getting fresh: Democratizing chocolate
Should any of you happen to be around Colonial Williamsburg this Friday, I urge you to stop by the R. Charlton Coffeehouse, which will be formally dedicated at 4 p.m. that day.
What better way to initiate the frenetic gift-giving holiday season than to walk through time and enjoy a nice, warm chocolate drink served up pre-Revolutionary style? Yea, yea, it says R. Charlton Coffeehouse, but they also served tea (no surprise) and chocolate back then.
According to the archaeological evidence recovered from the coffeehouse, good old Richard Charlton, the Williamsburg wigmaker who opened up the establishment, also offered an epicurean menu consisting of fish, shellfish, meat, game, even peacock. (Feathers on the side, please.) More importantly, he offered a place for gentlemen (unfortunately, ladies were not allowed) to gather and make deals, discuss business, digest news from England and, well, just gossip.
So why so much hoopla about an 18th century coffeehouse, even if it did serve chocolate? First, there’s a bit of history involved with this place.
According to accounts gleaned by researchers at Colonial Williamsburg, R. Charlton Coffeehouse’s porch served as the backdrop for one of the first examples of colonial resentment toward England. In 1765, an angry crowd chased George Mercer, the appointed Stamp Act fee collector, to the front porch of the coffeehouse. No one in the Colonies appreciated being taxed without due process or representation, it seems.
Luckily for Mercer, Francis Fauquier, the royal governor, intervened and saved the Stamp Act bureaucrat from being pummeled. As it turned out, Mercer resigned his position shortly afterward, with British Parliament repealing the Act a year later.
But it wasn’t only for history’s sake that the R. Charlton Coffeehouse was reborn. You guessed it, there’s a chocolate connection.
Six years ago, Deborah and Forest Mars (yes, that Mars) visited Colonial Williamsburg. Deborah saw chocolate being made at the village as part of the site’s “foodways” program. One thing led to another, and it didn’t take long before she and her husband founded the Colonial Chocolate Society, an organization interested in chocolate as an important food in the colonial era.
As Colin Campbell, president of Colonial Williamsburg, writes, “Forrest Mars was intrigued by the role of chocolate in colonial times. It was used as rations for the troops, and it was available to eat and drink in taverns.”
Continued discussions led to the Mars couple to donate $5 million to reconstruct Charlton’s Coffeehouse, the first such reconstruction in Colonial Williamsburg in 50 years, thus enabling good chocolate, coffee and tea to be served once again in the historic village.
Oh, yes, one last footnote: Unlike Europe, where chocolate was available to only the rich and aristocratic during the late 18th century, here in the Colonies the “food of the gods” was a bit more plebian.
Used extensively with food and available as a hot drink in three forms -- water chocolate (it’s not just water and chocolate; a shot of brandy is added), milk chocolate or wine chocolate -- it remained more of a commodity than a luxury item. Thus, it was taxed less and made available to more. Sounds wonderfully American.
Today, chocolate’s available in a variety of formats and accessible to most, from affordable compounds to singularly rich and complex premium works of art. Given the season, that sure calls for a chocolate toast … and thanks.
Mars completes solar garden at Hackettstown, N.J. headquarters
Last week, Mars Chocolate North America celebrated the completion of a solar garden at its Hackettstown, N.J, headquarters. Comprised of more than 28,000 ground-mounted solar panels on 18 acres, the garden is the largest solar facility in New Jersey and the first project to be completed by PSEG Solar Source, a subsidiary of PSEG.
The solar garden provides 2 MW of power during peak hours, which is the equivalent of approximately 20% of peak energy consumption at the Mars plant, where M&M’S Chocolate Candies are made. It will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1,000 metric tons, which is equal to removing 190 vehicles from the road each year.
A long-term partnership between Mars Chocolate North America and PSEG Solar Source will ensure the solar garden’s success. The latter owns the system; Mars has contracted for the entire output of the system; juwi solar, Inc., a solar energy company based in Boulder, Colo., performed the engineering, procurement and construction services for the system and also will provide the initial operation and maintenance services.
“Sustainability is one of the most pressing concerns of our time,” says Todd Lachman, president of Mars Chocolate North America. “At Mars, we are aware of the scale of the challenge, and we are determined to be part of the solution.”
The solar garden project supports aggressive energy goals put in place by New Jersey, whose Energy Master Plan calls for 20% of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources by the year 2020.
In related news, Mars Chocolate North America has unveiled significant sustainable renovations to its Hackettstown site. The colorful, open design encourages flexible, more efficient ways of working, including a variety of unassigned work spaces and conference rooms, each featuring unique seating arrangements, from booths with bench seats to café seating and upholstered chairs paired with small coffee tables. The company also will be applying for LEED Gold Certification. Environmental enhancements to the plant include the installation of water-conserving fixtures that reduce water usage by more than 30%, a reduction in energy use by 15%, an upgraded roof utilizing a highly reflective material that offsets the direct heat gain to the building and the utilization of more than 20% recycled content in materials, from carpet to ceiling tiles.
For more information about Mars, visit www.mars.com. For additional photos of the solar garden and its construction, go to www.pseg.com/solargarden.
Barry Callebaut announces fiscal sales report for 2009
At Barry Callebaut, sales volume is up 4.1%, despite a declining global chocolate market. That’s according to the Swiss company’s recently released report for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2009.
The company attributes its growth to three factors: its early expansion into emerging and high-growth markets, the implementation of outsourcing deals and market share gains.
The strength of the company's reporting currency, the Swiss franc, compared to most other currencies, had a negative impact on sales revenue, operating profit (EBIT) and net profit for the year. In local currencies, sales revenue grew by 8.5% and came in at CHF 4,880.2 million (or +1.3% in CHF).
Based on considerable operational improvements as well as tight cost savings programs, and despite the effect of the anticipated lower combined cocoa ratio (the "combined cocoa ratio" is the combined sales price for cocoa butter and cocoa powder relative to the cocoa bean price), operating profit (EBIT) increased by 9.5% in local currencies. In Swiss francs, the increase was 2.8% to CHF 350.8 million.
Net profit for the year went up 18.5% in local currencies; in CHF terms, it grew strongly by 10.4% to CHF 226.9 million.
For the full fiscal report, visit www.barrycallebaut.com.
Shaman Chocolates introduces new organic gift boxes
Shaman Chocolates, Soquel, Calif., has introduced organic gift boxes containing flower-shaped solid chocolates in the following flavors: Dark Chocolate with Ruby Raspberries; Dark Chocolate with Coconut; Dark Chocolate with Acai, Lemon and Orange; and Dark Chocolate with Green Tea & Ginger.
Shoppers also can choose a combination of two unique tastes: Extra Dark Chocolate, and Milk Chocolate with Macadamia Nuts and Hawaiian Pink Sea Salt.
In addition, chocolate lovers can customize their orders by choosing from the following selections: Milk Chocolate; Dark Chocolate with Ruby Raspberries; Dark Chocolate with Coconut; Dark Chocolate with Green Tea & Ginger; Dark Chocolate with Acai, Lemon and Orange; and Extra Dark Chocolate. Each box comes with eight bites of the chosen flavor.
Like all Shaman Chocolates, the gift boxes are adorned with images of the Huichol Indians and their artwork. As always, all profits from the sale of the certified organic and Fair Trade Shaman chocolates help support the tribe, which lives in central western Mexico in the Sierra Madre Mountains.
For more information, visit www.shamanchocolates.com.