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NET Unwraps a Sweet Story About Chocolate in Nebraska
Nebraska Ag Connection - 02/06/2019

NET's newest television documentary "Nebraska: The Chocolate Life" is a decadent journey about the sweets we love. It premieres on NET, Nebraska's PBS & NPR Stations, at 8 p.m. CT on Feb. 8.

For most of its history, chocolate was consumed as a bitter beverage, but with the addition of cane sugar, it became a celebrated confection. "Nebraska: The Chocolate Life" traces the history of chocolate, follows its journey from pod to package and takes viewers across the state to meet passionate chefs and creative craftsmen who put their signature stamp on this ancient treat.

The documentary visits chocolate makers and chocolate lovers in several communities, including Columbus, Greenwood, Kearney, Lincoln, Omaha, Sidney and Tekamah in Nebraska, and Kansas City, Mo.

In Greenwood, Kevin Baker started Baker's Candies in 1986, and it is now a family-run operation. In 2017, the company produced as much as 400,000 pounds of chocolate, resulting in at least 30 million of its famous meltaway candies.

At the Mill Coffee and Tea in Lincoln, Shinya Takahashi, associate professor of nutrition and health science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, sells Nama Choco chocolates he prepares in a special kitchen in his mother-in-law's basement. The Japanese treats are a way for Takahashi to bring a taste of home to family and friends in Nebraska, especially for the Valentine's Day holiday.

Also in Lincoln, explore the city's fascinating chocolate history with historian Ed Zimmer and longtime Russell Stover employee Margaret Lehl. The two share stories about the former Russell Stover factory in the Haymarket.

At Christopher Elbow Chocolates in Kansas City, Mo., viewers can see hand-painted and airbrushed chocolates that often take days to make. Now a premiere chocolatier who creates bonbons and truffles, Christopher Elbow has a degree in restaurant and business management from UNL. During several short segments of the documentary, he discusses the ancient history of chocolate and shares the basics of growing, producing and storing it.

Susie Robison of Tekamah started her love affair with chocolate as a single mother making and selling candles with her kids. Today, she's expanded her business to include a floral shop, boutique, restaurant, bakery and Serendipity Chocolates. Robison describes how she makes all of her chocolates with real cream, real butter and "real love."

Cup of Coa is a luxury hot chocolate, made with all natural ingredients. It's produced in Nebraska and hand-packed in Kearney at Barista's Daily Grind. Business owner Jasmin McGinnis explains that she keeps the recipe for the tasty hot chocolate mix under wraps, while her non-coffee drinking customers appreciate it being on the menu.

In Sidney, viewers meet a chocolate making duo offering their signature sweets just twice a year -- on Valentine's Day and Christmas. At Mueller's Fine Chocolates, fondant made by Bertha Mueller and her daughter Pam Uhl, comes in as many as 60 different flavors. For just the cost of postage, the company mails its chocolates to fans in the U.S. and around the world.

Melissa Stephens of Omaha explains how she went from making handmade chocolate cherries to pay for her doctorate degree to having her store, The Cordial Cherry, garnering attention from Oprah Winfrey and NBC's "Today Show." Stephens has designed more than 200 cordials, including her favorite, the snowman.

In addition to stories about chocolate concoctions across the state, "Nebraska: The Chocolate Life" explores how chocolate brings people together. In Columbus, chocolate inspired author Deb Burma wrote the women's Bible study "Living a Chocolate Life," and developed a themed event, using recipes and chocolate as a way to "break down walls."

On radio Thursday, Feb. 7 and Friday, Feb. 8, NET will explore more about the decadent story of chocolate, plus offer gifts to share with those you care about, including cordial cherries, flowers, DVDs of "Nebraska: The Chocolate Life" and tickets to a sweet chocolate tasting event on Saturday, April 27, at Course Restaurant on the Lincoln campus of Southeast Community College.

"Nebraska: The Chocolate Life" repeats at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday, Feb. 9 and 6:30 p.m. CT on Sunday, Feb. 10 on NET.

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