One of the things I love most about my job is sharing chocolate with customers. Whether I’m introducing someone to craft chocolate for the first time, or whether I’m challenged to find something new for a veteran taster, the experience of tasting chocolate together is a wonderful profession. It’s an experience I would like to share with a wider audience.
It is this love that led me to join Barbie Van Horn in founding the Pacific Northwest Chocolate Society. A chocolate enthusiast who has built a strong social media following, Barbie has been a customer for a long time. She is a member of our Customer Tasting Panel that meets monthly to blind taste and rate chocolate samples, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know her and becoming friends over the years. Each of us was independently thinking about starting a society. When we figured this out we decided to join forces.
In advance of our inaugural event, I touched base with other chocolate societies around the US to see how they work. I find their stories fascinating. Each one has a different personality and motivation, but they’re all comprised of chocolate lovers. I wrote an article for TheChocolateLife.com about the chocolate clubs and societies already in existence, including a few in Europe. There are more clubs popping up every day as the world becomes more familiar with chocolate made with fine flavor cacao.
So why found a chocolate society? I already have a customer tasting panel that operates similarly to a chocolate society. It has a roster of members who are invited to taste chocolate samples once a month. The group is a microcosm of my customer base, representing a diverse range of palates that spark vigorous debates over the merits or failings of a particular chocolate. This group has a narrow focus. They are tasked with rating chocolate samples based on a blind tasting to determine whether a chocolate is worthy of being added to Chocolopolis’ curated collection. The chocolate they taste must meet the Chocolopolis criteria before it will even be considered for the tasting panel. Our acceptance rate for chocolates that are evaluated by this panel is 3%. It’s a serious business with a small membership and a very clear agenda.
The Pacific Northwest Chocolate Society, on the other hand, is open to anyone. It’s meant to create a space where we can taste chocolates of all stripes. While there will certainly be moments of seriousness, there will be plenty that are fun as well. Barbie and I want members to be a part of setting the agenda for events, making this an approachable, fun and member-driven group.
The theme of our inaugural meeting is meant to keep the fun in chocolate and to provide an approachable beginning to our existence. We’re conducting a side-by-side comparison of mass-market chocolate to craft chocolate. I admit it will be the most mass-market chocolate I’ve tasted in years, but it’s good to revisit childhood favorites now that my palate has changed. We hope this will spark a discussion about the differences in composition and flavor between the two types of chocolate and provide members with a baseline for tasting and evaluating chocolate.
Our first event is capped at 30 people, which felt like a manageable number for our inaugural meeting. We hope to have monthly meetings with topics suggested by members. Please post your comments here or on our Facebook page if you have topics you’d like to be considered for future agendas. There is still space available for our first meeting on July 19 at Chocolopolis. Click here to purchase tickets.