Page 1

G aragistas

Cindy Nguyen



Table of Contents Introduction

... 8

Chapter 1:

From ‘a garage’ to ‘The Garage’

... 12

Chapter 2:

Come in humble, come out hoity-toity?

... 17

Chapter 3:

Garages have more than just ‘junk’

... 22


... 26



For my dad,

who can no longer taste the sweeter side of the world; a pleasure diabetes has taken from him.



Foreword Chocolate has always been one of those affordable luxuries that can bring happiness to anyone, ranging from a toddler to the elderly. Its ability to bring such simple joys transcend both time and age. I’ve always been a fan of chocolate ever since I was a little girl. I was, regrettably, that three year old who would be begging my parents to buy me the king-sized chocolate bar in grocery stores and started a scene when they refused. Growing up and eating chocolate almost every day, I had an epiphany: my dad has type-two diabetes, so did he ever eat sweets before? I questioned him and he said that he used to always eat sweets, especially chocolate. It was such an upsetting thought for me: my dad being deprived of something that once made him so happy. More than anything, I want him to be able to experience delicious chocolate in a way that won’t harm his body at least one more time. Finding The Chocolate Garage was a thrill and adventure, making me feel like I’m one step closer to finding a bar that would be perfect for my dad. It’s a work-in-progress, but we’ll get there. 7



A culture. An art. A way of life. You don’t really expect chocolate to meet those criteria. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a garage that sold chocolate, either. Walking in on a Wednesday night, I really couldn’t help but wonder what I had gotten myself into. That moment I saw the light of the floral green tasting room illuminating a small radius of the path leading up to it, I truly believed I was about to enter chocolate heaven. I recall I was expecting to be overwhelmed with patrons discussing the finesse of chocolate and its complex flavors once I pushed open the door. The first thing that entered my ears was a discussion about babies. And then I figured, hey, just go with it and

have fun. To understand what’s really in chocolate, it’s best to trace its Aztec and Mayan roots in Mesoamerica, where they used to make a bitter chocolate drink from cacao beans mixed with cornmeal, chiles, and water. Fast forward to when Europeans brought cacao beans back to their homes, the bean-to-bar chocolate process began (Kerr). After the cacao pods are harvested, the beans are fermented, dried, and roasted to produce cacao nibs. What the chocolate maker wishes to do with the nibs is up to them, as chocolate is versatile and can be eaten as is or tampered with even further to produce an outstanding bar.



Commercial companies, however, tend to add excess flavors and ingredients to their chocolate bars to boost profits. It raises the question, is chocolate really chocolate? Sunita de Tourreil, proprietor of The Chocolate Garage believes “we need to call it candy bars because [it’s] not chocolate” (De Tourreil). Many generally define chocolate as a confection made from cacao beans and have a high cocoa butter content, which is what helps give chocolate that smooth texture audiences love. In spite of this, companies will generally substitute up to 5% of cocoa butter with vegetable oils to reduce production costs and emulate the chocolate taste. Candy bars nowadays will mention there’s chocolate in them in some way, but that doesn’t necessarily constitute it as a chocolate bar; it’s candy and fillings

with a synthetic chocolate coating (“What is chocolate”). Or perhaps the packaging will say it has a ‘chocolate taste,’ either way giving “a very different experience from tasting delicious chocolate” (De Tourreil). Knowing what’s on the ingredients list is all the rage now, with an increasing number of individuals becoming healthconscious. If consumers want chocolate, they should be getting chocolate and not cheated on by something that might be the equivalent of victory chocolate from Orwell’s 1984 or even Soylent Green. To beat the market, consumers must be more aware and have that knowledge. Forget the idea that being a know-it-all on a particular subject can be a bad thing; rather, Seth Leslie, a regular and helper for Sunita, likes to put it, “chocolate is a thing where it’s good to become a snob” (Leslie).

(Left) A box of Olive and Sinclair chocolate bars, displaying their Mexican-style Cinnamon and Chile. The Mexican-styled chocolate itself held a very coarse texture, where you can feel the sweet cinnamon grounds as it dissolves in your mouth right before the kick of the chili takes over your taste buds, leaving a slight heat in your mouth and a serious impression. 11

Chapter 1 From ‘a garage’ to ‘The Garage’ ‘The Garage’ From ‘a garage’ to Chapter 1


A typical Wednesday night with Sunita de Tourreil (bottom right) and her regulars.

