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July 6, 2018

Open tomorrow (Saturday) from 9am until 1pm.

Aloha and Happy Friday!

Keeping it very short this week, cutting to the chase with what we are featuring tomorrow:

Sirene Guatemala 73%
Sirene Fiji 73%
Baianí 57% dark milk
Momotombo dark milk with nibs

We do have some Patric and SOMA left from our last order, so tomorrow is a good time to snap that up. Plenty of Momotombo, and things don’t seem to be getting any better in Nicaragua, at least in this short term. Please consider getting some Momotombo for dinner party gifts, for sharing with co-workers and generally spreading the word about bean to bar in country of bean origin.

Charm School is back, Dick Taylor is also in stock, Original Beans and more… Come and see what we have, and taste the bars we are featuring tomorrow.
We hope to see you tomorrow!
Sunita

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June 29, 2018

Currently open Saturdays only from 9 am - 1pm. Hoping we can save The Chocolate Garage for the cost of a couple lattes a month… or about the monthly cost of an Amazon Prime membership!

Happy Friday everyone!

First, thank you to all those who have signed up to donate monthly to The Chocolate Garage, to those who can contribute $5 a month, or those who opted $10, $20 or $50, and to our wonderful supporter of local small business who decided to change their donation from $20 to $200, I am grateful and moved to see so many of you (78 to be exact) put in your dollar vote for supporting local business and local community building. We are closer to our goal, being at just under $1400/month currently.

For those of you who missed last week’s newsletter with more details on why we are offering this and what we need the money for, you can read last week’s newsletter here. You will see the next time you come to The Chocolate Garage that we have started adding the names of our supporting patrons, onto The Chocolate Garage wall. You are welcome to stay anonymous, or to add your name to the wall of supporters (and take a selfie next to your name!). We also have a new page that lists our current patrons on our website, and has a direct link for folks to become patronsas well. (Note: we do reach out to all donors and get explicit permission to write your name on our wall and website, before adding you, this also means a small delay after you donate, before you will find your name listed, feel free to add in the notes that you are ok with your name, or some version of your name, being added.)

If we can hit our goal, we will stay open. And if we exceed our goal, we can start thinking about how we can use the extra funds to have more events, or bring in more makers, or use the funds in other ways to better serve our community: holiday hours, extra pick up times during the week, reduced shipping costs?

Latitude Trade Company: Straight from Uganda!

A couple of months ago, Jeff Steinberg reached out to come and visit The Chocolate Garage, all I knew was that he was working with cacao farmers in Uganda, trying to improve the post harvest process, so that farmers in Uganda could also partake in the craft chocolate market. If you as a cacao farmer are able to get the quality of your cacao up to meet the craft chocolate requirements, what this means for a farmer is doubling or tripling the price your cacao fetches. So it is a powerful motivator and great tool for cacao farmers to really improve their situations.

When Jeff and I met, my feeling was that he was one of those really serious ones, dedicated to creating change, having worked in many different countries, usually with a focus on how folks can empower themselves. He started up a business in Uganda (Latitude Trade Company) and started working on getting high quality cacao out of Uganda, to buyers who will pay a premium. Before he knew it, he started playing around with making chocolate, and had brought a sample to share. As I have said before, the vast majority of new bars I taste have significant flaws, either texture, or often times problems with the cacao itself. Jeff had made a 70% two ingredient bar (cacao and sugar) and it was both a lovely texture and also had deep chocolatey fudgey notes, with some accents of fruit. I was blown away, and told him that even though we were planning to close very soon (I thought back then right after selling all the Momotombo, how quickly things change!) I would LOVE to bring in these bars.

The reason I started The Chocolate Garage and was moved to build something that could contribute to changing the traditional, ugly ways in commodity cacao trade. Mott Green (Grenada Chocolate Company) was my first and deepest inspiration, of someone who broke the rules, refused to accept the status quo and built a company and a movement out of sheer stubbornness, willpower and a beautiful vision. Years after starting The Chocolate Garage, when I finally met him and told him about this idea that I called “Happy Chocolate”, he laughed and told me that I had to come visit their factory, that it was the happiest chocolate factory around. I think that one of the most powerful models for changing the industry is to make finished chocolate in the countries that produce the cacao. Ideally I think it would be great to see local companies in Uganda, Cote d'Ivoire, Guatemala and Peru all making chocolate for the local market, but I think there is also room for making bars for export too…

So, I am extra excited that Jeff has started making chocolate too, his packaging is elegant while humble, he is using the same company name he uses for his trade business, and he is just getting started, but I am delighted to be able to bring this chocolate to The Chocolate Garage! Please come by tomorrow to taste, or if you want to get this bar and are far away, feel free to order it online. I hope that our “Save The Chocolate Garage” efforts are fruitful, and we can stay open to bring more bars like this to you, and bring small makers doing really good work into the limelight. Jeff added a little note on the bar wrapper in his efforts to support our “Save The Chocolate Garage” efforts, you can check it out tomorrow in person. :)

Saturday Tasting Menu

Latitude Trade Company 70% Semuliki Forest 2017 Harvest
Grenada Chocolate Company 60%
Baianí 70% with Orange Zest
Baianí 57% dark milk

Yes! We will be tasting four bars all made in their respective countries using their own countries cacao. Baianí goes one step further in that they also grow, harvest, ferment and dry their own cacao before then turning it into chocolate.

I am away at a meditation retreat this whole week, (I wrote most of this before going offline!), so I won’t see you tomorrow, but Katie and Claire will be there to answer any questions and make sure you walk away with all the best Happy Chocolate bars that you want.

Warm, chocolatey wishes!

Sunita

Above L to R, Juliana of Baianí, Arcelia of Mission Chocolate, and Tuta in Vale Potumuju. This is their phenomenal drying room, right next to their fermentary. What a gorgeous set up!

Here is the beginning of the list of patrons being added to the wall at The Chocolate Garage. Thank you again to all those who have become patrons!

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June 23, 2018

Currently open Saturdays only from 9 am - 1pm. Hoping we can save The Chocolate Garage for the cost of a couple lattes a month… or about the monthly cost of an Amazon Prime membership!

