Cacao is the time

Some of you may have been enjoying chocolate candy today, whether in bunny form or otherwise. I have a family member who sometimes gives up sweets for Lent, and he always looks forward to some chocolate on Easter.

But I’m looking forward to some chocolate that I have coming in the mail next week.

I am on a committee organizing a writing festival which will be held this fall at The Fly Arts Center, under the auspices of Bedford County Arts Council. In order to raise some of the money for this project, we’ve been having fundraisers in connection with the plays at The Fly. At the last play, Sherri Frame, our writing festival committee chair, set up and sold snacks in the lobby.

When I realized that The Fly’s next play would be a comedy-mystery called “Death By Chocolate,” I immediately thought of my friend from college Paul Picton. Paul, who at the time was about to take early retirement from a successful career in the aviation industry, came to see me in Shelbyville a few years ago when he found himself in Nashville on business. He told me at that time about his next project: a bean-to-bar chocolate company, Maverick Chocolate, in Cincinnati.

Now, Paul travels around the world, negotiates with cocoa producers for ethically-sourced, fair-trade cacao, then brings those beans to Cincinnati, where he turns them into award-winning small-batch chocolates.

There are different levels of dark chocolate, as well as flavors — “Fahrenheit 513” includes some heat, while “Prohibition” has a little bourbon. Both have won awards.

In a nod to Paul’s former career, the labels all feature old-timey engravings of would-be flying machines.

In just the past few years, Maverick has won all sorts of awards for its chocolate bars. I haven’t yet gotten the chance to visit the shop in Cincinnati, but I’ve sent several people there when I knew they were going to be in the area, and they’ve all been delighted. In one case, they were able to bring me back a bar.

Well, when I told Paul about the play, and our writing festival fundraiser, he graciously agreed to send us a few bars, which we will raffle off, selling tickets over both weekends of the production.

As I was excitedly telling the other committee members about this online, someone made a wistful comment about wanting to taste some of the chocolate herself. I got to thinking about that, and so I got on the Maverick website and placed an order — two bars, and a bottle of cacao nibs. This is a high-quality product, and so it’s a special indulgence.

So now I am expecting two packages from Maverick this week — the donation, and my personal order.

By the way, not to end on a somber note, but when I say that Maverick uses ethically-sourced, fair-trade cacao, I was hinting that most of the chocolate we eat here in the U.S. (and I’m as big an offender as anyone) is not ethically-sourced. Here’s a story from Fortune magazine with more information about the use of child labor and slave labor in the cacao industry. Paul, and other producers with which he’s allied, get their beans from producers who pay a fair wage and do not use child labor.