your favourite chocolate among those you’ve made?”
J: “If you asked me today I would say salted caramels—little square things with something called Himalayan Crystal Salt on top.”
A: “What’s the biggest challenge?”
J: “Patience. I really need to have a lot of of patience for things. Working with chocolate takes a lot of patience. Just that melter of chocolate took 30 minutes to properly melt before you guys got here.”
A: “What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business?”
J: “Go really slowly and take baby steps—don’t grow too fast.”
A: “Yeah, you wouldn’t want to risk putting it all in and then having a bad year that makes it all collapse because you can’t pay the bills.”
J: “Exactly. I’ve seen some people who just say ‘I’m gonna drop $100,000 on this building, I’m gonna decorate it like this,’ etc. It’s dangerous to do it that way. You want to go slow and take it one step at a time so you can support yourself if something goes wrong. I bought my first melter, a little six kilo one, and worked with that for a long time until I could get the ones I use now. You have to go slow.”
Sound advice for anyone, and that goes for eating the chocolate, too!
You can find Jennifer Chocolates at 91 4th Ave in Nakusp, across from the Arrow Lakes Theatre (call her at 250-265-1799).