Friday, October 10, 2014

Choklat: Delicious chocolate that I tried not to love!

No matter how frustrated you can be with a chocolate maker for their customer service, it is difficult to remain angry with them once you discover that their chocolate is undeniably delicious.  This is precisely how my feelings for Choklat from Calgary have developed over time.

A few years ago, I tried very hard to get my hands on some Choklat chocolate (I was, after all, on a mission to try all of Canada's bean-to-bar chocolate).  I e-mailed. I called. I begged. I was not a 'blogger' asking for free samples, I was a customer trying to buy the product and pay for them to ship it to me.  The owner told me flat out: "find a friend in Calgary and have them ship it to you", he even went so far to say that his website gets thousands of hits per month, so, well, the gist of it was that I was not necessary to keep his business pumping, so why bother going out of his way for me? 


Being a former student of business and marketing for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees, this did not sit well with me.  Refusing a paying customer, particularly one that might write about your service on the Internet, seemed like a strange business decision. In the time that he spent sending me the long e-mail, the owner could have just slapped a label on a box and taken my credit card number over the phone. Oh, and that was the other thing, the business was cash-only until recently, which was another customer-unfriendly decision that I did not understand. In this day and age, refusing card payments of any type simply does not make sense.

And as much as I wanted to write about all of these frustrating things on this blog, I stayed silent.  My general policy is not to criticize chocolate makers because I know they are passionate about their craft. I simply find the good points about their products. So with Choklat, I decided to wait until I could taste the chocolate.  And one day last February, I finally did.  A friend of mine sent me some chocolate bars.  I tried them all and loved them.  But I was not yet ready to admit it.  So I waited until I received another package of their chocolate bars a few weeks ago, which were purchased at a franchise location in Edmonton. This last package confirmed it: Choklat's chocolate bars are delicious.

So was the owner right to refuse me?  Maybe. I am a business owner myself, and I understand how easy it is to lose focus and waste time on special requests.  But I also understand that one poor interaction can end a customer-seller relationship. He would have lost me if I was not so determined in my mission to taste all of Canada's bean-to-bar chocolate.  And with just two tastes, I will likely be back for more someday....of course, that is if I can find a friend in Alberta.

So here is the down-low on Choklat`s chocolate bars:
  • They make a series of 70% dark bars from different single origin (and in some cases single plantation) beans. The bars also have the same amount of cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla, etc., which makes it a lot easier to hold a tasting session and truly tastes the differences between origins. I love this - nothing is more frustrating than when you are trying to compare origin chocolate by one chocolate maker, and one bar has  67% cocoa solids and the other has 72%.  In those cases, the sweetness of the 67% overwhelms your ability to taste the flavour differences of the cacao. So I applaud Choklat for this. And of the four 70% bars that I tasted, I liked the Ocumare the best, but all four were delicious and full of interesting flavours.
  • Choklat makes amazing milk chocolate. Truly a MUST-TRY is their Brazilian 48% Milk bar. It is bursting with flavour and aroma. The Cuyagud (Venezuela) 48% Milk bar is just as delicious and flavourful.  I wish I had 10 more of each bar.  Right now.
  • Choklat puts a lot of cocoa butter in their chocolate.  Except for their intense 80% bar, their chocolate bars generally contain 30% cocoa butter, which gives all of their chocolate a melt-in-your-mouth quality.  The purists (those who make chocolate from just cocoa beans and sugar) may argue this is too much cocoa butter, but I like it.  It adds a rich element that quickly melts in the most delicious way, even in cold temperatures.
  • Choklat makes a range of Venezuelan bars, which allows the taster to truly taste the differences between regions within the same country.
  • The range of truffles were delicious, I found the Key Lime to be my favourite, as well at the Dark Chocolate Buttercream, and the Mint offered an interesting experience (there was perhaps a hint of basil in it...?).  I even enjoyed the Orange and the Amaretto truffle, which are two flavours that I normally stay away from.

And now that I have tasted nearly all of Canada's craft, bean-to-bar chocolate, I can say with certainty that Choklat's products are in the top three or four for taste, texture and quality. It is certainly worth a try, if you are in the Edmonton or Calgary area.

8 comments:

  1. I was just in the Calgary area and wish I would have made the trek over there, sounds really good. Although, as a marketer, I agree with you on the business etiquette!!

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  2. My name is Brad Churchill, and I own Choklat. I was the guy the author spoke to. I'd like to clarify that there is a big difference between business etiquette, and smart business. Good business etiquette is having the courtesy to respond to inquiries in a timely fashion, and taking the time to politely explain to the inquiry party why a business does, or doesn't do something - which is exactly what I did. Smart business is clearly understanding that business is about making profit. When my business stands to make $30 margin on a single order, and that margin is eaten by me having to drive 30 minutes across town to buy a box, then drive to my shop and package the order, and then spend MORE time calling UPS and arranging shipping, and getting quotes, and contacting the customer to procure payment for the order, then driving back to my office.... well... When I bill my company $150 per hour for my time, and it takes me 2 hours to "slap a label on a box" in order to make $30 on a single order... THAT is BAD business, and THAT is why 80% of small businesses go under in the first 24 months they are open. Sometimes walking away from a sale is the most intelligent thing to do, even if the customer begs. Begging doesn't pay the rent, and I am already selling out of all of our product locally without having to go through the trouble and added expense of shipping special orders across the country.

