Guest Blog Post: Doreen Leong
Disclosure: Chococlectic approached me with a free sample box to evaluate. I was so intrigued by their business model, that I decided to feature them on the blog.
Today I got to chat with Doreen Leong of Chococlectic, a craft chocolate subscription box company that sends curated chocolate bars. I got to find out a bit about her process.
What is the most exciting thing right now about bean to bar chocolate?
The fact that there are many new American bean to bar chocolate makers popping up! This tells me that there is a demand for craft chocolate and that we are slowly changing the chocolate industry – paying farmers better, closing the gap between chocolate lovers and farmers and the consumers are beginning to understand the benefits of enjoying craft chocolate bars. We are also slowly getting introduced to more regions – Vietnam, India, etc and this is very exciting to me!
What did you do before you started Cococlectic, and how did you transition into the chocolate industry?
I worked in marketing and advertising before going into chocolate. I took professional classes in baking and patisserie to better understand the craft. There’s still so much to learn and I’m always learning from the chocolate makers. Cococlectic started with my sister. She lives in Singapore and I would always ship her boxes of craft chocolate to taste. One day someone suggested I started a subscription company since I was already doing it for my sister and so I did! We’re now running 6 years strong!
What is your philosophy behind the chocolates you choose for your boxes, and how you choose flavor profiles to go together?
We feature American chocolate makers who make their bars using less than 5 ingredients. This is important to us because we feel that we can taste the beans and the flavors of the bar in it’s purest form without adding much to it. We try to feature small batch chocolate makers, those who we might not have heard of but have great bars. We look for rare bars using unique origins. A Venezuela bar from a maker can taste completely different from another Venezuela bar from another maker. So we taste the bars, find the unique characteristic and mouth feel.
Tell us about your team. How do you all work together?
We have a very small and lean team. There’s 3 of us (myself, my husband and business partner Brent Wallace and my sister Coleen Leong) and a few part time help during production week. We have several tasters who help us determine if the bars should be featured. Most of the time we’re sourcing chocolate makers, tasting them and getting them ready to be featured.
How do you find new chocolate makers to feature?
We are very fortunate that many chocolate makers reach out to us asking to be on Cococlectic. We also look around to see who’s new and reach out to them directly. The chocolate industry is very small so it’s not difficult to see who’s a new maker.
What is one thing most people don’t know/realize/understand about craft chocolate?
People think that craft chocolate is over priced. What they don’t know is that it’s extremely difficult to make a chocolate bar. The ingredients are expensive – the chocolate makers buy beans from the farmers paying them fair wage (it’s no easy work for the farmers, believe me I’ve been there and tried it, it’s really a hard laborious work). The chocolate maker process takes many steps, the equipment is expensive to purchase and very labor intensive. Sure you can use automatic machinery to process them but you still need manual labor for some other part of the process like wrapping the bars, etc. Any smaller chocolate makers may not have the capital to purchase machinery.
What are some of the coolest things you’ve gotten to do/places you’ve gotten to go because of chocolate?
We we got to visit Ning’s farm in Malaysia (Chocolate Concierge). He took us to the farm. We got to see his process and understand how he helps and educates the villagers to harvest cocoa pods.
What is the best chocolate dessert you ever tasted?
Ah… It’s a toss between the chocolate souffle I make and the dark chocolate shortbread cookie in Dandelion’s recipe book. Both are so decadent.