Wednesday, November 12, 2014

You Know You Want an Exotic Chocolate Tasting Experience!

There are many ways to enjoy chocolate -- solo, with friends and family, and for professional events. Planning such a thing can seem daunting so today I want to introduce you to a woman whose career is planning events where chocolate is the focus.  Please welcome Roxanne Browning from Exotic Chocolate Tasting.

Roxanne, you describe yourself as a chocolate sommelier. Could you define that for our readers?

Like a wine sommelier who is an expert on wines, for instance regions, terroir, vintages, varietals, wine makers, tasting, etc. I too, find that this is a description of what I do. 

How did you train to be a chocolate sommelier?

Taste, taste, and taste chocolate. The more I taste, compare, explore the depth of chocolate, the more I learn and know what to look for. I’ve had a passion for chocolate since childhood, and as time passed, my taste became more refined. 

Would you tell us a bit about your business, Exotic Chocolate Tasting?

Exotic Chocolate Tasting started by focusing just on chocolate tastings, it then morphed into chocolate and wine pairings. My other passion is wine, experimenting with pairing many bars of single origin to wines of all types, reds, whites, sparkling,  and sometimes dessert wines. Wine and chocolate pairing is the most challenging to pair as opposed to whiskery or beer. After much trial and error I’ve developed a methodology that enables me match the wine with it’s chocolate mate. I’m hired to present chocolate and wine pairings for business socials, private and fundraisers for NFP.  It’s new, unique, entertaining, educational and of course, it’s fun.  The companies that I works with have told me, guests are still talking out their experience, that reflex back onto the company. A thoughtful way to appreciate clients, associates and colleagues. 

Do you host more business or private events?

Mostly business events. Perfect for client or associate appreciations, networking, women’s initiative groups and team building. The financial, law, insurance and construction industries have embraced chocolate and wine pairings, also country clubs. 

You're approaching your fifth anniversary of business in 2015.  What has surprised you most about your clients over the years?

Most consumers of chocolate still don’t know much about it. They think by choosing bars in a supermarket that may be a $1.00 more will put them in the stratosphere as a connoisseur fine chocolate. That’s like going into a wine shop for the Yellow Tail Reserve.  Ugh! However, the guests at my events have been educated and they don’t go back to industrial chocolate. Once they taste the difference, they make an effort to seek out craft chocolate.  No other luxury product will cost just a few dollars more than its common counterpart. A comparison would be, a fine imported aged cheese will cost $20-40 per pound, on the other hand you can buy processed American cheese for less than $5. 

What are some of challenging aspects of preparing for one of your events?  Do you limit how many you do a week or month?

I’m passionate about what I do, it is evident at my events. There’s a lot of preparation and have to be “on” at each event. Doing more than two a week would be draining and I would not be able to maintain that cacao high. 

We love that cacao high!

Are you limited to events in NYC or do you arrange events in other locations?

NY Metro is my primary area of focus, however, I’ve done events out-of-state on occasion.  New York is my home and it’s a big city, I love the people that attend my chocolate and wine pairings,  sophisticated and worldly, they identify with the chocolate’s sustainability, its positive affect on the rainforest and the farmer to plate movement. 

Do you have employees who help you out?

I have assistants that help hand out the chocolate, pour the wine and set up and break down when needed. 

Thanksgiving and Christmas aren't far away.  Is your calendar already booked with events or could our readers still contact you?

I’m booking through to March now, but have availability in the upcoming months. Contact me for dates. 

Readers, if you have booked an event through Exotic Chocolate Tasting, leave a comment and tell us all about your experiences. It sounds wonderful and I wish I lived in NYC still so I could check it out first hand.

Finally, Roxanne, do you see Exotic Chocolate Tasting expanding further in the future? Perhaps into crafting and selling chocolates or franchising?

Possibly, everyday brings new opportunities. Real chocolate is a growing trend and this small segment of the market will change in the future. This should bring awareness to mainstream consumers that there are better choices that also help the farmers that grow cacao and the environment. I’m glad to be part of such a worthy and tasty cause. 

Sisters and Brothers, if you have questions for Roxanne please leave them in a comment.  And if you live in the NY Metro Area or nearby check her business out.

2 comments:

Linda Reinholtz said...

If someone was interested in developing a business like yours in another city, what advice could you give? Will you be branching out into other cities?

Roxanne Browning said...

Linda, I am branching out to other cities in the near future. Contact me directly for details.

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