Think about holiday gifts that are always in style, and chocolate — in its many variations — comes to mind.
Chocolate choices are plentiful, but this year Islanders on the lookout for the perfect gift may find themselves tempted by Tease Chocolates, new sweets made on Vashon.
Julie Farrell, an Islander and chocolatier who owns the business, has been selling her small-batch, handcrafted chocolate at the Farmers Market since April, and it is safe to say she and her mouth-watering wares have developed a following, with regulars who stop by and purchase their favorite items and Island stores set to carry several of the confections.
“We’ve had such a positive response from the community,” Julie said.
The most popular item is Salty Mermaid, a bar made of bittersweet chocolate with sweet toffee and fleur de sel — light flakes of sea salt. But Tease Chocolates offers a variety of treats that vie with the mermaid for attention, including additional bars, such as Spicy Mayan, made of milk chocolate and mild Pasilla pepper, and Geishas Pleasure, made of dark chocolate with matcha green tea and puffed brown rice. Other offerings include Pistachio Butternut Crunch, a butter crunch topped with dark chocolate and pistachios. Truffles — classic dark chocolate and several variations that Farrell has dreamed up herself — include Bees Knees, with hazelnut brown ale, bee pollen and honey, and the Cinnamon Girl Truffle, a treat Julie spent more than a year perfecting and that tastes like a cinnamon roll within a chocolate truffle.
Rounding out the list are molded chocolates enhanced with a sprinkling of luster dust, chocolate-covered ginger, and s’mores — with the marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate all made by hand. Julie began offering s’mores this summer, she said, and they have proved so popular that she will continue offering them through the holidays. Some people roast the marshmallows while others microwave the treat, and still others open the bag and eat all the ingredients straight from there. New this winter is Julie’s own blend of hot chocolate, and coming in the new year is a rare treat: a bar called Dark Arts — a chocolate bar Julie and her husband Topher Farrell, who assists with the business, will make truly from scratch, from just cocoa beans, sugar and cocoa butter.
Chocolate, in its purest form is a superfood, Topher said, with many anti-oxidant properties. In stores, he noted, nearly all of the chocolate is made from roasted beans, as roasting extends the beans’ shelf life and makes them easier to transport. But roasting diminishes the beans’ flavor, he said, and after experimentation at home, the Farrells say their own chocolate will be made with raw beans.
“We’ve been blown away by the flavor,” Topher said.
Making chocolate from scratch is a complicated, multi-step process. Their first batch took a week from start to finish, Julie said, and they can do no more than 10 pounds at a time.
The couple say they are also committed to making sure the chocolate is as “green” as possible, from the beans to the sugar to the packaging, and it contains no additives.
“We are not going to put a bunch of junk in our chocolate, Topher said.
Self-described “food nerds” who love to cook just about anything, they say they have enjoyed the process of growing the business and coming to know a great deal about the art of making chocolate.
“It’s good. It’s good for you. And it’s a lot of fun,” Topher said.
This holiday season Islanders can find Tease Chocolates at Thriftway, Essentials 4, The Country Store, Treasure Island, the Holiday Markets, online at www.TeaseChocolates.com, or by contacting the Farrells directly to arrange for a chocolate sale and handoff.
“Islanders get special treatment,” Julie said.