Happy Friday everyone!

A few happy announcements, and then lets talk about the delicious new bars that are new to The Chocolate Garage this week.

First, thank you to all those who have signed up to donate monthly to The Chocolate Garage, to those who can contribute $5 a month, or those who opted $10, $20 or $50, and to our wonderful supporter of local small business who decided to change their donation from $20 to $200, I am grateful and moved to see so many of you (53 to be exact) put in your dollar vote for supporting local business and local community building. We are just under halfway there, being at $990/month currently.

For those of you who missed last week’s newsletter with more details on why we are offering this and what we need the money for, you can read last week’s newsletter here. You will see the next time you come to The Chocolate Garage that we have started adding the names of our supporting patrons, onto The Chocolate Garage wall. You are welcome to stay anonymous, or to proudly add your name to the wall of supporters. We also have a new page that lists our current patrons on our website, and has a direct link for folks to become patrons as well.

If we can hit our goal, we will stay open. And if we exceed our goal, we can start thinking about how we can use the extra funds to have more events, or bring in more makers, or use the funds in other ways to better serve our community: holiday hours, extra pick up times during the week, reduced shipping costs?

Baianí: Straight from Brazil!

As you may know, I was in Brazil in May, as part of their bean to bar week. I met many talented bean to bar makers, and I am excited to bring more of them to you, but as a start we will be featuring Baianí Chocolate tomorrow at The Chocolate Garage. Juliana and Tuta are a husband wife team who have a sophisticated tree to bar operation in Bahia, Brazil. When we head out on our next origin trip to Brazil, we plan to spend some time on their magical farm, that has a gorgeous river running through it. Each farm I visited in Bahia was unique and distinct and this one was no different. So lush, and green and peaceful. It was a truly magical and serene spot.

Tuta has been working on a top notch harvesting and fermenting operation, to make sure he can get Juliana the best cacao with which to make her chocolate. And Juliana does her magic out of their small factory in São Paulo. Being a stickler for flavor and quality, her bars even in her first years of production are delicious. A sign that the post harvest is going really well, and she is bringing out the beautiful flavors locked in the cacao. Tomorrow we’ll taste four bars, two plain dark 70% (with two roast styles), one 70% with orange zest, and one dark milk 57%.

Saturday Tasting Menu

Baianí 70% Bold Roast
Baianí 70% Mild Roast
Baianí 70% with Orange Zest
Baianí 57% dark milk

In other chocolatey news, Charm School Chocolate is back! So come and stock up on your favorite bars by Charm School! For anyone who is looking for dairy free milk chocolate, this is the chocolate maker who nails it, and doesn’t leave even the biggest dairy lovers missing the milk.

Stay tuned for next week, we should have a new bean to bar maker to introduce, also making finished chocolate in the same country as the bean production. Jeff Steinberg came to see me at The Chocolate Garage a month or so ago, and even though at that time we were winding things down at The Chocolate Garage, I was too excited by his work to not bring in at least a few dozen of his bars. We’ll get his 70% two ingredient bar in next week, I heard today that DHL picked it up! First craft chocolate shipment from Uganda!

I hope you have a lovely weekend, Katie and Claire will be there tomorrow to help you.

Sunita

Above L to R, Juliana of Baianí, Arcelia of Mission Chocolate, and Tuta in Vale Potumuju. This is their phenomenal drying room, right next to their fermentary. What a gorgeous set up!

Here is the beginning of the list of patrons being added to the wall at The Chocolate Garage. Thank you again to all those who have become patrons!

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June 15, 2018

We remain open for now on Saturdays from 9-1, come stock up on SoMA and Momotombo!

Aloha Happy Chocolate Lovers,

I am back. The past two weeks were intense. Intense pain, strep throat with a slow festering infection in my tonsil, making it nearly impossible to swallow. Seems a relatively rare occurence, for most folks who get this, the pain gets very bad very quickly, and a quick slice to the tonsil allows for release of the building pressure and immediate relief. I lucked into a different form, the one that slowly gets more and more painful, and doesn’t respond to needles, suction nor eventual incisions and suction. I had no idea an abscessed tonsil could be so painful.

SAVE OR CLOSE THE CHOCOLATE GARAGE?
When I wrote about this two weeks ago, I was already in the thick of the growing pain, so I did a terrible job of explaining. The reason for my change of heart, and my willingness to be open to the idea of The Chocolate Garage staying open if the community wants to save it, is as follows, starting with some background on our original mission. Or if you already know you want to take part in saving The Chocolate Garage, and don’t care to read all the background below, you can escape this substantial email and start Saving The Chocolate Garage already! ;)

Social Enterprise?
A large part of why I started The Chocolate Garage was because I strongly believed that our current models for groups and organisations are too divided. One model is the “do good” model (aka a not for profit), the other is a “maximize profits” model (aka a business). I believe that businesses need to become more human and non-profits likely need to learn a bit more pragmatism and efficiency, and perhaps one day, we have (social) enterprises that reflect what we humans value. Enterprises that make money, but not at any cost to the environment, to the humans in the supply chain, the animals in the supply chain… I believe this is our necessary future, and our current model of forever growth is obviously foolish and misguided. And short sighted. And not even necessary!

So, over the years, when folks suggested that The Chocolate Garage should get grants, or become a non-profit, out of principle my answer was always “no”, because I wanted to show that a business can do well, while creating value up and down the supply chain. I still believe that, but what I am learning is that the way I have done that has mostly been through personal sacrifice, strong will and stubbornness. And it has slowly depleted me, and cannot be successful long term. There needs to be a more collaborative, reciprocal resource input for The Chocolate Garage to continue to be a place that fosters local community, connects community to our best chocolate crafts(wo)men, and redefines and shifts what has been (and is) an extractive and exploitative supply chain.

Is a “charity” model ok?
The idea of a “charity” model for The Chocolate Garage has always been anathema to me. It previously felt to me to be the equivalent of closing. Now I see things differently, I see that there is value in The Chocolate Garage existing even if it is a not a robust social enterprise incarnate. And suddenly the idea that it might be being “artificially” supported by community members (local and afar) doesn’t seem to be a problem to me anymore.

