Ever Get so Inspired you had a ‘Chocolate Epiphany? Honeymoon Chocolate Wants to Help you
Have you ever felt better after a good meal? The flavors that linger. The euphoria that captures your attention. You’re inspired. You can’t help but smile.
Today we’re talking with Honeymoon Chocolates’ Cam Loyet.
You use the phrase ‘Chocolate Epiphany’. What does it mean to you?
So up in Bloomington, Illinois, where Hayley and I met there’s a restaurant called the Epiphany Farms it’s farm to table. It’s expensive because you’re getting the highest quality meal. We were only college students. So we really couldn’t afford it, except for once a year. Every meal I had there, I had what seemed like this Epiphany with food where everything tasted better than any meal I’d had in the last 4 weeks. It was just incredible and we hope that you know our chocolate can do that for our customers.
It’s this experience where only a single bite can tide you over or a little bit goes a long way, because not only was the flavor so incredible, but it lasts 5 or 10 minutes, the flavor in your mouth just lingers.
That’s where “Chocolate Epiphany“ comes from being sweetened with honey. It doesn’t have to be sweetened with cane sugar.
Honey is as local as it gets and it’s as unrefined as it gets with the sweetener completely untouched, raw unfiltered honey.
A lot of our competitors use coconut, sugar, monk fruit or stevia, and those are all processed ingredients, one way or another. Even cane sugar is processed.
So we’re doing our best to create this experience through chocolate and communicate with our customers; and hopefully it becomes an epiphany in the process.
Honeymoon chocolate is a love story, a health story, a delicious flavor, story and an environmental story. What else can we add to that?
It’s definitely a love story, my girlfriend at the time, now my wife; we met at Illinois Wesleyan University, and started this crazy business of sweetening chocolate with local honey. Yes, we need chocolate with local honey. And it’s a bittersweet journey. We instantly found out all of the trials and tribulations of owning our own business.
Also the cocoa supply chain. It’s a lot like the diamond industry where there’s a lot of slave labor and a lot of issues with those who really do all the hard work and effort. There’s a lot of effect we can have as we scale.
Yeah, a love story. It;’ sweet. It’s romantic. That’s one of the main reasons why we named it Honeymoon Chocolates because it always has its place at romantic events.
We do our best to attract those who want to gift our product. A lot of our customers do gift our chocolate.
It’s environmental as well. It’s all compostable packaging. We have a goal of using only clean energy in the future, but again, it continues to be bitter sweet because chocolate is a very power hungry industry. It takes a lot of effort and energy to manufacture chocolate. It takes a lot of effort and energy just to get the cocoa here.
There’s a lot of effort in our industry to be transparent on the energy that is being used in the emissions and our goals to be a bit more transparent on that as well. But we do our best.
I never want our Honeymoon Chocolates wrapper to be out on the streets blowing in the wind without the ability to biodegrade or compost. So we go a little bit more a little bit above and beyond.
Visits Honeymoon Chocolates at: https://hmchocolates.com
On Instagram, at: www.instagram.com/honeymoonchocolates
On Facebook, at: https://www.facebook.com/honeymoonchocolates
About the AuthorJoe Wehinger (nicknamed Joe Winger) has written for over 20 years about the business of lifestyle and entertainment. Joe is an entertainment producer, media entrepreneur, public speaker, and C-level consultant who owns businesses in entertainment, lifestyle, tourism and publishing. He is an award-winning filmmaker, published author, member of the Directors Guild of America, International Food Travel Wine Authors Association, WSET Level 2 Wine student, WSET Level 2 Cocktail student, member of the LA Wine Writers. Email to: Joe@FlavRReport.com
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By Charlotte Billingsley — 7 months ago
The Future of Coffee has More Flavor, reveals Maurice Contreras at Volcanica Coffee
Just about everyone has their coffee preferences. But the truth is, most of us aren’t enjoying coffee the best it can be and we don’t even know it. The beans, the grinding, the flavor (or lack thereof).
And before you ask, nope, good coffee doesn’t need to be expensive. Actually most great coffee is more affordable than the bad stuff you’re currently drinking. True story.
But I wanted to get answers and advice from a coffee expert, so I had a conversation with Maurice Contreras from Volcanica Coffee.
Native Costa Rican Maurice Contreras started Volcanica Coffee to import excellent-tasting coffee from volcanic regions, such as his homeland, to consumers. He started the company in his garage and now operates a coffee plant near Atlanta with 20 employees, including his wife and two adult children.
What is your favorite thing about coffee?
