A budding Calgary chocolatier says her new business is taking off thanks to the city's dry climate and supportive community.

Anne Sellmer runs the Cochu Chocolatier from a commercial kitchen set up in her basement.

"We have won 29 awards, 15 of them world level," Sellmer told the Calgary Eyeopener. "I don't know what it is but I feel like I've found exactly the right fit for what I should be doing."

Chocolate is 'very sensitive'

Calgary has a semi-arid climate, meaning  it's very dry, making for "perfect" chocolate making, she said.

"Chocolate is very sensitive to heat and humidity. Humidity can absolutely kill a chocolate," she said.

Condensation on the surface of chocolate draws out sugar, creating little white dots or dust called "bloom." Fat bloom can also occur when temperatures fluctuate outside of the ideal range.

This means Calgary chocolatiers don't require an expensive, climate-controlled kitchen, drastically reducing start-up costs for local businesses.

  • Watch Sellmer make chocolates and hear more about Calgary's unique chocolate scene:

Why Calgary has a chocolate advantage over other cities0:57

Sellmer listed off recently opened chocolate makers — like Epiphanie Chocolate, Old Coal and The Chocolate Lab, which makes hand-painted bonbons.

"There's more and more people that raise the bar," experienced chocolate-maker Bernard Callebaut said. "And there's more chocolate makers."

Chocolate follows coffee

Callebaut, whose family has been making chocolates for generations in Belgium and Canada, recently started a new company, after losing his family business. The new outfit is called Papa Chocolat. He's been bringing in chocolate apprentices and sharing his knowledge.

"Chocolate has really gone through the same phase as coffee went through. Coffee so many years ago was hot brown water and it was just a beverage. But now you have sophisticated coffees," Callebaut said. "And chocolate is going that same way."

'Unique and different'

The sense of community among chocolatiers has created a supportive environment, said Sellmer, who comes from a cooking family, which includes CBC food columnist Julie Van Rosendaal.

"The spirit in Calgary is one of community and innovation," she said. "We have all these great producers in different industries working together, having collaborations, coming up with something completely unique and different."

Anne Sellmer

Anne Sellmer has turned her passion for chocolate into an award-winning business based out of her home kitchen. (Susan Holzman/CBC)

For instance, she's made chocolates that pair with coffee from Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters, which have won world medals, she said.

"It's really cool to think that, here we are, competing with all these big chocolatiers throughout Europe and we're winning," Sellmer said. "There's so many great places that are just starting up, and this is just the beginning."


With files from Rachel Ward, Paul Karchut and the Calgary Eyeopener