The Sweet Life in Ashland

Southern Oregon Makers: Deena Branson of Branson’s Chocolates

Travel Southern Oregon

By Eddie Wallace

Photographer Jak Wonderly

For confectioner Deena Branson, owner of Branson’s Chocolates in Ashland, there was always a dream that she would someday own and operate a successful small business, but it wasn’t until 2005 that she dared to imagine turning her passion for creating delectable chocolate confections into that business.

Fast forward to 2018, when the talented and endlessly creative lifelong Ashland resident has a thriving wholesale and retail business, featuring only the best Belgian chocolate that goes into such mouth-watering treats as Anjou pear creams, lavender squares, wasabi ginger squares and blood orange creams, as well as your more standard treats like toffees and caramels.

After spending ten years in the late 90’s and early aughts learning everything there was to know at the Ashland Fudge Company – she even trained two sets of new owners during that time  Deena and her husband Kevin leapt at the chance to purchase the equipment and recipes when the company went out of business in 2005.

Since that time, through dogged determination and countless hours of hard work, Branson’s Chocolates has steadily grown its business and burnished its reputation as Ashland’s only locally-owned, locally-produced chocolate business, culminating in the opening of their retail space in 2014.

The early years of the business were spent working out of a production facility in a business complex, producing mostly for wholesale customers. Ashland’s Paddington Station and Grange Co-op were early supporters who sold not just the chocolates, but also the custom packaging that Deena created for each wholesale customer. Today’s customers include Butler Ford, the Ashland Springs Hotel, Anderson Auto Body and many others. In addition to making the chocolates, Deena’s ability to do custom molds and packaging has been a huge selling point for clients.

“I SOURCE LOCALLY AND DIRECTLY FROM THE FARMERS AND DISTILLERS WHENEVER POSSIBLE,” SHE SAYS. “FOR EXAMPLE, OUR MACADAMIA NUTS AND HAZELNUTS COME DIRECTLY FROM THE FARMERS. I CHOOSE OREGON-PRODUCED PRODUCTS AND LIQUORS OVER NATIONALLY PRODUCED PRODUCTS. THE MINT OIL THAT I USE COMES DIRECTLY FROM THE FARMER IN CLATSKANIE, OREGON. AND WE MAKE EVERYTHING IN SMALL BATCHES WITH CARE TO ENSURE THE QUALITY OF OUR PRODUCTS.”

Luckily, for the past five years, one hasn’t needed to be a wholesale client to enjoy the dazzling, mouthwatering array of treats that Deena, Kevin and their hard-working crew create. The retail location for Branson’s Chocolates is 1662 Siskiyou Boulevard in Ashland, and is open Monday through Saturday 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM.

Visitors to the retail shop will be greeted with a selection of chocolates that is impressive not only in taste but in variety. The ever-popular toffees and caramels are always available, but adventurous types will also find port wine ganache squares, truffles flavored with tequila (lime, sea salt and Patrón tequila), pomegranate, espresso, toasted coconut porter, pumpkin, raspberry Chambord, amaretto and so much more. Product sourcing and quality are important considerations that go into all of Deena’s creations.

A lifelong Ashland resident, Deena cherishes the supportive atmosphere for small-town businesses that Ashland offers. “We deliberately chose Ashland as the home for our business,” she says. “This is a community that is dedicated to supporting small businesses, and we are also fortunate enough to attract the kind of visitors who support local artisans and locally-owned businesses. We have people who stop by our store every year on their way out of town after their annual Ashland visit.”

Pumpkin Spice

Locals Guide: October 2017

Pumpkin Spice

If there is one word that perfectly describes the sights, the scents, and the tastes of autumn, that word is pumpkin—bright orange pumpkins carved and lit for Halloween, glowing pumpkin spice scented candles, and warm homemade pumpkin pie ready for dessert. We’re doing our part to carry on this autumn tradition at Branson’s Chocolates, where we’ve created Pumpkin Spice Bars in creamy White Chocolate and Pumpkin Spice Truffles in sweet Milk Chocolate just in time for pumpkin season.

