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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 ‬lorileeschocolates@gmail.com‭ ‬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!‬