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Unapologetically Canadian
Unapologetically Canadian

Episode 20 · 2 years ago

Travel the World of Chocolate with Doreen Pengracs

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Join me for a conversation with Doreen Pengracs, Canada’s chocolate tour expert. We speak about chocolate, travel and building an author's platform. Get the transcript of our conversation, complete with links, at https://traceyarial.com/blog/doreen-pendgracs/.

My name is tracieril and I am unapologetically Canadian. So I am here talking with Duran PNGRASS and she is the chocolate tour expert in Canada. Hi, during, hi, how are you today? I'm fine. So I noticed that I got my newsletter just yesterday and it seems that you were in belies is that it? Yes, I was in Belize in November of two thousand and eighteen and I went there specifically for the purpose of learning about the cocoa trade and and culture in Belize, because of course belieze has lots of Mayan people and the Mayan people are the ones who first were using cacao, and so there's quite an interesting subculture there and Belize is really a growing force on the world of chocolate and Coco really. So who how many places did you visit? It looks like you had a great time. I saw some beach shots. Yeah, I went with fellow writer of Virginia, Heffer, name from Toronto, and we did take three days to specifically spend on the beach in placentia and that was wonderful, but that's not a coco destination. We flew into a Belize city and then took a small fly ate over to Punta Gorda, which is in Toledo district, and that is the heart of the cocoa country. So we spent some time with the pen Ay they're called Penn Ay Cacao consortium and they're the ones who brought me in for this reach research trip, and so they took us to, you know, some of their cocoa farm showed us their processing plant. It's and it's very modern and high tech. It's everything's new. Where there's a lot of other smaller Coco cooperatives where they're doing things in more of the traditional way. So I got to see both, which was quite neat at quite interesting, and I'm I'm looking at Belize, is now being quite one of the top coco destinations to visit. Oh Wow. So what's the difference between to the traditional production and current production when it comes to cocoa? Okay, well, like say, for instance, when you think of when people think of chocolate, they often think of, you know, Belgium and Switzerland and the you know, more modern European countries who are making fantastic chocolate, but in a completely different way because they're using large equipment and and it's all quite mechanical, whereas if you go to the countries where the cocoa is growing most often it's harvested in small batches by hand, and then when it's processed, it's processed by hand that so you know, often they are still crushing the cocoa beans, you know,...

...with like a rolling pin, you know the old style, you know, May and Rolling Pin, which is out of stone, and so they're crushing its stone on stone and it's wonderful because the aromas get emitted as that happens, and and then, you know, it's roasted in the sun and it's also very it's also very pure and fresh and it's just such a completely different world than got when I first went on my first cocoa trip, which is in two thousand and nine. I went to Belgium, France and Switzerland with Kathie Lieber. You and I both know where she's at, a writer from Montreal, writer, editor, and you know the chocolate factory we went to in Zurich was massively huge and you know the was it was very high tech and and and you couldn't really smell too much chocolate happening there. But when you're in the you know, in the jungle, and things are being done right, with fresh beans that have just been harvested. It's just a completely different and intoxicating experience sounding one with all it is and in fact I do think that, you know, within a year I'll be leading my first overseas kind of chocolate trip, because I was trying to organize one a couple of years ago with the a couple of different and tour companies and we just couldn't somehow put it together. But I've been reapproached by one here in Toronto in Canada that I'm really very respectful of, and so I think this time we'll be able to make it work. And now I've done a number of other countries since we were talking with them, and I think the way to make it work is to go to the jungle, to something very pure and real as opposed to going to a more kind of developed country. Oh Wow, what a wonderful way to expand your business to it's been fascinating watching your creative entrepreneur life. Well, thank you. I really love doing the chocolate events. You know. I've done speaking engagements at different chocolate chocolate events around the world and whatnot. But I've also been doing a lot of chocolate and wine pairings or just chocolate, like mindful chocolate tasting events, and people really love those. So I do them every two three months here in Manitoba and and then I've done, you know, speaking engagements in California, Mexico, Costa Rica. I've been to the grenaded chocolate festival and it's all those different experiences kind of add to my chocolate knowledge and it's now been ten years that I have been totally immersed in the world of chocolate and Cacao well, and it's been really be you just introduced me to a new, wonderful chocolate producer here in Montreal that I'm looking forward to going to visit. I can't believe the the you shared a sculpture, a chocolate sculpture, of what sculpture that he...

