Maine Chocolate: When to Order – for Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s Day?
Easter is coming right up! When is the right time to order your Maine chocolate so that it is both wonderfully fresh and on time for the holiday? It’s important to find that sweet spot (pun intended) so that the chocolate arrives to you or your loved ones with zero stress for you and maximum deliciousness for all. There are a number of factors involved, but here are some guidelines to help.
Assortments of Truffles, Buttercreams, Caramels
If you’re ordering TRUFFLE ASSORTMENTS, have them shipped within 45 days of the holiday.
Truffles are the most time sensitive. A truffle by definition has a ganache filling; a ganache by definition is made with chocolate and cream (and any other flavors you want to add to it). So, it’s the cream in the truffle (local, fresh Maine cream from Smiling Hill Farm, of course) that gives this item its shorter shelf life, or the amount of time it’s ok for it to sit around in your home. Some people are quick to say, these truffles will never sit around our home for more than an hour or a day. That’s good! We are happy if your chocolate truffles are so tempting that you are compelled to eat them upon arrival. No problem there. But if you want to savor them over time, or if you’re waiting to give them as a gift, order them within 45 days and you’ll be fine.
It’s a finer point, but since we’re on the subject, I’ll mention that buttercreams are also time sensitive, but slightly less so. Easiest to pretend buttercreams are like truffles and order them within 45 days of when you’d like them. You’ll never go wrong with that.
There are a few other items you might not identify as truffles, but they are, in essence, under this same category. Everything below should be ordered within that 45-day window:
All Solid Chocolate, Hot Chocolate, Sauces
If you’re ordering ANYTHING ELSE outside of truffles, you can have them shipped anytime.
Really, anything that’s solid chocolate – like Easter bunnies, Easter eggs, Xs & Os, hearts, little pumpkins, hot chocolate, our Maine sea salt caramel sauce, squares, bars, etc., etc. – is completely fine to order ahead, and you can store the items for many months without worry. There’s nothing in any of these chocolates that will spoil or “go bad.” There are ways to store this chocolate, which is important (see below), but they are, as we say in the industry, shelf stable, so they will last a long, long time and remain in great condition.
Timing for Gifts
If you’re concerned about when to order your chocolate to get it delivered on time for a holiday, we can now talk about work flow and the production schedules of the chocolate-makers themselves, yes, us poor, hard-working chocolatiers. For sure, we get busy in the weeks leading up to a big holiday. The rule of thumb here is earlier is better. If you wait till Dec 18th to order your Christmas chocolate, you’ll run the risk of it not arriving till after the 25th. Nobody wants that. That’s due simply to the sheer number of orders we get at that time of year (and also the holiday workload at the US postal service, more on that below). So, if you can order in late November or early December, so much the better. If the package is not going to you, you may want to preempt its arrival and ask the recipient to hold the box for a week till they open it. You can also order your chocolate, and put a note in the “Shipping instructions or requests” to have us ship on a specific date or week. We are happy to follow your instructions!
The Postal Service
We’ve relied (so far) on shipping via the US Postal System. The reason for this is that we like to keep shipping costs as low as possible, and we’ve found that USPS still offers the best rates. While other services offer guaranteed 2- or 3-day service, which the post office does not (at a reasonable rate), we have found that the post office is usually quite reliable overall. I know, no one wants their package to be the exception and to end up in a dark corner of a warehouse, but 99% of the time, we have found USPS to work quite well.
If you’re demonstrating great restraint and you plan to store chocolate for any reason, here are some dos and don’ts:
- Do store at room temperature – a dark, cool spot is best – a cupboard perhaps.
- Do keep in an air-tight bag if you’re worried about the chocolate picking up other flavors in your cupboard.
- Do keep out of the sun.
- Do keep away from the dog – we KNOW chocolate, especially the good stuff, is very bad for dogs.
- Do not put your chocolate in the fridge or freezer. If you do… the chocolate may turn gray or worse, it could “bloom” or “sweat,” when it comes out of the fridge or freezer. The texture may get mushy too. We don’t like the look and feel when that happens, and you probably won’t either.
Other Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: What if I discover a box of truffles in my cupboard that are older than 30 days?
A: They are most likely FINE, and even still scrumptious. We’ve heard stories of customers finding a box of Valentine’s chocolate at Mother’s Day. Undeterred, these folks bite into the chocolate and low and behold it’s still delicious. If you’d rather take a more cautions route, you can try cutting a truffle in half to see what it looks like inside (the ganache). At worst it may be slightly dried out. That won’t hurt a thing. But of course, we are conservative about these things, and we want you to have a peak experience, which is why we say purchase within 45 days. Truth is the truffles and buttercreams will most like last a lot longer.
Q: Why do I see Easter chocolate assortments on the supermarket shelves in February (or Halloween chocolate in August)?
A: The industrial brands that go on store shelves and sit for months use preservatives to keep their assortments from molding. Think of the Christmas chocolate that starts to appear before Halloween. We don’t use any preservatives in our chocolates; we are all-natural kind of people, so that’s why we make chocolate fresh and just in time. It’s a quality that distinguishes us from the big companies and it’s why we’re committed to keeping our chocolates free of artificial flavors and other ingredients you can’t spell or pronounce.
This may be self-serving, but in our opinion, it’s never too early to order chocolate. And when you do, it’s best to order extra – something for them and a little something for you. Ultimately, when it comes to chocolate, clearly the answer is always to order early and order often.