A little chai masala, a touch of salted caramel and a healthy dose of our own Jann Arden helped land a local chocolatier several international awards.
Small-batch gourmet chocolate maker cochu has won gold, silver and bronze medals as well as a commendation in the bonbon category of a global competition run by the Academy of Chocolate in London, U.K.
“It’s huge, it’s been crazy,” said company founder Anne Sellmer. “We have all these people in France and Argentina and across the globe wanting to sell our chocolates.
“We’re a little kitchen operation in Calgary and we’re competing with all these big names across Europe and the world.”
The Academy of Chocolate Awards had over 1,500 entries from nearly 60 countries. Leading experts normally judge five categories: chocolate bars, filled chocolates, drinking chocolate, spreads and brand awareness. They started early this year with bonbons but because of COVID-19, judging for the remaining categories has been paused. cōchu chocolatier typically also performs well in the bar categories.
The winning bonbons are a sweet tooth’s delight, combining sweet, salty, spicy and the unusual flavour of licorice, courtesy of one Jann Arden.
“I had taken some chocolates to the Stampede Parade one year and had given gift baskets to Miss Arden and a couple of other VIPs. So I was sitting in my backyard and my phone pinged and I got this text. ‘Hey, it’s Jann I really like your chocolate.’ After I realized it really was her, I asked her if she wanted to have a Jann chocolate.”
Arden was all in and chose anise as the base. Sellmer added white chocolate and freeze-dried licorice. And yes, Jann is a fan.
“She has had them and she does like them. We get a lot of demand for the Jann. We do batches and then they’re sold out right away.”
That crescent-shaped blue and white chocolate won a commendation from the global competition, which announced its winners Tuesday night. Cochu also won a gold for medal for Chai Masala Caramel: soft, smooth caramel infused with Chai Masala spices; a silver for Soft Salted Caramel: salty, buttery vanilla-infused caramel and a bronze for Peanut Butter: smooth peanut butter ganache encased in a dark chocolate shell.
These awards will be added to the 57 other national and international awards the company has earned since starting three years ago, including 34 World Final Medals and being named a 6-Star Grandmaster chocolatier.
But as proud as she is of her success, Sellmer notes that Calgary and Canada has an abundance of excellent chocolate makers.
“Everyone has their own flair, their own signature. It’s pretty exciting for the city and the province that there are so many options and so many great options… It’s pretty cool that … cochu is getting this recognition, but Canada is becoming this hot spot for good quality chocolate.”
Cochu products are usually sold at several retailers in Calgary, including Our Daily Brett, Cookbook Company Cooks and Penny and Fausta. But since the closures due to COVID-19, cochu is taking email orders for delivery (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A former stay-at-home mom, Sellmer said she only stumbled into the industry after her youngest son asked her if she was doing what she was passionate about.
“I had this realization I could start fresh… I started this journey to figure out what made that spark come alive. I knew it was food and then I started down that road and discovered chocolate and that was it.
“I just keep thinking I’m really thankful I’m not passionate about singing because I’m terrible at it,” Sellmer said laughing.