Chocolate takes on deeper meaning in Kent
Kent Coffee & Chocolate celebrates 20 years in business
Published 4:35 pm, Wednesday, August 10, 2011
The 45-year-old entrepreneur is celebrating the 20th anniversary of her Main Street shop in Kent by delving deeper into her love of chocolate, the confection she came to enjoy while a student at the Culinary Institute of America.
Chocolate has given her the "rapture that refreshes (her) life," as philosopher Joseph Campbell defined the term "bliss" in the 1970s.
Ms. Champlain recently recorded a CD, "The Law of Chocolate," in which she recounts the history, cultural uses and joys of chocolate eating.
From use in medicinal practices to that of haute cuisine chocolatiers in 17th-century France, chocolate has intrigued and served cultures since rain forest cacao pods were first processed by ancient people, Ms. Champlain's CD says.
"While at the CIA, we had a three-week course about candy making and chocolate," Ms. Champlain recalled. "I loved it -- playing with it, smelling it, eating it."
After graduating from the institute in 1987, Ms. Champlain began a career in hotel and restaurant food management.
"Burned out" after a year managing all aspects of the food service on a Mississippi riverboat, she went to visit her mother, Marion Champlain, in Kent.
The rest is part of Kent history.
Encouraged by her mother, Ms. Champlain opened the Kent Coffee & Chocolate Co., making her own chocolates and selling top-quality coffee.
The shop took off.
"I was 25. I had no idea if the shop would work or not," Ms. Champlain said. "I found I had the most delightful customers. We became a destination for people coming to Kent from nearby towns and New York."
Kent resident Steve Cooper has been coming to her shop since it opened.
Traveling throughout North America for his business, Mr. Cooper said, "They have the best milk chocolate and pecan turtles in North America here.
"The staff is unbelievably pleasant. The selection of coffee and tea and chocolate is great. There's a nice ambience all the way around," Mr. Cooper said as he had coffee at a sidewalk table in front of the shop.
"I concur," said John Slowik, another regular customer. "I like the fact that when you come here you know what you'll get -- quality."
Prompted by her recent studies of chocolate, Ms. Champlain is taking her offerings in a new direction -- creating a line of "raw chocolate" confections by mixing somewhat bitter cacao nibs with milk chocolate.
She's using it for cranberry bark and dipped strawberries. She is also experimenting with truffles.
"While working on the CD, I discovered that cacao powder in protein shakes calms the nerves, curbs the appetite and has antioxidants that promote health," Ms. Champlain said.
The shop is carrying a line of Dagoba organic chocolate bars made from raw cacao, and she is making the raw chocolate/milk chocolate candies for customers used to "the traditional taste of sweetened chocolate and not ready to go raw," she said.
Ms. Champlain has written a pamphlet with information about raw cacao and recipes, which she offers in the store.
"I plan to be here for the next 20 years," she added. "Since my dad passed away last year, I've felt like a dark cloud was following me.
"I'm ready to start anew, infuse fun into my life and the store," Ms. Champlain said. "I'm introducing new products, involving customers in taste tests. I've updated the website and see business through that taking off."
Kent Coffee & Chocolate Co., located at 8 North Main St. in Kent, is open seven days a week.
Visit the website at www.kentcoffee.com or call 860-927-1445 for more