Regardless of the model, and my previously ambitious, egoic driven, desires to build a specific thing, for a specific reason, I have come to soften into realising that it doesn’t actually matter so much to me anymore. To be honest, I think we are not done yet with our mad climb to maximise profits, our tunnel vision collective desire for cheap, quick, convenient, we are still playing with that, learning what we gain from that, and eventually we will start seeing what is missing from that proposition. I feel this needs the time to play out before we see the full picture of what is lost in this feverish pursuit….

I also think that this is a case where other communities in the US are more protected from this mad pursuit, seems to me the cultural drive and obsession to work and succeed above all else, above leisure, health, friends, community and well-being, perhaps manifests most strongly here in Silicon Valley. For many reasons. Whatever the case may be, I don’t feel as strongly about the form of the business, if community benefits (local customers, small makers and folks working at TCG) then who cares if it is partially supported via donations.

Transparency: Business Details
I won’t go into crazy detail about numbers, mostly because I think most of us have no need, no desire and no background to understand how small businesses work, but in the interest of  transparency here are some rough numbers.

Our rent is extremely cheap, we just started sharing it with another business who uses it during weekdays, so we just halved it to $450/month. For Palo Alto that is basically free.

In order for us to open on Saturdays and fulfill online orders*, we need to track inventory, manage orders, track shipments, ensure they arrive safely and get to cold storage promptly, unpack and process inventory, break down boxes, dispose of ice packs, restock The Chocolate Garage, prepare samples for Saturday… to illustrate a few of the tasks. We also need to track billing, invoice, reply to customer inquiries, individual requests for special orders, or requests for special times to purchase. This is the combined work of two part time workers (Alice and Katie), both highly skilled and knowledgeable who work independently, without much direction from me, freeing me up to do sourcing, relationship building, vetting products, preparing newsletters, oversee new product release and development. Together this totals a minimum of 32-40 hours a week of work, done by Katie and Alice to keep things humming for us to open on Saturdays.

*Note: We basically don’t do team buildings or tastings anymore, because that requires an additional 5-10 hours a week of managing by Alice.

For me to retain Alice and Katie, who collectively have many years of learning and industry knowledge, I need them to have this as their primary focus, even if it is only a part time gig. And yet, even if I pay them up to $20-25/hour for the most skilled labor they provide, which is still below market and just enough to retain them, this area is the most expensive area of the US to live. Without Katie and Alice, there is no Chocolate Garage. Katie and Alice and I are the gold behind The Chocolate Garage. We are a lean and efficient trio (well, they are way more efficient than me) and we love to work together. But even loving each other, and the work we are doing that brings about changes for makers and farmers, is not enough to keep us going when it is not possible to reward them properly for their work.

You do the math. Ok, I will. Just labor costs for Alice and Katie should be about $4K a month (not counting things like payroll taxes, workers comp, like I said, not things we think about when trying to understand how a business works). That does not count extra staff that is needed on Saturdays, because Katie needs at least myself and Claire there as well. But Katie is the linchpin. Without her, Claire and I showing up on Saturdays doesn’t matter. And without Alice on the back end keeping all the orders flowing, shipments and books in order, invoicing, being my organisational brain, without all that she does, my unique offerings don’t matter either. So, my goal with this monthly donation is to bring in an additional guaranteed $2K per month, to guarantee to cover half of my two linchpins: Katie and Alice. Without a happy and secure Katie and Alice, The Chocolate Garage brick and mortar folds.

Two thousand per month?
Katie is our newest addition, hardest worker, delightfully patient with customers, super smart and resourceful, very efficient and talented in so many domains even beyond what she brings to The Chocolate Garage. I believe in paying talent well, out of principle, but also because it is smart business. Replacing and training people is very expensive. The chocolate industry knowledge needed to provide the level of transparency and thorough information to our customers is non trivial.

Alice is responsible for more than half of the know how and operational knowledge of The Chocolate Garage. She is quiet, steadfast, efficient and gets stuff done quickly and without a fuss. She rarely reaches out to ask me for answers, she finds the solutions and handles everything. That is a huge asset to free me up to do other things, be present with my kids and think about bigger picture vision for The Chocolate Garage, our films and trips. The trips are what subsidize my efforts at The Chocolate Garage, and they keep me engaged beyond pure curation and retail, which is hardly a continued steep learning curve.

If we can secure collective monthly recurring donations from our larger community of customers, chocolate makers, and community lovers that totals $2,000/month, then I can be sure to keep Katie and Alice, find another one or two people who we can start training for Saturday hours, and remain open, serving the larger chocolate loving community.

Ready to give up a few lattes a month?
Great! You can join right here by entering your credit card details and choosing any amount above $5/month to support your favorite (we better be your fave! ;) local chocolate community gathering spot/shop. We suggest $10, $20 or more per month if you are a regular who delights in The Chocolate Garage and/or it is not a stretch for you.

For the tech geeky amongst you: We are using Stripe’s platform for monthly recurring payments, they are on par with Square, PayPal and Patreon in terms of secure payment methods. To keep our costs down, we are asking you to register yourself via this link, rather than mediate that via our own staff putting in more hours. The minimum donation is $5/month, there is no maximum, our suggested is $10-$20 if that is comfortable for you. We will have a device available at The Chocolate Garage this coming weekend if you want to enter your credit card information in person on site via our iPad or tablet. Or just take five minutes right now to Save The Chocolate Garage.

Some of you have asked if you can make a yearly donation instead, we don’t want to say no to that, but we are reticent to take on the costs of overseeing and tracking individual payment preferences, it is not efficient. Ironically in a world where we value cheap, quick and free shipping, and we partake in that with yearly fees paid to Costco and Amazon Prime, we expect far more from a place like The Chocolate Garage, in terms of customer service. I believe that email requests should be answered by a human who cares, I know I like that. But, since we do still operate in a world that is all about scale and efficiency, and that is what we continue to value/engage with, the smaller the operation, the more important it is for us to not pay expensive labor to handle what are your sweet quirks and desires. It’s quite the conundrum, because we love you, and want to treat you like the unique human being that you are, but the service we provide is not actually truly valued in financial terms… but I digress.

