Valentina Vitols is one of our oldest customers – I don’t mean by age. She started shopping at Chocolopolis when we she moved to Seattle in July of 2008, the same month we opened our doors. She’s been with us ever since.
Valentina comes from Venezuela, a country with a proud tradition of growing fine flavor cacao that is recognized as some of the world’s best. She has a high bar for good chocolate, and we’re proud to have her as a customer. Valentina has always appreciated the way we arrange our bars by cacao origin. Many countries of origin don’t get the respect they deserve in producing excellent cacao and making chocolate. In 2008, many Americans still thought chocolate came from Europe. While American consumers are better educated ten years later, it means a lot to us when customers from cacao-growing countries appreciate what we do for chocolate.
Now that I’m immersed in the world of cacao and chocolate, I pay more attention to what’s happening politically and economically in countries of origin. Valentina has been my best source of information for what life is like on the ground in Venezuela. Her mother and brother still live there, facing challenges to the most basic elements of daily life that we are lucky to never have to face in the US. My hope is that the Venezuelan people get the government and the life they deserve soon, and that their wonderful cacao and chocolate make their way to our shelves in larger numbers.
Here’s a bit more about Valentina in her own words, along with the bars she’s chosen for her happy hour feature this Saturday.
What’s your favorite bar of chocolate right now?
I’m like a little kid when it comes to craft chocolate (everything excites me!) and I feel I have a pretty broad palate when it comes to flavor. It’s hard to pick when there are so many wonderful bars out there, so I’m going to go with the one that has impressed me most in the past year, which is Dandelion’s 85% Ecuador Camino Verde. I tend to like lower percentage bars better but when I tried this one at the Northwest Chocolate Festival last year, I heard angels singing. It’s gorgeous and elegant (if that makes sense) and it has such a luscious mouthfeel. Fruition’s Marañon Canyon Dark Milk 68% and Patric PBJ OMG got similar reactions from me this year 🙂
Do you have a favorite bar of all time?
I do. Soma’s Old School Milk (Chuao) bar is my favorite bar of all time. I enjoy bars that are unique, play around with inclusions, and incorporate nibs. My favorite food texture is crunchy. As you can see, this bar has everything that makes me happy. I’m very grateful to Lauren for introducing me to it.
How did you discover Chocolopolis?
I’ve been going to Chocolopolis since I moved to Seattle. Being from Venezuela, I always look to find places where I can get products that are either from my home country or remind me of it. I remember looking to buy Chocolates El Rey to help ease my homesickness and finding Chocolopolis that way. Lauren has always been so welcoming, and I appreciate how much she cherishes the quality of Venezuelan cacao. The first time I ventured outside my Venezuelan cacao comfort zone was to try what she suggested to me: Dick Taylor’s 72% Madagascar and Amedei Red 70% Dark Chocolate with Strawberries, Raspberries, and Cherries, both bars I love. I also gave out so many boxes of coconut meltaways as gifts. What an amazing treat they were! They were very popular among friends and family.
What do you do when you’re not tasting chocolate?
I am an angel investor and mentor who focuses on women-led companies and social impact. I love going out to eat and kayaking and paddle boarding with my husband Ryan. We’re also avid travelers.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I recently got certified as a Level 1 Chocolate Taster by the International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Tasting. I loved going through the training and learning more about the history of cacao and chocolate as well. I’m very interested in getting more involved in the educational part of craft chocolate so I’m hosting small tastings at home with friends. Also, Ryan and I are planning to put together a tiny home bean-to-bar lab to experiment with chocolate making.
Happy Hour samples chosen by Valentina: