VIU Baking Program Launches Exclusive Signature Chocolate

VIU Baking Instructor Ken Harper displays the new exclusive VIU chocolate product, known as Spindle Whorl.

VIU Baking Instructor Ken Harper displays the new exclusive VIU chocolate product, known as Spindle Whorl. Photo Credit: Vancouver Island University

November 18, 2021 - 11:00am

A-one-of-kind signature chocolate created and designed by students is now available.

It’s hard to top the taste of quality chocolate and in the case of a new creation courtesy of the Professional Baking and Pastry Arts program at Vancouver Island University (VIU), there’s nothing else like it in the world – literally.

And starting this month, people can experience for themselves exactly what an exclusive, student-created signature chocolate tastes like, with the official release of the VIU product: Spindle Whorl.

Creating a distinctive VIU chocolate was made possible through the Cacao Barry Or Noir™ experience. The exclusive concept, which started in 2012, allows the chef to customize their own chocolate recipe from a selection of the best cocoa beans from all around the world.

“Cacao Barry has sponsored the VIU baking program for almost eight years now and donates 500 kg of chocolate to our programs every year,” says Instructor Ken Harper. “I heard about their custom chocolate creation program and thought it could be a good way to promote the VIU program.” 

Key for Harper was figuring out a way to get students involved. Specifically, he sought a student with a “keen sense of taste” to help determine what the flavour palate of the chocolate would be. In December 2019, after a blind taste-test competition, which featured 16 different items and five baking students, Darian Zowtuck was chosen as the winner. 

Zowtuck and Harper then visited the Or Noir facility outside of Paris, France during a field school excursion in January 2020, where they worked with experts at the facility to develop a signature VIU chocolate. This process included tasting different combinations and paying attention to aspects such as bitterness, sweetness and fruitiness, before the final flavour profile was found.

In searching for a name for the chocolate, Harper wanted to connect local Indigenous knowledge and culture with the product and reached out to C-tasi:a - Geraldine Manson, a VIU Elder-in-Residence, for ideas and inspiration and says Spindle Whorl was suggested as a name.

A traditional Coast Salish tool, the spindle whorl – suÌsuÌtun – was used for fabricating cloth. 

“The spindle whorl is used to bring various strands together to weave something,” says Manson. “It was the bringing together strands using it as an example of students coming together to make something. Sharing what the spindle whorl represents is important. I see the students coming together to test flavours of chocolate to make an end product, just as a spindle whorl is used to make clothing and blankets etc.”

The Spindle Whorl packaging was designed by VIU Graphic Design graduate Kristen Svendsen. The final product was originally supposed to arrive at VIU in March of 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was made to delay the delivery until this fall.

Now, with the chocolate here, Harper says that for the short-term at least, Spindle Whorl can be ordered online (products can be found by clicking the ‘Register’ button and scrolling to the bottom of the page) until November 26.The chocolate is available in 100 g bars for $7 each, or 500 g bags of wafers for $20. He also notes it will be available in the new year in other locations, with further details to be announced.

For Harper, part of what makes this creation extra special is the truly unique nature of it.

“This is a one-shot deal and the only time this particular chocolate is ever going to be made,” he says. “We could tell the company to make this chocolate again, but my long-term goal is that we sell this chocolate and funds raised from this are put aside to repeat this experience.”

However, even a repeat experience “will involve a different group of students, so it will be something completely different,” Harper notes. “It will never be the same chocolate."



Eric Zimmer, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

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Tags: Baking and Pastry Arts | Teaching and Learning

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