Helen: Hello everyone we are with the chocolate maker and a small chocolate maker who work in?.

Lauren: I’m based in Barcelona, Spain.

Helen: We are with Lauren Lauren is the creator of one of the most important online community about chocolate uh could you tell me exactly what is Well Tempered.

Helen: Well Tempered is a community of professionals in the cocoa chocolate and cacao sphere, and that is Is, in over 120 countries at the moment, we’re about 3500 members, but really, I see it as a place for the community to gather and connect with one another and celebrate the work that others are doing and uh through that, of course, there’s some other perks that come along with being a part of the community. Okay,

Helen: What was your inspiration to create a community? I uh do you have a podcast. I was the first that. To create a community that is so big…it was a little bit by accident if I have to tell the truth. So when I started making chocolate in Colorado WKND chocolate, I decided that at that point, I wanted to do a three prong approach. so it was a podcast, a chocolate business and a community piece that would tie all of the elements together and I didn’t realize that one would take off more than the other or one would. More important per say, but something that I’ve always been attuned with is that I see what’s missing in the marketplace or what’s missing for um a community for set of individuals and I try to create that solution.

So at the time there were certainly forums that are still very important for people in chocolate to go for information. But what was happening is it wasn’t expeditious wasn’t in the moment so you might have a question and 2 years later, an answer would come or it was quite public and therefore people weren’t able to speak about maybe some things that they would rather not their clients be searching on Google for and discover that they had certain issues or you know things that they needed to discuss certainly just with their peers.

This is that you know the most frequent question that people make, tempering is so hard and we’re learning to make chocolate so many things can go wrong. uh your humidity. Might be high in your room temperature might be off you’re working with a uh a bean uh cocoa bean that has a personality of its own. So of course, it acts a certain way. Um we get a lot of questions that are asking what did I do wrong or what happened? and we also get a lot of questions  with people that maybe have a new machine and need to understand how to use the machine best for their recipes or for their electrical system or for the country where they’re based. You know, I think we’ve almost become this connector between the customer and the brands so it’s quite interesting because you know we’re offering a free service here but in many ways um we have come to be a place where people can learn how to use the things that they have recently purchased. Yeah.

Helen: This is the most of the small chocolate makers. uh they are not coming from the word or chocolate or they are artist musician and even doctor So. Probably uh the hardest part is tempered…

Lauren: It’s interesting that the name stuck and I’ll tell the story of that because again, I’ve been very interested in what women in cacao and have been doing since millennia. But certainly when I was entering the space, I was seeing that a lot of the promotion and a lot of the features were going to certain um male industry members and wondering why that was. So at the time of the launch of the podcast and the time of the launch of the group, it was specifically in my mind going to be for women because I wanted us to have a place where we could gather and discuss things and the plan or the play on words was that well tempered was this idea that women needed to be um in a state of mind that was together and gathered. otherwise we were thought of as historic. um I’m sorry hysterical okay.

Helen: you have been Working a lot for to women or women or uh all the women that work in the industry and nobody you don’t know their names. uh how did that work? working you know uh putting all those girls in the front of the screen?

Lauren: To me. I think I’ve taken it up as a bit of a life’s mission and purpose to highlight what other people are doing and particularly those that might be. Um vulnerable or might be for marginalized groups and um discovering how we can access what is unique to them and share that with the world because someone’s story is as important as anyone else’s and it doesn’t matter uh how much money they have or what their marketing budget is or if they’re a famous chef or pastry um chef for that matter. But um you know, I think I cannot. Credit entirely for well, Certainly I will not take credit for being the sole person who lifts up the voices of women. you’re certainly there and we have been experiencing thousands of years of women being important parts of their family’s history and having cacao at home or harvesting cacao for their communities and um II don’t see past that I know that’s we’re all very much um owing. To where we are today to what has come before us as well.

Helen: something that is very special that you have done is that during the covid hardest moments uh you help to a lot of people to think about what could happen with the harvest and that they do, could you tell me a little more about what you really did during the You know the first uh months of lockdown in Europe about, you know, talking about the covid and how it could impact in the industry.

Lauren: I think that starts with mentioning that from the podcast I had taken um a very serious professional angle and that I thought that every episode had to be perfect and I would be recording and spending hours editing episodes so that they sounded like they were coming from Npr, which is a popular radio station. and when Covid happened, I recognized that there was an urgency. That we needed to connect with one another and that we needed to hear more stories and for more people and how was I going to be able to share that in a way that would be um consistent and also forgivable that people would say, okay. This isn’t perfect and this is um going to be live but I can access this information immediately and I can access this information regardless of what my echo um. Socioeconomic status is, but if I have access to internet, I can watch this. Yeah.