Pumpkin Spice flavor isn’t just a new trend. “’History shows that pumpkin spice-like combinations have been used for millennia in various cultures,’ said Kantha Shelke, a scientist at Corvus Blue, a Chicago-based food science and research firm and an adjunct professor of regulatory science and food safety at Johns Hopkins University. ‘For instance, similar mixtures of spices are used in Indian masala chai and Middle Eastern baklava.’ Shelke notes that ‘spices are powerhouses of phytochemicals — chemicals that the plant makes to protect itself — that can afford us health and protection from many health issues.’” Here’s to Pumpkin Spice, and everything nice!

Branson’s Chocolates, your pumpkin spice headquarters, is right here in Ashland at 1662 Siskiyou Boulevard.  We’re just a block south of 7-11, in the Minute Market shopping center. We won’t be out and about in October, so come see us in the store and get your pumpkin spice fix. We’re open Monday-Friday 10-6, and Saturday 11-5.

You can also find Branson’s Chocolates on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, and at bransonschocolates.com for online chocolate shopping.

(Thanks to http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/13/health/pumpkin-spice-ingredients-science-explainer/index.html)

The English Lavender Farm’s Lavender Square

Local’s Guide:June 2017

The English Lavender Farm’s Lavender Square

We have partnered with our local English Lavender Farms this month to bring you English Lavender Farms Lavender Squares. We have been making Lavender and Sea Salt Bitter-Sweet Chocolate Bars and Lavender Salted Caramels. English Lavender Farms Lavender Squares will join our gourmet line. We steep English Lavender Farms lavender buds and infuse them into a semi-sweet ganache center, then dip the ganache in our semi-sweet chocolate, and top it with a stripe made from purple- tinted white chocolate. The lavender is a subtle background flavor and beautifully complements our dark, delicious chocolate. English Lavender Farms Lavender Squares are an indulgent, aromatic treat for the senses.

The English Lavender Farm, run by Sue and Derek Owen, opened to the public for the first time in the summer of 2014. They have been planting Angustafolias (English Lavenders) since 2012 and are turning their lavender farm into a luxurious venue for weddings and other events. Their farm is set on a gentle hillside, and there are stunning vistas of row upon row of purple lavender. They have spent time in Provence with French lavender farmers, and love to discuss the history of lavender production. Their drying barn serves also as a gift shop, and it is well-stocked with a wide variety of handmade lavender products produced on the farm, including Branson’s Chocolates English Lavender Farms Lavender Squares, Lavender and Sea Salt Bitter-Sweet Chocolate Bars, and Lavender Salted Caramels.

We won’t be out and about in June, so come see us in the store at 1662 Siskiyou Boulevard here in Ashland. We’re just a block south of 7-11, in the Minute Market shopping center. We’re open Monday-Friday 10-6, and Saturday 11-5. Maybe you will even catch us dipping and pouring chocolate!

You can find Branson’s Chocolates on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, and at bransonschocolates.com for online chocolate shopping.

 

(Thanks to http://www.englishlavenderfarm.com/)

Matcha Green Tea Squares

Locals Guide: January 2017

Matcha Green Tea Squares

Branson’s Chocolates is beginning 2017 with introducing Matcha Green Tea Squares. Matcha powder is mixed into a white chocolate ganache, formed into squares, and then topped with a sprinkle of matcha powder. According to many studies, matcha tea makes this a sweet treat loaded with benefits: L-Theanine, an amino acid known to create calmness and improve memory, powerful antioxidants including polyphenols and EGCg which is believed to be a powerful anti-carcinogen and catechins which help lower LDL cholesterol, to name a few. Thanks to http://www.naturallivingideas.com/10-amazing-benefits-of-matcha-green-tea/ .

If you want to find us on the web, we are at—

If you want to catch us out and about in January, here’s where we will be—

  • January 20th & 21st, Friday 4-9pm & Saturday 11am-6pm, we will be at ChocolateFest at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. It is the ‘Northwest’s Premier Chocolate Festival’ with over 70 vendors of chocolates, treats, and libations. We’ve been going to ChocolateFest for seven years, and it’s an amazing experience for chocolate lovers. In fact, our Rich Chocolate Truffle won the People’s Choice Award for Best Truffle at ChocolateFest. For more details go to chocolatefest.org .

We’re often out and about at many of the local wineries and events. For the latest event updates, please check us out at https://www.facebook.com/bransonschocolates . If you’d like to see us at one of your favorite local events, you can contact us on our Facebook page or email us at info@bransonschocolates.com . We’d love to hear from you!