Sunita, proprietor of The Chocolate Garage, started off indulging in Swiss chocolates and later moved onto studying in the field of biology at UCSF. Her real passion lies in exploring substantial development through the path of chocolate. Through meeting a native Quechua cacao farmer, she realized that

by selling high quality cacao beans, he was able to support his family and lead a better life. How many people are truly conscious of chocolate and the cacao beans it originates from capable of changing individuals’ lives for the better? Many consumers don’t even know that slaves in


third world countries pick the very cacao beans that go into the candy bar they’re about ready to bite into. I just even recently learned that if you flip a muffin pan upside-down, you could be making pastry cups. This goes to show just how informed the public is over the most trivial and lifechanging things. Sunita understands that industries who care more about mass production will not be paying cacao farmers justly and causes communities to be “living in pretty deep poverty” (De Tourreil). To retaliate against the ethical issues of unfair treatment and slave labor, the concept of ‘fair trade’ is introduced. 14

It might appear to be a complicated economic practice, but it’s really what it sounds like: farmers and/ or workers being fairly compensated for their efforts in their quality products around the world

(Shute). Sunita is one of the plethora of supporters of this practice, and some even go beyond, where “small makers are sort of innovating their own ways of impacting the farmers without having an

Regulars on a Wednesday night enjoying the atmosphere in The Chocolate Garage.


independent certifier like a fair trade organization” (De Tourreil). This links back with The Chocolate Garage’s motto, “Happy Future of Chocolate.” A concoction by Sunita, she genuinely wishes to see “a happy future for chocolate.” A future that would entail a variety of cacao trees helping to produce chocolates and promoting biodiversity, creating bars that will bring a smile at the

“You can’t make good chocolate from bad cacao, but you can make bad chocolate from good cacao.” — Seth Leslie


sheer deliciousness from simply chocolate. As industries grow, the demand for chocolate increases and companies will do what they can to supply that demand while also making the greatest profit possible. This eliminates making quality chocolate by using cheap cacao that holds no delicious flavors and infusing it into a mediocre bar that satisfies the masses who have never tasted real chocolate.

Chapter 2 Come in humble, come out hoity-toity? come out hoity-toity? Come in humble, Chapter 2



Buying commercial chocolates like Hershey’s, Cadbury, Nestlé, and Mars is the easiest way for anyone to have access to chocolate. Kick it up a notch in terms of quality and arguably, the brand names Lindt, Godiva, and Ghirardelli may come up. But would that quality be enough to satisfy someone who has frequented The Chocolate Garage? The answer, more than likely, would be no. Super regular, Zeina, has certainly noticed the difference after her many excursions at The Chocolate Garage. If you were to eat a commercial chocolate after tasting a bar made by Akesson’s, for example, “you expect the chocolate bar to deliver these flavor notes that you find in the chocolate we have here” (Zeina) and become thoroughly disappointed when the bar does not. “You get used to these flavors that you find in good quality cacao” (Zeina), and anything second-rate might not cut it for someone well-acquainted with The Chocolate Garage anymore. After visiting the garage several

times, even I became attuned to tasting chocolates that start off incredibly mellow and smooth and is suddenly impacted with a dark roasted flavor, ending on a sweet acidic note. William Mutch is a permaculture consultant/teacher who frequents the shop just as often as Zeina. He describes the experience as “chocolates hav[ing] their initial flavor and then they kind of go through like a number of different flavors and then there’s kind of the finish” (Mutch). I tried a Lindt chocolate after and it tasted quite monotonous. I was rather disappointed, and I’m not a picky eater to begin with, considering I once ate a bag of stale cookies that tasted like green onions. Let’s take a quick glimpse of a regular milk chocolate Hershey’s bar. The ingredient label says it is strictly chocolate, but made with several ingredients someone wouldn’t see from the bars at The Chocolate Garage. What stands out is this “soy lecithin,” “vanillin,” and “artificial flavor” (“Hershey’s”). Should those three

(Left) Rows of chocolate bars made by Patric. His chocolates are one of the few that best represent The Chocolate Garage, where he has created three exclusive bars for the shop alone such as The Rio Crunch and The BOSS. (Right) Fresh chocolates made by Momotombo Chocolate from Nicaragua. Some flavors sampled included Red Chile and Banana Whiskey,

ingredients really be in a chocolate bar that’s supposed to be just a chocolate bar? Soy lecithin is an additive that is commonly found in many chocolate bars. The ingredient sounds too scientific, and many average consumers may have no clue as to what it is. In reality, it is actually

a waste product from soybeans and is now incorporated into chocolate bars as an emulsifier, a substance to stabilize processed foods . High quality chocolate bars may use soy lecithin as well because of its property of binding cocoa butter and cocoa together for a smoother texture if 19

that’s what the maker is aiming for (“What Is Soy Lecithin”). And what is this “vanillin?” Is it vanilla? Is it supposed to be something akin to vanilla? Is vanilla supposed to be in chocolate in the first place? If vanilla ice cream isn’t made with cocoa, for example, why should there be vanilla in a chocolate bar? Vanillin is actually one of the main compounds that gives vanilla its distinct taste. The problem with vanillin, however, is that it is quite difficult to know whether the maker used synthetic vanillin or genuine vanillin in their bars, unless otherwise stated (“Case Studies”). The fact that Hershey’s indicated in their label ‘artificial flavors,’ one can easily assume that their chocolate used the synthetic version and adds to the fact that maybe Hershey’s isn’t giving you as high quality chocolate as they should be. 20