My favorite thing I like about coffee is really the flavor. That actually was how I got started. I’m from Costa Rica and for a long time I would do annual trips with the family. It was a family vacation. One of our trips we did a coffee farm tour. And just got to learn about coffee. And this is back in 2004. One of the things that dawned on me is how coffee in Costa Rica was so much better than coffee in the United States. I just didn’t understand why a 3rd world country had better coffee. The quality of coffee in the United States has really come down over several decades. So that’s when I thought that there was an opportunity to bring better tasting coffee or specialty coffee as it’s known today to the United States. That was really how it got started. It really was more about the flavor and just enjoying the richness of a Costa Rican coffee.
Is there a simple reason why first world coffee just isn’t as good?
Yeah, the general sense was because it became more of a highly produced, big production, big coffee house; and I’ll tell you a quick story. A lot of people don’t know this, the word Maxwell House, it actually is a chain of hotels. Some of them are still in existence. And so Maxwell House started from the Maxwell House Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. They served breakfast and they had really good coffee and it became really popular. It became very famous, and then eventually it became its own brand Maxwell House, and then it ended up getting acquired by corporate conglomerates. And that really good tasting coffee just turned into [not-great] coffee.
So that’s really what happened to coffee in the United States. At one time, back in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, people would really appreciate good coffee and then just kind of lost sight of what good coffee was.
From a coffee lover’s point of view, what would you say to convince them to give your coffee a try?
That coffee really is an enjoyable drink to be appreciated and enjoyed for the flavor of what it is. It’s not just something to wake you up. But really coffee and all the different varieties, there’s a lot of flavor notes, a lot of different flavors to be enjoyed. A lot of it depends upon the different regions. My recommendation is try it out and get some good coffee with some flavor notes that you enjoy. Like, for example, Ethiopian coffees, they have a lot of berry notes, a lot of fruit tones, even red wine notes. Some of those things can really open up people’s perspective on coffee.
Before we jump more into coffee, I wanted to ask you about your background as far as the work you did before Volcanica Coffee
My career was in marketing specifically I was in the wireless telephone industry. It really was just about creating a brand. I was part of the startup team at TracFone Wireless which is now a part of Verizon. I was the National Director, I created the brand. In fact, there’s still a lot of things in the brand that I created. I had a passion for marketing.
It was kinda like, “Hey, gee whiz, what if I created my own brand and just created a business?”
And so I actually was on a hunt for a couple of years thinking what would be a good business? And then I just kind of stumbled on coffee because it was staring me in the face.
There’s such a message in there. The success you’re currently riding is because you took industry knowledge of marketing, a personal passion for coffee, and took the risk of putting them together in a business start-up.
Yep, that’s true. It was a risk because I was making a good living, I had a young family, I didn’t wanna affect any of that. It was something part-time, working nights and weekends, that’s how it all started out. I
How did your family feel about that? Was there anxiety?
It was definitely a struggle and I loved spending time with them and being with them. But part of how I resolved that was I would just wake up early in the morning and spend 1-2 hours before I had to go to work doing this. I didn’t want to neglect my family and I didn’t.
There’s so many people out there who aspire to take those steps and they always find reasons not to, but you found a way. When people are drinking your coffee, they’re not just drinking delicious coffee, they’re supporting someone who took a huge chance, who followed his passions.
So segueing to the actual coffee part now.
Your website mentions coffee regions and how the region’s soil contributes to the taste. A lot of our audience who’s into food and wine will realize the terroir aspect is very familiar to that.
Can you pick two or three regions and explain their soil and how it contributes to the taste?
I’ll start with African coffees. Their soil is very unique. Coffees from Africa tend to have a lot of berry notes, a lot more flavor of fruit which is very unique and very different compared to coffees from Indonesia.
Indonesian coffees tend to be lower in acidity. Acidity provides flavor but they’re still very good tasting coffees, even though they’re lower in acidity.
Also the coffee in Indonesia, Sumatra, for example, Papua New Guinea, and even Hawaiian Kona coffees, those tend to have a lot of boldness. When you taste the cup, your mouth just tends to [recognize] that bold flavor, which you don’t get in African coffees. So those are a couple examples.
So really it is like old world wine versus new world wine. A noticeable difference in mouth feel depending on what region you’re going after.
When people ask, Hey, what kind of coffee should I buy? I always ask, what kind of flavors do you like? Start there. Then for people that are experimenting, try different coffees from different regions.
You mentioned that you’re from Costa Rica. So tell us more about the Costa Rican volcanic regions.
