Monday, March 5, 2012

Find Real Chocolate at Xoxolat

You walk into Superstore and there's a huge candy bar for less than a dollar. Maybe Nestle or Hershey or whatever. Then you wander into a "boutique" chocolate shop like XOXOLAT Chocolaterie on Burrard and a half-sized bar costs maybe 4 times as much! You might think, "WTF?"

Is it because they're obscurely-named imports? That some are organic, or fair trade, or even raw? It turns out the main difference is apparently whether you're buying candy or chocolate.

What you get as "Chocolate" in chocolate bars is mostly sugar. It has chocolate flavour, or a chocolate coating, or even just a chocolate flavoured coating. But the actual amount of real chocolate may be very small. There was even an international trade war over the use of the word "chocolate" when some manufacturers wanted to use cheap vegetable oil instead of pricey cocoa butter -- which they ultimately did to varying degrees.

There's nothing really wrong with wanting candy. There's even nothing wrong with not wanting "real chocolate" and preferring the sugary tastiness of candy. But if you want "real chocolate" -- chocolate that isn't merely token amounts of chocolate or just chocolate-flavoured -- then be prepared to pay. Like $4 for a small bar.

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And at XOXOLAT Chocolaterie, which has their own line of chocolate, the key criteria for what brands they import and sell in-store is that the company doesn't cheat by swapping out cocoa butter with filler, such as vegetable oil. Although at this point I must say it strikes me as ironic that almost half the selection involves creatively flavoured chocolate -- such as the bacon flavoured bar I picked up. Does this mean taste (or maybe interesting taste) trumps purity, after insisting on "true chocolate"?

Chocolate content aside, what probably catches your eye first as you walk by or enter the store are the shoes. Chocolate shoes. (All left foot shoes though.) They start at ~$32 and can go up to maybe $60. Despite what looks like a sizable inventory, Xoxolat "Chocolate Creationist" Samantha Newton says they sell fast and the stock I saw on this past rainy Saturday evening was only about a week old. The lower sugar content compared to candy bars also reduces the shelf life, so they keep for maybe year.
And who buys them? Sometimes as gifts or even wedding gifts, sometimes as a container for assorted chocolates and truffles. And it's unusual enough to qualify as a gift for "that person who has everything".

Other curious items in store are books about chocolate and a chocolate-and-wine tasting kit that provides an assortment of chocolates and a list of types of red wine they would go well with. If you go in during a quieter time, say on a rainy late afternoon, you might be (as I happily was) treated to a private grand tour of the store and its offerings, which truly does help with highlighting what's available and introducing you to what might pique your interest.

I walked out with a Xoxolat "breakfast" bar that has, among other things, chili and the flavour of bacon. I'll report on that when I get around to trying it.

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