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The inspiration behind the NEW Lioness Chocolate Bar

Africa is a long way from Vermont, but when chocolatier Lake Champlain Chocolates partners with New York Times best-selling author Chris Bohjalian, the magical landscape of the Serengeti comes to life in the new limited-edition Lioness Chocolate Bar!

author Chris Bohjalian with the new Lioness Chocolate Bar

Last summer, Double Day publishers approached us to see if we were interested in an on-going partnership with their Vermont author (and long-time Lake Champlain Chocolates fanatic), Chris Bohjalian. As a prolific historical thriller writer, Chris likes to spend his days writing, biking the Vermont countryside, and indulging his sweet tooth in extra-dark chocolate. As avid fans of Chris Bohjalian, we were thrilled to learn about his love of Lake Champlain Chocolates and couldn’t pass up this amazing opportunity!

Our chocolate wheels started turning… After developing a successful book and chocolate pairing list for the holidays, we were eager to find an exciting new way to collaborate for the launch of Chris Bohjalian’s 23rd novel, The Lioness, a riveting historical thriller in which a luxurious honeymoon African safari, set in the 1960s, turns deadly.  With an advanced copy of the novel in hand, Kate Brown, the head of Research & Development and Product Innovation at Lake Champlain Chocolates, set to work.

After months of creativity, hard work, and careful sourcing, the Lioness Chocolate Bar was born.  Handcrafted from 70% extra-dark chocolate sourced from Uganda, berbere spice and candied coconut brittle -- this limited-edition chocolate bar captures the taste of place and themes of the novel’s deadly east African safari setting.

tray of Lioness Chocolate Bars

A Taste of Africa

Since Chris Bohjalian is a passionate dark chocolate lover, it was a no-brainer that this limited-edition chocolate bar should be crafted from extra-dark chocolate. So, Kate chose an organic and fair trade 70% dark chocolate cultivated in Africa. In Bundibugyo, Uganda, local farmers process their cocoa beans at a central plant that was built in 2010. This modern facility, managed by the cocoa farmers themselves, has been instrumental in transforming the viability of the small cocoa farmers.  In the past, each cocoa farmer would process their beans at their own farms. Unpredictable and unsafe conditions could result in farmers losing up to 30% of their harvest. The labor-intensive fermenting and drying processes often kept children out of school. Today, the Bundibugyo cocoa farmers farm with sustainable, organic agricultural practices so that they are able to produce a superior product that commands the highest Fair Trade prices. The above market prices and fair trade premiums that they receive for their high quality cocoa beans has allowed the communities to build new schools and other infrastructure.

Chris Bohjalian in the Lake Champlain Chocolates factory

Bring the Heat

The fiery intensity of the Lioness Chocolate Bar comes from a berbere spice blend. “Fire (both the literal and figurative sense) is very much a part of The Lioness [book]. I used a traditional East African spice blend to bring this to life in the Lioness Chocolate Bar,” says Kate Brown. This iconic Ethiopian flavor is a blend of chilies, peppercorn, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, Hungarian paprika, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, ajowan seed, mace and cardamom. Over time, every region and household develop their own unique berbere recipe, which they pass down through generations. 

Blending the flavors of Africa with a touch of Vermont

Like a lioness, this bar’s spicy fierceness and bold chocolate notes, are balanced out by a sweet satisfying crunch that comes from chunks of candied coconut brittle. To achieve the perfect crunch, Kate Brown made small batches of candied coconut brittle from organic and fair trade coconut, cane sugar, and Vermont butter. This delicate process was a true labor of love. Kate handcrafted 10 batches of candied coconut crunch just to yield the 50 pounds she needed for a single run of this limited-edition bar. Once each batch was cooked, it had to be rolled out by hand and then carefully broken up to achieve the optimal size pieces. Kate said, “Since this is very much a small-batch artisan chocolate bar. Hand pouring each and every bar allows us to add more inclusions and larger sizes pieces of candied coconut brittle.”  The results of this ingenuity and craftmanship is a unique touch of sweetness to an otherwise intense and fiery bar.

clean water initiatives in Africa that part of Fair Trade USA's Women's Empowerment Project

Empowering Women

When two Vermont power-houses collaborate, amazing things can happen. At our very first meeting, Chris Bohjalian was vocal about not only his love of Lake Champlain Chocolates confections, but his love of our focus on sustainability and social change. For both of us, it was important for this sweet collaboration have a charitable component. With this project, our goal is to raise more than $2000 for women cocoa farmers in Africa. Two dollars from the sale of each Lioness Chocolate Bar will be donated to Fair Trade USA and designated to a Women’s Empowerment project in Africa. This program was started as a way to challenge the power imbalances of global trade, including addressing gender inequalities. Through the Women’s Empowerment project, women cocoa farmers are presented opportunities for economic empowerment – giving them access to supportive work environments, education, finance, farm inputs, access to land ownership. “Chris’ enthusiasm and love for our chocolate is truly unmatched,” says Allyson Myers, Director of Marketing for Lake Champlain Chocolates. “The opportunity to support a book launch by such a beloved and successful Vermont author, while also helping to create social change for women in Africa, is the type of partnership we value as a certified B Corporation®. This project epitomizes the impact we all can make when we be the change we seek in the world.”

Get ready to savor a safari adventure with this immersive extra-dark chocolate experience. Whether you get an autographed book and Lioness Chocolate Bar for yourself or get a case of limited-edition bars for your whole book club, we hope you will join us in helping to create social change, just by devouring chocolate. The Lioness Chocolate Bar roars into stores on Tuesday, May 10th.  Order your limited-edition bars today!


The Sweet Results

We are excited to announce that sales from the Lioness Chocolate Bar raised $1398.00 for the Fair Trade Women’s Empowerment Fund. Over an eight week period sales roared in for our the sweet collaboration with author Chris Bohjalian. $2 of each individual bar and $12 from every set of autographed book and bar raised to support female farming communities in Africa. The Women's Empowerment project was started by Fair Trade USA to challenge the power imbalances of global trade by presenting women cocoa farmers with access to supportive work environments, education, finance, farm inputs and access to land ownership. For all of us at Lake Champlain Chocolates, this project epitomizes the impact we all can make when we be the change we seek in the world!