We do prefer monthly recurring payments, as that allows us to be able to budget and plan. It is pretty standard for businesses these days to trick you into monthly payments, most people forget they are paying $5-10 a month, and that is what subscription businesses depend on. That is not our way, we want you to be able to cancel at any time, another reason to sign up yourself, you will have the email confirmation that allows you to cancel in no time, I tested it myself, donated and then canceled. If for whatever reason you can’t figure out how to do it yourself, you can (or hit reply to this newsletter) and we will take care of it quickly.

Perks for Monthly Supporters
When we have chocolate makers in town, or are throwing special book signing events, or launching new bars at special tasting events, you will get free or very discounted access to all our events. The frequency of these special events would not be more often than maximum once a month, more likely once every 2-3 months. But, the events are always really special, inspiring and always very tasty.

We will see how this whole effort goes, if we don’t hit our target of $2K per month, then we will finish selling Momotombo and then start winding down for our hard close. If we get close to or pass our target, we will stay open, and use any excess beyond the $2K towards a programming budget for special events with priority access for our donors.

Saturday Tasting Menu

SOMA Arcana 100%
SOMA Starry Night
Dick Taylor Black Currant & Orange
Dick Taylor Espresso 68% dark with Sight Glass coffee

Soma’s latest batch of Arcana is outstanding, they are using Porcelana cacao to make this 100% cacao beans (no sugar, no added cocoa butter) and it is a great gift to anyone who is off sugar. A delicious 100%. The Starry night is a flurry of salt crystals on a comforting milk chocolate… Dick Taylor brings out two new flavored bars, I have tasted neither, so get there early if you want a taste of either of these two, they should sell out promptly, we have very few!

PREVIEW: New Bars and New Makers!
I have not been bringing my full passion and energy to The Chocolate Garage for the past year or two, but I am re-dedicating myself to continuing to find new makers, and bringing in great new origins as well as flavored bars. Currently, regardless of whether this new donor opportunity keeps The Chocolate Garage doors open, I am tremendously excited to be bringing in a new tree to bar maker from Brazil called Baianí. Tutta and Juliana are the husband wife team behind one of the farms we will go visit during our future Brazil trip, they have the most magical farm location, state of the art fermentation facility, and Juliana is not only a great chocolate maker, but I had the pleasure of staying in her home during my last visit and she is an outstanding chef as well!

I also have a very exciting bean to bar maker from Uganda who is poised to ship his 70% two ingredient bar being made using cacao grown in Uganda. This bean to bar revolution, especially chocolate being made in country of origin, is just heating up. So, maybe instead of closing The Chocolate Garage, we can collectively bring new energy, heart, passion and taste buds to continuing to help it grow in new ways.

I for one am staying tuned and listening to hear what is possible and what form it will take! Whatever that form, it will be a more healthy, sustainable movement for all of us, and will exist if we collectively want it to exist.

In the meantime, I just arrived in Hawaii, my kids are loving their local theatre camp, and I am slowly starting to get my energy back, and take a very overdue and deserved vacation. I hope you all have a beautiful weekend, until next week!

Sunita

Our chocumentary The Chocolate Garage: in Hawaii will screen in Maui this weekend, at the Maui Film Festival, sadly I am not well enough to travel and attend, but I have some dear friends on Maui who will be there in spirit for me!

We have some fun schwag for buying! We don’t have all sizes, but hopefully you can find something to remember The Chocolate Garage by, and Happy Chocolate. Or perhaps consider a custom framed wrapper? 

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June 8, 2018

We are still open on Saturdays from 9-1, come stock up on SoMA and Momotombo!

Happy Friday!


Alice here, filling in for an unwell Sunita. She asked that I express her thanks to everyone who has taken part in the Save The Chocolate Garage campaign so far. She will explain more fully about this donor drive in next week’s newsletter, but at the moment she needs to rest and start to recuperate.

We just received a new shipment of SoMA, with a few favorites like Old School Milk back in stock. There are still plenty of Momotombo assortments on hand, including the fresh chocolates that we sampled last Saturday.

Katie and Claire will be around to help you tomorrow. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Alice

Remembering Cassie and Viola, and how much fun we had at the peak of our Garaging. See the old oil panel system for our wrappers in the background?! 

We have some fun schwag for buying! We don’t have all sizes, but hopefully you can find something to remember The Chocolate Garage by, and Happy Chocolate. Or perhaps consider a custom framed wrapper?

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June 1, 2018

Open Saturdays 9-1pm, our ‘soft close’ was last Saturday, but we’ll stay open to sell all the Momotombo we have and then maybe longer if we can “save” The Chocolate Garage?!

Dear Garagistas,

Who would have guessed I would be writing this newsletter, it’s amazing how life is always changing and each of us with it. And things that mattered (or didn’t) in the past somehow become less important (or more). So, here we go!

Save The Chocolate Garage?!

If you would like to donate $10, $20 or any amount above $5, you can do that right now using the donorbox we set up via Stripe. You can click here to get to a secure page to enter your credit card details and decide what amount you want to contribute. Each month your card will be charged that same amount, and if ever you need to stop the charge, you can login with your email and stop the charges. Or just email me and I will walk you through it. I just tried to Save The Chocolate Garage myself… I signed up for $20/month and then learned how to cancel it.

Not everyone who comes regularly to The Chocolate Garage reads my (typically very long) newsletter, so please let other lovers of The Chocolate Garage that this is a way they can try to save their reliable source of super delicious, super Happy Chocolate.

FRESH MOMOTOMBO CHOCOLATES

These are rarely available at The Chocolate Garage, mostly because they have a short shelf life, so they are more risky to bring in. These are made super fresh, sent quickly our way, and are ready to go home with you! Freezing them will hold them indefinitely (don’t do this with regular/tempered chocolate!) and so if you buy 5 or 10 boxes tomorrow (please do!) you can pop the majority of them into the freezer, fully wrapped as they are, and take them out a year from now and they will be perfect.

