Holidays, especially the end-of-the-year ones! -- go hand in hand with desserts and sweet treats.
Some might say that’s one of the best parts of the holiday season: Splurging a little. There’s just something nostalgic about a good piece of chocolate, you know?
So, what are some of the best things to buy and try this time of year?
Sarah Mayo, with Cocoa Mill Chocolates, had some ideas. She and her husband Mike manage the family-owned business, and they’re quite the experts when it comes to all things chocolate.
Here’s what Mayo recommended:
Sure, we might be past Dec. 1, but you could still buy one and enjoy the chocolates -- especially when we’re talking about quality chocolate.
You might be wondering, what makes for a stand-out chocolate, anyway?
It’s all about a nice mouth-feel and a crisp break, and that has to do with tempering, Mayo said. When you’re making chocolate, you want to bring the temperature up and then drop it back down. At 92 degrees or so, it really starts to melt, which is perfect for us, because that’s also not too far from our body temperature. You can really taste the delicious flavors when chocolate is made well.
At Cocoa Mill, everything is all natural. The company doesn’t use preservatives or waxes, and you can tell, because the chocolate has a beautiful shine to it, Mayo said.
Cocoa Mill offers one adorned with a Santa face, and it’s filled with pretty and tasty chocolates. Some are holiday-themed, some have sprinkles; there’s some peppermint bark and other fun treats.
When it comes to chocolate, you might notice some of the store-bought brands can be dull in appearance. But when the chocolate is handcrafted fresh, it really makes a chocolate box like this one pop, Mayo said.
Where in the world might you find one of these?
Cocoa Mill, of course.
“He stands just over 2 ½ feet tall,” Mayo said with a laugh. “It’s definitely a statement piece.”
(He might be fun if you have a big family, or even to send as a gift!)
You can choose between “Season’s Greetings” or “Merry Christmas,” depending on what you celebrate.
It’s worth shopping local on an item like this. Cocoa Mill’s chocolatier makes everything fresh.
The company has a storefront and does its manufacturing in Lexington, and they also have a shop in Stanton, right downtown on Beverly Street.
“We’ve shipped to Canada and to Europe, and it all comes out of Lexington,” Mayo said.
This might be an excellent opportunity to support a local business, especially considering most of us might need to have chocolate on hand around the holidays, maybe to present as a hostess gift or even just to keep around the house.
“These are what we’re best known for,” Mayo said.
She’s not kidding. All truffles sound delicious, but if you’re going to buy some, you’ll probably want to start with Cocoa Mill’s. In the early 2000s, the Wall Street Journal did a nationwide blind taste test, and the company won for best overall truffles.
“We had to close down the store for several days just to fill orders,” she said. “They’re a signature in the world of chocolate. If you have a good truffle, people recognize you as a legit chocolatier. We’ve perfected them over time, and made sure it’s a good, quality item. It’s the gold-standard gift.”
Fun fact: Mayo said they didn’t even know they were being considered for the blind taste test. They filled an order like they would any other order, shipped it to the Wall Street Journal without knowing, and then found out they had won top honors. Cocoa Mill has since been recognized by multiple publications and media outlets, and Mike, Mayo’s husband and the chocolatier, has been honored as best chocolatier more than five times.
“He’s made this his own art,” Mayo said.
Some things to know
If you’re buying chocolate, keep that “local is better” mentality in mind.
Cocoa Mill uses superior fair-trade chocolate, dairy-fresh cream and butter, and natural flavors and liqueurs, Mayo said. When you buy fair-trade, you’re also helping developing countries promote sustainable farming and working toward achieving better trade conditions.
If you’re interested in Cocoa Mill but not ready or comfortable with shopping in-store due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Mayo said you can call in your order or place it online, and someone will bring your chocolate out to the car.
Happy chocolate shopping!