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    1. It’s a renewable source.  It doesn't come from trees so there’s no deforestation.  Lokta production does not affect the fragile forest ecology of Nepal.
    2. Producing lokta paper has employed hundreds of people using the same primitive art form that doesn’t rely on outside sources for technology.
    3. It’s acid free and archival.
    4. The royal family of Nepal currently use it for all official documents.
    5. The scent and fragrant of the plant is impervious to insects.
    6. The paper is used in  Monasteries of Tibet and Nepal for their sacred scripts for over 600 years.
    7. It’s beautiful hand-crafted artwork.
  1.  

    While spending a day enjoying the sunshine in San Francisco's indian summer, I decided to go into a paper store which I had passed up on numerous occasions.  The store had two walls devoted to sheets of eye-catching paper. Wonderful Japanese and Indian paper adorned the walls with images of dragonflies, ladybugs, geometric shapes, leaves, etc. As I am always thinking of chocolate, I imagined my soon-to-be-released chocolate bars wrapped in these papers.  My hands reached out for a solid print of green paper and as  I studied the intracacies of the paper, a sales associate came by and informed me that I was holding lokta paper from Nepal and that it was made from a renewable source. 

    "Beautiful, bold and striking!", I thought to myself. And to top it off, lokta paper is earth friendly.....I just had to have it!     

    So what is lokta paper? Simply put, it is beautiful self-sustaining handmade paper from the foothills of the Himalayas crafted by skilled artisans using centuries old techniques.  Lokta paper comes from the plant Daphne Papayracea or Daphne Cannabina which grows between the altitudes of 6500-9500 ft.  It is a self regenerating plant which when cut at the base, grows back in 6-7 years.  It is an abundant source giving continued work to the mountain villagers of Nepal.  And best of all, the harvesting of the plant does not affect the fragile ecology of the area.

    So how is Lokta Paper made? The people must travel from their villages to where the lokta plant grows wild.  They cut the bark at the base of the plant and pound it in preparation to be boiled, rinsed, and beaten with a wooden mallet.  The bark is then cut into small pieces and boiled and rinsed a second time. The fibers are crushed on a flat rock and mixed with clear water which becomes a fine paste. The paste is poured into a floating frame immersed in water and is shaken to spread out the pulp.  Great skill is needed to ladle the fibers onto the screen for an even casting. The frame is then taken out of the water and laid out in the sun to dry.  The sheets of paper are then taken to Kathmandu where it is run through a press which compacts the surface to make it smooth. 

    This process produces the beautiful lokta paper for our line of chocolate bars. 

     

    Handcrafted chocolate bars wrapped in handcrafted paper, a true artisan product!  

  2. Brrr!  This morning was a cold one and instead of my usual bowl of cereal, I thought I’d take the time to make some of my deliciously hot pancakes.  I usually make my pancakes with Belgian milk chocolate chips, but my little girl, Serenity, has gotten into habit of breaking up her food in search of the little chips.  By the time she’s done eating, her plate is covered with bits of pancake without a single chocolate chip in sight.

    As I got my baking utensils out, the corner of my eye caught a glimpse of Scharffen Berger 70%. “I think Serenity wouldn’t mind a change”, I thought to myself as I proceeded to chop up the chocolate in little flakes.  When I mixed the flakes into the batter, I had to smile.  The batter looked like my favorite ice cream, Baskin Robbin’s Chocolate Chip Mint (minus the green color, of course).  Flakey chips in ice cream that just melts in your mouth.  I really can’t stand ice cream with chunky stuff.  For me, ice cream should be smooth. But I digress. To my pancake batter, I also added an handful of walnuts.  

    Serenity and I have similar tastes in food.   We both like to eat pancakes straight off the griddle, no butter and no syrup.  The chocolate sweetens up the batter just fine.  This morning’s experiment with pancakes was a success!  Her plate didn’t look like a pancake battlezone. She was eating it all.  And as I gave her a second serving, her head swayed from left to right and she hummed a little happy song.

