A Sweet Anniversary – 20 Years of Chocolate Tofino
As with most Tofino stories, this one begins with living in a VW van by the beach.
Kim and Cam have called Tofino home for over 13 years, ever since a surfing roadtrip in a VW van turned into a dream-come-to-life. Originally from the wind-swept, ice-covered prairies, the couple packed up everything and came west after discovering a tiny chocolate shop and realizing that they could surf and make chocolate every day. That dream was Chocolate Tofino.
The rain was pouring down outside. We opened the front door and were greeted by the warm aroma of chocolate. It was pure magic… and it still is.
As Chocolate Tofino enters its 20th year, Kim and Cam reflect on the last two decades of bringing sweet treats to the West Coast. That’s two entire decades of putting smiles on the faces of locals and travellers alike. Two decades of introducing people to the magical alchemy of chocolate. Two decades of churning gelato late into the night, all summer long. Two decades of travelling and tasting chocolates from all over the world. It’s been a wild and extremely rewarding ride, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Let’s ask our local chocolatiers some questions!
Why a chocolate shop?
Cam: We wanted to do something together – something we could get old doing. When I realized that I spent more time with my co-workers than I did with Kim, I just wanted to work with my wife. The chocolate shop also provides endless opportunities for creativity.
Kim: We love making people happy and putting a smile on the faces of those around us. There’s really no better way to do that than with chocolate and gelato!
What makes Chocolate Tofino unique?
Cam: Chocolate Tofino is unique in that we’re not a chocolate shop that makes ice cream, and we’re not an ice cream shop that makes chocolate – we are 100% both. Two worlds coming together – that’s what makes Chocolate Tofino special – we combine really great chocolate and our chocolate knowledge with our homemade gelato.
What are you excited about?
Kim: Happiness comes from growth and learning. We are never done learning, and a recipe is never 100% finished. We have recently completed several master courses, challenging ourselves to expand our knowledge of the science behind Ganaches and Caramels, researching flavours from different cacao growing regions, and making our own chocolate from the bean! We have studied with some amazing chocolatiers and chocolate makers and it’s so inspiring to learn from other passionate people!
Cam: Last year we started making our own craft chocolate from scratch. We’re excited to make stone-ground, craft chocolate bars that are unique to Chocolate Tofino. We’re are also stoked to create some bean-to-bonbon truffles where the small-batch chocolate can really shine.
What do you value most?
Kim: It’s always been about so much more than chocolate and gelato. Building relationships with our guests and our team and doing whatever we can to make people happy every day. Yes, we are passionate about making the best chocolates and gelato you’ve ever had, but our true motivator is people and the relationships we develop. Whether it’s our repeat customers who visit regularly and tell their friends about our store, business owners who reward their staff with Chocolate Tofino gift certificates, locals who bring in their children for their first cone, or young team members that we tutor in math, it’s all about relationships.
Have you noticed our relationship to chocolate has changed over the last 20 years?
Cam: We have noticed that more customers have started to really appreciate fine flavour dark chocolate and the nuances within. There is also an awareness now of ethically sourced chocolate and fair trade practices. Most of our dark chocolate is from South America, direct trade, fine flavour cacao that contributes positively to the communities at origin. Chocolate is a special luxury good, in that for $20 you can get some of the best chocolate in the world – unlike wine, fine flavour cacao is far more accessible.
Kim: Customers are also becoming more aware of how important local and quality ingredients are, and that chocolate shouldn’t be saved for months, but eaten while it’s fresh. Ingredients like fresh cream and fruit degrade over time, but in addition to that, aromatics in chocolate dissipate and some of the more subtle notes in the chocolate will disappear completely if saved for too long. Life is short – eat the chocolate now!
Tell us something we don’t know about chocolate.
We love helping our guests better understand chocolate as it is a very complex eating experience. Because of somewhat confusing marketing, many tend to judge chocolate by the percentage alone. While percentage is an indicator of the composition, it’s not a complete picture and really has no bearing on the actual quality. A lot of the complex flavours in chocolate come from cacao genetics, growing season, fermentation and the flavours developed during the final roasting. While origin plays a part in flavour, it’s really more the genetics behind the cacao itself. Proper handling on the farm, perfect fermentation methods and the flavours developed in the roast are where quality comes in. Regions of the world where proper methods are practiced, produce the finest chocolate and often fair trade and organic practices follows the pursuit of fine flavour.
In celebration of 20 years, Chocolate Tofino has unveiled their beautiful new line of gift boxes, in conjunction with their new website launch. Look for their custom-molded specialty bars featuring the surf art of Jonas Claesson (@jonas_draws) on the bars and the bar sleeve. We’ve never seen such a giftable Tofino item. Pick up one of their new plastic-free Hot Chocolate Elixir Orb tubes, it’s never been easier to take them home. The store is full of new merch, including Chocolate Tofino Tiki mugs, and expect to see more from the Rude Little Girls Club!