Coupeville Chocolate Walk: Chamber supports shop local, small business with sweet event

The treasure hunt-style event, organized by the Coupeville Chamber of Commerce, The Whidbey Examiner, Front Street Realty and Sweet Mona’s, starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Coupeville Wharf.

Mona Newbauer waited patiently for her chocolate to temper.

Bowls of espresso and Tahitian vanilla bean truffles sat off to the side, waiting for a dip.

“It’s sort of like tempering steel,” she said Monday.

“Every chocolate has guidelines.”

Those guidelines include increasing the temperature of chocolate to a very specific degree, dropping it and then raising it again.

For the chocolatier, who is celebrating 10 years this month of having her retail chocolate shop Sweet Mona’s in Langley, tempering chocolate is somewhat of an art.

“It really does take practice,” Newbauer said. “Even for myself I can get out of practice.”

In another area of Newbauer’s kitchen, employee Matt Noyes carefully and expertly cuts and separates sheets of caramel.

When Clifford, a machine that tempers and creates a waterfall of chocolate for coating, is ready, Noyes sets the caramels along a conveyor belt that takes the chewy treasures through the chocolate waterfall.

After coming out the other side, Noyes scores each chocolate in Mona’s signature style and hand sprinkles sea salt on each one.

The pair is busy this week, preparing truffles, mint meltaways, peanut butter cups and other chocolate treasures for the first-ever Coupeville Chocolate Walk.

The treasure hunt-style event, organized by the Coupeville Chamber of Commerce, The Whidbey Examiner, Front Street Realty and Sweet Mona’s, starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Coupeville Wharf.

Chocolate Walk participants receive a Valentines-decorated box, map and checklist. They stroll around town, visiting each of the 25 participating businesses and collect varying chocolate confections.

Many of the businesses are giving out Mona’s chocolates, but others will offer items that highlight their business talents.

Emily Stevens, owner of Emily’s Sweets and Treats on Front Street, said she’s making a cocoa nib brownie.

The nib, she said, creates a crispy texture.

The recipe is something she’s always wanted to try and the event gives her the opportunity to make the decadent dessert, she said.

Sarah Richards, owner of Lavender Wind, which has a commercial kitchen and offers a variety of lavender and non-lavender confections, is offering several options for participants.

“We’re really going to town,” she said.

Richards and her sister took a chocolate-making class in Seattle to learn the art and are adding truffles to the shop’s regular offerings.

For the Chocolate Walk, Richards will offer a varieties of truffles or a macaron.

Some of the other businesses will be giving out chocolates that are part of the shop’s regular inventory. Some of the businesses will be offering additional promotions, sales and other deals associated with the event.

“There’s a lot of buzz about (the walk),” said Lynda Eccles, executive director of the Coupeville Chamber of Commerce. “The businesses are excited about it.

“It’s all about the businesses and letting people experience what’s so special about Coupeville.”

Because the event is in its first year, organizers are starting conservatively and are only selling 150 tickets. Sales started in January.

What’s interesting is how many of the ticket sales are coming from outside of Whidbey Island, Eccles said. Visitors are traveling from as far as South Puget Sound, Lake Stevens, Stanwood and Anacortes to participate.

The event is part of the chamber and The Examiner’s continued shop local and support small business promotions.

During the winter months, which are continually slow for tourism towns, finding creative ways to bring visitors to town and into local businesses is what the chamber is supposed to do, Eccles said.

“Sip N’ Shop (the chamber’s Small Business Saturday Event held in November) was so amazing because people were going into stores they’d never been in before,” Eccles said. “I’ve had a couple of businesses mention they’ve gotten new customers since the event.”

“That’s my hope for the Chocolate Walk.”

Coupeville Chocolate Walk tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the Chamber of Commerce office, Cascade Insurance or at under Coupeville Chocolate Walk. Registration is 11 a.m. to noon at the Coupeville Wharf. Any late participants will need to check in through the Coupeville Visitor’s Center on Alexander Street. Participating businesses on South Main Street are open until 3 p.m. Businesses in the downtown area are open until 5 p.m. or later.

Did you know?

Chocolate is made from the fruit of the cacao tree. Cacao pods contain nibs that are crushed to make unsweetened chocolate.

The scientific name of the cacao tree, Theobroma, means “food of the gods.”

When the cacao nibs are crushed, there are fats and solids remaining. The fats are called cocoa butter. The solids are ground into cocoa powder.

Chocolate bars may have percentages printed on the label. This percentage refers to the total content of the cacao (or cocoa) solids.

White Chocolate does not contain cocoa solids but can be called chocolate by U.S. FDA standards. It must contain cocoa butter.

Hawaii is the only U.S. state that grows cacao beans to produce chocolate.

The world’s first chocolate candy was made by Dutch chocolate-maker Conrad Van Houten in 1828. He pressed the fat from roasted cacao beans to isolate the cocoa butter, and then added it to cocoa powder and sugar.

Cacao is dried in the sun for about seven days before shipped from the country of origin to the chocolate manufacturer.

Chocolate Liquor is the ground up “nib” of the cocoa bean.

Fermentation is an important step in the transformation of cacao beans to chocolate.

The seed pods of the cacao tree grow directly off the trunk, not on the ends of the branches.

Each cacao pod is about the size of a pineapple and holds 30-50 seeds. It takes between 400-500 seeds to make one pound of chocolate.