Ambrosia Artisan Chocolates put Kootenay spin on South American tradition

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Maureen Kalibri of Ambrosia Artisan Chocolates.

After a few years in the Kootenays and the better part of two years at the Yasodhara Ashram, Maureen Kalibri wasn’t sure what to do.

The former conservation biologist came to the Kootenays seven years ago — her work dealing with songbirds and their habitat — and wound up at the ashram between contracts. And when the time came to chart a new course, a dream pointed her in the right direction.

“I genuinely had a dream where I was making bee pollen chocolate truffles,” the St. Albert, Alta., native said.

That led to a three-month online course to become a professional chocolatier, and, after a firefighting contract was completed, getting help from Community Futures to start Ambrosia Artisan Chocolates in 2011.

Having travelled a fair amount in South America, naming the business was simple, as was sourcing the chocolate — considered ambrosia (“food of the gods”) to the Mayan, Aztec and Olmec cultures, where the cacao bean originated.

“It carries many healing properties and has an interesting history,” says Kalibri on the Ambrosia website. “Mayans claim cacao has the potential to unlock hidden yearnings and reveal destinies. Ambrosia’s mission is about exploring and sharing the healing properties that cacao holds and experiencing it’s power.”

The chocolate she uses comes from organic fair-trade cacao beans from Venezuela and Colombia, the latter of which she said isn’t known for chocolate, but is up and coming in the industry.

Kalibri described her connection to the chocolate as “heart-centred.”

“I know chocolate through the experiences of people and cultures,” she said.  “I’ve been to South America quite a bit before, so I have that connection.”

Creating the chocolate bars she offers has allowed her to use her imagination as she combines flavours, colours and textures in unexpected ways.

“They’re all original,” she said. “I haven’t looked at a book or tried anything anyone else does.”

The Mayan Tradition, for example, combines chocolate with spice, as the Mayans did when drinking ceremonial cacao. The Ambrosia bar takes it a step further, with the addition of purple corn to freshly ground black pepper and cinnamon.

Inspired by the power of rose quartz, the Crystal Rose incorporates some unexpected ingredients — the 61 per cent dark chocolate is infused with high quality rose oil and Bolivian rose salt.

Then there’s Radiance, which combines green and reds — wild raspberries, rooibos tea and peppermint — and was planned as a Christmas-season bar but was too popular to limit to the holidays.

“It’s been one of the most popular,” said Kalibri.

Ingredients in other bars include cardamom and coconut (Calliope), and blueberries, goji and açai berries, pumpkin seeds and hemp hearts (ColibriBerry).

Seasonally, Kalibri also makes truffles, with flavours including gingerbread, lavender-fennel, maple nut and raspberry espresso, along with whatever creation comes to mind.

“That’s where new things can come through,” she said, but noted that not all of her ideas pan out (case in point: the avocado-cream cheese truffle).

And if the bars and truffles weren’t enough, Kalibri has also created Nectar, a drink mix made of chocolate powder and shavings, and Ambrosia Beans, which are nibs that come plain or with chocolate or maple flakes.

Whether it’s the creativity behind the flavours or simply the quality of the chocolate, Ambrosia chocolates have become a hit.

“I’m sometimes amazed at the response I get,” Kalibri said. “I hear a lot of, ‘I’ve never had chocolate this good before.’ And people who don’t like chocolate say, ‘I’ll eat this again.’ ”

She’s happy to hear that reaction — it just helps the creative juices to keep flowing.

“I like being able to create something a bit different and share what high-quality chocolate is,” she said. “The word alchemy comes to mind — blending different things and seeing how different ingredients mix. It’s like a dance.”

For more information, visit www.ambrosiachocolates.com or find “Ambrosia Artisan Chocolates” on Facebook. Ambrosia chocolate bars are available in Creston at Creative Fix, and on the East Shore at the Yasodhara Ashram bookstore, Crawford Bay Market and Lakeview Store.

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