Don’t Hate Me for Taking a Chocolate Tour. It’s My Job.

I discovered a surefire way to make people instantly hate me. Okay, not real hatred, but at least an intense pang of primeval, involuntary jealousy.

I’ve only recently started calling myself a writer. Even though pretty much my entire career has been as a writer of one sort or another, it was well over a decade before I gave myself permission to say so. When asked about my profession I would always say something like “Oh, I’m in marketing” or “I work for a travel company.” Then one time a couple of years ago we were crossing the border to Buffalo and the border guard was giving us the third degree where they ask the same question a bunch of different ways to try to trip you up. He asked what I did for a living and I responded, “I’m a writer” and it felt right.

Nowadays I have the audacity to call myself a travel writer because that’s what I do. I write about travel. When you tell people you are a travel writer folks react about the same way that they would if your job title was “Astronaut” or “President of the United States of America” – amazement tinged with envy.

So, how do you take that over the top and make people believe that you don’t deserve to be living the life you are blessed to lead? Tell them you’re going on a chocolate tour.

Audrey at Tasty Tours Toronto invited me to try her Trinity-Bellwoods Chocolate Tour, and you can be certain that I didn’t need to be asked twice.

Tasty Tours Toronto Chocolate Tour

At the beginning of the walking tour, Audrey explained where chocolate originates from, how the cacao beans are grown and the process of transforming cacao beans into chocolate. She also taught us how to properly taste chocolate and gave us morsels of chocolate from Cocoa Camino to practice with. Unlike piano lessons, chocolate tasting is something I could practice with a great deal of dedication.

Our first stop on the tour was at Le Dolci, a culinary studio where they give classes in making cakes and other sweets. They also have house-made lemonade that we  sampled before drooling over (figuratively!) their showcase of cupcakes, macarons, and other goodies.

Le Dolci Macarons Toronto

I learned a few things about Toronto’s past while we made our way south to Nadege Patisserie. Audrey told us a bit about the history of Trinity-Bellwoods Park, which was once a university campus before Trinity College merged with the University of Toronto.

We had unbelievably perfect weather for our tour. It was the first sunny, warm, summery day of the year, so we shouldn’t have been surprised when we arrived to find the café at Nadege completely jammed with people shopping for mouth-watering sweets while out for a weekend stroll. Luckily this saved me from potentially blowing a whack of both cash and calories, as I was too daunted by the throngs of people in line to purchase any of the sweets that were calling my name. They are known for their macarons and they had a whackload of flavours in the showcase.

What fired up my inner word nerd is that the cornerstone of Nadege’s range of confections is a line of chocolate bars with flavours for every letter of the alphabet. We sampled W. You might be thinking walnuts, or that irritating pretender of a flavour called wildberry. Try wasabi. Wasabi and ginger gelee in dark chocolate to be precise. Pungent and delicious.

Nadege chocolate alphabet toronto

Our next stop was a familiar one, though I’d never viewed it in the context of chocolate. Sanko Trading Co. has been a fixture of Toronto’s Queen West neighbourhood for years and years but I always thought of this Japanese variety store with its cheery sign as the place where we bought big tubs of miso and beautiful crockery, not as a place to get my candy fix. Well, there’s this one aisle that holds all kinds of goodies. Stephen, one of the owners, had us gather round while he handed out samples of two of the many confectionary items he imports from Japan – Meltykiss and matcha-flavoured KitKat bars.

Matcha Green Tea KitKat

We concluded our tour back on Dundas West at Odile Chocolat. This tiny shop is a treasure trove of artisanal chocolates, all handmade by the proprietor, Odile Chatelain who is originally from Paris, France. Her specialties are origin chocolates and combining unusual flavours in her truffles. She and Audrey explained more about chocolate is made, with a cacao pod on hand to show us where it comes from. We even tasted raw cacao beans. Odile was very generous with her time and answered all of our questions. All the while we were surrounded by rows upon rows of Odile’s tantalizing creations. At last we were each given a truffle to taste! I chose one flavoured with Niagara Icewine.

Odile Chocolat truffles Toronto

The tour finished here and it was time to say goodbye to all the fun and interesting folks I’d spent the afternoon with. There was a 5-15minute walk between each of the tour stops and it was a lovely opportunity to visit and make new friends, such as Noelia and Tommy who gave me top tips on things to do in Tipperary. The day that I took the tour, the group was all people from Toronto and area who were looking for something fun and different to do on a Saturday. There’s no reason a tourist wouldn’t enjoy the tour as well, and I suspect Tasty Tours Toronto may see more visitors as word spreads.

