In August, 2001, I had the proverbial flash of understanding. I was on a plane heading back from Europe, where I’d been working with two amazing winemakers: Angelo Gaja and Michel Chapoutier. They’d each been teaching me about the concept of terroir, the way in which a wine’s taste is shaped by the climate, slope and soil of the specific place where it’s grown. Thumbing through magazines on the plane, I came across an article about a rare chocolate grown in Hawaii and its unique flavor profile.
These were still the days of milk chocolate’s supremacy, when Hershey’s and Mars were pretty much the only options. No one was talking about the complexity of cacao (more flavor components than Burgundy!) or the nuances of terroir. Talented artisan chocolatiers were just starting to sprout up, particularly on the coasts, but you had to stumble onto them. No one was hunting out these obscure producers, bringing them together and telling their stories. No one was offering both the depth and breadth that something as complex as chocolate deserves. I couldn’t help but wonder if chocolate lovers would get excited about the same kind of discovery, learning and variety that made wine lovers so passionate. It seemed like a pretty good idea to find out!
So I put together an awesome business plan (with way too many excruciatingly detailed spreadsheets) and began to look for funding to launch Cocoa + Co. Sadly, history intervened. In the wake of the tragic events of 9/11 investment virtually dried up. I kept my day job and launched an online store instead. But, I couldn’t shake the idea of a place where I could host a growing community of artisans and chocolate lovers.
Finally, after years helping other start-ups realize their visions, my (incredibly supportive) husband and I decided to “bootstrap the dream.” It’s taken almost 14 years to become reality, but even after all this time, there’s nothing quite like Cocoa + Co.
The world is full of glorious chocolate…let’s explore it together!