    Oh, the joy of pancakes!

     


     

  3. Jade Chocolates is proud to be a partner of Savor California, a website showcasing artisan specialty foods and beverages from California.  It is an easy-to-navigate website where customers can search by region or type of products.  Check out our bio page in the product section under 'Dessert and Confections'.  Jade Chocolates will also be at the winter Fancy Food Show held on January 13-15th, 2008 in San Diego, CA.  We will have a display table under the Savor California booth. 

    And if you happen to be in the Bay Area, on February 16th, 2008, head over to the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition held in Fort Mason. This is a great wine and food experience not to be missed. It's the largest wine tasting event of California wines.  But the fun and excitement doesn't end there.  Many partners of Savor California will be there  sampling out and selling their artisan products.    Come join the fun, sample some Jade products!  For more information on this event, go to www.winejudging.com.      Proceeds from this event will go to Santa Rosa Junior College Culinary Program.

  4. I flew down to Sin City for the convention that was in town, the Pack Expo and Process Expo (www.packexpo.com). The Expo features over 1,200 exhibitors from around the world showcasing the latest in packaging technology, converting machinery, containers, and components.  I didn’t find too much for my business.  My mission was to find 'green' packaging and there wasn't that much of a selection.  There were lots of businesses dealing with plastics. I didn't find any who manufactured glass or ceramics. I found a great lead for shipping insulation which is an alternative to Styrofoam.  The shipping insulation doesn't take up as much space and I'm able to packaging more product in the shipping box.   I'll have to catalog other finds since most of the companies only deal with manufacturers with larger productions.  Oh well, it was Vegas, it’s not like the convention was in Middletown, USA.  I had some exploring to do. 

    First on the agenda: Chef Rubber (www.chefrubber.com).  Not quite the place you’d expect your average Vegas vacationer to go, but for people in the chocolate and confectionary industry, it’s a must. This store carries everything from colored cocoa butter, transfer and texture sheets, professional molds, mold making supplies, couveture and more.  It’s off the strip, so you’ll have to either drive or cab it over.  (I don’t even want to talk about my cab ride there, except to say that I insisted on getting out and finding the place myself!)  I went in to take a look at the polycarbonate molds.  They had lots of molds with Mexican/Aztec motifs as well as cocoa designs.  I found a bar mold with cocoa flowers and leaves that I plan to put into production fairly soon.  That was a great find. Trisha, an employee, was extremely helpful.  She even called me a cab after I finished shopping and made sure I didn’t get the same cab driver as I had coming over.    That’s what I call 5-Star service!  

    I also made a quick trip to a chocolate lounge located at the Flamingo Hotel.  This chocolate company is based in Henderson, right outside of Las Vegas.  I got the ‘Banana Bop’.  It’ was a beautiful molded piece with great flavor.  The other chocolate lounge I had to visit was in the Forum Shops at Ceasar’s Palace.  I decided to kick back, drink some hot chocolate and taste a ‘Woolloomooloo’ truffle.  It’s was a great spot to get away from the hustle and bustle, and just relax for a bit. 

    The highlight of my trip was dessert at Emeril’s New Orlean’s Fish House located at the MGM Grand Hotel.   
    Not wanting to feel like a dessert glutton, I ordered a bowl of Clam Chowder before my Chocolate Flourless Cake arrived.  The chowder was good, but dessert was heaven on earth!  The cake was decadent and rich, but not overpowering.  The texture was dense, more so than the flourless cake I treated myself to at the chocolate festival.  Alongside the cake came a little shot of Godiva chocolate shake.  The shake was frothy, rich, and additive.  It wasn’t thick like a true milkshake should be, but who cares?  I was on a chocolate high. What else happened in Vegas?  I'm not telling! 


                       
  5. Today was a lazy Sunday afternoon and after a long day of doling about the house, I decided to send three of the most discerning chocolate experts to our local chocolate cafe. My experts were elated to find that their favorite table was vacant.