Helen: you have helped a lot of people and do you have an special. you know, story uh about uh someone that you have helped in all these years. Basically just with a Facebook group.

Lauren: Would you like me to tell the story of Venezuela? Yes? okay. So uh I would be hesitant to say that I helped this person because of the group existing um or an effect rather of the group existing that there was someone who um had let me know and so I don’t know how many other stories exist that are perhaps similar but are not told to us and that’s actually one thing that I think you and I could have a chat about is when you take this role on as a communicator. Um you you do it often thankless just because it feels like the right thing to do. and that’s how I. And approach my work, but um in this case there was someone who was living in Venezuela and of course there’s been some difficult years that have happened with the current uh government situation and just in general and they didn’t have to leave their country because they were able to find enough clients in a market to sell to outside of their country. Um through supposedly well tempered audience.

Helen: I love well tempered because uh I always go. There because uh sometimes I need to talk to someone uh to be in another country and it’s very common to find it’s uh I mean the possibility it’s very high to find uh a guy that you need to talk and um I love the world tempered and I love when we have uh jumped to the reality. so you have been a well tempered meeting uh

Lauren: that’s been very special. To be able to connect with people that you have spent months or years engaging with on a platform digitally and I think you know one of the reasons that now my um moderator Estelle Tracy and I spend so much time telling people that it’s important to be nice is because at some point you might see that person in person and you know you do not wanna necessarily have an argument from an online forum be impeding. Your relationship uh when you see them so uh it’s been special to witness that there have been moments when people have been able to come together because of um the community we’re creating there and that they’re a part of and I tell people that too like maybe I’m the creator of this group, but this group doesn’t exist without you. It needs also your input and your photos and your experience for it to function and for it to be um a place that is. Welcoming in a place that is important and uh what is that uh

Helen: what is the biggest challenge to manage a community so big?

Lauren: Wow that’s hard uh so you know I think what has come about in sort of years since the internet has gained traction and popularity is that community managers are now official titles. It’s a role. it’s a position that you can have because it is a job and it does require certain um neutrality or certain experiences and um ways of speaking and engaging with people where you need to respect where they’re coming from or where they’re going or you know what they’re. Is in relationship to the person that they’re speaking with and so that has been a little bit of a challenge in terms of how do you let people know that you know they can do Xyz but not do Abc and why that’s important and I think some people take it for granted in that way because it’s very easy to come on when you need something. But the truth is there’s someone there every day managing all of those questions and all of those comments and ensuring that when you arrive, you are taking care of.

Helen: Oh, Yes and uh do you have to say that is the you know is uh a free job. I mean you don’t earn money with well tempered. It’s just uh it’s uh you work as a volunteer and what you keep working well tempered what make you know uh get into all the stories Um you know keep working well. tempered

Lauren: Well. II am crazy. I suppose it’s it’s um you know I. I’ve always been interested in offering value to people that’s something I really pride myself on as giving to others is if you have an experience with me that it’s it’s important and valuable to why we’re both here and that hopefully you find the solution and what you’re looking for. but you know with that, said Helen. I think it’s also very important to recognize that this is a special moment in time and. That’s also why we acknowledge or try to very regularly that the way that it is now might not always be the way it is and you know that really that live in the moment is also to show gratitude and to appreciate in the moment because this is a service that we have uh offered at no charge and because of certain situations in my life. At this point, I can give that time um and give that value to the community, but I would love to. In the future have a living earned, yeah. 

Helen: how do you connect? I mean the group with your own personal chocolate brand that is WKND chocolates and how do you connect all the stories of all the information in the group and even in the podcast with your personal brand?

Lauren: That’s that’s a great question. I think you know it’s it’s yet to be determined because right now in Spain, the brand is paused and I would love to be able to start it again. 1 day. I have so many ideas still floating. I’m constantly writing down recipes and I’m inspired by what I see and where we live and the amazing abundance of produce that we have available in Spain of the olive oil and the. And the beautiful fruits and vegetables, and so, of course, I’m um wanting to create and I yearn for that day. But I think you know it’s maybe fair to say that I will be a certain type of chocolate maker uh because of what I’ve experienced with well tempered because um I involve myself so greatly in all of the threads and the comments that happen that I feel a lot of gratitude as well that there have been people that have shared um. How chocolate is made and why fats react a certain way in this manner and I think in the end that will hopefully make me a better chocolate maker. So of course, you know you’re it takes a village is a very um adequate phrase because I am not created individually. I am I am also who I am because of the people around me.

