With the month of February comes the celebration of the love-filled holiday that is Valentine’s Day. While I know not everyone is on board with the vibrant, sometimes gaudy, displays of pink pastels and giant balloon hearts adorning every storefront this time of the year, I’ve always enjoyed the Valentine’s Day vibe.
Sure, it can be a little gaudy and overdone. But another treat that I’ve always enjoyed that is classically tied to this lovely holiday?…chocolate. And lots of it.
Does this mean I choose to put a lot of emphasis on the chocolate-indulging aspect of Valentine’s Day?….Yes.
Does this mean I am, yet again, putting the particular food associated with a holiday near the top of the list for enjoyment of a holiday?….Yes.
Moving on. Back to the chocolate.
In 2014, the Northwest Arkansas region was privileged to become home to it’s very own locally crafted chocolate company that is Hello Cocoa. The Hello Cocoa team graciously allowed me to come visit their main office and small factory where they actually produce their chocolate bars.
They also graciously allowed me to run a GIVEAWAY for an assortment of their current chocolate bars and their newest sipping chocolate. Stay tuned to the end of the post!
On the day of our exclusive tour my good friend, Shae, and I were welcomed by the lingering smell of chocolate and two smiling faces of two of the six owners of the Hello Cocoa team. Preston and Abby were a delight to speak with and learn all about their new and thriving company.
Preston lead Shae and I through the chocolate production process of their Hello Cocoa bars.
Hello Cocoa currently sources their cacao beans used to produce their bars from Uganda and Venezuela. One of the cacao bean types used in their Venezuealan dark chocolate bar is a particular bean that only makes up around 10% of the world’s supply of cacao beans–the Criollo bean. Think of this particular bean as the creme de la creme of cacao.
Hello Cocoa prides itself in being a bean-to-bar company. The first part of the chocolate production process involves roating and sorting the beans. It is this roasting that allows the beans to retain their flavor and make the end product chocolate bars even more divine.
Winnowing is the next step. Essentially, winnowing is cracking open the bean pods and separating the cacao nibs from the outer husk.
Once the cacao nibs are separated, they move on to a grinding machine which includes a granite stone on the bottom of a large pot as well as two round granite stone wheels that move around and around to break down the cacao nibs into a liquid form.
In order to get the particles of the cacao liquid to a small enough size to where the human tongue cannot detect the grit, this part of the grinding process takes 2 to 3 days! During this grinding stage is when they also add in the cacao butter and sugar to sweeten the chocolate to the desired level.
My personal favorite of the Hello Cocoa bar lineup, the Venezuelan Dark bar with Criollo beans, is 74% dark chocolate. This means that approximately 26% of the chocolate bar is sugar.
After the cacao liquid is super smooth, it moves on to the tempering stage. The chocolate has to be properly tempered in order to make sure the bars do not melt the very second they touch human skin. Tempering also gives chocolate it’s shine.
After the chocolate is tempered it is poured into the individual bar molds and cooled prior to wrapping. Each bar is 9 rectangular pieces. Abby and Preston explained to us that they wanted to keep the bars 9 pieces because it’s a “shareable number”. Each of their chocolate bars are even hand wrapped into their individual packages.
Upon ending our tour and after speaking more with Abby and Preston about how their company started and the ideas they have for growing it in the future, I realized the shareable aspect of their bars actually calculates into the whole company values.
It’s easy to tell that this company wants to connect more with the community. They want to share their story with others, how they create their chocolate, they want to introduce more people to flavors of the world. And they are doing just that. It all starts with their chocolate.
If you’re a local, you’re in for a treat! The Hello Cocoa team is having a special open house on Valentine’s Day at their office and factory.
For a small cover charge fee of $10, you can attend The Chocolate and Bubbly Tour on February 14th at the Hello Cocoa facility from 3pm — 6pm on Valentine’s Day. You’re in for a treat of champagne, Hello Cocoa covered strawberries, samples of their bars and sipping chocolate and a tour of the facility.
Sign. Me. Up. I will be going with my fiance and I’d love to see you there! Find out more and RSVP on their event page on facebook HERE
For directions to their office, check out the Hello Cocoa chocolate website where you can also purchase their products online.
And if you’re not a local, you’re STILL in for a treat! The Hello Cocoa team is graciously giving away a Valentine’s gift package for one lucky winner.
This gift basket will include:
–1 Hello Cocoa Dark Venezuelan Criollo chocolate bar
–1 Hello Cocoa Dark Ugandan Forastero chocolate bar
–1 Hello Cocoa Special Edition Winter Wonderland bar
–1 bag of Hello Cocoa Sipping Chocolate
This giveaway is for U.S. residents only.
Enter via the widget below. Good luck!
It was a pleasure to get the chance to meet Abby and Preston and find out more about the story behind this local chocolate company. I cannot wait to see where their future takes them as they continue to share their story and the flavors of the world through their chocolate products with others. I was happy to be given the chance to help share their story with you all.
*Full disclosure: I was gifted a Venezuelan Forastero Chocolate bar and 2 free tickets to the Chocolate and Bubbly tour in exchange for writing this article*
How are you celebrating Valentine’s Day this year?