Imagine the first time you tasted your favorite sweet. Maybe it was a holiday present. Maybe it was something your dentist advised you against eating. You held it, perhaps, in your hand for moments after that first bite and stared in wonder at how you would remember this moment forever. The feeling of total bliss, or of nostalgia of a sweet moment, is something Sarah Dowling and Ali Geter try to accomplish through Elicit Chocolates.
Elicit Chocolates is a vegan, allergen-friendly truffle company that began in 2019 after friends encouraged the two to market their sweets. Prior to that, Geter and Dowling had worked together in vegan commercial kitchens which helped cultivate their passion for healthy foods that can be enjoyed by people with dietary restrictions.
“Food always triggers me into different states. We weren’t looking to be very profitable, but it’s what we want to share with people. It has since maintained that same essence of wanting to share and give people an experience,” Dowling says.
“What’s going into the truffle you’re eating is a really curated experience,” Geter adds.
The two work hard at creating unique flavor balances and researching the best ingredients. All truffles are made from scratch.
“The emphasis,” Dowling says, “is that everything we make, as best we can, is sustainably sourced. It’s vegan, mostly allergen friendly. We’re trying to create a decadent experience that is available to everybody.”
In curating the experience for all to enjoy, Geter and Dowling are able to draw on their passions for English and the arts to help them create an experience like no other. In February, they carefully selected classics; in March, during quarantine, they sold “self-care” boxes; and in September, they crafted Shakesperean flavors to match the play “As You Like it” as put on by the Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival.
“When we were doing the Shakespeare truffles, we put the truffles in the package in a certain order because we wanted to give a curated experience of different emotions that were sparked by different characters. We really put a lot of intention into the flavors. We want them to have a beginning, middle and end into the experience, not just a rush of sugar,” Dowling says. “It feels like art. Truffles are small and they can make such a sweet moment for a person.”
“We started out last year going to art markets,” Geter explains. “I don’t think it’s very traditional art, but it’s the scene we want to be a part of. We want to be involved in the art and that speaks to us.”
Since COVID, they’ve had to adapt to the changing times. Instead of attending physical art markets, they have been selling subscription and seasonal boxes. Their “self-care” boxes that debuted in the spring were a hit. After crafting many different flavors, Geter and Dowling found themselves both having fun and experimenting during that time which ultimately left them with a few favorites. The creative process is a simple one that they can both agree on, it’s all about what they want their customers to experience.
“I think of the mouthfeel,” Geter says, “and where I’m going to be when I eat it and how I want to feel. Then I ask myself if it can be done.”
It can feel daunting to gather an experience inside of a small treat. The two are patient with their chocolate, willing to lean in and listen to the different directions their ingredients may lead them. The Tahini Caramel is one truffle that ultimately surprised them after the caramel turned out in an unexpected way.
“We listened to what the truffle needed and it became something we love,” Geter says. “[Listening] also helped us with our business and helped us thrive.”
For those wanting to make their own sweets, the two advise thinking deeply about the moment you want to elicit.
“When you’re making it, make sure your heart is in the process and your mind is present in imagining what the experience is going to be,” Dowling says. “Not necessarily rushing through that process, but really trying to create something that feels special so we’re not creating a culture of mindless consumerism. That’s sort of how we get to create meaningful waves in the world. Show up, be genuine.”
Geter advises, “Make it a playful experience—what you’re creating in putting ingredients together and the process, thinking of the experience of it. Having a conversation with it. That is important to crafting something special.”
Elicit Chocolates will be selling a special holiday box up to the new year. After that, they will return to selling their regular favorites.
Margarita Cruz holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Northern Arizona University. She serves on the Northern Arizona Book Festival board and as editor-in-chief for Thin Air Magazine. Her work has been featured in The Tunnels and Susquehanna Review, among others.