It’s the most popular coffee growing region in Costa Rica, the Tarrazu area, which is very mountainous, goes up to 5,000 feet above sea level south of San Jose. Very steep.
The coffee beans, because of the volcanic soil, have a lot of flavor. It’s a very mild flavor, but very flavorful as well. And because of the elevations, the beans are also very dense. They’re a harder bean. In fact, there’s a designation strictly hard bean that is used in the industry because of that.
Being from Costa Rica I came here [to the U.S.] when I was a baby. My mom would tell stories about how she would assist with her father, which is my grandfather, in the harvest. Because my grandfather was a teacher, he would work out in the rural areas of Costa Rica where the coffee bean farmers worked. They would assist during harvest time with picking coffee beans off the tree. There was the connection going back a couple generations in our family.
There has been a coffee influence throughout generations of your family.
Yes. For decades, maybe even a century, coffee was the number one product for Costa Rica. Today it’s tourism.
I’m glad you brought up tourism. We cover a lot of travel. If somebody wanted to visit Costa Rica, maybe even a specific coffee lover, is there a place you can recommend to come visit?
One of the farms that we work with actually has an Airbnb right on their plantation. We’ve had several customers that have made trips there and have gone and stayed at the house. It’s gorgeous.
More people are working from home and making coffee at home. A lot of us making coffee wrong. Can you just walk us through step by step the best way to grind and brew your coffee?
The single largest improvement in the freshness of your coffee is by grinding your beans at home. A lot of people don’t know this: buying ground coffee, because it’s in smaller particles, tends to deteriorate very quickly. So you’re not enjoying the best of what coffee can be.
So first of all, grind at home and it’s the type of grinder.
We recommend a burr grinder. The other type of grinder is a blade grinder, which is a cheap type grinder, which does not do as well as a burr grinder.
Second thing is you wanna match your grind type to how you’re brewing. So there’s different levels, how fine or how course you want the coffee. If you’re doing a French press, you want to have a coarse grind. The opposite spectrum is an espresso grind. It’s almost like very fine sand. So if you had coarse coffee and an espresso maker, you’d have a bad cup of coffee. And the opposite too. If you had a French press where you’re using espresso ground coffee, you would not have a good tasting coffee. A lot of it has to do with the extraction and this is the chemistry behind coffee.
Then in the middle of that would be like a traditional drip grind, which most people have which is a medium coarseness of a grind type. That works best to pour over or a drip grind.
Once you buy the equipment, you’re saving quite a bit of money by doing this all at home. More value and quality out of doing it at home?
Oh yeah. A cup of coffee outside can cost $3-6. At home, 50 cents per cup. Plus you’re controlling the flavor, how hot it is and how fresh it is.
How many cups do you think the average coffee person drinks per day?
The average is between one to two cups per day. Wall Street Journal says 66% of Americans have had coffee within the last day.
So with volcanic, you’ve mentioned low acid. Tell us more.
Low acid coffee is actually a natural occurrence. There’s no additives that need to be added, at least we don’t add anything to our coffee. It’s just how it’s sourced. How it’s brewed also affects acidity.
So for example, the cold brew method tends to lower the acidity of coffee. Even more than if you brewed it traditionally in a drip grinder. It benefits people who suffer from acid reflux; and different types of indigestion abnormalities can benefit from low acidic coffee just because the pH is a higher number.
We have a lot of customers thanking us because they could not drink coffee before they heard about our low acid coffee, so now they can drink coffee again.
We have a blend of different coffees called the low acid coffee, plus 12 or 15 other coffees that are also rated as low acid. We rated them, we’ve done the pH levels on all of them, and all of them fall into that category of being lower in acidity.
Volcanica has built up a really strong community on your social media avenues. What have the results been like?
We’re on all the major socials: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok. It’s very easy to find us. We take customer feedback really seriously. We’re always looking for input and ideas.
We’ll get a request [to] carry a type of coffee or coffee from a region and we’ll always look into it.
We offer 100% customer satisfaction. We take returns, even when the customer just didn’t like a coffee, which is no fault of ours.
When someone does suggest a new bean, a new region, is that an easy outreach to investigate, or is that a whole process?
It is a whole process.
What’s a great online shopping strategy for finding the right coffee beans?
Align yourself with a brand that has a quality product. Look at customer reviews, their roasting technique. Then it’s a matter of what type of coffee do you like? What flavor notes? Something mild? Berry notes? Lower in acidity?
So I go onto your website to buy some beans. What’s a safe way to pick a bean that I’ll probably enjoy?
