We began in 1999 as a project by David Mincey to bring awareness of issues in the chocolate industry to a wider audience. As a chef and restaurateur David had gained a great following at his Victoria restaurant "Camille's" for locally sourced farm-to-table cuisine paired with wines grown and bottled in B.C. That type of dining is pretty common now but back in the early nineties it was virtually unheard of on Vancouver Island. Even ingredients which had to be imported such as coffee, tea and olive oil could at least be sourced from a reputable, traceable supplier. With one exception - chocolate. We found it impossible to get any chocolate at that time which did not come from big industrial processing plants in Europe. This is chocolate that was not traceable to a country of origin, a species of tree or a particular farm. In fact it seemed to be created purposely to hide those facts from those who would use it. Very frustrating for a young chef who wants everything he serves to be open and transparent.
So we started looking harder. Knowing by instinct that there had to be an alternative but not really knowing where to start. Remember, this was in the days before "Google". We actually went to the library and checked out books. Over time we realized that there was an underground world of chocolate makers who were trying to save chocolate from the big industrials. They were making small-batch craft chocolate in little shops all over the world. They were using rare, heirloom strains of cacao and working with farmers to create a better crop. We wrote to them (an actual letter, on paper, with a stamp) and ordered some. Their chocolate tasted nothing like the stuff we had all grown up with. An obsession was born.
After getting a chance to travel and delve deeper into the chocolate world I felt confident enough to start speaking about what I had discovered to small groups of foodies in Victoria. These classes morphed into lectures at larger centres and then a multi-week chocolate course at The University of Victoria. I would often feature bars that I had discovered in my travels during these classes but at this time artisanal, or craft chocolate was almost impossible to obtain in Canada. It became clear to me that as important as learning about chocolate is, being able to taste, compare and purchase good chocolate on a regular basis is even more critical to the creation of a knowledgeable, discerning chocolate lover.
And just like that we went into the retail business and the Chocolate Project was born. We began by partnering with a number of locally owned businesses in Victoria to set up mini-chocolate stores inside of their store. Many of these are still going strong today and we are truly grateful to their visionary owners for giving us our start. In January of 2014 we opened our own stand-alone store in the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson. As of today we carry a curated selection of over 300 different bars from more than 60 bean-to-bar artists around the world.