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choklat opens tomorrow! See you there!

http://www.sochoklat.com/welcome.html

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  1. Went to check it out yesterday, and some things I love, and other parts mightneed tweaking. My biggest concern is ultimately that the passion and love for chocolate, and hence, quality control, are not as paramount to the owner, as the bottom line and franchising the concept.

    The good: You have to love the concept: chocolate made literally from scratch (pretty rare), without preservatives/fillers etc, and you get to create your own truffles from the inside out (choose the chocolate, filling, and what it's rolled in). Cool. The shop is perfectly cute, and fun enough to attract a following. The 70% dark chocolate is fabulous!

    The bad: The in-store payment system sucks! If you go into the shop, there are 2 computers, so even in the store, you are paying online using paypal only. Then you wait for your truffles to be created (fine, but probably not good for most people, and there isn't much parking, so it probably isn't convenient for some) But mostly, I don't want to use paypal, on an instore computer, with the owner standing over my shoulder. There should at least be some truffles already created, for those in a hurry. Not that I am, or was in a hurry, but I can see this being a problem. Also, not everyone really cares, or knows what combinations will taste good together. They might just want a box, and not care about what is in it (a gift)

    How about extremely high quality chocolate, filled with a raspberry buttercream, and then rolled in oreos??? Well, not for me, but probably someone, but I'm sure there could be more guidance for those who are stupefied by the ordering. Or if the idea is to be gluttonous, then there should be even more toppings/rollings like sprinkles (fun for kids) etc. If there were some signs around the store with some suggestions (cute, hilarious, witty signs - like - a "You know you want to try a raspberry snowball! Start with ocumare chocolate, add a raspberry buttercream, and then roll in toasted coconut).

    Without any truffles sitting in a display case, or something just to show what the product is, that would help a lot of people. I can sense MASS confusion.

    The ugly: The truffles are FAR too sweet (and I LOVE sweets!). There's a lot of sugar in these, and since the chocolate is not bitter, it's a bit overdone. When our truffles were made, they said, "these ones are REALLY good, we haven't quite got the chocolate coating quite down yet, so there's lots of chocolate on these!". Fine, but not what I have in mind when it comes to fine chocolate, instead it's entirely gluttonous. How many people also sit down and decide, in-advance, that they want a chocolate bar? OK, OK, yes us chowhounders might, but I sense that these tend to be spur of the moment decisions for most. So, I hope everyone figures out the online ordering thing, as it's really the best way to get the stuff. Yes, you can pay cash at the shop (thank goodness!) Credit card would be good (not using a foreign computer)

    Anyone else been?

    6 Replies
    1. re: hornvixen

      The chocolate that they are making is sublime. This is one of only 2 chocolate makers in Canada actually making chocolate. Every other chocolate maker buys chocolate to work with. The beans are roasted and ground on site. Just get a bar and skip the whole truffle thing. You will be amazed. Another great foodie addition to 9 Ave.

      1. re: knifeguy

        I would not by from any bean to bar chocolate maker in Canada as the beans are far from best quality

        1. re: letus eat

          Care to provide us with an explanation for this? Do Barry Callebaut and the other couverture manufacturers use better?

      2. re: hornvixen

        i don't like the idea of having to pay online if i'm in the store - that's not very good. maybe i'll order online at work and then pick them up at lunch (my office is just a block away). i expected them to have at least a few pre-made...

        1. re: hornvixen

          I too went. I too can appreciate the artisan fashion of chocolate production from the bean to the final truffle. The process starts off incredibly strong. Imported cocoa beans...avoiding wholesalers, markets and co-op's. The farmers are supported, the quality is retained and as a young city we are being exposed to yet another concept that is new to us, but familiar to others. The combinations are mind boggling...between the different cocoa percentages, fillings and toppings... it is quite indefinite the possibilities... The chocolate itself does taste wonderful, even if it is too sweet. UNfortunately, the excitement stops there. The store is particularly sterile. How about some pretty displays of chocolates pre-made (ready to buy...when I am in a rush). How about products we can purchase so the customer might try a hand (just once) at making a chocolate at home? There needs to be ideas of what might be good...give us, the uninformed chocolate customizer some ideas... how are we supposed to know what tastes good with what? In my opinion, I would have just cut the door in half and provide us, the customer with a service window, because with all do respect by the paypal system at the counter (no visa machine) and a pretty [bare bones store front it would have been a better idea to make the kitchen larger. It seems as thought the business is confused, if they are online, then no store front is required, and if they elect to invite the customer into the store, the customer should be invited in, educated and whisked away into a chocolate experience that is unforgettable... something like....
          www.marcolinichocolatier.com
          Maison du Chocolat
          Jacques Torres Chocolate
          Varsano’s Chocolates
          I would think, the whole experience of customization of a truffle from the finest cocoa beans would be to be whisked away into a land of chocolate. Just get a bar and forget the truffles...they are too big and selecting your variation is a bit too laborious.

