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Marine chemist and Sequim High School swimming coach Linda Moats has turned a potentially bitter situation into a sweet chance at success.
In October 2010, Moats incorporated her new business Cocoa d’ Amici, which translates as “cocoa of friends.” She likes to tell people it means “cocoa for friends.”
Cocoa d’ Amici offers molded chocolates, truffles, cashew turtles, caramels and custom orders for retail and wholesale.
Moats moved to Sequim 20 years ago to work for the Marine Sciences Laboratory, also known as Battelle, but recently transitioned to being part-time before being laid off.
She decided to turn the bad news into a positive and began pushing forward with the chocolate business. She made her first chocolate sale on Dec. 2, 2010.
Cocoa d’ Amici’s name has spread mostly by word-of-mouth, Moats said.
She’s sold them to friends and family but saw a spike at Christmas and Valentine’s Day.
From the feedback Moats has received, people prefer dark chocolate.
“I’ve read that eating one ounce of dark chocolate a day is good for you,” Moats said.
She emphasized that using more cacao leaves people satisfied with smaller amounts of chocolate.
“Rather than spending $5 on a bag of Snickers that you eat all at once, you could spend a few dollars on a few truffles and it would be satisfying enough,” Moats said.
Her chocolate connoisseurs also like the antioxidants found in the chocolates and how it feels in their mouths.
“That’s what hooked me with a truffle. It just melts in your mouth,” she said.
Moats makes six different truffle flavors at a time, including a seasonal truffle that changes monthly. Her repertoire features a 100 different flavors. A small truffle costs $2 and a large is $3.50. Her menu also includes cashew caramel turtles — caramel with cashews and a drop of chocolate — along with a caramel roll that is like a Tootsie Roll, but not quite, Moats said. She makes a variety of molded chocolates — almond butter, raspberry, mocha latte, crème brûlée, hazelnut and hot buttered rum — and experiments with new recipes each month.
From the bean to your home
Making truffles began as a tradition for Moats after meeting Bill Fredericks, a Seattle scientist and chocolatier who runs the “Chocolate Man” business. The two were on an oceanographic cruise in 1992 and began discussing chocolates. They get together annually to make chocolates.
Cocoa d’ Amici took off as a plausible idea after Moats visited her cousin in Hawaii last May. They made
chocolates with island cocoa beans.
Now, Moats makes chocolates in a local commercial kitchen one or two days a week. She makes two batches, about 200 truffles, in three hours.
Cocoa d’ Amici’s chocolates and truffles are made using only basic ingredients. All work is done in the kitchen, with some packaging done at home.
Moats said she’s open to suggestions and has made vegan-friendly truffles before.
In the kitchen, Moats works alone, but her husband, Jeff Moats, a construction superintendent, came up with the business name.
“He says my business is bad for his diet,” Moats said.
Her friends and family often joke with her that they’ll volunteer to be taste-testers.
Moats has been Sequim High School’s swimming coach for 13 years. She said some on the swim team know she’s a chocolate-maker but it’s not something she’s open about to everyone.
“There’s not a lot of sugar in the product, but it’s the image of eating sugary things that I don’t necessarily want to promote,” Moats said.
Expanding Cocoa d’ Amici’s customer base is Moats’ next focus. She’s approached local wineries and so far is making truffles for Camaraderie Cellars in Port Angeles.
“My goal is to have 10 wineries on board by end of the year,” she said.
Moats has approached retail vendors, but she said the tough economy prevents them from collaborating with her. She plans to market as a wholesaler at wine and chocolate festivals while building her network.