Helen: So if you are that you’re not alone, we’re even in the is in a small business and most of the chocolate you are alone in their home or their uh factory. I mean they are not alone because they can share at the end of the day. uh what they have been doing uh how it is chocolate was well tempered or not.

Lauren: I always say that I think um it’s not it’s not correct to say that one is self taught. uh I think that you if you work alone, you are perhaps self practiced and that’s in my case. I mean when I go into my kitchen and I create a batch. I’m I’m alone, but I’m certainly inspired by um what I’ve witnessed. You know the work of other people even if it’s not in chocolate, making it’s the work of the agricultural or the work of um the farmers. so it’s it’s never me

Helen: you have created an amazing bar that is called “Tres leches” that means “three milks” and it remind me to the special dessert that we have in Latin America. So what is the uh how to be that experience? Would you tell me a little more about your?

Lauren: so I grew up in the United States and there’s an enormous influence of Latin American and Central American cultures and was uh a dessert that you could see even in local supermarkets in the deli area. Uh this bar is not based on replicating that dessert, but it was based on utilizing the play on words, so I created a dark milk that was using. Type of milk and it’s and its um high cacao percentage, so it included uh milk of a cow milk of a goat and milk of a donkey. What was the challenge? the biggest challenge create that kind of bar? Well, I am always seeking out things that are unusual. I myself. I think that I’m a very much a black sheep. Um I couldn’t get sheep milk. That’s very funny now that I think of it, but um I wanna try things that are bizarre or strange to other people and figure out if indeed, um it’s bizarre to me and in this case um I think I had just been doing some Google searching of you know where you could firstly buy milk.

Spain because I’m quite new to living here and to understanding how to speak the language but also where to access products. So, who are your vendors? Where do you buy from and I discovered that there was a very small operation in Italy that was smelling selling excuse me selling um donkey milk, and it is such uh a scarce production that it’s quite expensive. So, at that point, it was about €180 a kilo I think might have even been doubled that. But that made it extremely difficult to build into the recipe because I wanted the flavor to come out, but II couldn’t take on so much of the cost. Yeah, even still, it was a very limited edition because of that. this is an amazing part. I love it.

Helen: You had to go back uh to create again because it was so creative so uh the delicious because the three milks were not fighting. They were like you know they’re very balanced, so congrats. For that, please uh do you have to do uh a special batch for friends 🙂  could you tell me uh how it’s the way that the people who are involved in well tempered? and uh people who listen to us uh who want to be part of that amazing community.

Lauren: Sure. yeah. So we um we are accessible via Facebook and you just search for well tempered comes up as a great group you. Apply uh to be a part of the group and we ask that you’d be a professional so as I was saying it’s it’s not necessarily a place to learn how to make chocolate. There are already forums and there are already pages on the web that offer that elements so first and foremost, we want to be a place where we gather and exchange ideas um but if you apply with your personal account and not your brand account, then it will be some time that we take to review. And ensure you say you are who you say you are and um that we welcome you into the group and of course, if that’s not a possibility for you in this moment or you don’t use Facebook. We also have a newsletter that gets sent out every Monday and there’s an archive of podcasts and videos that are available on my well tempered media site, which has been a branch off from the group. You are always working to find the most quantity of information of chocolate that exist online, so I mean on Monday you receive the email that is amazing that uh congratulation because you can find uh a lot of information there so how many people receive that email? uh that is for free too.

There are thousand people that are registered for the Monday email and I haven’t done a lot of promotion about it. That’s been pretty organic from people that have been within the group and you know, I think. I think you mentioned something very important, Helen and I’m very interested in accessibility and I want people to be able to access information uh regardless of where they are or maybe some of the hurdles that they have and so um for as long as I can um, I will try to hold to that. But of course, uh in the future, some of those things might change. Maybe there will be a cost associated or maybe there will be a consulting fee. I mean we’ll have to see how things evolve, but um I also hope that what I’ve done, inspires other organizations and other groups to see that you don’t need a big marketing budget, or you don’t need. you know a person um a group of ten to do something it can be simply done and well done if you have someone perhaps that cares enough to do it and the good thing is that you speak Spanish. so, you and I is a bilingual Community and uh in the future,

Helen: I’m absolutely sure that you will be speak a better Spanish and I will be speaking a better English too so and it’s a bilingual community too because I have seen a lot of people in Spanish and in asking in Spanish and to tell me that in the future probably the email uh, we receive uh we have a lot of information in Spanish um, so I started learning Spanish quite at an older age. I was twenty-eight when I was beginning to practice and all I can. Say “quiero un café con leche” but um I’ve improved a little bit and I’m still working on it and within the group uh we welcome people to express themselves in what’s most comfortable for them.

