ith prices ranging from $309 to an astonishing $2,080 per pound, NôKA chocolate is some of the most expensive in the world. It was featured in Millionaire Magazine, was given to the 2004 Golden Globe nominees, and was named the number one chocolate in the world by Taste, a British television program.
NôKA must be some chocolate, right?
Scott, a Dallas resident, became curious about NôKA chocolate and its exorbitant prices. He’d been writing a blog about local food, and NôKA was a regional company. Though it was founded by two Canadian accountants, it was operating, at the time, out of a strip mall in Plano, Texas.
On his blog, Scott wrote a 10-part series, addressing the question: “What’s NôKA worth?” He came to the conclusion that NôKA bought bars of chocolate from Bonnat (a respectable French couverture), melted the bars, poured the chocolate into small molds, placed the pieces in a fancy box, and called it The Vintage Collection. The company then sold the chocolate at a 1,000 percent mark up.1
In response to the Dallas Food exposé, the president of NôKA chocolate, Noah Houghton, placed a statement on the blog’s forum. Mr. Houghton did not directly address price inflation; instead, he defended the quality of NôKA’s cacao ingredients and promoted the chocolate experience.
“A gift of NôKA Chocolate,” he wrote, “is a gift of the NôKA Chocolate experience. The NôKA Chocolate experience ensures that magical moments and memories can be enjoyed by both the person who gives the gift of NôKA Chocolate and by the person who receives the gift.”2
A fundamental part of the NôKA experience, it appears, comes from its price. The logic seems to be as follows: The chocolate is expensive. Because it’s profoundly expensive, the chocolate transcends food and becomes an event. Because it’s an event, it will become a cherished memory. Ergo, the chocolate must be worth it.
Few of us are NôKA customers, but many of us buy into the same hype. We value items because they are expensive or hard to get. Price equals quality. Items that are cheaper or more common, we value less or not at all.
When I was a child, our mutt had seven puppies. My sister and I were thrilled; my parents less so. How, they wondered, would we give them all away? The answer turned out to be simple: Don’t give them away. Sell them.
In a world in which scarcity and expense create value, how do we appreciate what is available and free?
It’s an interesting question for Christians. In the United States, freedom of religion has made it easy to practice one’s faith. According to a 2002 ABC News poll, 83 percent of Americans identified themselves as Christians.3 Bibles are readily available; most Christians own several. And while there isn’t a church on every corner, there are plenty of places to worship. In Minneapolis I have 28 Adventist churches within 15 miles of my home.
Christianity itself isn’t an exclusive faith. You don’t have to be born into it. You don’t need a mediator to commune with God. And you don’t work your way to salvation.
Such a welcoming religion makes it (dare I say?) easy to be a Christian.4 While I know there are exceptions, I’m curious about those of us who don’t have to struggle for our faith. We worship in peace; and because we do, Christianity can become a reflexive part of our lives. How do we treasure something that is a free gift?5 How do we avoid becoming lukewarm?
The answer, I think, is personal. Having faith transcends a culture of Christianity or habits of Christianity. It transcends denomination. It’s a personal relationship with the divine. It’s gritty. It’s personal. It’s the still small voice. It’s the Beatitudes. It’s the prodigal son. It’s Jacob wrestling with God. It’s the pearl of great price.
Salvation might be free, but the experience of having faith is more memorable than any $2,000 chocolate. When faith is alive, and with it joy and peace and love, then there can be no apathy. For once the gift is accepted, we are called on to live faith and to sacrifice for others.
1 See www.dallasfood.org.
2 “Statement from Noah Houghton, president of N¯oKA Chocolate,” DallasFood.org, December 31, 2006. Retrieved February 18, 2007. www.dallasfood.org/modules.php?name
3 “Poll: Most Americans Say They’re Christian Varies Greatly From the World at Large,” by Gary Langer. www.abc.go.com. July 18, 2002. Retrieved March 4, 2007. abcnews.go.com/sections/us/DailyNews/beliefnet_
4 This is unfortunately not true in all parts of the world.
5 Eph. 2:8-10.
Sari Fordham is pursuing a postgraduate degree from the University of Minnesota.