Truffles

Our Confections Series: Truffles

If you have ever wondered what exactly a Truffle is, or what different flavors of chocolate bars we sell this will provide all of the answers to your questions. Over the next couple of months I will be writing separate blog posts on the different types of confections we offer including Truffles, Cremes, Chocolate Bars, etc.

Today we will be talking about one of our favorites; Truffles!

So what exactly is a truffle? A truffle has a ganache, (a combination of a chocolate butter cream and flavoring) based center. All of our truffles are gluten free except our specialty beer truffles. Our truffles are made by creating the center and dipping them twice in chocolate as opposed to being dipped only once or being processed in a mold. All of our truffles are handmade with no chemical preservatives used. Click here to read more about dietary concerns pertaining to each individual truffle. If you enjoy our truffles and are looking to expand your repertoire, we recommend the Wasabi and Jasmine which are also ganache based confections.

Each individual truffle can be purchased for $2.50 and we offer a discounted price on our six piece box. Many of our truffles along with many of our other products can be purchased here on our website or in our retail location at 1662 Siskiyou Blvd in Ashland, OR.

We have eleven regular flavors of truffles and six specialty flavors. Specialty flavors include our “Beer Truffles” made from locally produced beer.

Amaretto

Our Amaretto Truffle is made with Deseranno mixed into the ganache because of the more natural almond flavor as opposed to almond extract.The truffle is topped with chopped almonds.

 

Blackberry

Our Blackberry Truffle is made with Brandy Peaks Blackberry Liqueur (Brookings, OR) mixed in with the ganache. The truffle is topped with a purple colored white chocolate.

 

Crème de Menthe

Our Creme de Menthe truffle is made with Creme de Menthe and topped with a green colored white chocolate.

 

 

Espresso

Our Espresso Truffle is made with espresso grounds from Rogue Valley Roasting company. The truffle is topped with more espresso grounds.

 

 

Orange

Our Orange Truffle is made with Crescendo Arancello Organic Orange Liqueer (Eugene, OR). The truffle is topped with an orange colored white chocolate.

 

 

Hazelnut

Our Hazelnut Truffle uses Frangelico and is topped with a roasted hazelnut grown in the state of Oregon.

 

 

Pomegranate

Our Pomegranate Truffle is made with Pama, a pomegranate liqueur, and topped with a pink sugar pearl.

 

 

Raspberry Chambord

Our Raspberry Chambord Truffle uses Raspberry Chambord, a black raspberry liqueur from France. The truffle is topped with pink white chocolate.

 

 

Rich Chocolate (2010 Chocolate Fest Peoples Choice Award)

Our Rich Chocolate Truffle is dark chocolate finished with more dark chocolate

 

 

 

Tequilla

Our Tequila truffle uses Patron Silver topped with a mix of lime flavored green white chocolate and Fleur de Sel sea salt.

 

Rum

Our Rum Truffle uses 4 Spirits Silver Rum and is topped with white chocolate.

Beer Truffles

Our specialty beer truffles were created when my husband encouraged me to do something different and challenged me to create a “six pack of beer”.  We have six different flavors of beer truffles:

Mogli Truffle

 

Our Mogli Truffle is produced with Caldera Brewery Mogli and dusted with cocoa powder.

 

 

 

Tunguska

 

Our Tunguska Truffle is produced with a cream style ale by Opposition Brewery.

 

 

 

 

Bloody Hippie

 

 

Our Bloody Hippie Truffle is made with a blood orange wheat brew and topped with red chocolate.

 

 

 

Milk & Honey

 

Our Milk & Honey truffle is produced with Standing Stone Milk and Honey and topped with white chocolate.

 

 

 

 

Toasted Coconut

 

Our Toasted Coconut Truffle is Produced with Standing Stone Brewery’s Toasted Coconut and topped with flakes of toasted coconut.

 

 

 

 

Siskiyou Pass

 

Our Siskiyou Pass Truffle is made with Bricktowne Brewery Siskiyou pass and topped with dark chocolate.

