by Genevieve Mellott
Do you ever think maybe there’s a better option when it comes to chocolate? Let’s step beyond Valentine’s Day here, although it’s an excellent day to have some. The sumptuous, stimulating treat has a long and celebrated history. It’s now a common bonbon enjoyed on special occasions or even picked up in the grocery store checkout lane to satisfy a sweet tooth. But, if we look at its original uses and the changes commercialism has made to it, we can see why all chocolate is not created equal. We deserve the “good stuff” from right here in Colorado!
While prized worldwide, chocolate traces its roots as far back as 1500 B.C. in Central America. The first known uses of the cocoa bean were not for chocolate at all. From ceremonial drinks to currency, the ancients knew its worth and did not drown it in milk or sugar. Because of its caffeine and antioxidants, this natural energy drink was imbibed by historical figures such as Montezuma and his armies, Christopher Columbus, Hernan Cortez, and Spanish royalty throughout the 1500s. Once the beans became more affordable in Spain by way of slave labor (boo hiss), chocolate fever quickly spread throughout Europe. Of course, it helped that Europeans added other addictive flavors such as sugar and cinnamon. In 1672 Sir Hans Sloan recorded adding milk and sugar to cocoa in a warm beverage for the first time, and hot cocoa was born. Throughout the 1800s, chocolate was sold as a confection. But it wouldn’t be until 1875 that Daniel Peter would invent milk chocolate candy. The rest is milk chocolate history. (Keep in mind, though, the more sugar, milk, and other additives there are in the chocolate, the less healthy it is for you.)
These days, we can all use a boost of serotonin (yet another benefit of chocolate.) There are sooooooo many companies that sell chocolate candy of all different kinds eagerly awaiting our cash. How do you know what to buy? Do you grab a Reese’s Cup or Snickers Bar? Do you hit the candy aisle in Walmart or Target? I will be the first to say I’ve had my share of Hershey and M&M Mars products, but let’s call them what they are: the fast food of sweets. Sometimes you want to make a treat a treat – something special you don’t do every day. What if I told you that you could find some of the best chocolates (in my opinion) right here in Colorado, and they all have their unique styles? I’ll outline just three of the many:
First, buy local! LoriLee’s Chocolates & Gifts is in downtown Frederick. A classic chocolate confectionery with a twist – LoriLee’s will do custom orders and makes beautiful and mouthwatering chocolates (even chocolate “pizza”!) How about a box of chocolate in which the box itself is chocolate? Yum! You can check out a selection of gift items and decor while you’re there. If you’re looking for the total package, you can’t go wrong at her shop at 539 Oak Street B, Frederick. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303 847-5783 for hours and orders.
If you want a chocolate with history, try out Hammond’s Candy Factory in Denver. Carl Hammond’s first original recipe was a chocolate covered in shredded coconut in 1920. Today, the company offers products from candy canes to Chicken-and-Waffles-flavored chocolate bars and everything in between. See their selection and order from their website at hammondscandies.com. You can even tour the factory at 5735 Washington Street and see how the magic happens!
The third of my picks is The Chocolate Therapist in Littleton, which I realize is a bit of a jaunt. But the “therapist” herself, Julie Nygard, has taken the art of chocolate to the next all-natural and sustainable level, believing we should all eat a piece of (good) chocolate every day. She has made it her mission to educate the public on chocolate’s health benefits and uses scrumptious organic flavors that make all that knowledge go down easy. If you’re looking for smart chocolate with no artificial anything, this is your place. Drive down to 2560 W Main St, Littleton, or visit thechocolatetherapist.com.
No matter where you get your chocolate, know that good quality makes you feel good – and you’re worth it!