Overall the Trinity Bellwoods Chocolate Tour was great fun. Audrey made it interesting and informative. If you want to know where chocolate comes from and how it’s made, this is a good place to start. On the other hand, if you’re a bit of a chocolate geek like me and have read a few books on the subject, you’ll find that this tour covers just the basics. Let’s face it; a chocolate tour is about the tastings! We sampled several things at each stop, but not so much that you’d need to skip a meal or feel like a glutton as a result. I would recommend this tour for anyone who likes chocolate and wants to make people incredibly envious.

Not many people know this, but when I was laid off in 2009 I came very close to embarking on a career as a chocolatier. Chocolate is an immensely fascinating substance to me and my first impulse when I received my severance package was to enroll in a pastry arts program somewhere. Then I went for outplacement counselling and in talking to my career coach I realized that even though I was fed up and burned out from that job, beneath all the stress and discontentment one fact remained. I am a writer.

 

Disclosure: I received free admission to this tour for the purpose of reviewing it.

25 Comments

    1. Thanks for stopping by. You should definitely try them out while you’re in Japan. According to Stephen there are all manner of flavours of KitKat in Japan. It may end up on my bucket list to try them all!

      1. Yeah, it’s not for everyone. In the case of these KitKats, you kind of had to like white chocolate (an enormously controversial subject!) to enjoy it. Thanks for commenting.

  1. Steph, I could never hate you for doing what you do so well! Jealousy, definitely, but hate no. Love your description of the tour – could almost taste it! MMMMMMmmmmm

    1. Thanks Jane. It was very close to the perfect day. I did the Biblio-Mat outing in the morning and the chocolate tour in the afternoon. Talk about overstimulation!

    1. I should get a “you had me at chocolate” t-shirt made 😉 You’ll just have to plan another trip to Toronto to see some shows and tickle your tastebuds.

      1. Always! (well till the end of next year anyway lol!). You’ll be happy to know the cafe is less than a 10 minute walk from my flat! (There’s also a brilliant independent bookstore a few minutes further up the road, luckily for me, neither are really on the way to anywhere, so the temptation isn’t too great!)

  2. Wow, you KNOW this tour would be right up my alley! Toronto is such a great food city I need to get back there one day soon.

    Also, 1. WTF! Of course you are a writer! There are few ‘bloggers’ that can wear that label without hesitation and you are one of them. 2. You wanted to be a chocolatier? I’ve been thinking recently about trying to roast and blend my own chocolates. I was inspired by a teenage boy I met at that small-batch chocolate shop I wrote about recently. He roasts his own chocolate beans, buys the supplies on a site called Chocolate Alchemy (which also has some tutorials on their site). Anyway, that’s the next of my food experiments–you should give it a try, too!

    1. Yes, you need to plan another visit to Toronto! TBEX was mayhem and I didn’t see nearly enough of you. Thanks for the kind words. 🙂

      Custom blending chocolate does sound like a fun food experiment. I think I need a visit down your way as well to explore that small-batch chocolate shop! I can stop by and be your guinea pig if you need a taster for your creations.

  3. It was too last-minute for me to join you after the Biblio-mat that day but it is definitely on my Summer to-do list! Thanks!

    Did I ever tell you I once worked part time at a now-defunct shop called Chocolate Fantasies, on Bloor St, when I was working my way through university? Some funny stories….

    1. Thanks Shelley! I think you’ll love it. You did mention that job once. Sounds divine, though I’m sure there are many war stories to go with it 😉

  4. Yes, yes, yes!!!! I also say I have an “astronaut” job – I think travel writer and astronaut are the two jobs in the world that everyone wants to have.

    I read in the LP Travel Writing guide that Mick Jagger would want to be a travel writer if he wasn’t, you know, him. So when I have a rough day, I just tell myself that Mick Jagger wants to be me. MICK JAGGER WANTS TO BE ME!

    1. Hahaha, Thanks Vanessa. You know you’ve got a good gig when rockstars are envious. We’re lucky that Mick’s probably got a least a couple more years left before he retires and decides to start a travel blog. I hope that will give us enough of a head start 😉

  5. Well, I think it’s a good thing we’ve connected, Stephanie. I am a chocolate travel author. It’s what I do for a living, in addition to giving chocolate talks and blogging. If you’d like a comp copy of my book for review, let me know!

    1. Thanks Doreen. I am well aware of your work, and subscribe to your delicious newsletter! Would love to embark on a chocolatour someday.

      I don’t really do book reviews (love reading books, but am not a fan of writing reviews) but would be overjoyed if you wanted to geek out about chocolate travel in a guest post on here anytime. I will get in touch.

  6. That is my kind of tour and also I’m obsessed with Matcha-flavored Kitkat although it took a while before it grew on me. I agree it’s not for everyone.

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