Don’t be afraid of the dark.
Or the white.
Krysta Bea Jackson is here for you. Jackson, the owner of Sugar Love Chocolates in the Basement shops of the West Elm building, is debuting Sugar Love University, a series of 11 monthly classes on the history, chemistry and cultural role of chocolate.
The first class begins Aug. 24. The last one takes place in June 2017. The dark? The white? Like Clarissa, Krysta is going to explain it all (or a lot of it, at any rate). The classes weave chocolate sampling and beer, wine or spirits in with the instruction.
“I’m going to be teaching through tasting,” Jackson said.
Behind the counter at Sugar Love, Jackson cheerfully discusses the object of her obsession. In fact, “I get really nerdy when I talk to people about chocolate in the store,” she said. “Like, ‘Did you know it’s a non-Newtonian fluid?’
“I didn’t want this to be another chocolate and wine pairing. With this nerdy knowledge I have to share, the idea for the university grew out of that.”
SUGAR LOVE UNIVERSITY
What: A series of 11 monthly classes covering chocolate history, textures, flavors and more. The classes, presented by Sugar Love Chocolates, also feature chocolate tasting; beer, wine or spirits pairings; and light hors d’oeuvres.
When: Aug. 24 through June 15, 2017. Classes begin at 7 p.m.
Where: In the common area of the Basement shops of the West Elm building, 50 S. Virginia St. Entrance to the Basement is on the Center Street side. The Sugar Love Chocolates storefront also is in the Basement
Cost: $28 for single classes, $231 for all 11 courses.
The curriculum begins with a history of chocolate, noting the role of Jewish people in spreading the taste for chocolate throughout Europe after they were expelled from Spain in the late 15th century.
The French, so closely identified today with chocolate, actually “took over the practice from the Jews,” Jackson said. “The French passed laws about who could be in the chocolate trade to get the Jews out of it.”
Each class will have at least five chocolates to help explicate the lesson, including a featured flavor. For the first class, that flavor is rosemary olive truffle.
“They actually press the rosemary in with the olives when they make the olive oil,” Jackson said of the producer.
Fresh and seasonal
Other topics range from how textures are achieved in confections to the ways in which chocolate changes with geography to the importance of fresh and seasonal ingredients.
“Large commercial chocolatiers create products that can be sold 12 months of the year and that can sit on your table for six of those months,” Jackson said.
“But there’s a reason people traditionally use seasonal ingredients with chocolate and a reason why they’re so important to the final product. Today, it’s all part of the interest in local ingredients and a movement back to the craft person.”
Another class focuses on Latin American Flavors in chocolate making — “I’m excited. I’m learning a lot putting the lesson plan together,” Jackson said.
Yet another topic to be covered is chocolate and masculinity.
“In America, there’s the perception that guys buy chocolate for women but not for themselves,” Jackson said. “But traditionally, it’s been prepared by men and eaten by men. Why is America different?”
The ingredients and masculinity classes feature beer pairings. Several others match chocolates with wine. At least two others, including Latin flavors, bring whiskeys into the mix.
Jackson said she doesn’t view Sugar Love University simply as a way “to give you all these interesting facts about chocolate so you can talk about it, though that’s certainly an important goal.”
Beyond instruction, she wants to celebrate the diversity of chocolate.
“It’s not just a Hershey’s bar or this thing you only get for Valentine’s Day,” Jackson said. “Chocolate should be part of what people consider good eating.”