February is always a tricky month. And this February looks as if it will be a tough one. Christmas is long gone. Lockdown is still with us. The weather is (most likely to be) grey.
But on the plus side, we have Valentine’s Day coming up (see here for some gift ideas). The days are starting to become noticeably lighter for longer. Some crocuses are already out. Spring is around the corner. And hopefully we can get back to swimming soon.
In addition, we’re going to roll out a couple of new Virtual Tastings. Firstly we’ve been piloting some “Kids Virtual Tastings” with a couple of schools. The focus is on “BUILDING SHARED MEMORIES” while having some fun — and keeping the kids busy, and enthused, for at least a few half term afternoons.
Secondly, we’re extending our chocolate Virtual Tastings to pairings with Wine (and hopefully soon other products). The focus here is reminding us that even though we are in lockdown, we can still find ways to do new stuff, interact with friends old and new, plus have some fun.
Until we’d piloted our first few “Kids Tastings” we hadn’t appreciated how important it is for kids to be able to build “SHARED MEMORIES”. On reflection, this should have been obvious. Think back to how you made your childhood friends, It was by doing stuff together that you still reminisce over. This is really hard for kids in lockdown as many are, like most adults, pretty isolated.
So late last year and earlier this month, we were delighted to be asked by a couple of schools to adapt our Virtual Tastings for kids from 7-13 (give or take a few years at either end once siblings joined in). In addition to making the Tastings “fun” the teachers stressed that what was really important was to create some SHARED MEMORIES. Learning about how to taste together. Finding out what plant chocolate grows on. Discovering why beards were so important for chocolate bars. Making your own chocolate creations. Grimacing over some “interesting” flavours, intensities and textures.
The good news is that these Kids Tastings worked. In fact they worked very well (see Google for some reviews). So we now want to roll these out, starting this February, where we hope we’ve coincided with many people’s half terms during the week starting Monday the 15th.
We know too that exams and interviews as a kid are never fun. Doing it remotely is even harder. And often there isn’t even the chance to get together with other kids afterwards. So if you are a teacher looking for something different that brings kids together and builds some “shared memories” in a safe setting, with some fun craft chocolate, please do write to us at [email protected]
Similarly, having a birthday party separate from your friends is even less fun. Birthday parties – or other ‘special days’ — are all about creating a sense of occasion, of that ‘specialness’, bringing people together to celebrate. People coming together for you feels like a gift in itself. Doing that with chocolate in the same room, even if it’s a virtual room, has the potential to be special. So if you are a parent with kids (or adults) who like chocolate, we’d love to try and help. Please see here
For adults, one of the largest challenges of lockdown is avoiding the perils of becoming a couch potato. With Netflix this is pretty hard. Unlike going to a movie in a cinema, there is no walk home or drink at the pub. You just roll from couch to bed.
Dialling into a Zoom event can all too often be like attending a show, museum talk or conference without the fun of the watercooler chat. You don’t get the chance to articulate your impressions, share your excitement or exchange ideas. It’s all one way. No feedback. No communal sharing.
This is why we’ve tried from the outset to make our Zoom Tastings interactive. We want them to be more like a conversation or a dialogue. We don’t want them just to be a one way lecture.
So we make extensive use of quizzes and tools like Mentimeter so that everyone can, in real time, share their experiences. This avoids the problem of cacophonous conversations over your laptop, never ending chat threads or (even worse) every one taking it in turns to comment one by one on the Zoom/Teams/whatever. It also means that everyone can and should be able to participate. Unlike tastings where you passively try the chocolate and just listen, with Mentimeter we try to get everyone to reflect, engage and (anonymously) share their impressions.
Indeed, when done right we think that you can actually get more out of a virtual tasting than many in person tastings. They are less intimidating. They can encourage more reflection.
And in doing so, you get to sort of do the tasting equivalent of riding a bike with stabilisers. And you can gain confidence in the process. The anonymity is a brilliant thing too; with Mentimeter, you can put ideas forward without nervousness (for more on this, see this post)
And we’re really keen to try and extend this in other areas – so this February, we’re working with a bunch of partners to pair Craft Chocolate with Fine Wines. These tastings are being organised by our partners, so you do need to register, and purchase with them (but all the details are on our website). Here is the current line up
We are DEFINITELY looking forward to all these Pairings. And also to launching our Kids Tastings and Activities.
As always, thank you for your support and please stay safe and sane
Spencer, Simon, Lizzie, Harmony and James
P.S. videos of Spencer tasting the January subscription box with Mika are available now here