Did you know Fresno is home to a major chocolate factory?
Most people don’t, because G. Debbas Chocolatier and its 40 or so full-time workers are hidden away in a nondescript business park near the airport. The chocolate they make is usually only sold under different brand names like Target’s Simply Balanced chocolate and boxes sold at Nordstrom under the department store’s name.
But now Fresnans and anyone else in the country can buy that locally made chocolate and have it delivered directly to their door. Cocoa Crate, a sister company to G. Debbas, launched its new chocolate subscription service in December.
Life’s too short for bad chocolate.
Max Debbas, Cocoa Crate
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The Willy Wonka of sorts who came up with this idea is Max Debbas, 28, son of G. Debbas founder Guy Debbas.
Much like monthly subscription services that send a box of clothing, makeup or dog treats to your door, Cocoa Crate sends a box of chocolates to your door via UPS. And it won’t melt even in 110-degree heat, but more on that in a moment.
“It is the only place right now to buy direct G. Debbas chocolates,” says Max Debbas.
This is the perfect opportunity to say: Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.
Yeah, I had to go there, because a different selection of chocolate lands on your doorstep each month.
Each box has about a pound of chocolate, usually including six truffles, bars, bark and two types of “tumbled chocolate” – fruit or nuts coated in chocolate.
That includes Champagne raisins, which are raisins soaked in Champagne then tumbled in white chocolate that’s also infused with Champagne.
2 yearshow long it took to develop a box to keep the chocolates from melting
Other recent boxes featured dark mint mocha espresso beans, crème de menthe truffles and jumbo milk chocolate rocky road clusters.
“Nothing is going to be chocolate flavored,” Debbas says. “Everything is pure milk, dark or white chocolate.”
The chocolate is created by the 25 artisan chocolatiers who work for G. Debbas. Many have worked there since Debbas was born.
He grew up in the business but also has another career running a video production company and teaches media production at Fresno State.
But he always comes back to chocolate.
“Just being around chocolate for so long, it’s just kinda in my blood,” he says.
A subscription costs $45 for a one-time only box, $36 a month for six months and $33 a month for a year-long subscription.
Everything we do is local.
Max Debbas, Cocoa Crate
That may seem pricey, but it’s premium chocolate, says Debbas, who notes that G. Debbas has won several global awards and had the No. 1 selling truffle in Japan in 2002.
“We’re not just putting bad chocolate in a fancy box,” he says. “We’re actually putting the best chocolate you can buy in a box.”
The chocolate is also deemed equitable trade, a step beyond fair trade that gives a percentage of the sale price directly back to farmers in Ecuador. The money is also used to help build schools and find better water sources.
The remaining the ingredients – fruit, nuts, cream, etc. – are local whenever possible.
The hardest part about this whole process was getting the chocolate out of Fresno – a city that hits 110 degrees in the summertime – without melting.
It took two years to get the exact right box, which is extra dense with ice pack-like padding.
“I always say, ‘Life’s too short for bad chocolate and I also have zero patience, so life is too short to go shopping,” Debbas says.