 

All Things Peppermint & Eggnog

Locals Guide: December 2016

All Things Peppermint & Eggnog

December is the perfect month for peppermint and eggnog, and at Branson’s Chocolates that means Peppermint Bark, Peppermint Bars, and Eggnog Truffles. Our delicious Peppermint Bark is a layer of rich dark chocolate topped with a layer of white chocolate, crushed peppermint candy and a touch of locally sourced peppermint oil. Our scrumptious Peppermint Bars are white chocolate mixed with peppermint candies and a touch of locally sourced peppermint oil. And our smooth and creamy Eggnog Truffles have an eggnog ganache center made with local eggnog, which is dipped in white chocolate, and topped with a sprinkle of nutmeg. Naughty or nice, you deserve some chocolate, so come in and pick up some for yourself.

We’re often out and about at many of the local wineries and events. For the latest event updates, please check us out at https://www.facebook.com/bransonschocolates . If you’d like to see us at one of your favorite local events, you can contact us on our Facebook page or email us at info@bransonschocolates.com . We’d love to hear from you!

The holiday season is fast approaching, so now is the perfect time to come in and order chocolate for the holidays. Take the craziness out of the holiday season with our custom gift boxes complete with pretty bows. Stop on in and our friendly staff will help you put together the perfect gift of fudge, assorted chocolates, truffles, bars, and turtle

Lavender Squares

Local’s Guide: July 2016

Lavender Squares

Branson’s Chocolate’s Product of the Month for July is Lavender Squares. We infused locally farmed lavender into a semi-sweet ganache center, dipped the ganache in our Semi-Sweet (dark) Chocolate, and topped it with sprinkles of lavender buds. The lavender lends an earthy flavor to this dark, delicious chocolate. Lavender Squares are an indulgent, aromatic treat for the senses.

Culinary lavender has been used in cooking for centuries. Allegedly Queen Elizabeth I had a jar of lavender preserves on the table at every meal. It is used in both savory and sweet dishes. Lavender makes us think of both decadence and tranquility, perfect for a summertime treat.

Be sure to catch our July Chocolate Talk video on our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/BransonsChocolatesAshland . Our videos are directed and shot, as always, by Brian Goodwin, and feature our Item of the Month—Lavender Squares. Check us out every month to watch me making our latest product and talking about chocolate. You can also catch us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bransonschocolates , where you’ll find out all about our latest events and happenings, and if you follow us on Instagram at https://instagram.com/bransonschocolates/ or @bransonschocolates, you know that’s where we post mouth-watering photos of our delicious chocolates.

We won’t be out and about in July, so come see us in the store at 1662 Siskiyou Boulevard here in Ashland. We’re just a block south of 7-11, in the Minute Market shopping center. We’re open Monday-Friday 10-6, and Saturday 11-5. Maybe you will even catch us dipping and pouring chocolate!

We will be closed on July 4th, come join us in celebrating our nation’s independence. Ashland puts on quite a party for the Fourth of July, starting with a hometown parade and ending with a fantastic fireworks display. Happy Fourth of July to you!

Wasabi Ginger Square

Local’s Guide: March 2016

Wasabi Ginger Square

If you like your dessert a little spicy, or slightly exotic, or even a bit adventurous, we have the chocolate for you—Wasabi Ginger Chocolate is our Product of the Month for March. We add wasabi powder to a chocolate ganache square and top it with a piece of candied ginger. It’s a gourmet treat for adventurous chocolate lovers which is inspired by a wasabi ginger potato chip.

Easter is early this year, on Sunday March 27. So plan ahead and pick up some of our Chocolate Bunnies, in sweet Milk Chocolate or rich Semi-Sweet Chocolate before they’re gone. We will also have gift boxes of chocolate, perfect for your Easter basket, and filled with your favorite chocolates.

Be sure to catch our March Chocolate Talk video on our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/BransonsChocolatesAshland . Our videos are always directed and shot by Brian Goodwin, and feature, of course, our newest items—Wasabi Ginger Chocolate. Every month you will find me there, making our latest product, and talking about chocolate. You can also find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bransonschocolates , where you’ll find out all about our latest events and happenings, and if you follow us on Instagram at https://instagram.com/bransonschocolates/ or @bransonschocolates, you know that’s where we post mouth-watering photos of our delicious chocolate.

If you want to catch us out and about in March, here’s where we will be:

Jasmine Tea Square

 Local’s Guide: January 2016

Jasmine Tea Square

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2016! At Branson’s Chocolates, we are excited for the changes that a new year always brings. One of those changes is our expansion. We are excited to start using our new addition, which is set to become our packaging room where we’ll be wrapping and packaging our mouth-watering chocolates for both retail and wholesale.