...made right stop moral. Yes, he's a real artist and and he works as a chocolate ambassador for Cacao Berry, which, of course, is out of Paris and he's originally from Paris. But Cacao Berry is really neat because they've helped create what you call a hybrid chocolate maker, like there's chocolate tears who work with couvature, and so they're making chocolates, their own creations, but they're not working with the beans. They're working with a the kind of a finished product which they then melt and then make their own chocolates from. And then there's chocolate makers who work directly with the beans. WILL CACAO BERRY has a chocolate lab and just outside of Paris where chocolate tears can go and actually create their own their own customized couvature. And so there's a lot of chocolate makers now in Canada and throughout the world that are are making creating their own custom blend through cacawberry and then they're making their own bars which are their signature bars, like say, for instance, in in Quebec you've got Christophe moral doing that, and then in New Brunswick there's Adaabla Chocola in Shettiac and in Calgary there's the chocolate lab in Calgary that is making fantastic chocolate from their own custom blend of cuvature that was created by cacawberry and Freds. It's amazing. Oh Wow, and you mean you really have become such an expert? It's fascinating. I mean that one of the you've really shown how specializing in a particular topic can change the life of a writer. And you know what, that's what keeps me going because, like, as you know, it's extremely difficult to make a living as a freelance writer right now because so many people are writing for free or content mills where they're writing for practically nothing. I get offers all the time for my website to post articles for a dollar or for five dollars or even for free. Like this is how desperate writers are to get money and exposure. But I've created this this niche for myself of chocolate travel because you know, as you know, I love wine and I love travel. So I was originally going to do a book, you know, ten years ago, about wine travel, but then I discovered there had been so many books written about wine travel, but nobody had ever done a book on chocolate travel. So I sort of have carved out my own niche and I love that. But the thing that's made it difficult, though, is I'm neither strictly travel and I'm not strictly chocolate, so I kind of sometimes fall through the cracks between those two camps because sometimes chocolate are writers. Think I'm writing just about travel, they don't really get or chocolate companies. They don't get that I'm immersed in chocolate. And then trouble people or destinations think I'm just playing with chocolate. So they don't really understand that I've...

...created this niche and that it's now become, you know, I'm doing a series of books on it and it is my profession. Yeah, no, no, and I think, as with all mavericks, you know, you set off and then and then you know, in you know, a few years, they'll be all these people saying that they should do it. Just like you. I'm doing it. There are some, I've noticed some new players though, in the world that are doing a chocolate travel with when I started that and I kind of came up with that catchphrase chocolate travel, there was actually one other writer in Florida who was, you know, sort of trying to forge that path, but I think she kind of gave up on it. I you know, I because it is hard, like I say, I've got a gravel all the time to get subsidized travel so that I can do all this travel research for my work, you know, and I've done twenty countries now just for chocolate, you know. So naturally I can't afford to pay for all that myself, so I go to the tourism boards most of the mostly to get my travel cost subsidized, but sometimes they cocow you know, consortium, so producers or chocolate makers themselves realize the value of what I'm doing and I have had some subsidized travel through those channels as well. So it's been I have had to exercise a very high level of creativity in order to sort of make the value of my presence known when I visit different destinations so that they will help me get there and then there by spotlight their destinations and their chocolate world, you know, right and well, and also just on the business side as well. You started off by doing a kickstarter campaign for your first book, which was also not that easy to do as an independent, you know, and it was actually go goal. It was a it with indigog sorry, because at that time kickstarter did not work with Canadians. Now they do, but they did not work with Canadians back in two thousand and thirteen when I ran my campaign. So I tell you, doing that kickstarter campaign was the hardest thing I rather indigo go campaign was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life because it's so against, I think, most of our nature's to ask people for money, you know, and and yes, I was talking earlier subsidized travel, but that's kind of different, you know, as opposed to asking people to make donations towards the publication of a book. And that's what I was doing because in my first volume of chocolate tour I had sixty one color photographs. So I have to use coded paper to produce the book and that was excessively expensive. So I raised eight thousand dollars in thirty days, which I was quite proud of, you know, because the eight thousand dollars pretty much covered all my costs for putting out that first volume at you know, hiring the professional editor,...

