Kerstin’s Chocolates (11812 121 Street) opened its first store, The Cocoa Room, about three weeks ago. I have seen their signature Chocophilia bars at shops around the city, but had never purchased one to try. A random Wednesday seemed like a good time as any to see what all the fuss was about.
From the website, a quote from founder Kerstin Roos about what sets their products apart:
“There are three big differences between our chocolates and the majority of chocolates out there. We use only single-bean aromatic varieties from the top-end plantations in the world. We make our own products by hand for the best quality control and freshness. And we are exploring ways to connect with our local food culture by incorporating local products like organic Evans cherries grown just outside of Edmonton, or locally grown hemp hearts into our recipes.”
The Cocoa Room, tucked underneath a residential apartment building, is tiny. Clean white, with shelves neatly organized to show off its wares, the interior reminded me very much of the boutiques in the High Street area. As I walked in, I could hear pounding – not the sound of hammers, but of de-moulding chocolate.
A store clerk immediately came out to greet me, and once I let her know that this was my first visit, she started introducing some of their Chocophilia flavour creations. The website only lists 13 varieties, but as she gave me a sample to try that isn’t included in the online catalogue, I do believe the store has more extensive stock. The white chocolate lime was such an unusual combination, but worked, melding the richness of the high cocoa butter content with bites of citrus tang. Chocophilia Hot (with cayanne pepper) snuck up on me, needing a few seconds before releasing its heat in the back of my throat. I also tried Kerstin’s Chocolate Caviar – cocoa nibs from Venezuela dipped in 65% dark chocolate then rolled in cocoa powder. Kind of like a cross between a cocoa puff and a coffee bean, I’m not sure they’re as addictive as advertised, but I can see them being used as a unique garnish on desserts.
Beyond their house-made bars, they also sell imported, single-origin chocolate bars, drinking chocolate, melting chocolate, and yes, even books about chocolate (I spied Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!). The store will also begin offering monthly chocolate tastings (for just $15) in March, although that sitting is already fully booked.
I ended up with two bars – the Fleur de Sel (49% milk chocolate with sea salt) and the Mocha Bean (65% dark chocolate with crushed coffee beans). Chocophilia is not cheap – at $3.95 for a 43g bar, this isn’t your average corner store craving run. But with the undeniable appeal of being an Edmonton owned and operated business, and their admirable ideals for purchasing locally, it was a small price to pay for contributing to a home-grown company.
Back to the chocolate – the clerk said that because all of the chocolate is made in-store, freshness is guaranteed. I could tell this was true just from opening the packets – the aroma was unmistakable. The salt kernels in the Fleur de Sel were detectable, but not as a point of distinction. I much preferred the Mocha Bean – the crunchy additive of fresh Transcend Coffee-roasted beans was delightful, and of course, the tried and true combination of coffee and chocolate was a winner.
It occurred to me that incorporating locally-grown or manufactured products into a dinner party would be a subtle way of introducing friends to what is available in the city. From an Inspired Market Garden salad to organic vegetables from Peas on Earth, to beef from Spring Creek Ranch (Judy Schultz just published a story about the family behind the farm), it would be an interesting exercise to spur discussion about the locavore movement, and to share knowledge about the stories behind products – something that is almost always absent from groceries picked up en masse at the supermarket.
Check out The Cocoa Room for some great chocolate goods, and let me know your favorite flavours!