Another exciting New Year’s announcement is January’s Product of the Month– Jasmine Tea Squares, part of our gourmet chocolate line. We’ve mixed exotic jasmine tea into a semi-sweet ganache center, which is then dipped in delicious Belgian milk chocolate and topped with a sprinkling of jasmine tea.  It’s a delicious combination of bitter tea’s antioxidants and jasmine’s floral delicacy with gourmet Belgian chocolate.  Blissful everyday indulgence!

Jasmine tea is a sweet, fragrant, floral tea made by scenting tea leaves with just-blossomed jasmine flowers. The flowers are mixed with the tea leaves in temperature-and humidity-controlled rooms. Tea leaves are naturally highly absorbent and therefore make the perfect base to accept the fragrant scent of the jasmine flower simply by coming into close contact with the blossom. The flavor of jasmine tea is coveted, and is often used to flavor tea-infused dishes, especially desserts like chocolate.

In aromatherapy, jasmine essential oil is believed have a tranquilizing effect. And a 2005 study conducted by Kyoto University found that the smell of jasmine reduced study participants’ heart rates and produced “calm and vigorous mood states.” Jasmine tea is also full of powerful anti-oxidants which can help protect your body against damage from free radicals.

Be sure to catch January’s Chocolate Talk video on our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/BransonsChocolatesAshland . Brian Goodwin directs and shoots all of our Chocolate Talk videos, which feature our current Product of the Month confection —which is Jasmine Tea Squares this month. Check us out on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/bransonschocolates , where you’ll find out all about our latest events and happenings, and follow us on Instagram athttps://instagram.com/bransonschocolates/  (we’re @bransonschocolates by the way) because you know that’s where to find mouth-watering photos of our delicious chocolate.

We’re often out and about at many of the local wineries and events, and January is no exception. January 22-24, we’ll be at ChocolateFest in Portland at the Oregon Convention Center. You can find more information about ChocolateFest at http://chocolatefest.org/ .

Thanks to http://www.amazing-green-tea.com/jasmine-tea-benefits.html and http://www.teatulia.com/tea-101/what-is-jasmine-tea.htm .

Eggnog Truffles

Locals Guide: December 2015

Eggnog Truffles

For December’s Product of the Month, we have turned a classic holiday drink into a delicious chocolate treat—the White Chocolate Eggnog Truffle.  All of our truffles are available individually, or beautifully boxed in amounts of 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, and 20. When you’re accepting invitations to your local holiday parties, remember that while any of our chocolates and confections makes a delicious hostess gift, a box of Eggnog Truffles is sure to be a hit!  And speaking of gifts, our Smoked Salted Caramels are perfect for holiday gifts, they’re part of our new Gourmet Chocolate and Confections line.  You can also make custom boxes of chocolate in any size box up to one pound.  You can come in and pick out individual chocolates for these boxes, or plan ahead and email us your order at info@bransonschocolates.com We also have Chocolate Suckers in holiday shapes, perfect for stocking stuffers and children’s gifts.

Branson’s Chocolates is expanding! We’ve grown so much in the two years at our current location, 1662 Siskiyou Boulevard, that we need more room, so we expanded into the space next to us.  We are cleaning, painting, and preparing this additional area, which will become our new Packaging Room. This gives us more room to cook, dip, and create our award-winning chocolates and confections, including, of course, the holiday classic–our delicious Eggnog Truffles.

Be sure to catch December’s Chocolate Talk video on our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/BransonsChocolatesAshland . Brian Goodwin directs and shoots our Chocolate Talk videos every month, which always feature our current Product of the Month confection —for December, it’s Eggnog Truffles. You can also find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bransonschocolates , where you’ll find out all about our latest events and happenings, and if you follow us on Instagram at https://instagram.com/bransonschocolates/  (we’re @bransonschocolates by the way) you know that’s where we post mouth-watering photos of our delicious chocolate.

We’re often out and about at many of the local wineries and events. For the latest event updates, please check us out athttps://www.facebook.com/bransonschocolates . If you’d like to see us at one of your favorite local events, you can contact us on our Facebook page or email us atinfo@bransonschocolates.com . We’d love to hear from you!