While cacao beans may no longer be so prized as to be considered legal tender (which they were in the time of the Aztecs), our centuries-old love affair with chocolate persists today.
Chocolate's reputation has been enhanced dramatically thanks to numerous studies promoting its beneficial antioxidant properties and libido boosting powers in women, particularly in dark varieties with 65 percent or higher cocoa content.
Thanks to several chocolate artisans in the Ottawa area who produce delectable truffles, bark and other sweet delights, it's easier and tastier than ever to indulge in this healthy treat.
A self-confessed baking fanatic, Laura Holmes dove into the chocolate world almost by accident, having been recruited to help a chocolatier friend during the busy pre-Christmas season. Thirteen years later, she's still enjoying being the proud owner of Degas Chocolates, renowned for her handcrafted truffles created using the finest Belgian chocolate.
Your chocolates have an exceptionally rich flavour - how do you achieve this? We've chosen taste over long shelf life so there are no preservatives or artificial flavours in any Degas products. As a result, they are at their peak for only about two weeks.
How many varieties do you typically produce? Flavours have come and gone over the years as people's tastes have changed. There are currently fifteen standard flavours of Degas truffles and treats. Our most popular flavours right now seem to be Chocolate Oblivion, Whipped Cream, White Chocolate and both the Degas Milk and Degas Dark. Other flavours include Champagne, Ice Wine, Hot Chili, Peanut Butter, Kahlua and more.
In addition to truffles, what else do you make? I do special shaped chocolates at different times of the year, including seasonal ones such as our chocolate, caramel and pecan bunny-shaped Burtles, available at Easter. I also enjoy making chocolate-covered caramels and tasty little chocolate hedgehogs.
Where can people buy your chocolates? Most of my customers are word-of-mouth referrals who reach me by phone (613.761.5551). I do a lot of custom work for hotels, corporate orders, weddings, etc. and there are several shops in town that stock my truffles, including the Ottawa Bagelshop, Louise's Belgian Chocolates and Phulero Dola Flowers in the World Exchange Plaza.
What do you like most about being a chocolatier? It's actually a very satisfying job. At the end of the day, you can see exactly what you've accomplished. I also like being able to be a part of the important moments in people's lives - engagements, weddings, anniversaries, christenings and so on. Chocolate makes people happy. When we deliver an order, people are so ecstatic - that feels great.