Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Birth of CocoaRoar

It’s funny how an idea can take hold of you. Sometimes it is gentle, politely tapping you on the shoulder to get your attention. Some ideas knock you over with the force of a hurricane. And other times it is a simple moment of clarity, an inevitablility, and you know that you MUST follow through with it. I had a hilarious idea a year ago and decided to see it through. And because of that willingness to pursue it, I ended up making more than 5,000 chocolate truffles within the space of six months.

This adventure began when I was invited by Kristina to attend a chocolate tasting and lecture with her a year ago tonight. (I think she knew that out of all of our friends, I would be the most enthusiastic about such an event!) As I listened to the different chocolatiers talk about their journeys through a life in chocolate, and I kept thinking, “I can do this. I would like to do this too.” My imagination began to fly in all sorts of directions as the evening progressed.

By the time we had moved on to the actual chocolate tasting, a thousand-watt light bulb went on in my head and I knew what I had to do. In between bites of chocolate samples and sips of wine, I turned to Kristina and said, “You know what? I think I need to go into the chocolate business for the month of December. Is that crazy?”

"Oh, you absolutely have to do it! For a long time we've all been saying you should do this! We all LOVE your truffles!" she exclaimed, and we both burst into laughter. I could not have asked for a more wonderfully enthusiastic response, and we immediately clinked our champagne flutes to the beginning of a new adventure. I consider October 15th to be the night that CocoaRoar was born. (Kristina received the first unofficial batch of CocoaRoar peanut butter &sea salt truffles a few weeks later for her birthday, which were cropped out of this self-portrait but are shown below in an individual close-up.)

My lifelong chocolate passion has expressed itself in many ways over the years, encompassing a wide variety of desserts, but I think it truly comes into focus in truffle form. I attempted my first truffles in college with a recipe from The Silver Palate cookbook, and I laugh when I think of what a glorious mess I made during those early attempts, inadvertently splattering chocolate and covering every surface of my kitchen as well as myself with a fine layer of cocoa powder. But what fun I always had! I was forever creating new truffles for parties, trying out new flavors any time I had gifts to give. After 15 years of endless experimenting with flavors and refining my technique, as well as extremely effusive responses from all who tasted my truffle creations, I felt confident enough to share my chocolates with a wider audience.

Over the next days I was practically giddy as I brainstormed, so excited about turning my chocolate pipedreams into some sort of reality. I realized that I had more than 30 flavors in my truffle repertoire, all of which I loved, and this made it very difficult to narrow the list down to what I would offer in December. But I finally decided that there would be at least one offering from several flavor families: Floral, Herbal, Spices, Tea-infused, Nuts and Fruit. I found great online sources for buying Valrhona chocolate in bulk, which was immensely satisfying. (I can attest that became my best friend in December, delivering over 100 pounds of gorgeous deep dark chocolate to my doorstep within a two week period!)

As for the name of my truffle business, I knew I didn’t want to use my own name in the official title, but I wanted to have a lion reference in there somewhere. (My favorite animal + my astrological symbol + my own mane of hair = lion reference in my chocolate company title!) For a while I mentally referred to this whole operation as Lion’s Den Chocolates, but then I came up with CocoaRoar. Even just saying it makes me smile really widely. 

This name was also a tip of the hat to Rococo Chocolates, the exquisite chocolate company in London which has inspired me to no end with their exotic flavors and purity of their chocolate. And besides, my whole goal in doing this was to create truffles that would make everyone’s taste buds roar with delight, so the name seemed exactly right.

I played around with packaging ideas, spending untold hours online to find the exact dark red boxes and gold raffia ribbon I was envisioning. And thanks to a brilliant stroke of genius from Julie, I found jungle cat-print tissue paper to line the boxes.

Since I would be making some unusual flavors and wanted to make sure that the recipients of each box knew what they were in for, I sketched designs for flavor cards to be included. Originally I wanted a lion design to be on the card, but that got complicated, so I decided to have my own rather exuberant handwriting printed on the cards. It was yet another reminder that these were not factory-made truffles but instead they were a very personal endeavor.

I announced the launch of CocoaRoar in mid-November, and I could not have predicted what would happen next. That is a story for another time, but in the meantime, I wanted to say an enormous THANK YOU to all of my dear friends and colleagues for your overwhelming response and enthusiastic support. Even though I’m only doing this seasonally, CocoaRoar took on a life of its own. It went far beyond my wildest expectations, and I have all of you wonderful chocolate-loving friends to thank for it. I am most grateful.

Perhaps I should do a round of Halloween truffles to celebrate? I’ll keep you posted…


Blony said...


Sasha said...

Dude, do you ship to Boston? :)

Becoming a Gay Adult said...

These were delicious. I got some from a friend for the holidays and was choco-ecstatic.