...hiring the professional designer and a very good quality printer. Very proud of the book and it did win a reader's favorite award in two thousand and fourteen, so I was quite proud of that. Yeah, no, I have my copy. I'm very, very happy to have supported. Yes, your specialization, I think it's a really an awesome and like, as I said, as a as a colleague, it was really fun to watch you doing this process, because I think all of us have to be much more creative when it comes to creating a an entrepreneurial business in the world of writing these days. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you do. And you know, that's something I've sort of struggled with with other writers sometimes, because sometimes other writers think of writing is strictly being a creative, you know, endeavor. They don't look at it as being a business. But I came to writing from the business world. I worked in corporate communications for a large and to tea here in Manitoba, and so I came from the business world and prior to working in communications, I was in underwriting and whatnot, and so when I started my freelance business back in one thousand nine hundred and ninety three, it was intended to be a business, not not just a creative endeavor, but a business. And so that's the way I've always looked at my writing as being a business. And it's difficult, like it's a very difficult path to take, but man, it's so fantastic. I love being my own boss, I love what I do, I love the creativity process, but I also love the people it's introduced me to. People like you, fellow writers, that I love an ador, but also people in the world of chocolate and and and the farmers that are growing the Cacao and all these wonderful destinations that have opened my eyes to such an amazing world. I'm so grateful for all those opportunities. Yeah, no, it's like the entrepreneurial side of your business is actually really inspiring. I think it's a I think it's very important, particularly for Canadians, to understand that we are no, we are marketing to the world. Yeah, and as an entrepreneur that means that you have to be open to whatever, whatever side the business world takes. You know, and and as we were just talking, as we got on to this, how how open we have to be to to new technologies, which is difficult when you're an older I mean I didn't grow up with computers. Even I find all of this stuff very hard. That's exactly right. Like when I worked at at mental, of a public insurance and until one thousand nine hundred and ninety three, when I took a buyout package and started freelancing. So I didn't have a computer when I left there and I already had my first free lance assignment. So I had to do my first freelance assign it's still on the computers there a MPI, and then right away I had to get a computer and then I had to learn how to use it because, you know, I had to start earning income and and and since then it's...

...a very ongoing process. You can never sit back and relax and think hey, I've got this, because it's constantly changing. And and I've now learned how important pinterest is, you know, and it's become the second largest search engine in the world. And so for me I'm going through ten years a blog post. I have time. I've I started my block ten years ago and I started that because I was at a team at conference. That's the Travel Media Association of Canada, and the keynote speaker said to all of us there you have to be on twitter and you have to have a blog or your nowhere. So I came home from that conference and I did both. I first of all started the twitter account right away, but then I started working on, you know, getting my blog up and running. And so that's ten years ago now. So I'm slowly going through all my posts and adding a pin like a properly constructed pin, not just because people have a pinterest accounts and they just pin anything, but you've got to have vertical images with great big text across them explaining what they are, so that people can find things easily. And so that's kind of been my latest technology learn is how to use CANAVACOM and Pinterest to create these images that help people find what I'm doing. That's interesting because I'm doing something similar with instagram and my blog, which I've also been running since nineteen. I actually my first blog. I created my cell phone out of html in one thousand nine hundred and ninety three, because I because at that time it was like, if you have that time, we were just starting to talk about creating a digital asset library and so, but what you were trying to create at that time and what you're trying to create now are different. So I'm going through my blog and I'm updating the post that should stay and I'm redirecting the ones that shouldn't. And by the end I figured it's going to take me a full year to to have it the way I want it. You know, every week had just do a couple of posts, you know, absolutely like I it's an ongoing process. Like I started my first blog on blogger, you know, which is part of Google, back in o nine, and then I quickly learned that blogger sort of wasn't the most sophisticated blogging platform. And and the woman that is my social media and and sort of my web manager behind the scenes, wonderful person I've been working with for quite a number of years now. She recommended I switched to word press. So I did switch to word press. At first it was Wordpresscom and then realized I couldn't run a lot of the plugins that she was recommending for me. So we migrated my blog over to wordpress dot org and she did all that bet tough moving work, you know, in the background there and leader we redesign the the what you now see under chocolate tour dotnet is on wordpress dot organ. It's quite sophisticated...

