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Vere Week Interview and Giveaway Part I – The Vere Beginning

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Vere week is here – your chance to win free chocolate!

The following winners have already been drawn: Ivy, mrschloesmom, Verena, and Gina!

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!

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.

Continue to Part II

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67 comments on “Vere Week Interview and Giveaway Part I – The Vere Beginning”

  1. That’s really interesting about the couverture. I always assumed that most chocolate companies (or at least the ones you typically find in the “health food” or “organic” sections) made everything from the ground up.

  2. kamewhsays:

    Very interesting interview! Thank you for the giveaway!

  3. Carasays:

    Fascinating. I didn’t realize that dark chocolate was once so hard to find. I adore the stuff!

  4. I truly enjoy knowing where my foods come from (whether it’s an apple from Illinois or fresh veggies from a farmer right down the road). It’s nice when a consumer company like Vere, even though they don’t process the beans themselves, knows exactly where each component of their chocolate originates.

  5. Melodysays:

    How cool! There are so many things that I never knew about the foods I eat, I always heard dark chocolate was better for dieters, but now I know why. This is kind of like the dieter’s field guide to chocolate :)

  6. Bethanysays:

    Great posting as always, Stef! Thanks for the fun giveaway as well! B

  7. Great interview! Lots of really good info. Thanks for the giveaway! Hope to sample that awesome chocolate

  8. Katesays:

    That chocolate sounds oh so yummy.. I hope I get the chance to taste it! =)

  9. Jensays:

    This is awesome. Now I can be an educated chocoholic! :)

  10. Oh you’re breaking this up into pieeces just to tease us! This is all very interesting, and I’ll be back tomorrow for more!

  11. Growing up I was allergic to chocolate. It’s only been recently that I have been able to enjoy the flavors. This kind sounds amazingly good. :)

  12. toontzsays:

    Great post, very educational. Great business practices, too.

  13. Sarahsays:

    This post really hit a nerve with me because my husband’s mother died (before I even met him) of diabetes, and she was a chocolate lover too. She passed that love of chocolate on to my husband, so I’m always trying new ways bake brownies, which are his favorite. I bet this chocolate would be a good way to start. ;)

  14. Gilsays:

    This was “vere” interesting.

    Gimme gimme chocolate.

  15. Always interesting to hear about awesome entrepreneurial women!

  16. Nikki57says:

    Wow that was really interesting!

  17. Sarasays:

    Mmmm, I would love some chocolate! Great interview!

  18. What a great idea to do these interviews! Your blog has really evolved over. Great work!

  19. Looking forward to the rest…

  20. Yum! I suppose I should just read more of your old posts to find out, but how did you become so interested in Vere chocolate? And where are they based? I think it’s awesome to have someone working on healthy chocolate (I hate stuff in sweets like high fructose corn syrup) and knowing where the beans come from.

    I think I should win the chocolate, because I’m pregnant. Who could be a better judge of chocolate than a pregnant woman? :)

  21. Sydneysays:

    Mmmm I love chocolate. And you are such a great writer! And I love your cupcakes. (Do you need some more compliments so I can get free chocolate?) Gee you look so thin Stef! And I love your hair….


  22. Tanyasays:

    This was a very interesting interview. I love learning about chocolate companies and how they choose the chocolate and why. Thank you!

  23. K.says:

    I’m so glad you are doing this! It is interesting that something I adore so much has such a rich, complex and varied background – fitting I suppose.

    I love chocolate, but never gave much thought to the processes involved. Thanks for opening up my eyes. I look forward to the next installments!

  24. Ivysays:

    Great Info! I just heard about this company, Cabaret that is brewing chocolate and selling it online as a drink extract or something. It’s supposed be a really good pick-me-up without the effects that coffee usually gives you.

  25. Camilasays:

    fascinating… the transition from fashion to chocolate might explain the lovely styling of the packaging and the chocolates themselves.