    Ahhh, if only there was table service! After a long 45 seconds of being seated, the experts decided to get up for a thorough inspection of the facility. Expert #1 loved the bright colors of the furniture and the walls. Experts #2 and #3 complained that the display cases were a bit too high and needed to be carried to see all of the delectables behind the counter.. After much debate on which treats to order, expert #2 finally settles on one of the hot chocolate drinks.



    'You have child size seats, so how about some child sizes cups!", complained expert #2! All in all, the three experts loved their experience at the cafe and gives this place three pairs of clapping hands! Great job, Seneca Klassan and the other masterminds of Bittersweet!

    (p.s. The chocolate cafe does carry a kid's hot chocolate, just to clarify) Yay!

  6. Here at Jade Chocolates, we believe that there's always room for more chocolate on the chocolate shelf.  From time to time, we'll blog about other chocolate makers as our friends and let you know what's happening in the chocolate world.  The Guittard Company has created a website informing the public on the FDA's proposal to change the identity of chocolate to include fat substitues for cocoa butter.  

    During the chocolate making process, the cocoa bean is manipulated and it's two components, cocoa butter and chocolate liquor, are separated.  The two components are then put back into the 'chocolate recipe' in various amounts depending on whether bittersweet or milk chocolate is created.  It is combined with sugar, vanilla, lecithin and milk if making milk chocolate.  (This is why white chocolate is technically not chocolate since it contains only cocoa butter and not chocolate liquor.)

    Cocoa butter is the oil of the cacao bean and has unique qualities that makes chocolate so wonderful.  One very important quality is that is has a melting point close to that of our body temperature.  Once you put chocolate in your mouth, it immediately starts to melt.  This quality will be lost when using fat substitutes.  Taste, mouthfeel and smoothness will also be affected.    So why is there a proposal to change the definition of chocolate?   Cocoa butter is expensive.  If manufacturers are allowed to use less expensive fats, it will drive the cost of chocolate down.  Consumers would also have a more difficult time distinguishing between chocolate made with 100% cocoa butter and ones with other vegetable fats. 

    Consumers are not the only people to be affected by this proposal.  Small cocoa bean farmers who rely on selling cocoa butter maybe driven out of the market.  This can have devastating affects on communities who rely on selling cocoa butter.   If you have an opinion on this subject, write to the FDA.  Each opinion counts.

  7.      

                     

    I just returned from the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival held every year here in San Francisco. It's a two-day event with about two dozen vendors, chef demonstrations, and an ice cream eating contest.   Part of the proceeds go to Project Open Hands, a non-profit organization which provides meals to people living with AIDS/HIV as well as to the elderly and homebound adults.  I bought $20 worth of tickets and proceeded to the least busy booth.  I got an Irish Coffee provided by O'Neill's Irish Pub and as I sipped my spiked coffee, I thought I overheard someone on the speaker say that the event has raised over $70,000 for Project Open Hands.

    Some of the vendors were sampling products made with Ghirardelli chocolates, as obvious reason to have a booth, but there were others vendors who used different chocolates.  I stood in line for Ciao Bella, http://www.ciaobellagelato.com/, my  second favorite gelato company, and sampled gelato with chunks of Valrhona. YUM! $20 worth of tickets is plenty for one person, maybe too much.  At least part of my money has gone to a great cause. I stopped eating the samples that I got and started to store them in my purse.  I got lots of cookies, brownies, chocolates and toffees. One sample I got is worth mentioning.  It was a flourless chocolate cake with a dab of whipped cream and raspberry sauce made by Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. It was so good I went back for a second helping.  Kara's Cupcakes had the longest line with McCormick and Kuleto's Restaurant coming in a close second. My impatience didn't allow me to stand in those lines but I was satisfied with the much needed Irish Coffee and flourless cake.

    In the West Plaza, I saw a demonstration given by Julie Logue-Riordan, http://www.cookingwithjulie.com/.  She gave a brilliant demonstration on making Chocolate Pasta. She handed out samples of her pasta to the audience.  If you have a pasta machine handy, it's worth making some chocolate inspired creations.  Click here to view Julie's recipe.  Julie is based in the Napa Valley. 