Each box comes with an assortment of 9 different flavors. The way Fresh Chocolates work is that they cook the milk, sugar and honey into a dulce de leche, then they add the cacao liquor into the dulce de leche and mix in various nuts, or dried fruits, and delicious spices. They are not dairy free, and the mixed box does contain nuts. So if dairy and nuts are not for you, these fresh chocolates are not for you… but they make a beautiful, unique and special gift! Instead of a bottle of wine, bring a box of unique and rare fresh chocolates.

Carlos and his team released the recipe for the fresh chocolate, in this YouTube video. Mothers Day in Nicaragua was a few days ago, and since this is not really a time of celebration, given all the police violence and student protesters who have been killed and injured, rather than do their normal festive release of new flavors, Momotombo decided to give a gift to all the mothers of Nicaragua: their famous and prized fresh chocolate recipe. So that when this turmoil ends and they get better leadership, people can be prepared to use these recipes to rebuild the Nicaraguan economy and make delicious chocolates for their local communities.

Cacao sales are also down currently in Nicaragua, so this is a way to use some of the leftover cacao that can’t be sold. People can watch this video and learn all the tips and secrets behind the making of this technologically and culturally appropriate and accessible food. Carlos told us this in our first Chocumentary, when he spoke of the power of cacao and its long roots and history in Nicaragua.

When someone taps into their unique set of skills and super powers and brings more beauty and their own truth to the world, it is wonderful to behold. Last week Carlos wanted to talk, to share this idea, and as he told me his plan, that was meeting with some resistance from his surroundings, I was moved to tears over how beautiful and generous this was. It was clear that I was witnessing his truth. Right action. Full and pure expression of his individual essence and reason for existence.

So when Carlos paused and asked what I thought, I told him through inspired tears that I thought it was perfect, exactly the right expression in this moment, for him and his team. It would nourish Nicaragua and be part of the way that collectively they would spark and inspire more generousity and collaboration amongst and between Nicaraguans. And he expressed that he would like to subtitle it in English (I agreed to help, but we ran it out of time) so that not only would it be a gift to all of Latin American cacao & chocolate producers, it could be used by anyone, including all of you! We hope to make that happen soon. Anyone who speaks Spanish and would like to volunteer to translate the text for us, please reach out, help would be welcome.

We hope to bring in more Momotombo nibs next, and that way you could all adapt the recipe to using a juicer or blender (instead of the corn masa grinder, very commonplace in every town in Nicaragua, but less so around here), maybe we can have a competition!

Saturday Tasting Menu

(note, we won’t be tasting 4 bars each Saturday, we are short staffed and so we will do the tastings when we have something new that is a must try… the samples will be on the side folding table going forward, when we have samples for tasting)

MOMOTOMBO Fresh Chocolates
Box of 9 flavors

Coconut
Chia
Orange Mint
Cashew Rum Raisin
Sesame Cherry
Walnut
Pineapple
Cardamom nut

Each box has one of each of these flavors, we will have them to sample, you may not manage to taste them all. In any case, you’ll get a sense of their texture and flavors and sweetness. Omg, they took Claire hours and hours to prepare! Thank you Claire!)

Final few notes

We have some Grab Bags of chocolate, these contain the contents of the Taste Tubes that we have cleared out. You won’t know what you are tasting, but you can test your palate! We also have some bags with one pound of chocolate that we tasted lately, that were deemed to be too flawed and problematic. You would be surprised what percent of what we taste falls into this category. These bags are called “Unapproved Chocolate” and are sorted by darks or milks and inclusions. These can be fun to taste and see if your palate is alongside ours in terms of what we consider to be not delicious enough (or sometimes revolting), therefore not Happy Chocolate.

Ok, must hit send! And get this newsletter sent ASAP!

See many of you tomorrow,

Sunita

Remembering Cassie and Viola, and how much fun we had at the peak of our Garaging. See the old oil panel system for our wrappers in the background?! 

We have some fun schwag for buying! We don’t have all sizes, but hopefully you can find something to remember The Chocolate Garage by, and Happy Chocolate. Or perhaps consider a custom framed wrapper? 

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May 25, 2018

Potluck today, at 1:30pm. Bring some food or drink to share. And perhaps some compostable plates? See you then! (Soft close, we will remain open for Momotombo, more info below) 

Happy Friday!

Bit of a late start today, been learning all about plumbing, caulking, and doing some detective work to figure out the third culprit contributing to a bathtub leak. I *think* I have worked it out and will be good to go, but had to come write to you all to let you know all the special bars we just got in for you before finishing my repair testing.

Garage Gathering (Potluck)
Before I get started, tomorrow is our potluck! Bring some food or drink to share, or some compostable plates? We will gather right after our Garage hours, at 1:30 pm. We need 20-30 minutes to debrief and wrap up after we close at 1pm, so we will start the nibbling and celebrating around then! It looks quite cool tomorrow (great for chocolate, not so great for us) so wear some warm layers and we’ll try to find the sun.

Smooth Chocolator
Do you remember Yoon Kim from Australia? Her brand is called Smooth Chocolator and we have a few of our favorites back in stock, freshly arrived from Australia. I don’t know how it takes less time to get chocolate from Australia then it does to get it from Toronto… In any case, we got Belize, Madagascar, Tanzania, Haiti, Ben Tre (Vietnam), Sierra Nevada (Colombia) and a few Trinidad for those who want to taste a more rare origin. These bars won’t last long, the most of each origin we have is 20 bars, so come early!

Charm School Chocolate
Charm School also sent us what they had in stock right now, so we are re-upped on their plain coconut milk, the same milk with maple candied pecans (swoon) and also their Coconut Milk Mocha bar as well.

Patric Chocolate
One lovely consequence of our agreeing to take all the chocolate Momotombo could get out of the country (see last week’s newsletter) given the impending civil war, is that we decided to keep ordering many of our other favorites too! We are so happy to see the four bars Patric Chocolate made this month: The BOSS (yes! our very own crowdfunded exclusive that is now available to the public), Signature 70%, Black Licorice and the Sweet and Sassy!