...and it's all thanks to sheryl from behind the scenes that's really done a tremendous job for me and making my my site look professional and global. And then I had a Montreal base designer. Her name is Jennifer Cook, and she designed this beautiful chocolate globe as my logo and I love it because it absolutely exemplifies what I do the world of chocolate, chocolate globe. She's so amazing. I love her, I do. I love your logo. I think it's a fabulous logo. So it's fun that you actually got someone from Montreal. I'm telling you, the world is small. And now mine is on wordpress DOT ORG as well. I think it's a crucial but I think every anybody who is in are in the creative world, needs to have their own site that they control and then they can go to all these other student social media platforms, because you have no idea what the social media platforms are going to do over time. So you will exact actually be your own boss. You know? Well, exactly, because look at people who were using Google plus. You know, I've always had a google plus account, but I hardly ever use that. But that platform is now no longer supporting blogs and it they've shut down the Google plus social media platform, and so I knew several bloggers who were using the Google plus plug in for people to comment on their sites and whatnot, and I remember warning a couple of them. You know, Google plus is not working well, like say with MAC whatever. It wasn't very compatible and and they, you know, they sort of stuck with it until the very end when they had no choice but to redirect their their blogs to different platforms. You know. Yeah, I've always had a google clos account as well, but because I've always redirected things from my blog, I didn't lose anything when it went under. And the will I lose anything? That's facebook continues to direct people away from its channel. Yeah, yeah, you know, because, I mean, you know, basically it's become a pay to play situation now. So if you're not paying, then you're you know, you're not getting any attention at all on facebook these days. Yeah, I I do once in a while. Do I like a sponsored post, a paid post on on on one of my say, on one of my blog post where if I mentioned it on my author's page on Facebook, I may have to pay ten bucks or whatever to have some extra exposure on it. And I do that once in a while if it's a really important post that I want more people to see or whatever. All I will pay to play kind of thing. But no, normally I don't, because I've got like a personal facebook page, I've got my author's page, I've got twitter, where I've got thirteen and a half thousand followers and then I've got Pinterest, where I'm up to about eighty twozero in a reach. Not Not followers, because most people on Pinterest don't follow, but they you know, so they but you have these organic reaches that happen when you post to group boards, and that's how I'm okay, my reach up to eighty...

...two thousand, which I'm very happy with. So again, that's a new thing that I had to kind of learn and really, you know, massage and tweak till I found that it's sort of starting to work for me. So, yeah, I envy the young people who are kind of just coming in and all this just comes so easy to them, whereas people like you and I've been around a lot longer, it's it. It's hard and I can really understand, pardon me, why older people shy away from this stuff, because it's mindboggling. It's yeah, it's it is. Yeah, I really do spend I'd say a couple hours a day just on social media, you know. So it's part of my business, it's part of what I do, you know, and I know that some people pay people to do social media postings and commenting for them. But I don't believe in doing that because what I stand for is authenticity and so in all my writing it's all experiential and so it's all about being authentic. So I have no interest in, you know, paying some need to represent me on social media. I don't. I don't like that approach and I alot to know. I'd rather I have the same opinion if, if I'm commenting under my name, it's actually met. Same thing even with posting. I don't use automated posting because I know some people do it. Maybe it works for them, but I'm like, I really believe in being real and in the now kind of things. So I'm real. You know, I don't do that. I automatically. I was automatically posting to facebook for different things, but now it doesn't actually work because facebook change their algorithm. So I and so I'm still automatically posting to twitter if I do a blog feed, but then I my facebook strategy is changed in such that I'm starting to play with facebook live, and I do. I do one or two posts from my blog and then I share everybody else's posts, you know, and comment on the regularly and if it makes sense to bring my post into something that I do it quite you know, as part of the conversation that when it makes sense, I started decided to do it that way, to use it more almost as I because I've always used it as a fret, friend and family platform. And the advertising side. I only just created my notable nonfiction page and that has absolutely nothing on it because I created it last week because I realized, because now I've realized, I'm going to create a basically a strategy for facebook that has that as an advertising platform, Uh Huh, which I did not want to do under my own name, you know. I wanted to do a business page for that. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I mean this is that there's so many different, you know, ways you could tweak things and whatever to kind of create your own authentic or whatever online personality. You know, it takes a lot of strategy, know, a lot of work to do that. But, like I say, it's been ten years now...

