Vere week is here – your chance to win free chocolate!
But, it’s not too late to enter. Read the interview, then comment on the post for the correct day of the week to enter. Even if you already entered, you can enter again for another chance! A winner will be drawn each day!
- Monday – Interview with Vere founder, Kathy Moskal, Part I: The Vere Beginning
- Tuesday – Interview, Part II: Running a Chocolate Company
- Wednesday – Interview, Part III: Choosing Flavors
- Thursday – Interview, Part IV: About Kathy
- Friday – A cupcake inspired by a Vere chocolate bar flavor combination
The interview begins after the break.
I interviewed Kathy Moskal by phone and split the transcription of that interview into the four sections you will read this week. I made a few changes to the order of the conversation just to make for a better flow, but other than that and the removal of “ummms,” “well, you knows,” and laughter we both had, it should be just as if you were listening in on our conversation.
Part I: The Vere Beginning
How did you become interested in chocolate and starting a chocolate company?
My entire life was in the fashion business. I had co-founded a legwear company called HUE and my partner and I sold that. I had retired basically for ten years and then a family friend was dying from the aftereffects of diabetes. She was a great gourmand. She loved to eat. She was a great baker. As a matter of fact, she was the one who taught me how to make truffles many years ago – she was real chocoholic.
At that point, she couldn’t walk anymore and I thought since her only pleasure left was eating, I’m going to get her the best chocolate in the world that she could eat. I searched the Internet, I looked in Europe, and I looked all over the States. Everything I found was really awful – it was filled with chemicals even a well person shouldn’t eat. All of the chocolates that weren’t filled with chemicals had way too much sugar.
This was in the fall of 2003. Now, there is a lot of dark chocolate on the market. But, at that point there really wasn’t. I just thought, “OK, I’m going to hire a pastry chef,” because I really am not a cook and I’ll start with just 100% dark chocolate (plain chocolate) and I’ll have the pastry chef just make some things that are healthy and minimally sweetened for my friend, Carol.
I just started doing research about chocolate. I became really fascinated with chocolate as a food. It is this incredible foodstuff with all these vital chemicals and all these great healthy things – that if you don’t degrade the chocolate – are available to you.
I just got hooked and I thought, well I’m going to go from the beans. So, I did a lot of research and found that the Arriba bean (sometimes called the Nacional bean), which is what I use in all my chocolate, is really high in antioxidants. It only grows in Ecuador and it has a really mild, fruity flavor so it doesn’t require a lot of sweetening. It tastes very earthy and real. Like wine, it reflects the terroir (the place that it was grown).
One of the reasons I picked it, besides that I really liked the flavor of it, was that the first step in making chocolate is fermenting the bean and that’s also the first place that the antioxidants get degraded. Since this one [the Arriba bean] has a short fermentation cycle, it doesn’t need a long fermenting to develop the flavor and it also doesn’t degrade the antioxidants as much – so it starts out with more antioxidants.
How did you find out about that bean?
Just really by doing a lot of research, but I had tasted the Arriba bean in a chocolate that someone was doing. It was a plantation chocolate (Vintage chocolates). This French guy, Pierrick Chouard, made a line of chocolates using the Arriba bean. That was the first time I tasted it and I liked the kind of flavor and the mildness of it.
What makes Vere different from other chocolate companies?
We’re different from a lot of chocolate makers in a lot of ways. First, we do make our own base chocolate and we make a real high grade of it where the [particle size in] microns is really small. We add more cocoa butter so it’s called couverture which is like the most premium chocolate. Most chocolatiers don’t make their own couverture, they buy their chocolate. If they are buying good chocolate, they buy from Valrhona or Michel Cluizel or they’ll buy chocolate from Guittard or various other producers. Then they will melt it and make their chocolate. Even companies like NewTree make chocolates in California, but they use a Belgian chocolate. (Update: I received an email from NewTree with a correction: “NEWTREE manufactures all of its chocolates in Belgium and imports and distributes them in the U.S. They are truly Belgian chocolates in every sense of the word.”) They don’t make their own couverture. Probably in most chocolates that you’ve tasted, the people don’t make their own couverture. People are starting to do that more though. Theo chocolates makes their own couverture.
Also, we are probably the only company in the world that makes all of the products from 75% cacao content. We are going to make some bars of 70%, but that will be it because to get the benefits of chocolate you really need it to be 70% or higher.
What about companies that are doing chocolate from bean to bar?
Well, we don’t process the beans ourselves. People are doing a lot of good stuff in a lot of ways, we chose to process the beans in Ecuador because you leave more money in the local economy so instead of taking their precious resource out at the lowest possible price, which is the beans, we make the couverture there. This is just part of our philosophy. That’s another way that we are kind of unique and different.
Do you have a relationship with the people in Ecuador?
Not a business relationship, a hand-shake friendly relationship. It’s interesting because there are three men who have spent their lives in the chocolate industry so they know a lot, but their dream when they retired was to have their own chocolate factory. They are small like we are and so they try things for me and have done things for me that a larger company would never make the effort of doing. We’re kind of moving along together here.