Hallelujah! Holy Chocolate is here!
This is chocolate for people who don’t think chocolate is chocolaty enough
By John Nava
Hallelujah! Do we ever have a fantastic, locally made chocolate bar in our stores! It’s called Holy Chocolate and it’s made in Burlingame, Calif. by Father Stan Smith. I’m not just talking any father here, he’s the real deal!
Meeting Father Stan Smith is a real inspiration. He’s an entrepreneur, an ordained Eastern-Syrian Orthodox priest in the Church of The East, a former QA beta program manager, a former developer for the standard paperwork management software for rocket scientists with the Department of Defense for the USA and Canada in the 90s…and the list goes on and on.
Of all his titles and hats the Rev. Fr. Stan Smith, Chorepiscopa, wears, we’re most excited to tell you about his chocolatiering hat; Father Stan is the formulator of Holy Chocolate. It is Easter week, after all!
Father Stan’s company Mar Toma Enterprise (Burlingame, Ca) creates gourmet, artisan drinking chocolate and single-origin chocolate ingots, or bars, which are hand cut and wrapped by Father Stan and his small crew. You can get three Holy Chocolate bars free this week with your coupon when you spend $30 or more.
But wait…there’s more! As it’s nearly Easter, we’ve pulled a Willy Wonka and hidden a golden ticket in two Holy Chocolate bars – one at the Redwood City store and one at the Palo Alto store. Each golden ticket winner will receive a giant, two-feet-tall chocolate egg that’s filled with mini chocolate eggs! So, hurry in with your coupon. Only the chocolates we hand out to coupon-carrying customers have winning potential.
Wondering just how exactly Holy Chocolate came to be now that you know Father Stan has such a decorated history? The answer is simple.
“It all came to be because all other hot chocolate stank,” said Father Stan.
Father Stan, a California native who was ordained in 2003, found himself in a situation with which we’re all familiar. It was a cold night and he wanted something warm, but not coffee.
“I opened a packet of cheap mix, but it was so sugary that it made me feel like the fillings in my teeth were sizzling,” said Father Stan. “I began to wonder why it’s hard to find good drinking chocolate, and soon after that evening I saw a spot on TV where a woman talked about making her own chocolate mix. That’s when I started my own quest.”
Father Stan’s original intention was to make the best instant drinking chocolate for his own enjoyment, so he took time to gather chocolate and ingredient samples to evaluate what was best. The first variety he developed is what he now calls the European, a dark chocolate mix with classic, Old World spices – it took him nearly five years to get the mix just right.
“I served it after church one day and when the women drank it they really flipped out, I thought they’d seen a vision of the resurrected Messiah,” joked Father Stan. “The following week some different women came by for counseling, but all they really wanted was chocolate. That’s when I thought I should try my hand at selling it.”
The outta-this-world chocolaty goodness that is the Holy Chocolate single-origin chocolate ingots, or chocolate bars, (the free item this week when you spend $30 or more) got their start about a year ago. Father Stan took his time finding chocolate that “made the grade and could take on European chocolates” because his just-add-water drinking chocolate had received many accolades and good reviews and he didn’t want to come out with something that was just so-so.
Not to worry, Father Stan. Your chocolate bars are most definitely not so-so! Plus, ladies, correct me if I’m wrong, but how can you go wrong with a gourmet, single-origin bar that has only 125 calories in one large satisfying portion?
The term “single origin” indicates all the cacao beans used in that piece of chocolate are from a single region. The percentage noted next to the name, for example Hawaii 38%, indicates cacao content, a combination of cocoa powder and cacao fat, which is part of the cacao bean. A higher percentage equals a darker or fuller chocolate flavor.
Growing regions and farming practices greatly influence the cacao bean’s flavor – not unlike the differences in flavor of coffee beans or wine grapes grown in different regions. The flavors of the cacao beans from various growing regions are so interesting and individual, “just how God made them,” that Father Stan names the bars simply after the region in which the bean was grown. This sets Holy Chocolate apart from big brand cocoa and chocolate because most of the chocolate people buy are blends that have been mixed to make a single, uniform flavor that can be consistently produced in large quantities.
