For the love of chocolate 

Options are many for chocolate lovers

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Valentine's Day approaches and with it comes the dilemma of how to mark the most romantic day of the year.

Flowers are always a good bet for any flower-loving spouse or soon to be life partner. Who wouldn't like a new clothing accessory like a scarf or comfortable gloves to fend off the February cold?

Those who like to keep it simple will opt for a card containing a poetic verse with a personal note signed off with, "From your Valentine" at the bottom.

Some people like to give, and others like to get, unmentionable under-things.

People like Andre Nadeau with El Diablo Chocolate, Terri Braun at Xocolatl Chocolate Creations and Valerie Sicotte of Whistler Chocolate along with chain outlets like Rogers' Chocolates and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory have their money on the king of the candy world this Valentine's Day.

Andre's chocolate venture is the newest in Whistler's growing chocolate industry. El Diablo launched in November with a product that includes lightly roasted almonds, cashews, filberts and pecans. El Diablo Chocolate is currently available at Burnt Stew Café in Function Junction, but expansion is underway for Andre's fair trade product.

"El Diablo Chocolate is a natural product and the best quality product I could find in the market and the combination is the product of a couple of years of searching and trying different things," says Andre.

According to Terri from Xocolatl, two of the biggest days of the year for her are Feb. 13 and 14.

"It is a two-day blitz," she says during a phone interview from her small store on Cleveland Avenue in Squamish with the buzz of chocolate production clearly audible in the background.

She starts preparing for Valentine's Day in January by building her inventory of solid chocolate products. Two weeks before the big day she and her staff start increasing the inventory of filled chocolate products.

Valerie says things are a little different for her company because of the nature of the operation. Whistler Chocolate produces organic chocolate bars for retail outlets across Canada and Internet customers around the world.

"Chocolate and Valentine's Day go together," Valerie says so she makes sure her retailers are well stocked leading up to Valentine's Day.

One of the Whistler Chocolate distributors is the Internet-based grocery delivery service called SPUD.ca. Last year, SPUD offered its customers a Valentine's special that included Whistler Chocolate along with a rose.

The chocolate entrepreneurs can thank the author Geoffrey Chaucer as he is the person commonly credited as the early architect of Saint Valentine's Day as we know it now. Chaucer's poem from 1382 called "Parlement of Foules" honouring the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, a blushing 15 year-old at the time, is one of the first references to a day dedicated to lovers. The poem also suggests birds mate on Feb. 14 each year. Despite the fact that there's no way birds were mating in mid-February in the middle of jolly old England's winter of 1832, Chaucer's reference is said to have set up Feb. 14 as the day western civilization celebrates cupid, romantic love, marriage and courtship.

The sharp marketing minds in the intimacy industry took over where Chaucer left off.

Giving chocolate at Valentine's Day really works because anyone who gets it but doesn't like the sweet treat or opts out of eating it as a dietary choice should find it very easy to share with others.

Terri reports that last year, one of her customers wanted to take chocolate sharing to a whole new level by working with the shop to present an engagement ring to his girlfriend.

"We made a special container of chocolate and we put the ring inside," says Terri. "They are happily married and he's come in several times since."

Many believe that chocolate's combination of cocoa beans with cocoa butter and sugar has great health benefits when taken in moderation.

Valerie is sweetening the deal by wrapping all of her product in compostable packaging so those who want to express their love for another and their love for the earth at the same time can sleep easy knowing the packaging can go into a composting system for eventual return to the earth.

Terri and Valerie offer Valentine's Day shoppers a variety of different chocolates to choose from. There's milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and variations on these with any number of things added.

Andre is offering one product at this point while her packaging and marketing is in development.

Love is in the air, romance is on the horizon and chocolate is on the tongue. Thank you Chaucer for giving us a reason to indulge in chocolate.

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