Zorba’s Chocolates are Raw, Dark and Divine(ly) created in Ashland, Oregon. Zorba’s makes hand-crafted Raw Dark Chocolate Superfood Truffles, Bars, and medjool date/ sea salt “Karamels”. Zorba’s has a commitment to living consciously while supporting the local community with the most nutritious and delicious chocolate that they can make! We caught up Todd Bjornson and his wife Rebecca to learn more about their life as chocolatiers and as the founders of Zorba’s
Todd, thanks for doing this interview with us. To begin with can you tell us who Zorba is and how did you come to get on the path of creating a chocolate company?
Todd: Well to start… Zorba is a name that has great meaning to us…”Zorba the Buddha” is a Dionysian character that both fully embodies the wisdom of the sage, and is fully present in the dance of life. Which is in perfect alignment with our commitment to Injoy life to the fullest while living simply and consciously. The making of raw chocolate arose naturally as my passion for healthy nutritious foods, and the desire to simplify took a greater hold in my life. Being first introduced to Raw Chocolate while living in Sedona, Arizona I quickly started to make raw chocolate at home for our own personal consumption. As the experimenting and passion grew for this new found love of chocolate I found myself giving it as gifts to friends, family and clients. Rebecca and I moved back to Ashland in spring of 2008. The chocolatier was born with the introduction to Enchanted Florist and their move to Main street…this was in 2009. Awaiting me in their new location were empty bell jars that were calling for Zorba’s Chocolates, an empty canvass that I would experiment with for most of the year. I am Very Grateful to Brandon and Leslie (owners of Enchanted Florist) for all their support and patience as this chocolatier experimented with many different shapes sizes and flavors. Today I am grateful to have Zorba’s Chocolates locally stocked in a handful of local stores, shops and restaurants.
Can you share with us a little about the primary difference between raw chocolate and grocery store chocolate?
Todd: Raw Chocolate is made from raw – unroasted cacao beans. With all preparations from fermentation to finished chocolate kept under 118 degrees. Cooking and Roasting of the cacao/chocolate at temperatures over 118 degrees breaks down the natural structure of the cacao bean, destroying vital enzymes, antioxidants and nutrients. Most of the chocolate we are exposed to has been roasted at temperatures up to 300 degrees, and then conched for up to 3 days at 140-165 degrees (conching is mostly used to break down sugar molecules) this is what you call “grocery store” chocolate.
Can raw chocolate be healthy?
Todd: OHH-YES!!! Naturaly this is one of the best part! An FDA test (the test included over 250,00 foods) concluded that Raw Chocolate contains more antioxidants/gram (955/ gram) than any other fruit or vegetable on earth! This is 367% (to 1000%+) more antioxidants than even the very best cooked dark chocolate. Antioxidants decrease free radicals in our systems that can damage cells and cause dis-ease. Also Raw Chocolate contains high quantities of the amino acid Tryptophan which is proven to promote restful sleep and relaxation. Phenylethylamine (PEA) which is said to promote the “Love” feeling, Anandamide (a neurotransmitter) which stimulates the centers in the brain relateing to mood ~ therefore promoting the feeling of “BLISS” and has natural pain relieving properties too! Raw Chocolate therefore, truly is “Medicine for the Body and Soul”. Our Raw Chocolate is made with the finest local and organic ingredients, therapeutic herbs and essential oils. They are dairy-free and *Beegan friendly too! *(using local raw honey as a main sweetener)
Can you give us a brief history of chocolate?
Todd: Chocolates roots run deep into the ground of the rainforest, and with the ancient civilizations that have and still do inhabit these areas. The Mayan’s and many other native cultures have a long history with chocolate. Enjoying its medicinal qualities, using it in a variety of ceremonies and even using it as currency. Thus the term Mayan Gold.
Talk a little bit about your creative process in creating treats?
Todd: I would love to say that the chocolate talks to me…however I believe it to be more my taste buds that are doing the talking. I have a passion for all types of cooking and “un”cooking and the flavors have always (almost always) just come together for me. I receive inspiration from my wife and others for the flavors then I just going into the kitchen and let the creations come through.
What is your favorite concoction to date?
Todd: I love the “karamels”, these “karamels” of course are raw and made with whole ground organic medjool dates to get a creamy sweet filling instead of the traditional butter, sugar and cornsyrup. Then they are dipped into raw dark chocolate and topped with sea salt…mmm!
Any best sellers or local favorites?
Todd: The Cayenne/ Coconut truffle was one of the firsts, and has a great local following, with the Rose “karamel” being very popular too! There is however one that I make during the summer months that beats them all…and that is the “Lime in the Coconut” a Raw White Chocolate that I create with fresh lime, ground coconut and raw blue agave. It is quite delicious I must say and very refreshing on a hot day!
Where can people find Zorba’s?
Todd: At Enchanted Florists of course. Also… Ashland Food Co-Op, Culture-works raw/ vegetarian restaurant and night club, Market of Choice and Chozu’ Bath and Tea Gardens. Thank You Ashand for supporting Zorba’s at these local stores!!! We also have our website www.zorbasrawchocolates.com up and running for internet orders, and information on weddings and special events available here too.
Will you be at the chocolate festival this year?
Todd: Ah-Huh! The chocolate festival was soooo much fun last year that I am looking forward to Injoying the festivities this year for sure!
Any last words of wisdom or comments to share with our readers?
Todd: Chocolate is a wonderfully tasting superfood full of nutrients and health benefits. I would just love to share that chocolate is not just for breakfast any more! So Injoy these Raw Dark Chocolate Superfood Truffles, Medjool Date /Sea salt “Karamels” and Raw Dark Chocolate Bars anytime as a Snack or a Meal.
Many Blessings Zorba