...that I've really been actively, you know, kind of creating my brand. They call it your brand or your author's platform, you know, and I remember when I was trying to get, you know, a publisher or an aged ten years ago when I when I was started chocolate tour everybody said to me, you don't have a big enough offers platform, you know, you haven't got any kind of brand recognition. So I have spent the last ten years really quite actively working on that and that's why I invested quite heavily in hiring, as we mentioned, Jennifer Cook, you know, to do a beautiful online presence for me, the logo and the banner which is consistent across all social media platforms, so that people can recognize me easily, and I think that that's really helped build my brand and I'm continuing to you know, to do different things to kind of get my name out there so that when my next book comes out, which will be this year, that it will be a lot easier process than it was for the first one, where I was quite an unknown entity, even though that was my fourth book and actually my fifth. When I yeah, like it's you can never rest on your laurels, you know, like have to keep working at it because especially like in my case where, you know, like say, the first book I did was a fromers guide and the second book was one of those everything books that was published by Macintyre and Bursel. And then the third one was the book on volunteerism, which was published by Dun Derne in Toronto. And then I decided to self publish when I did the first chocolate tour volume, and and I will self publish the second one, because I do like having the control. It's a wonderful feeling, you know, as any author will know, giving you know, having a book is like giving birth. You know it's your baby, right and when work with the Polisher, who isn't sensitive to that, it's almost like you're giving your baby up for adoption, right, whereas self, no, it's true, you have no control. Like when I heardt volunteerism book, I had no control over what the cover looked like. The publisher didn't want to include any illustrations, and yet I had found a wonderful illustrator who created some fantastic illustrations which would have helped me reach the target audience I was after, which was volunteers. Instead, they thought the book was a Business Book and wanted to market it to business groups and sites. And what ended? That wasn't the group I was writing it for. I was writing it for people like you and me, people who volunteer for nonprofit groups out of the their own commitment or the goodness of their heart, not as a business endeavor, you know. So I learned that book that having the control really does help you, you know, connect better with your audience, which is so key and in the world that we're in now...

...anyway. And plus, there it gives you an opportunity to show people behind the scenes as you go, which I think is also very important. When do you think you're like you're saying that it's going to be two thousand and nineteen that chocolate is it going to be chocolate tour to or do you have another title or do you know? Well, I've got a stick with chocolate tour because that is my brand, right, chocolate tour. Than the word chocolate tour is my brand. It'll be the subtitle that is still I've still got. I've got so many different subtitles that I'm started throwing around in my mind, and so I may ask my readers, you know, to vote on on the ton of s subtitle. That's a great idea. I'm looking forward to clicking on the on the quiz. Yeah, yeah, yeah, because you know what, I've got several like I say they're all good. I like them all, but I got to stick with chocolate tour but the subtitle is definitely kind of a work in progress. So you know what, because I am my own boss and because I'm in full control of this book, I'm not going to rush myself. I really had intent, intended to have it out last year, but then my husband's health took a really bad turn for the worst and we had to get them into the public care system and that took so much out of me. And now, you know, he's safe and he's, you know, stable, and now I could kind of get back into my own work and my own life. But I don't want to push myself too much because then it takes the fun out of it and you know, chocolate has to be fun, right. If there is no fun in chocolate, that why bother? So I'm not going to push myself. I'm going to work at it at my own speed and hopefully it will be out. I'm hoping by summer to have the ebook out and the printed version by fall. That's my goal and I hope I will be able to achieve it. I am already working with a person who is very good at ebook conversions and we're starting on the second volume already. She's merging the A to Z guide from volume one with the new a TOC guide from volume two to create a mega at Z guide which will be part, you know, an integral part of volume two. So she's working on that right now. And a lot of what I've put on my blog will be migrated into the new book, you know, the highlights of and other information that I didn't put on the block. So I've got a lot of that already in progress. And then I just got to update some chapters, like the health benefits chapter will be updated because that's such an important chapter. It will it will be key and I'll have a chapter on sustainability and important issues like that. But then also, you know, some of the fun stuff like chocolate spouse, which here are now an obsession of mine, I'm sure. Oh my Gosh, I love chocolate spouse. Yeah, I know, it's it's been a pleasure talking to you. I have you know, I have my final question, but was there anything that I didn't ask you that you wanted...

