This week’s customer spotlight is on long-time customer Monali Patel. I first met Monali in 2012 as the store was celebrating its fourth anniversary. She attended Dr. Kristy Leissle’s talk at Chocolopolis on “Fair, Free and Direct Trade” and introduced herself then. A chocolate lover with a passion for supporting mission-driven organizations, Monali received her MBA from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (now part of Presidio Graduate School) with a focus in sustainable business.
I often run into Monali at events around Seattle, most recently at the launch of Intentionalist, an online guide that supports small businesses and diverse local communities by encouraging community members to spend intentionally. It was no surprise that I also ran into her at Dr. Leissle’s book launch at the University of Washington in March, flanked by her classmates from graduate school. Her interest in sustainability, in all its forms, extends to her personal life. She is one of those unique individuals who lives her beliefs.
Monali spends a lot of time thinking about chocolate and sharing her passion and knowledge for it with everyone she meets. This includes trying to convert milk-chocolate lovers to dark chocolate, and elevating the palates of mass-market dark chocolate consumers to the good stuff. She is a member of our customer tasting panel, a group of customers that meets monthly to blind taste and rate the sample bars we receive from around the world.
When I made the decision to move the store to Interbay and change our format, I received a lovely, supportive email from Monali, offering her thoughts and suggestions as I made the tough decisions. I know she would love to figure out how to include the business of chocolate in her professional portfolio, and I have no doubt that at some time in the future she will. She has always been incredibly supportive of Chocolopolis and the experience we’ve created, often in her own, thoughtful way.
Here’s a bit more about Monali in her own words, followed by a few of her choices for happy hour on July 14.
What’s your favorite bar of chocolate right now?
Hmm that’s tough. I tend to eat a few bars at a time and so my favorite is always changing.
However my go-to staple is the Felchlin Cru Sauvage (68%), made from wild beans sourced in Bolivia. The mini discs are easy to travel with and to share. The taste lingers on and on, it’s complex, it’s smooth, it’s utterly delightful. This is the chocolate I’ve used to bring people over to the dark side (those who think they don’t like dark chocolate).
Right now I’m enjoying Ritual’s Madagascar from Sambirano Valley (75%), Friederike and Ali’s Madagascar Ambanja (70%), Castronovo’s Colombia Tumaco (85%) bar and Michel Cluizel’s Cru de Plantation Vila Gracinda Sao Tome (67%). My favorite flavor profiles are of chocolates from Madagascar, Ecuador and Peru though I’m trying to branch out!
Do you have a favorite bar of all time?
Rogue’s Hispaniola. I’ve had many favorites over the years and I enjoy trying new bars, but I almost cried when eating Rogue’s bar. I kept tasting different things, this bar took me on a journey! It was silky and bright and bold and complex. I love nothing more than a well-crafted dark chocolate bar that hits me with fruity flavors and then nuts, and then things I can’t even define. I haven’t indulged in this bar in a few years though. It’s not as common to find and I feel I have to really be celebrating something because it is a splurge.
How did you discover Chocolopolis?
As I was getting ready to move to Seattle for grad school (back in 2010) I had a moment of panic realizing I would no longer be able to rely on my go-to fine chocolate store in D.C., so I researched my Seattle options in advance of arriving! I found Chocolopolis online and knew it would be my new chocolate shop of choice.
What do you do when you’re not tasting chocolate?
By day I craft stories and lead communications efforts for an inspiring undergraduate environmental studies program at UW. In my free time I’m busy trying new restaurants, connecting with friends, planning my next trip and ideating about my future chocolate endeavors.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I have loved chocolate since I was a young kid (I had access to British chocolate, Cadbury’s), some might say obsessively so, and over time I have come to appreciate the good stuff, and have no qualms spending my money on well-made bars with minimal ingredients. I choose to support the craft chocolate industry for honoring the magical cacao pod and for mindfully working to pay farmers more and for caring about the ethics behind creating a product that is beloved but also exploited.
I used to have a sustainable chocolate blog to educate people about the ethics and challenges in the chocolate industry and also to share my passion for this amazing food. This led me to also conduct private tastings with anyone who was interested and I want to do more with chocolate education as I think connecting people to the stories behind the products they love as well as the social impact of their purchase is essential for deepening their appreciation of and relationship with chocolate.
Happy hour samples chosen by Monali:
Felchlin Cru Sauvage Wild Bolivia disks (available in bulk in the store)
Good King Gourmet Snacking Cacao – Love
Original Beans Piura Porcelana 75% (Peru)
Pralus Madagascar 75%
Rogue Hispaniola 70% (Dominican Republic)
Marou Tien Giang 80% (Vietnam)