I am an unabashed lover of chocolate. I believe it is proof we are meant to be happy. I believe it is good for you like all things in moderation. Or maybe even in slightly more than moderation. I’m thinking of an amount that would be considered the high end of moderate, but you know, still within the range, right? Not excessive at all. Near the edges of excess. But not. It would totally still count as middle-of-the road.
I believe from the moment I ate my first mini Special Dark at five years old, I was initiated instantly into the truth of its naming.
Which is why when my dear friend Enna, purveyor of her own brand of craft bean-to-bar chocolate, recently turned to me and said, “I don’t know if we would be such close friends if I hadn’t started making chocolate,” I turned completely pink. I’d obviously been exposed as the shallowest person in the entire Universe. I could barely meet her gaze I was so embarrassed, as scene after scene played across my memory: getting to taste some of her first test batches, being served drinking chocolate in a delicate china cup that she’d hand-delivered to my house, being gifted leftovers from the latest bar production in plastic baggies. Multiple times. “You’re my supplier for sure,” I used to joke.
I mean, I love my friend but damn did I also love her chocolate. Who could blame me? It was magic. Eating it was such an enjoyable sensory experience, but the quality of the ingredients and the care taken with its production made it unlike anything I had ever sampled. Eating it by itself was singularly amazing and cooking with it made anything a treasure.
Chastened, I met her gaze prepared to extoll her personal virtues and rhapsodize poetically about how much I cared about her. Humbled, I wanted to reassure her I would never put her chocolate above our friendship, and if I had inadvertently done so in the past I was truly sorry. As I began to apologize however, I noticed something.
Enna was blushing too.
What she’d meant was that chocolate had brought her back into the world. She’d deepened connections and friendships because of it. She was embarrassed because she thought I had exposed an equivalent shallowness in her, that without chocolate she’d have no reason to reach out socially. Busted for being nice to me because I was a potentially good customer.
I thought she thought I’d used her for her chocolate, and she thought I thought she’d done the same.
By the time she discovered small-batch chocolate making, Enna had lived many lives career-wise. She was at a point where she and her husband’s wedding photography business was successful but she was searching for a way to stretch her creativity in new directions. She’d also started a conference for other professional photographers, called Inspire. She created it to bring her colleagues together with the hope that their alliance would enhance the experience of what they do for a living. It worked. Inspire helped fill in the gaps for her while she figured out how to deal with a deep restlessness inside her that was starting to demand attention.
She was looking for who she terms “my people”. Her focus turned toward two people principally — Evan Mallet, her friend and owner-chef of The Black Trumpet restaurant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Sarah Hart proprietress of Alma, a small batch chocolatier in Portland, Oregon. She was fascinated by what they were able to do through their work, which didn’t seem to just be about the production of good food. What they did was about more than the mastery of the craft or the way the profession demanded creativity. She noticed that when she talked to them and spent time with them, she was captivated by the way they worked, which was “straight from the heart”. And then there was the way the results affected their customers. Their vision for what they did included the elements of connection and community.
Then one day she used a groupon to take a bon bon making workshop down in Boston, because it sounded like fun.
The moment she knew her interest in bean-to-bar chocolate had legs was when she decided to use her profits from that year’s Inspire conference to buy chocolate making equipment. Usually that money had translated into a tiny bit of fun money and the rest was designated for living expenses. Since the truffle workshop she’d been up late more nights than she could count either pouring over online websites devoted to the art and craft of small batch chocolate, or worrying about whether this was an interest that could actually carry her into her future. With the purchase of a grinder, she took a leap.
The first batch was made at her mother’s house in Vermont. She nonchalantly told her husband she was going to visit her mom, careful not to alarm him with the depth of her obsession. Casually pointing at the unopened box with the strange looking appliance in it, she told him, “I’m just going to see if this thing actually makes chocolate”. She roasted the beans she’d ordered from Chocolate Alchemy in her mother’s oven.
The first batch was evidently awful. But with encouragement both from Mallet and others, she kept making batches that got better and better. And wryly she told me, “At some point in order to keep doing this as a hobby you have to sell what you make, because it’s too expensive to do it right just for fun”.
What always amazes me when I talk to people who take a successful gamble on what their hearts are telling them, and I’ve talked to too many of them to count now, is that they all say a version of the same thing. They say that circumstances just seemed to conspire to bring them to a point in time where the obvious thing to do was to take the leap. And that the discomfort of not leaping toward what or who they loved was worse than the fear of the unknown. And that is certainly true especially if you’re looking only at the cinematic last juncture in circumstances that appeared just before the story unfolded to its happy conclusion.
But that leaves out the full calculus of what’s happening to someone who has been continually willing to take the next indicated step, and then the next, and the next, and to keep walking until a dream has unfolded. Because the invisible energy of our intuition is guiding the analysis of everything we do in that process, and it is as compelling as any outer logical guideposts. I haven’t spoken to one successful person who didn’t listen to their gut getting there, in addition to relying on good cognitive decision making and talent. And hard work. Sometimes we forget that intuition is working with our other efforts, not against them. And so what’s left standing in the balance of our attention is a feeling that we’ve just got to do what they’ve got to do. We forget that there’s been an inner prompting all along.
And the best stories I’ve heard always involve someone who didn’t simply want out of a rut or more fulfillment in their careers or relationships just for themselves alone. Their dreams included something for somebody else too. Even if that desire to give back is a nebulous idea at the time. People dedication to the benefit of their passion for the greatest good and for the highest number, tend to get a lot more inner direction from that still small voice inside. And the results are usually abundant beyond their wildest dreams.
Enna is one of those people. She’s making chocolate for you. She wants you, the taster, the consumer of her product, to become part of the community that supports small batch chocolate, from the growers all the way to the shop. She wants you to have the experience of her chocolate. Because through every exquisitely made bar, you become connected to the labor, geography, and tradition that contributes to what you’re tasting.
But even if your experience is just that you simply love chocolate? That is more than enough, surely, because her chocolate is consistently interesting and outstanding.
And I would know. I’ve eaten a very high moderate amount of it.
If you’d like to support Enna Chocolate’s indiegogo campaign to buy a new, bigger grinder for her new factory, click here. Hint: there is lots of super cool swag.