                                          

    If you haven't already gone to this event, it's great for families as well.  Peekadoodle Kids Club, a new kid's only membership club was there with a turtle bank coloring booth.  They've got a new 10,000 square foot facility at Ghirardelli Square.

  8. Here at Jade Chocolates, we believe that there's always room for more chocolate on the chocolate shelf.  From time to time, we'll blog about other chocolate makers as our friends and let you know what's happening in the chocolate world.  The Guittard Company has created a website informing the public on the FDA's proposal to change the identity of chocolate to include fat substitues for cocoa butter.  

    During the chocolate making process, the cocoa bean is manipulated and it's two components, cocoa butter and chocolate liquor, are separated.  The two components are then put back into the 'chocolate recipe' in various amounts depending on whether bittersweet or milk chocolate is created.  It is combined with sugar, vanilla, lecithin and milk if making milk chocolate.  (This is why white chocolate is technically not chocolate since it contains only cocoa butter and not chocolate liquor.)

    Cocoa butter is the oil of the cacao bean and has unique qualities that makes chocolate so wonderful.  One very important quality is that is has a melting point close to that of our body temperature.  Once you put chocolate in your mouth, it immediately starts to melt.  This quality will be lost when using fat substitutes.  Taste, mouthfeel and smoothness will also be affected.    So why is there a proposal to change the definition of chocolate?   Cocoa butter is expensive.  If manufacturers are allowed to use less expensive fats, it will drive the cost of chocolate down.  Consumers would also have a more difficult time distinguishing between chocolate made with 100% cocoa butter and ones with other vegetable fats. 

    Consumers are not the only people to be affected by this proposal.  Small cocoa bean farmers who rely on selling cocoa butter maybe driven out of the market.  This can have devastating affects on communities who rely on selling cocoa butter.   If you have an opinion on this subject, write to the FDA.  Each opinion counts.

  9. Today was a lazy Sunday afternoon and after a long day of doling about the house, I decided to send three of the most discerning chocolate experts to our local chocolate cafe. My experts were elated to find that their favorite table was vacant.



    Ahhh, if only there was table service! After a long 45 seconds of being seated, the experts decided to get up for a thorough inspection of the facility. Expert #1 loved the bright colors of the furniture and the walls. Experts #2 and #3 complained that the display cases were a bit too high and needed to be carried to see all of the delectables behind the counter.  After much debate on which treats to order, expert #2 finally settled on one of the hot chocolate drinks.



    'You have child-size seats, so how about some child-size cups!", complained expert #2! All in all, the three experts loved their experience at the cafe and gives this place three pairs of clapping hands! Great job, Seneca Klassen and the other masterminds of Bittersweet!

    (p.s. The chocolate cafe does carry a kid's hot chocolate, just to clarify) Yay!

  10. Whenever I greet Joseph Schmidt with a 'How are you?', without fail he always responds with 'I'm lucky!'.   He has constantly reminded me that he's been lucky in the chocolate business and that he's got a chocolate angel to help.  I've looked over his shoulder plenty of times and never seen anything resembling divine help from above. 

    I don't have a chocolate angel, maybe I'll inherit it one day when Joe Schmidt retires.  I do have the next best thing and her name is Anni Minuzzo. I first met Anni while taking a class at the SBA (Small Business Administration) entitled, 'From Kitchen to Market'.  It was a class catering to people who want to produce food items.  She is a food specialist consultant, who thanks to tax payers dollars, consults for free.  She just sold her successful biscotti business, 'Biscotti Nucci', and has taken her experiences over the years from her biscotti business and helps others learn from her successes as well as mistakes.  We meet at least once a month and she's helped with identity branding and packaging, to sourcing ingredients to cost analysis.   We also establish timelines and goals for my company which has helped me stay focused. 