So, another reason we use Facebook as a platform is because we are not coders Stelle and I we don’t um know how to create web pages or want to create an extra set for people to have to register to something so through the. Facebook service Uh we get all of the perks that are made by Facebook and that means it sounds like I’m doing a promotion for them. I’m really not. I just mean to say that they have a big budget to create um tools that work on the back end so that if you wrote in French uh and I don’t speak French, which I don’t, I can read your message because it’s translated automatically or if I would like to tag a post with a certain element, I can very effortlessly. Tag that posts and so those really help us to manage um the things that are not our skills.

Helen: Yes, but you have been really friendly for the and even in the Latin American. It’s very popular. so, I think this was the right decision to choose Facebook as your platform. so please tell me what could happen in the future because uh well was a podcast, but now I have seen you a Lot in video podcast so and even in live meetings and live interviews, so it’s very important for you because I know that you’re a little shy. you don’t seem like but uh sometimes I mean you’re a perfectionist so. So, be “live was a big challenge for you, what would be the future of well tempered?

Lauren: never know I mean with the pandemic I think so many of us have learned that we’re unsure of what is tomorrow or next month. and so, I’m really just sitting in the gratitude of coming this far and um doing something that I cared about and didn’t know if it would work and didn’t expect anything from it. but I appreciate those comments. Because it has been more difficult for me to be on video. I’ve always been quite shy as you said, and um very concerned with the way that I sounded because of my background and where I came from, I wasn’t educated to a level that I felt like was adequate for radio or for television and so doing these things is also a personal challenge. You know, can I do it and can I do it well enough and um I. I try with now the live videos and some of these other examples to let go of those things holding me back and just say no one is perfect and the moment is now that’s it.

Helen: The moment is now I love to be with you. I love what you do. I love that you feel comfortable with uh different uh kind of people in the industry because in your interview you have you know a producer or. Big chocolate maker or whatever and uh I love it. I really love your job and I really want to say that I admire a lot because I know that you’re not journalist and, but you work a lot as a journalist so congratulation and thank you for having this amazing community and it’s like a baby every day you have to feed. I hope in the future. I could read a book about well tempered have you’ve thought to put all the interview of the podcast in the book in the future?

Lauren: Wow. Well, thank you Helen for saying that I appreciate your work and you are a journalist and so coming from you that is incredible um but you know I just I hope to improve every day and um if there’s a book, I would love a version. Uh I think on my agenda. If I can make it happen would be perhaps first a cookbook. I’m very passionate. About using uh cacao and chocolate in our foods and incorporating recipes that can be a bit healthier, perhaps than what is usually been seen. so that’s something I would love to do immediately and then for the stories um yeah, that could be quite interesting. Recently. I’ve been looking more into what is the history of women and cacao and chocolate and why those stories are not told well, I hope the next. Time I’ll make you an interview uh behind you.

Helen. You have a lot of books. I hope to have the well tempered book Okay. Next time I will cross my finger for that happen. Thank you for to be with you today is uh you you are doing an amazing job. I love it and I’m really admire and uh thank you for making me speak in English.

Lauren: That’s likewise. Yeah. it’s been really fun to be able to tune in to your episodes and to know all the. That you’ve impacted with your work as well. so I think you know as we mentioned, perhaps in Spanish, it is a responsibility that we’ve taken upon ourselves and um I’m also grateful to see that there’s so many new people that are entering the industry and and they’re dedicating themselves to interviews and storytelling too. So it’s you know the more that can be said. I’m interested in hearing from more voices. That’s what he said very good friend. but he’s the creator. And an amazing community called Well tempered is the one that do chocolates uh well tempered you have to go to Facebook page so bye.

Helen: Thank you very much for to be here. It was a pleasure to be with you and in the future, I want you back. Thank you. Helen Pleasure. Bye.