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the Cocoa Tree is hot

the Cocoa Tree is hot

The Cocoa Tree is now located at 1200 5th Ave. North, STE 104, Nashville, TN 37208. (615) 255-5060,

I am not a cold weather person. I never have been.

I grew up in one of the hottest cities in America and, year after year, I reveled in our mild winters while everyone else in the country seemed to be freezing their tails off. So it is somewhat despondently that I transition from Fall, my most cherished time of year here, to Winter.

In the past I have somehow managed to survive the dismal months between Fall and Spring, and looking back, I even shock myself in admitting that there are a few identifiable things to which I am actually looking forward this Winter. Like witnessing the first snowfall of the season when everything suddenly transforms from mundane to peaceful and mysterious. Or snuggling up with someone next to a crackling fire or under a giant down comforter. Or enjoying a really good cup of hot chocolate.

If my memory serves correctly, it was definitely this last item on the list that seemed to play a particularly important (and frequent) role in my survival last winter. Now, I’m not talking about pre-packaged powder blends of something that somewhat resembles what you vaguely remember hot cocoa to be. I’m speaking specifically of the real thing.

Chocolate, whether in liquid form or in chunks, may be one of the most underestimated substances. Deeply satisfying and the perfect medicine for melancholy and the mundane, real chocolate has the power to influence the mind, body, and spirit. Luckily, we in Franklin have access to some of the most exquisite and rich chocolate that mankind has to offer, the kind of chocolate that is just this side of decadence.

For many who frequent downtown Franklin, The Cocoa Tree conjures to mind memories of a fine and unforgettable chocolate experience. Simply hearing the words trigger salivation that Pavlov would be proud of. Located on 3rd Avenue, right off of the Square, The Cocoa Tree serves up unique recipes using only the earth’s choicest cocoa beans imported from South America and Africa.

Each day, this unpretentious and welcoming establishment features an array of chocolate-inspired goodies. Perhaps their most well-known items are their truffles, which range from milk chocolate to sweet tea to chili pepper-sprinkled, (the last of which is actually a classic Mexican combination and quite delicious). Other daily staples include cinnamon-infused chocolate chip cookies, a classic choice taken to a new level of perfection that is perhaps only to be outdone by their double chocolate brownie cookies. Winter favorites include Mayan hot cocoa and some commendable coffee that will give Starbucks a run for its money.

Not too long ago, I was doing a bit of holiday shopping downtown and had the good fortune of talking with Jesse Thovin, the proprietor of the Cocoa Tree. As we sat on the front porch and I nibbled away at my cookie as customers and kids roamed in and out the front door, he recounted their story to me and I came to know how it was that such a great thing as the Cocoa Tree was bestowed upon Franklin.

Their story is somewhat of an amazing one. Three years back, Jesse and Bethany Thovin led pretty typical lives. Married. Two kids. Jesse worked a 9-5 job and Bethany was a stay at home mom. On Valentine’s Day in 2003, Bethany asked her husband if he was satisfied with his 9-5 job. His response and their subsequent conversation sparked something inside the couple: they were going to open a small business in downtown Franklin. While picking at a box of Russell-Stover that Jesse had given her for the occasion, Bethany concluded that they should sell chocolate. It seemed simple enough, yet  neither one of them had ever owned a small business, and they certainly had no experience as chocolatiers. But what are a few logistical setbacks when you have a dream and a strong desire to see it through to reality.

With no previous formal training or background, Bethany set out to learn the process by which cocoa beans become a delicate, hand made truffle. She acquired her well-honed skills through peer study and self-teaching, which, mixed with some innate talent and some serious determination to turn a dream into reality, have proved to be a successful combination. The couple’s hard work is evident in their exposure in such publications as Newsweek and, not to mention Bethany’s nomination as one of the top ten upcoming chocolatiers in the country. The couple also have plans to expand things in the upcoming months. Soon, happy customers will be able to place orders from anywhere in the country online and have it delivered safely and in a timely manner. 

For me, though, half of the enjoyment in a cup of hot chocolate from the Cocoa Tree will always derive from simply walking through the front door and inhaling a deep breath fresh cocoa. And it’s the strong sense of community and overall happiness with which you seem to leave on your way out. But you needn’t take my word for it. When the winds pick up and the sun tucks behind the grey sky and you’re certain that you can’t take any more of what Winter will bring, pull your collar up around your face and head out into the biting cold towards 3rd Ave.

There’s nothing quite like a warm cup of something delicious and little piece of sweet to make you feel as though the world is right and warm and good again.