    Our meetings are relaxed and informal, often sipping coffee or hot milk at a local cafe.    I saw whatever's on my mind, and she does the same.  It's like talking to an old friend with solid reason and advice about my business. She's got a great personality and loves to give her personal input.    Starting  this business has been extremely overwhelming, it's nice to know that I have a little help on my side. 

    Thanks Anni.

  11. Off I went to my alma mater in Davis, California for five days of chocolate making, tasting and learning. The class is taught by Terry Richardson of Richardson Research. He's well known in the confectionary world being in the business for over 52 years. On the first day of class, you can see that the passion he has for chocolates has not waned over the years. He takes chocolate making seriously. Alongside Terry are Thalia Hohenthal, Senior Food Scientist and Ed Seguine, Vice President of Research and Development of the Guittard Chocolate Company based in Burlingame, California.

    I didnt know what to expect of the experience, but I was quite excited to be apart of it. Class size was small, less than 20 people and there were a few from outside the US--coming from as far as the Phillipines, Australia and Malaysia.

    The agenda for the week:
    How to make chocolate from bean to bar and understanding each step required.
    The different ways to temper chocolate
    How to taste the sublties of chocolate and it's different flavor profiles from different countries
    How to shell mold and pan chocolates
    What viscosity plays in chocolates and how to measure for it
    It was a part lecture and part hands-on lab.   


    In the photo above, Terry is demonstrating the proper way to shell mold chocolates. Before turning over the mold, initate the plastic viscosity of chocolate by moving the mold in a small circular pattern. The chocolate will come out easier and faster!


    This class can only inspire the small home chef to make chocolate out of the kitchen. Terry uses equipment that he either built or manipulated himself for chocolate making. A simple coffee bean roaster can be used as a cacao bean roaster. He has built his own conching machines from Hobart mixers by wrapping copper coils around the bottoms of the mixing bowl. He built his own panning machines by attaching a little motor to two soldered stainless steel salad bowls. One end of the salad bowl that is not attached to the motor has been cut off and left open. But the most impressive machine was his homemade winnower. It is a large rectangular machine that vibrates and separates the nibs from the shells. He uses various sized metal grates that get smaller from one end of the winnower to the other.



    Terry and Thalia working the refiner.


    Most of the students had come on company time coming from large chocolate and confectionary companies, primarily from the research and development departments. Then there were the handful of people who had come on their own ticket.  These are the people to watch. There's Nancy Nadel  who is helping the farmers in Jamaica cultivate cacao beans. She wants to establish a direct relationship with the growers.  She has plans to bring back the beans to the US.  She's located in Oakland, California.  There's Gerardo Martinez from Southern California who will be sourcing his beans from Mexico. He'll be starting out producing cocoa for drinking.  There's also David Mason of North Carolina.  He will most likely be the first from our class to produce bars available to the public.  His website is http://www.blackmountainchocolate.com/.   Lastly, there's Terrance Spies. Honestly, he appeared to be the only guy to soak up and retain all the information in class the first time around.   He's got a blog entry for everyday of class.  You can access his blog at http://cacaolab.wordpress.com/.  Click on 'Chocolate Technology Course' or click on 'Nancy Nadel, Making Chocolate and a Difference' to learn more about what she is doing. Watch out for these upcoming chocolate makers in the years to come.  I won't get too technical about the course. Just access Terrance's blog!


     
  12. Early on in the developmental stages of Jade Chocolates, I began taking those wonderfully free business classes at the SBA (Small Busiess Association) here in downtown San Francisco. As I walked down Market Street I noticed a narrow shop called Fog City News.  I peered in and and to my surprise, I saw dozens of chocolate bars.  As I got closer, I got a better look into the store.  I was so wrong.  There were hundreds of little chocolate bars, all neatly stacked alongside each other.  How odd that the SBA was in the same building as this magazine/chocolate shop.  Must be kismet, I thought, a calling from the heavens that I was headed in the right direction.