We carry over 150 different coffees, which is a lot. Visiting our website you have to know your preferences. Having some [filtering/search ] tools out there would be beneficial to people helping the selection process, that’s actually on our roadmap for the future.
Part of the reason why we have 150 coffees is because we’ve been listening to our customers over the years.
Tell us something about Volcanico Coffee that not everyone knows.
We love to give back. We’ve been blessed, we’ve been very successful, so we donate 1% of our website sales to an organization called Charity Water. They build water projects in impoverished communities around the world. This year we’re actually sponsoring a well in Ethiopia for a particular town. We know that we buy a lot of coffee from Ethiopia and we’d love to give back to them.
What is the future of coffee?
The future of coffee is specially curated lots. We call them our “Private Collection”. Farmers that are actually fermenting their coffee with mango, peach, different types of fruits. We have a few of them right now. We’re hoping to be carrying more in the near future.
Our audience is listening right now. What would you like them to do?
If you’re interested in finding out more about coffee and experiencing coffee, start exploring. We offer a great cup of coffee. Great different flavors and varieties. We even offer decafs, flavored coffees, something for everybody.
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/volcanicacoffeePost Views: 2
Manhattan NYC’s La Grande Boucherie Chef Maxime Kien Reveals inspiration from Past Generations of ChefsBy Joe Winger — 8 months ago
Manhattan NYC’s La Grande Boucherie Chef Maxime Kien Reveals inspiration from Past Generations of Chefs
Chef Maxime Kien is the new Executive Chef of NYC’s The Group, responsible for La Grande Boucherie, Boucherie Union Square, Boucherie West Village, Petite Boucherie and more. And by the end of 2023, they’re launching even more restaurants throughout the United States..
But today’s conversation is about how the past has inspired Chef Maxime Kien’s work.
Chef Maxime Kien has over twenty years of fine dining experience but it all started as a young boy growing up in his family’s kitchens.
You grew up in kitchens. Your grandparents loved to cook and your father was a chef. How did these experiences inspire you?
Well, my Dad was a professional Chef in the South of France. In Monaco, all my grandparents, both my grandmothers and my grandfathers were great cooks. One of my great-grandfathers was a professional cook in Paris at an open air market that was very famous in the early 1900s. There was a very famous French brasserie opened over there and the story behind that is that the gentleman that opened that place wanted to have a place where all the chefs [that worked there] could meet because there was the open air market that was right next to it.
So you had a mix of late night partiers that would go out and party and wanted a place to be able to go eat and drink all night long. Now you had a place for that.
All the people that worked until late at night wanted a place where they could go and eat something before they went home. And Chefs that had to go to the market very early, at four o’clock in the morning to pick up that day’s poultry, rabbits, quails and all the fresh fish coming from Britain on a daily routine. They would do that at four o’clock in the morning and afterwards they needed a place to go for breakfast.
It was open 24 hours a day. It was always a mix of people from show business, like singers and actors.
You would have Mick Jagger sitting at the bar. Next to him would be a Chef. Next to the Chef would be a 14 year old boy having an omelet for breakfast with a glass of red wine at six o’clock in the morning. So it’s always been a mix of everything.
Unfortunately, my Dad passed away when I was really young. I was six. But I guess I was drawn to cooking and that lifestyle. It’s chaotic. When you’re working in a kitchen, you never know what time you’ll get done. It might be quiet and you get home at night by 10 o’clock.
If you start to get busy, you might not be done until two o’clock in the morning. So it’s a mix of adrenaline and being busy and it’s tough and it’s grueling and it’s rewarding and it’s a mix of everything
How did growing up in kitchens with your family inspire you to run your own kitchen?
Every chef is different. The way I run my kitchen is different from the way that other chefs I’ve worked with run theirs. It’s like a recipe. Everyone can interpret it differently. You take bits and pieces from a recipe to take the same dish and make it your own.
Someone’s management style is the same way. I’ve worked for some chefs who were very good at managing people, but in the kitchen they were not as great. And some of them were geniuses at creating dishes, but they were not the best at managing people. So you have to create your own style.
You graduated culinary school when you were very young. Would you still recommend school or encourage new chefs to learn hands-on in a kitchen?
The hard part about school versus hands-on is being able to understand exactly what [a new chef] is trying to achieve. Meaning that when I went to culinary school back in the 1980s, you wanted to graduate and get a diploma. After that, you wanted to be able to get your foot inside the door of a three Michelin star restaurant, a very famous place because you knew the chef was someone you were gonna be able to learn from.