For those who missed previous emails about the situation in Nicaragua, I will just quickly say that Carlos of Momotombo asked us if we could store all his chocolate, since things are changing day by day in Nicaragua, sales are precipitously down in country, and so instead of risking wasting all his inventory, or having it melt if the power goes or chaos breaks out, he just sent it all our way. I figured you would all step up and help buy, and I agreed to stay open until we manage to sell all the Momotombo he sends us.

Fabrica de Chocolate Momotombo
For those of you who really want The Chocolate Garage to stay open, this does not mean delay buying Momotombo to keep us open longer ;) please do come buy the Momotombo, because the more you buy, share and gift, the longer Momotombo will be able to stay open in Managua, and that means 12 families and their extended communities will be well and safe.

Also, the good news for those who already know Momotombo well, is that a shipment of “fresh chocolates” is right now at the airport in Managua, so it should fly today or tomorrow, which means next Saturday we will have the other special product they are so famous for: fresh chocolates. If you watch our Nicaragua video, Carlos gets into some detail about his desire for cacao to play a more powerful role in Nicaragua and his efforts to create this recipe for making fresh chocolate using only local equipment (comal and corn masa grinder) so that this value add step can be widely accessible to anyone in Nicaragua, and beyond.

So, definitely mark you calendars for June 2nd, we will have some of the fresh chocolates available to taste, so you can experience the brownie-fudge kind of texture and see what flavors you like! I have no idea what Carlos is sending, I just gave him a blank check. Well, not literally, that’s where you come in, and buy, and then we send him the check.

Saturday Tasting Menu

Momotombo 72% (mini bar)
Smooth Chocolator Haiti 70%
Momotombo Milk bar with seeds
Patric Chocolate The BOSS

SOFT CLOSE

For those who have not heard, given the difficult and dire situation in Nicaragua, The Chocolate Garage will stay open to sell Momotombo chocolate. I am kind of rolling my own eyes, because it feels like so much swinging change: “we are closing”, um, “no, we are not”. “When will you close” you ask? At this point I will say we are taking it month by month, sometimes week by week, and always day by day. So, keep coming, and we will announce when we are going to close. As long as Carlos can send us chocolate and is able to produce chocolate, we will do our best to be here to support the selling of Momotombo, until Managua is calm and back to “normal”.

I am thinking of perhaps doing a Patreon or Go Fund Me campaign, to ask you all who want us to stick around to contribute a monthly $5, $10, or whatever upper amount you chose to The Chocolate Garage. I am curious how many of you would be willing to put a monthly latte and scone’s worth of money towards The Chocolate Garage, to pitch into our operating costs? If you would be willing to charge $10 a month? Shoot me an email, no content needed, just to signal to me that you would be someone willing to have $5 (or $10 or more) charged to your credit card each month, in order to see The Chocolate Garage staff and team stick around and keep being open on Saturdays.

Part of me can’t believe I am even asking this, but another part of me feels like this whole Nicaragua situation, and some of the interested buyers of The Chocolate Garage have shifted my way of looking at a few things.

If any of you have brilliant ideas sparked by my musings, reach out.

I am open to anything, and at this time in my life, where most everything is up in the air, and I am being nudged to let go of plans and just stay in the moment, I am not planning further than a few weeks at a time.

Talking about plans, I *am* very excited about a new bean to bar maker in Uganda! I tasted their two ingredient 70% dark bar and I was very impressed. This is a very new maker, and I am working on bringing his chocolate into The Chocolate Garage. Excited to see if that can work. So, stay tuned for that, and also next week (fingers crossed) the fresh chocolates buy Momotombo, and I have a few other bars up my sleeves too… one from Brazil, a wonderful maker that a lucky few of you will get to some and visit when we do that origin trip…

Enjoy your long weekend! I will be painting, caulking, testing my repairs and getting ready to go on vacation with my kids!

Sunita

p.s. do you know anyone who needs a dark room to rent in downtown Palo Alto?  If yes, !

I love cacao, for the potential it holds to transform hearts and minds and bring us a customer driven model for a clean and transparent supply chain. I also like to eat chocolate. Sometimes.

Here is Yoon, The Smooth Chocolator, she just spent time judging cacao in the Solomon Islands and upon her return, boxed up all the bars she had and sent them our way! 

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May 18, 2018

Open hours Saturday 9 am - 1pm. Farmers Market is open again! 

It’s Friday again!

So, as my title suggests, we have a new SOMA shipment in, we got the oh-so-yummy Green Tangerine back, more Old School Milk (Susan!! you know which Susan!), more Fazenda Boa Vista delicious milk using cacao from Brazil… come check it out! We also got in Dick Taylor’s Fig Bar, Guatemala 70%, and Browned Butter. The title also suggests that we have new Momotombo… this is unexpected, and the New News comes out of this Momotombo news too.

I mentioned in past weeks that Nicaragua is experiencing a lot of unrest. The displeasure with the current government has been simmering for a long time, and an unexpected set of events have triggered a forceful movement. The long and the short of it is that Nicaragua is moving towards civil war. The last few week’s events have meant that Momotombo’s sales are down precipitously. They sell most of their products within Nicaragua, and both tourists and locals are not buying these days, because the situation is so dire. If things get worse, power could become (more) intermittent, and they could possibly lose all their inventory.

Carlos reached out to ask if I could take all his inventory, and hold it until he could come and sell it. Even though we are closing, I said yes, because it seems like right action. I feel like The Chocolate Garage community is uniquely positioned to be of service to the staff at Momotombo, because we have such a long relationship with Momotombo. So, the new news is that our May 26th end date just turned into a “soft close”, because we need to stay open on future Saturdays until we can finish selling the Momotombo (potluck at 2pm is still on!). Realistically, it makes no sense for Carlos to try to come and sell all this chocolate, so we are going to stay open a bit longer, so we can sell as much of the Momotombo chocolate he has sent us.