    Every time I visit the SBA, I wander into the store and buy a bar or two. Adam Smith, the owner of Fog City News, always has some helpful bit of information or words of encouragement for me.  Adam not only knows his chocolates, but seemingly knows all about the chocolatiers that he carries. His passion for the business exudes in his conversations. And the best part of all is that he's got a parade of chocolatiers who come into Fog City News that sample out their products and speak to the patrons. Adam is right alongside the them, getting directly involved with the customers. This place is absolutely hands down the best place to get  your favorite chocolate bar and to explore a new bar too.

    Fog City News was voted the BEST NEWSSTAND and BEST CANDY STORE in the bay area!  If you're headed towards downtown San Francisco, a trip here wouldn't be a disappointment. 

     

  13. In my online search for learning more about chocolate sculptures by fellow chocolatiers, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Joseph Schmidt was not only the king of the egg shaped truffle, but a master at chocolate sculptures. I was more amazed on the fact that he lived right here in the same city as myself. So I wrote a good old fashioned letter to Mr. Schmidt requesting a meeting.

    A month later, I was walking alongside him in his huge chocolate factory. I walked into the reception area and eagerly awaited for Joseph to walk through the doors. Fifteen minutes passed and I had glanced over at the receptionist's desk too many times, eyeing the sample truffles. I hadn't eaten breakfast. I was going for it. I got up, asked the receptionist what flavor the truffle was (like it mattered) and took two bites. " I have to be quick", I thought to myself, "he'll be here any second". As I turned around, there he was. He had caught me with a mouthful of strawberry ganache. "Excuse me, I just ate one of your truffles", and as I extended my hand to shake his, he proclaimed, "I don't shake hands. Too many germs. I only give hugs."

    He led me downstairs to a room that contained a few of his sculptures. It was absolutely amazing. Sculptures of trees and flowers, a windmill, and elephants in a rainforest landscape. There was a vase with an intricate flower pattern, and the most wonderful of them all, the butterflies. He then led me into the main part of the factory, all the while talking to me in a calm, serene voice. "Don't worry so much, it's just chocolate.' he said as he answered my multitude of questions about the business. I felt like a kid in a candy store, the wealth of chocolate knowledge that I had acquired from such a simple meeting, will last me a lifetime. He showed me his non-traditional methods of producing his truffles and mosaics. He told me that I need to understand that there any many ways to make these confections and that if I wanted to make a living in chocolates that I would have to sell truffles, not just sculptures. Well I was hooked. The ease of his operation and the simplicity of his methods gave me the incentive to try my hand at truffles.

    My first encounter with Joseph Schmidt was a turning point in my new career. He has become my chocolate mentor since the beginning. How lucky am I?
  14.  Why not be an entreprenuer? My grandfather did it. He owned two restaurants and three liquor stores during his lifetime. He didn't just own these establishments, he ran them all as well. He was the cook serving up Chinese and American dishes and he was the clerk at his liquor stores.

    Those stats are pretty impressive considering his meager beginnings. Grandpa was born in Canton, China way back in 1902. He decided to leave his family to come to California at the age of 16 knowing that he would never return to see his family again. He spoke no English, had $20 dollars in his pocket, and knew no one in this country. Just writing about this, I can only imagine the courage he had in him, as well as the desperation.

    I remember one day when I was a little girl, we drove up to a Victorian house somewhere in Napa, California. He told me that he used to work in this house, as a house boy. "A house boy?", I thought. "How peculiar!". He must have had numerous odd jobs before he was able to become an entreprenuer. So, what's this story doing in my chocolate blog? It's a simple answer. For me, it all starts with my grandfather. If he could immigrate here and become a successful businessman, I can become successful in anything I do. He had more obstacles stacked against him. He came here with no money, no family support, he had to learn a new language, and he was of Chinese descent. Despite all of these obstacles, it didn't change the content of his character. I remember him as a man of integrity and pride. He spoke ill of no one and always called younger people he met as 'young man' or 'young woman' regardless of who they were or where they came from. He respected everyone and everyone respected him.

    The traits of my grandfather is a reflection in how I operate Jade Chocolates. Creating Jade Chocolates won't be easy, but it can't be that hard. My grandfather showed me that.

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