As we creep closer to the most romantic holiday of the year, some people start to sweat a little bit about gift-giving. How to express affection in a way that’s well-received and thoughtful, yet unique and shows some creative effort? For local chocolate expert and business owner Victoria Kichuk, the answer is simple. Tell the object of your desires to take a hike.
It’s more of a walk, actually. Plus, there’s a lot of chocolate involved.
Kichuk is the owner and chief chocolate nerd of Cocoa Beantown, a nascent Boston walking-tour company focusing on all things cocoa.
Hailing from Wallingford, Connecticut, Kichuk fell in love with Boston while graduating from Emmanuel College with a degree in communications, and never left. She began teaching chocolate classes and giving tours in 2010. Last year, opportunity knocked and Kichuk took the leap into ownership. Combining her love of chocolate and Boston for the name, Cocoa Beantown was born.
Cocoa Beantown conducts walking tours in two different Boston neighborhoods, Back Bay and the South End. Each tour comprises stops at six to eight different chocolate purveyors, and runs between two and three hours. In addition to walking tours, Cocoa Beantown offers private and corporate tasting experiences.
For Kichuk, guest enjoyment is paramount. She always works hard to make sure people feel welcome and part of the group. Her favorite compliment from a guest so far? “That I made the group feel like lifelong friends,” she says, smiling broadly. The appeal of her tours is universal as well. From pregnant women to those with religious or dietary preferences, Kichuk’s tour de chocolat has something for just about everyone.
Each experience is a reflection of Kichuk herself - welcoming, friendly, and exceptionally thorough. Her past education and experience in writing and researching make her particularly well-suited to lead tours. “Telling everyone about the journey chocolate goes through before it gets in their hands is a big part of our tours and tasting classes,” she said. Likewise, Boston’s rich history is front-and-center of her presentation. “Relating the stories and contexts of people and places are very much a part of the city experience, and a big part of what folks who come to Boston from other areas are looking for.”
While Cocoa Beantown currently may only be a one-woman show, Kichuk has big plans. She’s buoyed by her ideas for new tours and events that will focus on ways people can bond around chocolate. Although she keeps the specifics top-secret, her excitement at the future is anything but hidden. “I’m passionate about helping people learn about beautiful chocolate and also learning about Boston in ways they might not think of.”
Just how deep does that sentiment run? Judging by the Theobromine molecule (the primary alkaloid found in cocoa) hanging from her necklace, she’s pretty hard-core. “Chocolate has always been a passion,” she says.
“Eating chocolate was the first thing I was ever good at.”
Kichuk confesses to eating chocolate every single day, a habit that formed at a young age. Her mother jokes Kichuk was “born with chocolate on her mind.” Originally due to be born on May 1st, Kichuk made her debut two weeks later on the 15th - National Chocolate Chip Day.
So, is this work? “No. It doesn’t feel like it. It feels like...I feel really lucky. If you believe in something, you have to go for it.”
Tours start at $50. Book by phone at 617-855-8567, or online at cocoabeantown.com