And, if we are going to be open to sell Momotombo, we figure we should probably get more Patric Chocolate in, and a few other brands as well. So, we will be open and I will have to keep writing weekly newsletters for a bit longer… thanks a lot Carlos! Heh. But seriously, everyone at The Chocolate Garage was unanimous in stepping up and finding ways to keep staffing the Garage this summer, so we can keep getting you the Momotombo, the faster we can sell the Momotombo, the sooner we can get them the money that will allow more than a dozen women and their extended families be employed and cared for during this difficult time in Nicaragua.

More details will follow in future newsletters about our exact timing and how to get your Momtotombo. We will be adding the products we get in (many more than just the chocolate covered seeds, next week we may get some “fresh chocolates” too!) to our online site, so you should be able to order them online as well, if you are far away and can’t come visit us.

You want more new News? Our Hawaii documentary got accepted to the Maui Film Fest!ival. Yep. We are so excited, this is our second film to get some recognition, our first film “The Chocolate Garage: in Nicaragua”, also just received “Best Documentary” from the WIFTI awards.

My latest new news is that I am fading, this is being written Thursday night, because I am off to teach my favorite class at Stanford tomorrow: Bon Appetit, Marie Curie: The Science Behind Haute Cuisine, and that means my morning can’t be spent writing this newsletter.

So, zzzzzzz. Goodnight, also, if any of you need a beautiful space to use in the daytime, during the week, please let me know, we are looking to share the tasting space with folks who need a charming space to work, or meet clients. And, if anyone wants to swoop in and buy this jewel of a chocolate business that generates enough revenue to live well (in the midwest but is not enough to raise a family in Palo Alto) please ping me directly!

See you Saturday!

Eeeeek, I almost forgot to tell you what we are tasting tomorrow.

Saturday Tasting Menu

Dick Taylor Belize 70%
Momotombo Nicaragua Origin 70%  
SOMA Green Tangerine
Momotombo Milk Chocolate with nibs

Just come by, we’ll be tasting yummy stuff.

Sunita

p.s. more news on the Brazil trip later… 

Here is my friend and ever inspiring and visionary Carlos Mann, of Momotombo Chocolate. This interview in the Nicaragua documentary is one of my favorite parts of the film. 

We are getting closer and closer with our Switzerland choco-doc! We are reviewing it again, after some time to get a fresh perspective in India and Brazil… stay tuned! 

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May 11, 2018

Open Saturdays 9-1pm, May 26th is our last day.

Dear Garagistas,

I am writing to you from Ilheus, Bahia. Which is in Brazil. I spent the past week or so connecting the bean to bar scene down here, and then heading out with some of the non-governmental organizations down here to visit some of the most interesting cacao farms in the area. I feel so lucky to be here, with a few other colleagues who were also invited here, and I have learned so much.

This area was hit by a particular fungal disease called “Witches’ Broom” in the late 1980s. There was a group of folks who had interest in dismantling the then political and cultural structure in this region and introduced this disease to do so. The disease was far more effective at destroying the trees than anyone expected and this region has really suffered from this incident. Within a few years Brazil went from being a net exporter of cacao, to being a net importer of cacao. They are now learning and experimenting with all kinds of ways to manage their cacao in order to be able to rebuild the industry, in a way that allows them to make a living and keep growing cacao.

The bean to bar movement here is very inspiring. I find the quality coming out of Brazil is incredible for this nascent a movement. Every country and their people bring a unique approach to living and working, and seeing the spirit and challenges here in Brazil has been fascinating.

I am very excited to return, and frankly, did not have the heart or energy coming in, to learn another language, but I feel very motivated to pick up portuguese now! I find it very frustrating not being able to chat with people and get my own feel for things and truly connect with others without an interpreter. I think because I speak Spanish and French (the chocolate languages) I took for granted the power of that tool to move through the cacao world in a skillful way. Being here has really made clear to me that language is so critical to what I do… so I am going to have to exercise my brain a bit more once I close The Chocolate Garage and have some more time… turns out Portuguese is definitely a chocolate language too. One of very few producer countries speaking Portuguese, but such a force and such a long history and tradition behind cacao.

Ping us if you haven’t already, and are interested in getting more info on our Brazil trip!

Ok, enough about that, I have to head to the airport soon. It’s a long trip back home. Can’t wait to see my kids, and may catch a few of you towards the end of our day tomorrow, I should get back to Palo Alto just about noon.

Nicaragua
Actually, one more thing, Nicaragua is in a bad way right now, and I have been hearing a lot about it from Carlos who is very concerned about his staff, as are they. Things are falling apart, there is massive revolt after the government has cracked down really hard on peaceful students protests, it seems more than 60 people have died, mostly students. And Carlos is concerned about how long he will be able to stay open producing chocolate…

I am brain storming ways for The Chocolate Garage community to help, and have offered to Carlos to store any chocolate he can get out of the country, so he has inventory safe, that can continue being sold. I am also wondering if any of you would opt into a prepayment for specific products? Timing is rather awkward right now, given our wrapping up, and cash flow, but I would like to find ways to help Momotombo in this time of crisis. If any one has ideas and is reading, and are a retailer or an online seller, or whatever, and would like to carry the Momotombo Chocolate Covered seeds, reach out.  

Saturday Tasting Menu

Askanya Perle Rare 90%
SOMA Madagascar 70%
Original Beans Femmes de Virunga 55%
Askanya Wanga Neges milk 50%

Starting and finishing with one of the newest brands we carry, that I am very excited about: Askanya! They are super new and their bars have some textural imperfections, but they have gotten the hardest part right, the cacao quality. I love that in their first four bars to launch, they chose to do a 90%, just beans and sugar, and then all the way down to two sweeter milks, one with rapadura and one with regular sugar.

Sorry (!) for the false alarm last week, it turns out our order got stuck at the friendly border between the US and its northern neighbor, my home country. But, SOMA is back this week, we have received it and have our fingers crossed that it stayed nice and cool along its extended journey. :) Old School Milk, Arcana, Jamaica, Arauca (Colombia), Choroní.

We also got our favorite Original Beans bars back, both the Esmeraldas milk and the Femmes de Virunga, and their “cousin” chocolate made by the same brilliant Swiss maker: Felchlin Arriba 72% drops. We have some more of your favorite Chocolat Bonnat bars, Los Colorados, Kaori, and the classic Venezuelas as well.