And that [experience] was gonna take you to the next chef, that was gonna take you to the next chef, and so on. Because it’s a close-knit community, like a family. All the big chefs know each other. So when you’re ready to make your next move, the Chef [at your current kitchen] would come and ask, ‘Where do you want to go next?’ He’ll make a call and help you get that next job.
Now, unfortunately, the way some TV cooking shows happen, they give a vision of what it is to be a chef that is completely different from the truth.
So now you have cooks that go to very famous, very expensive culinary schools and they spend a huge amount of money to graduate. Then after two years of education, they expect to find a position of Executive Chef, making six figures and wearing Egyptian cotton jackets with their name on them.
But they don’t have the basics. They’re trying to run before they can walk. The biggest difference with my generation is, we went through all the processes, we didn’t try to rush the steps before you actually tried to be a chef.
You had to be a good line cook before you tried to become Chef de Partie and then [become] a good Chef de Partie before you become a Sous Chef, and then [become] a good Sous Chef, before you become an executive chef. So that’s the main difference.
Almost like an army style, you have to graduate through the ranks.
New chefs try to go too fast. Take your time. Find a chef you can learn from. New York is very lucky for that because you’ve got so many great chefs.
Daniel Boulud and all these great chefs brought the New York Culinary to the next level. Daniel Boulud has been here for 30 years now.
So go work for them, write everything down, taste everything, take pictures!
When I started, we didn’t have cell phones to take pictures, so it was whatever you could remember and whatever you could write down. Now we’ve reached a point where you can take a video of a chef doing a dish and afterwards you can write down notes.
I would say the biggest advice to the cooks right now: find a chef, find your niche, go work for him for two years, three years, four years. Write everything down, taste everything, ask questions, and then learn as much as you can.
Don’t think about being called “Chef” right away. Don’t think about making a ton of money. Learn as much as you can then, then after that, start to think about your next step. But take your time.
If you have the financial ability to be able to afford culinary school, do it, but it can be pricey. You don’t need to go to a very expensive, very famous one; but go to get some good basic training in a culinary school.
Then after that, go see a chef and say, “I just want to learn. I want to work for you. You’re the best in the business in your town.” It can be in New York. It can also be in Chicago or anywhere else. Just say, “I want to learn. I want to work for you.”Post Views: 0
By Charlotte Billingsley — 2 years ago
Incredible Weekend Visit In Beautiful Annapolis
Annapolis, the capital city of Maryland, is along on the Severn River where it meets the Chesapeake Bay, making it a perfect spot to venture onto the water spring through October.
A city with seasons
If you love a city with seasons, Annapolis has activities to enjoy, for every season a year-long. Whenever you choose to visit, here’s how to spend an incredible weekend in beautiful Annapolis.
Things To Do In Annapolis
Famous as America’s Sailing Capital, Annapolis is a place to spend time on the water — or just watch the waves from the shore — but there’s also plenty of history, inredible dining, shopping, and nature in this very walkable city.
Take A Cruise Aboard The Wilma Lee
The Annapolis Maritime Museum, a sharity educational facility where you can learn about the maritime heritage of Annapolis, now offers a cruise aboard the Wilma Lee.
The Wilma Lee is a vessel listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service.
She has been under restoration since 2018 and is now ready for public attention, including Heritage Tours, Sunset Cruises, Wednesday Night Race Watch Parties, and private charters.
Spend A Day At The Beach
Enjoy the 786-acre Sandy Point State Park on the northwestern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Take in the views of this mile-long public beach and take a swim. Why not try your hand at crabbing or fishing.
If you’re traveling with a boat of your own, there are more than 20 public boat ramps for easy access to the Chesapeake Bay.
Cruise The Annapolis Harbor Aboard The Harbor Queen
Watermark, in its 47th year of offering cruises, has a variety from which to choose:
A Fall Foliage Bay Lighthouse Cruise, a City Lights Cruise, and a Day on the Bay to St. Michaels are just a few of the options.
The Annapolis Harbor and USNA Cruise aboard the Harbor Queen takes you on a narrated cruise of the Annapolis Harbor and the banks of the U.S. Naval Academy, now offering tableside service, so you can dine during the 40-minute cruise.
Take A Guided Tour Of The William Paca Garden
Learn the history of this acre-plus 18th-century pleasure garden located behind the home of William Paca, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
There’s also a tour of Paca’s home where you can learn about life in high society in the 1700s. The guided garden tour is currently limited to six people per visit.Post Views: 2,472