...to to talk to people about? Well, I I love talking with people about chocolate. Always in it forever. So people are welcome to get a hold of me. You know a sign up for, you know, my website. It's free and you get all kinds of fun information about travel and the world of chocolate, travel and and I feel free to contact me with questions they may have, and I love like expanding my reach because I'm a lot of chocolate lovers are the ones who alert me to new companies and new trends that I may not have heard of. I can't possibly hear of everything around the world, so it's great that people, you know, get in touch with me and say, Hey, have you heard about this or that, and I'm always very grateful lot, you know, to hear from that. So if you can give people my ur all or do you want me to say it now? You know doesn't know, you can say it after the last question, because because that will be the fine and I will also put it in the show notes. First, my last question, as you know, is always. Do you consider yourself a Canadian and, if so, what does that mean to you? I am as Canadian as you can be. I was born and raised in Winnipeg and I have lived just outside of Winnipeg my entire light. Well, I mean I moved outside of the city in one thousand nine hundred and eighty two because I love to be connected with nature and I found being in the city it was just too much hustle and bustle. So I live an hour out of the city now and I absolutely love it. I'm right by Lake Winnipeg and it's a resort community, but it just keeps me so connected with nature, and that's what I really love about Canada is that we do have so much, you know, natural, natural world out there that's not just filled with mega buildings and noise pollution. Oh my God, and I can belong to toastmasters, and that toastmaster this week was talking about how the pollution in the big cities, the air. I don't know if you heard this or not, but babies in Delhi, India, begin getting lung cancer the day they are born and they are having many, many people now, young people age eighteen and whatnot, getting lung cancer in some of these large cities like Delhi, Mexico, city, whatever, because the babies are born with inhaling polluted air from the moment they touch this earth. So how luck, how lucky we are to be in Canada where we have clean air and I have my own well, my own fresh water, and I just feel so in control in my life because of that, that I have clean air and clean water and I'm so grateful to God that I have that at my disposal, that I have that to keep me safe and happy and in touch with people that care about each other and about nature at about the world. The great answer. It's a great answer.

Fresh air and water is kind of a crucial point. And shelter. Absolutely, absolutely. I have a modest home, but I love it and it's got I work in my loft upstairs here, my my artists Loft, my writer's haven here with great big beautiful windows, and I just feel so connected to nature because I have a little deck off my office on the second floor here and if I ever just want to step out, I've got I've got a screen door that, you know, I have open three seasons of the year and I just I love it, I love it, I love it. I'm so grateful that I have this beautiful world to live in. And how can people get in touch with you? Well, I live in Manitoba and open to the world, you know, via my website. So it is http colon backslash double backslash chocolate tour, so I'll spell that Sho c o Lato, you are dotnet, chocolate tour dotnet, and you can get ahold of me there. There's a contact page. There's a couple of about pages that talk about me as an individual and about chocolate tour, the brand, and they contain slide shows. So I encourage people to take some time to visit the about pages because especially the about page on chocolate tour has quite an extensive slideshow, and the one on about dream does as well, but a smaller one, but they give you an insight as to my world of chocolate travel and the world of chocolate and cocow that I'm trying to share with the world. Oh well, thank you. That was a great conversation. Thank you for listening to an apologetically Canadian. This episode was brought to you by notable nonfiction. Notable nonfiction teaches people to grow through their own ingenuity. Find out more at notable nonfictioncom.

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