Depending on the chocolate maker and what the chocolate is supposed to taste like, vanillin will be added. What I noticed from looking at many fine chocolate bars though, was that the ingredients were very limited. At most, I would see three ingredients: cocoa beans, sugar, and possibly cocoa butter. The least amount in a bar was cocoa beans and sugar, and those two ingredients alone had my tongue tasting several different flavors, ranging from chocolate to acidic to roasted. With such a broad range of flavors from only two ingredients, the very idea of adding as much vanilla as chocolate industries do in their bars just may have chocolate enthusiasts scream, “Oh my god what is this—what is this taste there, who added vanilla—why did they add vanilla?!” (Zeina)


Chapter 3 Garages have more than just ‘junk’ than just ‘junk’ Garages have more Chapter 3



Think of little girl scouts and the communities they’re in, learning survival skills and enriching their lives. They’re doing good across the nation and spreading happiness through their seasonal girl scout cookies that Americans, especially, go crazy for. They have camps, play games, and sing songs all in good faith. It’s a bit like what you would see in The Chocolate Garage, minus the songs and the intense selling of cookies. The prevalence of a community in this little garage is clearly seen and the individuals who enter become “garagistas.” There is a bond forming around everyone from the mutual endeavor towards delicious chocolate and the happy future of chocolate. “They’re creating a lovely place and an amazing culture there” with “really neat people, really great conversations” (Mutch). The garage isn’t about selling copious amounts of high quality chocolate bars either like girl scouts selling cookies. It’s about the educational


experience of chocolate tasting. The shop is so far off the radar that it’s quite plausible to believe that anyone who happens to walk through the doors must be an acquaintance of Sunita’s or a regular. When I dropped by for a visit, I found myself enamored by the fact that over half of the visitors had, quite literally, randomly waltzed in because they had “seen the sign at the farmer’s market” (Mutch). They came in, but surprisingly, did not leave. “The social scene... feels good and it’s really fun being part of something like that... getting to know the people. I think most of the draw for me is the conversations that happen there” (Mutch). From firsthand experience, he isn’t exaggerating. There was a welcoming and friendly atmosphere in the garage, regardless of how many occupants were in the little shop. Wanderers felt naturally drawn in by the good natured garagistas and had an odd inclination to stay and immerse themselves in a world they didn’t realize even existed.

“That’s, I think, how it started forming and people, you know, sit down, start talking about the chocolate, start commenting, and then got into the habit of coming every Saturday and it becomes part of the ritual.” — Zeina




Okay, so maybe back in the day, when a chocolate bar was labeled as one, it really was a quality chocolate bar. Nowadays, with the inflating prices on just about everything and rise in industries, the focus has become quantity over quality. With meeting consumer demands, industries tend to neglect the idea of fair trade and you begin to lose touch with one of the most important things in life in place of money: happiness. It takes quite a bit of searching and digging to find that one bar of chocolate that will bring you a smile with that

first bite, out of the endless options it’ll be buried under. It’s not a treasure you can find with a torn map, compass, and telescope. You can take out your smartphone and laptop as well, but it won’t give you any guarantees you’ll find the perfect chocolate bar for your taste buds. There’s not a chocolate that’s universally regarded as the best; it’s all about personal preference and educational tasting experiences to discovering what kind of chocolate you really like. That’s where The Chocolate Garage comes in, and your journey begins.


Works Cited Blum, Deborah. “The Curious (Toxic) Chemistry of Chocolate.” Speakeasy Science. The Public Library of Science, 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 15 Mar. 2013. “Case Studies -- Polymer Analysis.” Case Studies -- Polymer Analysis. VMSL, 2003. Web. 17 Mar. 2013. De Tourreil, Sunita. Personal interview. 09 Mar. 2013. “Hershey’s.” The Hershey Company. The Hershey Company, n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2013. Kerr, Justin. “Introduction: Chocolate’s History at a Glance.” Chocolate - All About Chocolate - History of Chocolate. The Field Museum, 2007. Web. 30 Mar. 2013. Leslie, Seth. Personal interview. 02 Mar. 2013. Mutch, William. Personal interview. 29 Mar. 2013. Shute, Nancy. “Bean-To-Bar Chocolate Makers Dare To Bare How It’s Done.” NPR. NPR, 14 Feb. 2013. Web. 30 Mar. 2013. “What Is Chocolate Made Of?” NBC News. NBCNews, 7 Aug. 2007. Web. 15 Mar. 2013. “What Is Soy Lecithin And Why Is It In My Chocolate?” High on Health RSS. N.p., 04 Oct. 2008. Web. 17 Mar. 2013. Zeina. Personal interview. 02 Mar. 2013. 28



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