  26. Very informative and fascinating interview!

  27. Very informative and fascinating interview!

  28. Very informative and fascinating interview!

  29. Very informative and fascinating interview!

  30. Very informative and fascinating interview!

  31. I will do your ironing for chocolate!

  32. Karasays:

    Very cool and interesting. There seems to be a lot to know about the chocolate making business. :)

  33. Cool! I enjoy your blog!

  34. What an interesting interview. I’ve never read so much about the inspiration for a product before. It’s very touching.

  35. Traceysays:

    Great interview – i’m looking forward to hearing the rest of the story, as well. You don’t think about these things as you are enjoying the results of all their hard work. This makes me want to try Vere Chocolate even more!

    I don’t have a blog, but would love to participate in the contest. my email is Thanks for the contest.

  36. This is an interesting interview, and I’m looking forward to part II.

    Also, I’d love a chance to win if Canadians are eligible.

  37. Gracesays:

    there are so many fun ways to play off of “vere.” i look forward to all of them. :)

  38. Verenasays:

    Mmm, I wonder if chocolatiers who make their own couverture produce better-quality chocolate. Guess I’ll have to try to find out.

    Thanks for the insightful interview and the giveaway!

  39. Verenasays:

    haha, and i just noticed how my name’s so similar to this brand of chocolate. what’s the origin of the name “vere”?

  40. Bebesays:

    It’s interesting comparing the Vere philosophy to the presentation I saw with a Ghiradelli chocolatier, I’m proud of Vere for knowing exactly where the beans come from and caring about the farmers.

  41. Megansays:

    Count me in! I would love to try this chocolate.

  42. Brilynnsays:

    You can never have too much chocolate!

  43. i’m always intrigued by how the first seed of a company is planted, but also the background of the entrepeneur. i happen to be a fan of hue, so i’m really excited to hear that kathy has been able to find success in other unrelated ventures. totally sweet!

  44. LyBsays:

    Such an interesting interview. I think that is my dream job! :)

  45. Laurasays:

    Great interview! I’m on a detox diet right now which means no chocolate for me, so reading this was a good way to itch my sweet tooth! :)

  46. Bonnie K.says:

    Great interview. I’m fascinated by different chocolate tastes. These look really interesting.

  47. Stefsays:

    Everyone! Thanks so much for participating. I’m glad you are enjoying the interview! There a few more hours left in today’s contest and I’ll announce the winner tomorrow.

    To answer your questions:

    Jennifer – I’m interested in all good quality chocolate. You can read about my particular interest in Vere here.

    Ivy – Interesting. I’m going to have to check them out. Maybe a future interview. :)

    Verena – According to their website, “verē means ‘real’ in Latin, and at verē, our chocolates live up to their name.”

  48. Joshsays:

    I enjoyed the couverture tidbit, too. Good stuff.

  49. Chucksays:

    I never thought much about chocolate until the recent push by some makers to allow fats other than cocoa butter to be used. I’ll be interested to read the rest of the interview.

    (Will we suffer through ‘vere’ puns all week?)

  50. Karensays:

    Thanks for the informative interview and the generous giveaway. Look forward to reading the rest of the posts.

  51. Funny, I too worked in fashion and am now working with food (especially chocolate, yay). I wear Hue stockings all the time, so it’s nice knowing there’s a connection.

  52. rudysays:

    It’s true, the market for fine dark chocolate is so new! I remember when there were far fewer choices for bars; one would have to visit a chocolatier. Now we are really getting spoiled!

  53. Wonderful!

    P.S. How did you know that chocolate is my weakness? You have hindered my super hero capabilities…

  54. “Chocolatier” has got to be one of the best professions there is!! Looking forward to the rest of the series.

  55. I cook for a diabetic and realize the challenge of finding good chocolate to turn into non sugary chocolate love. Seattle is just right over there, so Theo’s is a known, but still too sugary for a diabetic. I’ve not tried Vere. I long to find a high quality dark chocolate.

  56. Great post–very informative. She has my dream job!

  57. Kimisays:

    Wow, great post,hope I win today!

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