Take for example the Holy Chocolate Hawaiian 38% bar (in the light blue wrapping). It has a balanced sweetness with a tropical fruit flavor, similar to how coffee beans from Hawaii have a slightly floral and citrus aroma. Father Stan has six chocolate bars to choose from, and no two really taste alike: Hawaiian 38% (milk chocolate), Columbia 65% (dark chocolate), Ecuador 65% (dark chocolate), Madagascar 65% (dark chocolate), Venezuela 65% (dark chocolate) and Midnight 91%, a dark, bittersweet artisan blend chocolate. All six flavors featured on our giveaway are detailed on Father Stan’s website.
The Hawaiian is a true milk chocolate that simply melts in your mouth. As a specialty foods buyer I taste a lot of chocolates…chocolates from California as well as renowned chocolates from Switzerland or Belgium, and I must say that Father Stan’s milk chocolate is one of the best I’ve ever had.
Editor’s note: this is a 100% true statement from Nava. When he does select a rare chocolate snack from the store floor, it’s most likely the Hawaiian 38% Holy Chocolate bar.
Father Stan’s cacao beans are from around the world, but the chocolate is processed locally near the Napa Valley. Both his chocolate bars and drinking chocolates all feature real ingredients, including real California pasture cow’s milk (used in the cocoa mix and come bars), real cane sugar, lots of real cacao and genuine vanilla (in the products featuring vanilla).
Each outer wrapper on Holy Chocolate products features a flavor profile and wine pairing suggestion. The inside is inscribed with a unique and complete Psalm from The Holy Bible, specially chosen by Father Stan to match the chocolate’s personality and to uplift the spirit as the chocolate delights your senses.
“Midnight is the darkest and most intense chocolate bar I make so I selected the 23rd Psalm because ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death’ seemed to go with it,” said Father Stan. “None of the Psalms are sad, there aren’t any ‘Lord, they’re all against me!’ verses because it is chocolate after all! The Midnight is unique in that it tastes like a great, moist, rich chocolate that’s void of grittiness, dryness and bitterness, giving ultra or bittersweet chocolate lovers everything they’ve every wanted.”
From bookmarks to cubicle decor to being framed as art, Holy Chocolate fans have found favorite ways to reuse and display their favorite chocolate bar Psalms.
“Although it probably won’t hang in the Louvre anytime soon, we’d be just as honored if it hangs on your refrigerator,” said Father Stan.
Father Stan’s contribution to the chocolate industry has been recognized by national media including CNN Money, Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, Cookie magazine and The New York Times. It’s also been reviewed by nationally rated chefs and Clark Guittard himself said the Amsterdam variety of Holy Chocolate’s drinking chocolate – the chocolatiest of them all – “tastes like you’re eating an 85% chocolate bar.”
We sell Holy Chocolate bars for $1.99 each, a fantastic price for the quality of the chocolate, not to mention each bar is hand cut and wrapped. “I want to make sure everyone can try the chocolate, plus it’s an evangelical product, so it doesn’t need to be cost prohibitive,” said Father Stan. “Think of it as having a $7 prime rib; it’s more expensive than a hamburger, but for quality prime rib it’s cheap.”
Father Stan is a Cor-Bishop and pastors the Triumphant Christ part of the Orthodox Church of the East. His congregation meets at 5 p.m. every Saturday (dinner to follow) at the Church of the Valley chapel, located at 400 Winchester Blvd. in Santa Clara, Calif. Mar Toma Enterprise also creates a line of Burnt Sacrifice BBQ sauce and BBQ rubs. They’re also all natural and are of competition-class BBQ quality. Look for Saint Sauce, Fiery Trials and Judgment Day sauces in our stores.
Don’t forget to pick up your free Holy Chocolate bars this week when you spend $30 or more. They’d make a great Easter basket treat, but don’t wait too long to check the inside of your bars for the winning golden ticket. We don’t want you to miss out on winning the giant chocolate egg! Happy Easter to all!
P.S. look on Father Stan’s website for recipes using Holy Chocolate drinking chocolate, including Chocolate French Toast, Old Fashioned Fudge and Chocolate Cake Bliss.