Boise-based Dream Chocolate Makes Hair-strengthening Candy Bars, Vagina Pops and More 

In the one-room factory of Dream Chocolate Company (2127 Century Way), employees in hairnets and white aprons catch molten chocolate in molds or wrap bars in gold foil. Along one wall, a ton of German-chocolate bricks is stacked on a plastic-wrapped pallet, and rows of metal racks lined with trays of finished chocolates, from creamy white rectangles dotted with cocoa nibs to glossy dark squares stamped with flower designs, fill the rest of the space. The Boise-based artisan chocolate bar maker is home to more of the sweet stuff than any person could reasonably expect to see in one spot.

click to enlarge The finished bars on display in the factory all have the signature snap and shine of high-quality, tempered chocolate. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • The finished bars on display in the factory all have the signature snap and shine of high-quality, tempered chocolate.

Through the controlled chaos stride company founder Kay Johnson and Vice President Jason VanQuill. The two men are the brains behind the operation, which distributes its own products but also takes custom orders from high-profile clients nationwide. Johnson—a former broker for food giants like Hormel, Sara Lee, McCormick and General Mills—brings years of experience to the table, while VanQuill is the "flavor alchemist" who works one-on-one with clients to make their visions reality.

"I'll work with them and either take their ideas and incorporate it into our process and different types of chocolate...[or] we'll bounce ideas off each other and come up with new flavors or ingredients for bars," VanQuill says.

Also on the factory floor is a kind flavor lab: a desk surrounded by bottles and bags of ingredients. VanQuill takes items from the shelves one by one, explaining how he has used them to make a range of "healthy chocolates" that are all the rage with holistic-minded customers.

click to enlarge The Dream Chocolate "flavor station" is packed with ingredients ranging from the traditional to the wacky. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • The Dream Chocolate "flavor station" is packed with ingredients ranging from the traditional to the wacky.

"[One of our clients] was looking for Ayurvedic-type properties, with Chinese herbs and an alter

native sweetener. So basically we developed a chocolate bar that was cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, sweetened with honey, and then it had cashews, cranberries, cardamom, cinnamon, maybe even nutmeg and some Ayurvedic herbs: shatavari and ashwagandha," VanQuill says. He picks up a bag of hydrolyzed collagen, adding, "This is sort of a trending, newer [ingredient], in the last year and a half or so. That's something that we're playing with right now; It's really good for your skin, it helps your cells hold in moisture ... strengthens hair, promotes nail growth, that kind of thing."

click to enlarge Asnaku, shown here catching chocolate in molds, is one of the Full Circle Exchange program participants who has become a permanent part of the Dream Chocolate team. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Asnaku, shown here catching chocolate in molds, is one of the Full Circle Exchange program participants who has become a permanent part of the Dream Chocolate team.

Still, VanQuill says, the best-selling Dream Chocolate bar is more traditional. It's 70 percent dark chocolate with Bali sea salt and California almonds, ingredients hand-mixed into the bars with chopsticks to ensure the perfect distribution and consistency.

The process at Dream Chocolate is as much about quality as taste. Johnson and VanQuill will snack on whole roasted cocoa beans rather than resort to fast food when they're at trade shows, and that fastidiousness comes through in the finished products, which are made from what they consider the best ingredients from around the world. Getting those to ingredients to the factory, however, is a complex process.

Dream Chocolate uses cocoa beans that are Rainforest Alliance Certified, responsibly grown and sourced from Ecuador. The beans make a 6,000-mile journey to Germany, where they are processed into 11-pound bricks before being shipped to the Boise factory. Once there, the chocolate is melted down, tempered (a multi-step heating and cooling process that gives chocolates a signature snap and sheen) and made into bars—or more creative shapes.

click to enlarge Dream Chocolates offers some creative shapes to clients—including vagina pops and bear paws.  - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Dream Chocolates offers some creative shapes to clients—including vagina pops and bear paws.

Apart from its traditional stock, Dream Chocolate makes "V-Pops," vagina-shaped chocolates on sticks that it ships around the country to accompany performances of the female-empowerment play The Vagina Monologues—the pops have been eaten by the likes of Meryl Streep. There was a fair amount of controversy over the v-pops a few years ago. Johnson explains how a delivery of the sweets to Boise State University for a fundraiser put Dream Chocolate in Rush Limbaugh's crosshairs. After the radio host received a package of pops from the Boise State Women's Center, he railed against the school for advocating pornography. The products were pulled from the company website for a few years, but are back for 2018.

"This year I thought, 'You know, I really believe in this. I believe in women, I have two really strong daughters and I have really strong granddaughters, and I'm for this,'" Johnson says.

Dream Chocolate has taken a stand on another controversial issue as well. It partners with Full Circle Exchange to provide job training for refugees and immigrants, some of whom take permanent positions at Dream Chocolate, while others go on to work in different food-related businesses.

"They're always upbeat, because they really want to make it here," Johnson says, adding that wrapping chocolate bars can help in the recovery of fine motor skills after trauma."...We get some benefit from them," Johnson says, "But it's really something we're giving."


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