February 7, 2013

Pastry chefs work hard but we get some nice perks. One is the ability to source, buy, bake with, and eat a seemingly endless variety of good quality chocolate.

I feel sorry for consumers who don’t have access to these amazing companies when they go to the store. It can be frustrating too as I write some recipes with a particular chocolate in mind or I just want everyone to enjoy what I have.

Luckily there’s chocosphere.com.

I discovered them years ago when I was writing the Resources section for one of my cookbooks. I googled something generic like “good quality baking chocolate retail sources ” and up they popped. Keep in mind this was around 2000. Now if you type in that same phrase you get 338 million results.

Joanne and Jerry Kryszek started Chocosphere, located in Portland, Oregon, in 1997. Joanne didn’t care for American chocolate and after tasting some imported chocolate given to her by a friend she decided 1) she had to get more and 2) if she liked it others probably would too.

In the first year they sold 5 different chocolate brands. The billiards table in their 800 square foot basement was the shipping and billing department for many years. Today they have 50 brands sourced from around the world that they sell both retail and wholesale. On any given day 1-3 pallets are shipped out. They moved out of the basement in 2003 to a 6000 square foot facility- 5000 square feet of it at controlled 60 degrees and 1000 square feet at 55 degrees.

Chocosphere has the widest selection of Valrhona, Guittard and Callebaut and also more obscure specialty companies like Amedi, from Italy, Caffé-Tasse from Belgium and Chocovic from Spain. They get as much chocolate from the source as they can. It would take too much space to list everything they have. You will have to check it out yourself. Be prepared to me impressed.

But Joanne and Jerry operate more than an impersonal internet sales company that sells chocolate. All you “see” of them is their website but behind that internet page are two people who live and breathe chocolate. Every Thursday morning they sample chocolate with their coffee group.  When I asked them what chocolates (not brands but specific varieties) were their favorites this prompted a 20 minute conversation about the chocolate’s many nuances and how impossible it is to pick one or two. They are truly a passion driven service oriented niche distributor.

I have a goal of trying every chocolate they sell. I’m getting there. I imagine by the time I get near the end of the current list they will have discovered more. I hope so.

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