As it turns out, there is such a thing as too much chocolate.
“People reach a certain saturation point when they’re having sweets,” said Victoria Kichuk, the leader of the Boston Chocolate Walking Tour (CWT). “It’s a reboot for your palate … It is not a test of will. You will not be shamed if you use your pretzel bag.”
Armed with their bags of pretzels against the copious amounts of chocolate and sugar to come, 10 eager chocoholics participanting in the CWT set out to explore a world of rich and quality chocolate on Saturday morning down Newbury St., stopping at seven establishments—all dedicated to satisfying the cravings of participants
They gathered outside Flour Bakery on Clarendon St., the tour’s first stop.
Flour Bakery’s chocolate chip cookies were recently rated the “Best in Boston” by Boston Magazine. The CWT participants had on opportunity to find out why. The sweet and earthy taste of the chocolate chunks comes from Tcho, an innovated chocolate company that produces some unusual chocolate recipes.
The second stop on the CWT was L.A. Burdick, a small cafe featuring the delicacy of handmade European chocolates. Founder Lark Burdick’s goal was, according to Kichuk, to give people an opportunity to enjoy chocolate in a beautiful cafe setting.
While on his chocolate pilgrimage in the 1970s to France and Switzerland, Burdick was impressed by the ambience of small French cafes and the quality of Swiss chocolate. Burdick married the two attributes to create what he hoped would be a positive chocolate-tasting experience.
CWT participants snacked on samples of chocolate “mice” while perusing through shelves featuring new flavors such as pumpkin and cappuccino. The mice that the store distributed illustrate the delicacy needed to craft these treats—the white chocolate shell hides both the cinnamon-infused ganache at the mouse’s core and the two nuts posed as ears propped on its hand-painted face.
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlor may have been the most familiar storefront for the CWT participants, yet a presentation from store manager Ryan Midden shed light on some not-so-familiar information about the beloved enterprise.
Present in 30 countries and still expanding, Ben & Jerry’s has always stayed true to its goal of making great ice cream. The dairy used in Ben & Jerry’s products originates solely from small farms in Vermont and upstate New York. Each farmer is obligated by contract not to use growth hormones on their cattle. Founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are currently fighting to legislate a label requirement on all foods produced with GMOs. “We’re not against science and food working together, we just think people have the right to know what is in their food,” Midden said.
The company is currently transitioning to fair trade certified ingredients. Fair trade applies to small-scale family farms in developing countries. The certification guarantees that the production of the crop does not violate standards of gender equality, child labor, and human trafficking.
“We wanted to know our products were not participating in these atrocities,” Midden said. When Ben & Jerry’s expands, he said, “it’s fun to go into a country not only with our product but with our values.”
At Robin’s Candy Shop, “World’s Largest,” is a title regularly found on display. In stock are eight-pound containers of Hershey’s chocolate syrup, two-pound marshmallows, six-pound jars of Nutella, a 27-pound gummy bear, and allegedly the world’s largest jawbreakers. The fudge selection ranges from maple bacon and red velvet to the classics. Its recent “Best Fudge in Boston” award is a bit inaccurate, given that all of the fudge is made in Tennessee.
Alissa Cordeiro, store manager of Gourmet Boutique, said that “Americans have come a long way in their chocolateering.” The U.S., however, is not even in the top 10 percent of countries with the highest chocolate intake per year, she said. An average Swiss citizen consumes 26 pounds per year while the average American only consumes 11 pounds.
America has a lot of catching up to do to make the chocolate history books. Boston, however, does not. Ruth Wakefield invented the chocolate chip cookie in Boston at the Toll House Inn in 1930. Nestle later bought the name and recipe with the agreement to send Wakefield a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate.
In 1996 the chocolate chip cookie was nominated to be the official state dessert of Massachusetts, but later lost to the Boston cream pie. “So, yeah,” Kichuk joked, “we spent time and money legislating that.”
Featured Image by Jordan Pentaleri / Heights Graphic