    Having said all of that, I wish to thank you for the positive review with regard to your opinion on the taste of my chocolate, and I would like to let you know that sometime in the new year I will be opening our website up to Canada wide shipping 9 months of the year. When I do, the infrastructure will be appropriately set up so that my team members can in fact "slap a label on a box" without me having to go hunting for a box.

    Cheers
    Brad Churchill
    Choklat.

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  3. Brad - your chocolate is good, however your absolute focus on the "numbers" to the exclusion of other factors, is a detriment to your success. To not make the odd exception, particularly for what appears to have been a request for a sizable order and the resulting good will that you'd generate as a small business owner all because your billable rate is $150/hr is seriously laughable. I live in Calgary and think you do make a high quality product, however it's comments like this that make me re-evaluate where my purchasing dollars go. I don't know what your set up is now, but for you to insist on cash and PayPal only is what stops me and others I know from purchasing your products. Seriously PayPal as an in store payment method. I thought you had to be kidding. You need to remember that the success of a business is of course multifaceted; controlling costs, providing a quality product, value, and guest/customer service. I have felt after a number of interactions with you and your outlets (both in Inglewood and the Market) that the service side of things is at the bottom of your list. Your response above, only further confirms this.

    I chuckled at your grief of having to "go hunt for a box". I say this as a business operator for over 15 years.

    All the best,

    Chris

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  4. To add something positive to the discussion, I'd suggest that Lisabeth get her hands on Soma's Nacional 70% chocolate bar from Peru. I'm sure you've read about these beans - they definitely live up to the hype (can you really say a strain of cacao is hyped, ha!). Having just returned from Toronto, I brought a few back with me. Man alive it's awesome! Oh, and as an aside Soma easily delivers their product across the country.

    Great blog!

    Chris

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    Replies
    1. That's funny, I just received an order of those same bars! Along with an interesting smoke-flavoured bar and a few other Soma gems. I'm holding a tasting event this weekend and Soma will be in the line-up of chocolate.

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  5. Very nice information that you are sharing about chocolates and thanks for sharing the information with us Chocolate dealer Vidyaranyapura

    ReplyDelete
  6. I just visited this thread after first replying in November, and I found Chris's comments interesting to say the least. Chris, you comment about only taking cash and Paypal as payment methods and that it stopped you from purchasing my products, then go on to say that you've had several interactions at two of my locations. I only accepted Paypal for credit cards for the first 6 months my business was open, and didn't open my second location until I'd been in business for 4 years. Given that you confess to not knowing what my processes are now, it's pretty safe to say that you haven't been a customer of mine for almost 7 years.

    You say that service is at the "bottom of my list". I find that offensive. I challenge you to go find a chocolate company that will make exactly the truffle you ask for fresh while you wait. I challenge you to find a chocolate company that let's you do exactly that online. I have processed over 100,000 orders through my business and NEVER ONCE has an order been missed or not ready on time when a customer asks. NEVER ONCE has a customer brought their truffles back and asked for something different or their money back because they didn't like what they got, or because one of the centers was "bad". I challenge you to find a food business that has a record as spotless as that.

    You find my bill rate "seriously laughable"? Well guess what - I had a life before chocolate as a technical architect, designing software systems for fortune 500 companies, and even had my own publicly traded dot com. Don't believe me? Google my name. You'll find my Company's SEC filings. My bill rate was WAY MORE than that, and today when I'm asked to provide technical expertise, I in fact DO bill out more than that. The fact that you find it laughable, is pretty evident that you've never made money like that in all the 15 years you've been a business owner. Personally I wish I made what my lawyer does. $450 per hour is a hell of a lot nicer. Now... What he does to earn that IS laughable....

    The one thing I find annoying about the Internet is that people have the audacity to sit back type bullcrap like you do in judgement of others. Who are you to judge anybody? Who are you to judge me? Who made you God? I have my reasons for doing what I do, and I'm happy doing what I do and I make a great living doing it. It's a hell of a lot less stressful than being the CEO of a publicly traded company, and I learned a long time ago that there's more to life than pandering to every customer's whim. I don't need money, so if I don't want to "chase down a box" I won't. If I don't sell a chocolate bar to someone all the way across the country because I'm selling out locally, I don't care. And if you don't like it Chris, well... Piss off. You haven't been a customer of mine for 7 years anyway.

    ReplyDelete
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