We are restocked on Ritual Chocolate as well, Vanilla, Bourbon Barrel aged, Ecuador 75 7 85, Fleur de Sel. Come see! I need to say goodbye!

Maybe see some of you tomorrow, feel free to snap up some of our last The Chocolate Garage shirts, or the rare farmed wrappers that we have displayed. If you have any favorite bars that you still dream about and wonder if I have the wrapper and would custom frame it for you, the answer to both of those questions is probably yes. Let me know, I can search my “collection” and then you can have a tangible memory of The Chocolate Garage for your home.

Also, we plan to have a potluck on Saturday May 26th, starting about 1:30 pm, at The Chocolate Garage, to hang out, nibble, sip, and hang out and reminisce and celebrate the beautiful community that we have built together the past 8 years.

Bon voyage to me, and see you soon!

Sunita

Remembering Cassie and Viola, and how much fun we had at the peak of our Garaging. See the old oil panel system for our wrappers in the background?! 

We have some fun schwag for buying! We don’t have all sizes, but hopefully you can find something to remember The Chocolate Garage by, and Happy Chocolate. Or perhaps consider a custom framed wrapper? 

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May 4, 2018

Open Saturdays 9-1pm, until May 26th, then closing. 

HAPPY FRIDAY !!!!

Yes, that was me yelling. Happy Friday to you! I am in Brazil right now, I have just finished getting way too excited about sharing too many origins with a group of eager and curious Brazilian chocolate industry folks, and am preparing to sit on a panel this evening (São Paolo is 4 hours ahead) with some colleagues, to talk about the bean to bar market in general.

A group of us will soon be heading to the state of Bahia, a 20+ hour drive… no, just kidding, we are flying. Brazil is such a huge country, you mostly need to fly between places. We will be heading north from São Paolo towards where I lived as a little three year old girl (the state of Paraíba) but stopping before we get that far. Bahia is where we will visit a few cacao farms, and learn more about the new growth in the craft sector, as cacao is making a come back in Brazil.

Brazil used to be a huge exporter of cacao, and then it got hit by disease, long sad and juicy story there, but I am so excited to be heading there to learn more and share some of what I know. And, prepare for our next Origin Trip! Who wants to come to Brazil?!

 if interested, I don’t yet know the possible dates, but I should come back from this trip with a very good idea.

For the rest of you who are interested in joining for our Costa Rica May 2019 trip, please  about that as well, so we can get you on the list of interested people, and get you more info as we have it.

A quick mention of the above image of two Rogue wrappers, the Jamaica 75% and the Carenero 70%, I have selected some special wrappers from my insane “collection” (nice way of saying I hoard things I get emotionally attached to…) and framed them as mementos from The Chocolate Garage, to remember some of the beautiful crowdfunding and community building that has happened over the years. You will see these framed bars in The Chocolate Garage, they are for whomever would like to own a piece of the story, in the from of wrappers, beautifully framed for a wall. I am still putting together a few more, some are grouped by cacao origin, some by maker, some by their crowd funded nature… The smaller frames are 75 dollars and the larger are 100. And, we are open to shipping!

As for the present moment, which is all that exists, ;) let’s talk about what we will have tomorrow, for tasting, so you can start leaving the present moment and moving into a happy chocolate future… We have some Sister Power going on, I am delighted to see more women makers and women led companies, and tomorrow we will feature Fresh Coast and Askanya Chocolaterie. Fresh Coast is run by Nichole Warner in Traverse City, Michigan, and the snow finally melted there! Ok, I guess I don’t know Michigan and have little to say…. other than Zingermans and a huge lake! :) Nichole has been on my radar for a couple of years now, she is making really good single origin dark chocolate.

Corinne Joachim Sanon started Askanya Chocolaterie and is also someone to watch, especially as someone who is interested in Happy Chocolate and wants to see ways to support empowerment in Haiti. She has a tremendous background in a traditional academic sense, and is bringing it all to bear in her grassroots building of a local ecosystem for cacao and chocolate in Haiti. Haiti is one of the countries I am really excited to go and visit, and bring some of you intrepid travelers along, so we can visit and make a film about these beautiful efforts in Haiti.

This is the time to stock up for MOTHER’S DAY GIFTS, our selection is rich, and it’s smart to stock up on all the special bars you can before they are gone. Also, if you are interested in another Mother’s Day option, you can consider Happy Flowers, either an arrangement, or a flower arranging class!

Tyler David lake is doing a Mother’s Day floral design workshop at The Chocolate Garage. You can see details here. Or you can pre-order for Mother’s Day here.

Saturday Tastes

Fresh Coast Belize 70%

Fresh Coast Tanzania 70%

Askanya Minuit 60%

Askanya Paradis 47%

*Bonus* Askanya Perle Rare 90%

The two Fresh Coast bars are both two ingredient bars (cacao and sugar). Askanya Minut is a Haitian dark bar with vanilla bean while the Paradis is a playful and delicious dark milk, and the Perle Rare is a very approachable 90%. Come and check them out, see what you think, and stock up as we wind down.

We have a few boxes of Momotombo left as well, only the dark milk chocolate covered seeds, but they won’t last much longer. As well as many of your favorite Patric bars, some Bonnat, and Ritual and others.

If you are so inspired, please take a moment and write in our gorgeous hand made (by Katie) journal what your favorite thing about your time coming to The Chocolate Garage has been. It isn’t just for us, I think it is good for the community to take a moment to pause and think about what was unique and nourishing about visits to The Chocolate Garage. My hope is that we all bring this forth and if any of you start a business, that you bring in the warm generousity that I think is at the heart of The Chocolate Garage. If we want to cultivate more of this community in our world, we need to first see and know what it is that we value. We need to really see it and know it in order to be able to move towards it and know how to value it.

Enjoy your Friday and the coming weekend!

Sunita

Remembering Cassie and Viola, and how much fun we had at the peak of our Garaging. See the old oil panel system for our wrappers in the background?! 

We have some fun schwag for buying! We don’t have all sizes, but hopefully you can find something to remember The Chocolate Garage by, and Happy Chocolate.

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