Annie Handley and Dave Devindisch of Easy Street have created a line of are sugar-free, gluten-free, fair trade, vegan chocalates called Easy Treats. Photo by Terry Farrell

Comox Valley musicians debut healthy chocolate brand

Easy Street creates sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan chocolates

So, what do musicians do to keep themselves busy during a pandemic lockdown? Well, if you’re Easy Street, you become chocolatiers.

Easy Treats, the new chocolate creations from Annie Handley and Dave Devindisch, check all the health boxes when it comes to sweet snacks.

Easy Treat chocolates are sugar-free, gluten-free and vegan. The cacao and cacao butter used is fair trade, and packaging is compostable.

It’s even keto-friendly, and because erythritol is the sweetener used, it’s also acceptable for diabetics. And, if that’s not enough, it’s actually good for your teeth!

Easy Treats are not only healthy, but they come in compostable packaging. Photo by Terry Farrell.

“In most cases, bacteria in your mouth break down regular sugars and starches, and turn them into acids, which can wear down your enamel and cause cavities,” said Handley. “But the FDA said erythritol is good for oral health because it slows the growth of that type of bacteria.”

So how does a couple go from being one of the hardest working musical duos in the Comox Valley, to selling chocolate?

The transition was not quick, or easy.

“It’s been a few years in the making, actually,” said Devindisch. “Annie has been off sugar for a long time now, but she never lost her sweet tooth.”

“I was always making things, and always trying to perfect chocolate,” she added. “I started to watch tutorials and read books, and started to do a bunch of investigative work on how to properly temper chocolate… but it was really only to make it for ourselves.”

Devindisch said it wasn’t so much a desire to make healthy chocolate as it was a near impossibility to find healthy chocolate… at least their standard of healthy chocolate.

“I’ve been telling people all along, if we could find the chocolate elsewhere, we wouldn’t be making it; we’d be buying it.”

As the adage goes, necessity is the mother of invention.

“We went all over, but trying to find chocolate that has no sugar, no dairy, is vegan… it’s very hard to find chocolate that ticks off all those boxes,” said Devindisch.

“And then to have compostable packaging as well. That’s just a big bonus.”

The business idea came together at one of the very few gigs Easy Street has played in 2020.

They were at 40 Knots for the Wine Wednesday “End of Season” at the end of September. Handley brought some of her chocolates with her, and 40 Knots owner Brenda Hetman-Craig tried it and convinced her to start marketing the product.

A batch of Easy Treats cools on the production line before packaging. Photo by Dave Devindisch.

“I figured, OK, well maybe I will approach the farmers market, because we aren’t making any money [as musicians] so maybe this would be a little source of income,” said Handley. “And it’s all Canadian, and as local as we can get. The cacao comes from Ecuador, through a Canadian distributor.”

Hetman-Craig has been an enormous help getting the product off the ground, giving Handley use of her industrial kitchen to produce the chocolates.

“Brenda has been amazing,” said Devindisch. “There is so much paperwork involved, and you need a commercial kitchen to make anything like this. She has been so gracious in allowing us into her place of business.”

Lia Cormick of Clever Crow Salt has also been very supportive.

“She did all of our nutritional labels, so she has been really good,” said Handley. “And Twila [Comox Valley Farmers’ Market general manager, Twila Skinner] has been really helpful as well.”

Easy Treats come in seven different flavours: walnut and date clusters; sunflower buttercups; 40 Knot Winery Pinot Noir and Clever Crow salt, with organic cracked pepper; freeze-dried raspberries with orange and Himalayan salt; roasted almond bark; orange bark; and mint leaf.

Devindisch gives his partner all the credit for that.

“Annie is such a genius at flavours. She’s always thinking what would go good together? How about walnuts and dates? That would work.”

Handley said there have been some failures along the way.

“I tried some kind of cinnamon and sugar substitute but that was terrible. We tried and tried, we went through so much chocolate. And then we tried to make a sponge toffee one as well, but it’s so hard to do without regular sugar and butter, because it’s something about the way those two ingredients react.”

To find out more, check out the Easy Treats Facebook page (facebook.com/easytreatschocolates), or email easytreatschocolates@gmail.com.

Easy Treats are also available for purchase through the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market website, and they will be available at the market on Dec. 19 (Native Sons Hall, Courtenay).

What does the future hold?

“Well, hopefully, music and chocolate, together,” said Handley.

“Who knows, eventually we will get a chance to hire ourselves to do a jingle for ourselves,” added Devindisch.

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Annie Handley and Dave Devindisch hard at work in the kitchen at 40 Knots Winery, where they make Easy Treats. Photo supplied.

Annie Handley and Dave Devindisch hard at work in the kitchen at 40 Knots Winery, where they make Easy Treats. Photo supplied.

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