The Royal Chocolate, located in Virginia Beach’s Town Center, is a chocolate lovers’ paradise. Founded by Brenda Tusing and Terry Reston in 2006, The Royal Chocolate serves up a mind-boggling number of chocolate treats created by hand just for their shop, as well as chocolate bars, truffles, chocolate covered caramel apples, chocolate novelty items, chocolate sauces, drink mixes, and themed gift baskets.
The shop also boasts a cozy café where patrons can relax in front of the fireplace and enjoy their signature Frozen Hot Chocolate, coffee, tea or indulge in a chocolate fondue for two.
All of the dark chocolate creations made by The Royal Chocolate feature Callebaut, a Belgium chocolate with 54% cocoa content. Callebaut milk chocolate, with about 45% cocoa, is The Royal Chocolate’s choice for milk chocolate treats. Both are smooth, flavorful, and delicious.
Though my son and I have been Royal Chocolate customers (Loyal Royals—subscribe to the newsletter and you can be one too!) since discovering the shop three years ago, I did not attend one of their Chocolate Tasting events until last week.
The tasting I was invited to review fell on my birthday, so I invited my 7 year old son Ibrahim to be my date. Dressed in his Sunday best, he was an enthusiastic student of chocolate throughout the evening.
About 15 eager chocolate students gathered in the café portion of the shop to taste several varieties each of dark, milk, and white chocolate, and learn more about their favorite treat. As one of her sales assistants passed out tidbits of each type of chocolate we tasted, Brenda Tussing knowledgably guided us through details of how and where cocoa beans are grown, the different ways chocolate is processed, fair trade practices, and how percentages of cocoa, cocoa butter and sugar affect taste.
For instance, white chocolate contains cocoa butter, but has NO cocoa content, and much more sugar than dark or milk chocolate. (In my mind, that’s not chocolate at all!) Dark chocolate has 50% cocoa or higher, while milk chocolate usually has 45% or below .
Reflecting the differences in our national palates, most European chocolate has much less sugar than American brands.
We also tasted some of the more innovative chocolate flavors including ingredients such as sea salt, hemp, balsamic vinegar, pop rocks, and cereal (sort of like the crisped rice in Crackle bars) —but not all in one bar!
For Ibrahim and I, two die-hard dark chocolate fans, the surprise hit find of the evening was the Divine Chocolate bar, an organic fair-trade milk chocolate bar manufactured on Germany from African cocoa beans.
As part of the fair-trade process, Ghanian tribal chiefs sit on the Divine board of directors, the cocoa farmers, who formed their own cooperative company titled Kuapa Kokoo, own 45% of the Divine Chocolate company.
Supported by Twin and SNV, a Dutch NGO, they buy their cocoa and sell it on to the Government Cocoa Buying Board. The cocoa farmers’ company name means “Good Cocoa Farmers Company”. Their motto is “Pa Pa Paa” which means “the best of the best of the best”.
They also help design the chocolate bar wrappers, with a subdued earthy palette and Adinkra symbols, often used in fabrics and crafts, each with its own meaning.
The heart symbol in the middle of the Divine logo is the Adinkra called AKOMA, meaning Patience & Harmony. I don’t know about you, but I could use a dose of both, in my self and those around me.
The group gathered for the tasting included several couples, and small groups of women who seemed to be enjoying a ladies night out; we were a fairly diverse group age and race wise. Everyone was interested in the topic and very friendly.
My 7 year old son, Ibrahim, the only child participating, was welcomed and treated to several ladies shares of the samples.
Yes, I’ve got a charmer on my hands. At age 4, his famous quote was: ‘Mama I like parties and I like women.” At the end of our Chocolate Tasting event, he said “Those women were very nice and very pretty; it was a great night! And the chocolate was good!”
And so it was.
The Royal Chocolate’s gourmet Chocolate Tasting Event is offered once a month. It costs $15 per person and includes samples of about 15 different chocolate bars, bottled water, 3 pieces of hand-made chocolate (given out at the end of the evening in festive little bags) , and 10% off any chocolate bar purchases made the same evening.