A Sweet Gig
Celebrating a new chocolate bar in 2022, chocolatier Christopher Nobles loves his work, but a lot more goes into it than you might think.
Piety and Desire Chocolate
2032 Magazine Steet
PietyandDesireChocolate.com // @PietyDesireChoc // facebook.com/pietydesirechoc
Local chocolatier Christopher Nobles’ artisan bonbon business, Piety and Desire Chocolate, has become the go-to place for a bar-style drinking chocolate experience and high-end, mindfully made delectable treats, so much so that the fictional candy master himself, Willy Wonka, might even be jealous.
Piety and Desire Chocolate launched its chocolate-making business at a small retail location in Broadmoor in 2017. In April 2022, the company debuted a bar/salon style location on Magazine Street. Items on the menu include traditional drinking chocolate (think hot chocolate, gone glam and luxurious) on its own or paired with hot or cold coffee, iced mocha, ice cream specials, boxes of bonbons to go and chocolate bars inspired by New Orleans flavors, plus king cakes just in time for Carnival.
The Magazine Street location offers a unique hot chocolate and bonbons sampling experience that may be familiar to New Orleanians accustomed to classic cocktail bar experiences.
“What was the inspiration behind a drinking chocolate bar/bonbon salon? Well, one cannot escape the ‘bar’ set by New Orleans,” said Nobles. “My goal has always been to explore the depths of chocolate on the stage of a café, and while that goal is not yet fully realized, our new café chocolat is a step in that direction.”
Currently, the company’s model has skewed more toward retail, “although we do wholesale our chocolate bars to a list of cafés, gift shops and small grocers too long to print — check our social media for that,” said Nobles. “Beyond simple wholesale, a number of hotels, both big and boutique, also gift our bonbons as amenities, while a number of restaurants utilize our chocolate in their own desserts, including ‘The Grand Dame,’ Commander’s Palace. Our factory is still located in the heart of the city at 2727 S. Broad, and we are a small and mighty and growing staff of eight.”
According to a December 2022 release by GlobeNewsWire.com “the global chocolate market is projected to expand at a CAGR of 1.9% from 2022 to 2030, reaching 43.5 million tons by 2030. Rising health consciousness among consumers and the health benefits associated with consuming chocolate are expected to fuel demand for premium and dark chocolates in the near future. Moreover, surges in disposable income and changing lifestyles are projected to propel market growth over the forecast period.”
The release goes on to note three major trends: the increased demand for premium chocolate, artisanal chocolate, and sustainable resources and processes, putting Piety and Desire Chocolates on the path to success on multiple market fronts.
“My experience and training in crafting epicurean delights, having been forged in the culinary experience of being a multigenerational New Orleanian, makes for a certain excellence in ‘curating cacao with character,’ a catchphrase I admit to using often,” he said.
While Nobles’ formal education is in music and psychology, his business acumen for the culinary arts has been in the works since high school and beyond.
“My culinary background was chiefly formed by family recipes and working the lines in several restaurants throughout high school and college,” he said. “As far as learning about business, earlier experiences were similarly informal, with stints in bar management and front-of-house management at my beloved final service industry positions at SukhoThai, supplemented by light coursework in business planning and production management upon founding the business.”
Learning the complex ins and outs of the chocolate business also proved to be both a classroom and a hands-on experience for Nobles.
“Indeed, the process is complex, and given how precisely the process is affected by the engineering of specific equipment, I’d say much of that learning had to happen once I’d already plunged into the depths and debts of my own operation,” he said, adding that “a significant foundation was forged over several years before starting my own business. My learning began on the internet, taking online coursework from Ecole Chocolat.”
Nobles followed his online learning with in-person experiences, starting at the Academia de Chocolate in Nicaragua. From there he moved on to “a small town in the Cuneo region of Italy, Vicoforte, where I learned from the celebrated pastry chef, chocolatier and chocolate-maker Silvio Bessone in a factory utilizing a bit more space and probably a million dollars more than my own, employing artisan techniques and technologies to craft true chocolate.”
Nobles said making his own chocolate, and how he makes it, set him apart in the industry.
“As curators of cacao with character, our philosophy has much the same impact on our final products as that of a chef working with their purveyors to procure the best of the harvest or the finest ingredients produced in order to craft their dishes,” Nobles said. “In my mind, making our own chocolate is our only choice if we wish to make the best chocolates, a feeling that sets us apart from the vast majority of chocolatiers, even those whom I’d consider top shelf. Very, very few companies make confections from chocolate they have also manufactured.”
He is also proud of the company’s ethical practices.
“More importantly, perhaps, is the importance of a positive global impact, both socially and environmentally,” he said. “From the beginning, we’ve sourced our cacao by paying several times market price for cacao that is several times better than the market majority, as it provides for a more livable wage for those tending to this magical fruit of the tropical belt. Moreover, part of that quality involves a responsible environmental stewardship on the part of growers, as those we support grow utilizing more of a permaculture versus agriculture model, one in which inter-cropping offers a remedy to deforestation throughout the ‘lungs of the earth.’”
Back home in New Orleans, Piety and Desire Chocolates brings flavor profiles that are both familiar and intriguing, along with some seasonal favorites that customers look forward to each year.
“My upbringing ties me not only to the growing seasons of the region but also the cultural seasons of our uniquity,” he said. “We may not truly have all four weather seasons, but my family’s satsuma tree always blessed us in winter, and I always had king cake for my birthday (and to celebrate Carnival, of course). These seasonal feelings are communal and tied to the flavor of our home.”
When asked what’s next, there’s plenty for chocolate fans to be excited about, according to Nobles.
“Short term: the return of our decadent king cakes. Long term: new wholesale products and expanded café offerings.”
What’s your favorite Piety and Desire Chocolate item?
What I’m eating most of may be something I can answer: probably an 83% blend we’ve made into a yet-to-be-released bar that we’ve dubbed the 80s-Baby Blend… of course, I’ve also been sampling our dangerously-on-tap drinking chocolate more often every day, inspired either by the cold weather or as a coping mechanism for the deluge of holiday business. I don’t care which. Right now, I’m also particularly proud of our Cajun Drinking Chocolate, although I admit it’s too spicy for some, as it should be.
Fair trade vs. Fairtrade
Fair trade (two words) is often used by manufacturers or businesses to refer to many aspects of their product with regard to ethical trade operations. These products may not be certified by the World Fair Trade Organization.
Fairtrade (one word) identify products that have been certified by the World Fair Trade Organization to meet certain “social, economic and environmental standards,” according to FairTradeAmerica.org
Fairtrade products, such as cocoa, ensure farmers are paid a fair minimum price for their goods and services while also promoting good environmental practices and aiming to reduce child labor abuses.
According to internal market research from the Fairtrade International Corporation, 57% of consumers express a preference for buying Fair Trade certified chocolates over those without a certification.