Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Peggy Cloar's Quest to Make the Best Chocolate in the World

I was sitting in High's Cafe in Comfort, Texas, enjoying two of my favorite things in life. One was a really good chicken salad sandwich. It wasn't the absolute best I've ever tasted. But it was way up there. Unlike any chicken salad sandwich I've ever eaten, it was made with big chunks of free-range chicken in a tangy sour cream and mayo sauce. 

This made it hard to concentrate on the other favorite thing, which was a passionate woman I've come to call "The Chocolate Lady," who was talking nonstop about the special artisan dark chocolate she's created. Her name is Peggy Cloar, the founder of High Street Chocolate (see

"Studies have shown that dark chocolate is one of the healthiest foods on the planet," she said. "It's because it has such a high level of antioxidants, which prevent cell damage that leads to age-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease. In fact, chocolate has the highest ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value known to man. Twice the antioxidants of red wine and three times the antioxidants in green tea. And the fats found in cocoa are actually healthy fats, the same oleic acid found in olive oil."

She mentioned other health benefits, but I kind of blanked out for a minute there when I took another bite of my chicken salad sandwich.

"It all depends on how it's made," she said. "Dark chocolate should be about 70% cocoa solids. The rest is sugar with some soy lecithin. But most makers use cocoa butter for half the chocolate content. Cocoa butter is derived from chocolate liquor, which is the fermented, pressed chocolate nibs. Many chocolate makers saturate their chocolate with processed sugars to make it sweeter, which reduces manufacturing costs."

She was intense and animated as she talked a mile a minute about how she came to care about chocolate so much. She was working on a brownie recipe. An exacting cook, she couldn't find a commercial chocolate she liked, so she began experimenting with making her own. This led her to discover how chocolate is made. 

Eventually she hit upon a blend of 60% cocoa, 10% cocoa butter and 30% of her own proprietary sugar compound. Plus a dash of Tahitian vanilla. She's secretive about what she does to the sugar, but she claims she made it more potent, so she doesn't need to use as much of it. 

I tried some samples. The regular dark chocolate lingered on my tongue in a succession of flavors - first a deep richness that reminded me of velvet, then a hint of floral-citrus and a finish of the best caramel-vanilla. The espresso, made with beans she ground herself, lived up to its name. She also had orange- and mint-flavored dark chocolate bars. This was some really good chocolate. And it was different. 

At more than $20 per 8-ounce box, you don't pass this stuff out to kids on Halloween night. You enjoy it with fine wine.

But what impressed me most was Peggy. Here was this woman who, after the world had been making chocolate for centuries, had embarked on a quest to make a better chocolate bar. Better for you, and delicious. She was a chocolate techie, going up against Hershey, Nestles, Godiva and the other big boys. But what she had accomplished was so highly technical that the ordinary chocolate-eater would need some education to appreciate what they were paying for.

It reminded me of my own business. In my life, I've created MindFrames, a breakthrough personality assessment, better because it's based on recent neuroscience. I created 20/20 Insight, a breakthrough feedback technology, better because it's easier to use, more versatile and more affordable than any other. And now I've created ProStar Coach, a breakthrough online self-directed learning and development system, better because it facilitates long-term reinforcement of skills and also focuses on building personal strength. It also features a unique coaching network, and a breakthrough feedback technology. But all these innovations defied the status quo, so Ihad some explaining to do.

There I go, about to get techie on you, just like The Chocolate Lady. My heart went out to her. She's really onto something, but she not only has the challenge of making superb chocolate, she has to figure out how to explain her achievement to people who just want that chocolate high and who are reluctant to try something different. 

In my heart, I said a blessing for Peggy and for all the people who are trying to make something better in the world. We benefit from their passionate pioneering, but it isn't easy to go against the grain.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength . (Photos by Kathleen Scott, used with permission)

1 comment:

Richard said...

To retain it's goodness chocolate also needs to be raw, doesn't sound like hers is, especially if it is an ingredient in brownies. I'd also be concerned about what she's putting in that sugar.