          1. re: rae26

            I couldn't agree more rae26!
            And also flavours like - http://www.keeschocolates.com/cho.html

        2. There's an article here: http://www.ffwdweekly.com/article/lif...

          1. Hornvixen....what makes you say the owner is only interested in the bottom line? he seemed pretty passionate about the chocolate when I spoke with him.

            once I heard about this on chow, and being a self professed chocolate snob, I had to check it out. I am up in edmonton, but travel to Calgary frequently, so I placed my order on line for pick up on Friday Aug 8th. I did not realize that was grand opening day. My order was not ready, nor were all the bars I ordered available. This was very disappointing since I ordered it a week earlier. I am an understanding person as long as things are made up for in other ways. Brad (owner) is couriering the rest of my order up (Monday) and sent me home with a good chunk of untempered Porcelana to try out on the house, so far I am placated, as long as things show up this week as planned.

            On the other side...the chocolate is amazing! IMHO
            I had a milk truffle and a dark truffle (no flavors). The filling was different then I was anticipating ( I was expecting something more like a ganache filling). I did not find them too sweet at all, just decadent.
            The bars are the winners by far though. We have the Ocumare 43% and 70%. The dark is silky and sensuous, the milk creamy and luscious. I am a HUGE dark chocolate fan, the darker the better, and this was amazing, no bitterness whatsoever, and yet, not overly sweet. My hubby hates dark...this he'll eat with a smile. He is the milk fan, I find it sickly sweet, however this one I can eat without getting tooth pain.

            I find that the real difference is in the undertones of taste. It is like tasting a big fat Aussie Shiraz that smacks you in the face with bold flavors (other dark chocolate), vs. the sublety of a French Syrah that delicately invites you to behold the many layers of flavor (Choklat). It is the fine wine of chocolate.

            I was impressed to be able to taste the different notes of tropical fruit and nuts. I cannot wait to try the other 2 bars (Porcelana & Brazilian dark) and compare.

            As far as marketing and storefront, I don't mind not having truffles available, I will mostly order the bars. But that is just personal taste. I do agree it was confusing when you go in, maybe after the first while it will run smoother, but it could scare some people away.
            I think that he should market some smaller packages with all of his bars so that people can really taste the difference b/w the different chocolates.

            The prices seem reasonable, I buy the same size of bar from Green & Blacks for about the same price (however, that is organic).

            I like the look of the packaging, but not the fact that it is a plastic outer covering, not environmentally friendly at all!

            I will definitely keep ordering them, as long as they get my orders correct next time!

            6 Replies
            1. re: cleopatra999

              It seems the bars are the biggest hits, and I greatly enjoyed the one I purchased. I am also curious about the other 2 bars (porcelana & brazilian dark). It doesn't really bother me, that there are quirks such as the unavailability of a few of the bars for the grand opening (good reason to back right?), but I do hope the in-store payment system improves (a credit card swipe would be perfect!)

              Thinking about it more - 2 light blue plastic signs hanging from the ceiling over the computers could say - order here, or design your perfect truffle here etc. And another sign that says, something about pick-up. Even a bit of direction would be nice, especially if there are other people waiting in the store or you'd never seen the website and wandered in. If I wandered in, I'd be terribly confused!

              If there are not going to be any truffles available for those in a hurry, it would be hilarious if there was a sign that said, "hurry up and wait", or "have you heard about slow food?" I think clients take direction well, and like a bit of attitude (think the Seinfeld "nazi soup kitchen" vignettes) Then people just laugh about it, and it is great marketing, since it gives people something to talk about it!

              cleopatra999:
              The reason I say the owner is only interested in the bottom line is because if I had spent all this time researching how to make chocolate and securing quality beans etc (a sizable feat in itself!)., and I had a fierce passion for what I created and the product (chocolate), then I would never let one ounce of that gorgeous chocolate be masked by toasted coconut, or rolled oreo crumbs. I would only want to enhance that chocolate, or be bold enough to say that it can't be done. I would be searching the world over, for unusual flavour combinations for my truffles - earl grey, cardamom, lavender, green tea, or pink peppercorns. I would be in the front of the shop educating the clients on the delicate flavours of the chocolate, why there are different percentages of each cocoa bean (ie. why did he decide 70% was best etc.). Why this particular chocolate is heavenly, and such a pleasurable product to eat. Or, why we only sell plain chocolate in different percentages, because otherwise it would be ruined. (and no truffles at all)

              The other reason I say that the business owner comes across as interested in the bottom line (which I can't blame him really) is that the shop is strategically designed so that it can easily be replicated; a simple storefront, with minimal staff involvement necessary with the customer (although perfect for labour shortages!). The customer orders online, or on the in-store computer and either picks it up or waits a short time. It's the concept of "make your own truffle". Concepts have marketing appeal, and people will hear that the chocolate is good, but not appreciate it for what it is because there is the distraction of the truffles. But I hope people DO appreciate the chocolate itself for what it is, and try the truffles, but I would sooner make truffles with Choklat's chocolate myself.

              1. re: cleopatra999

                It's true. I spoke with the owner, and he alluded many times to opportunities for several franchises across canada. At this point in a business, I do not think that quality comes in masses. As well, he indicated, once the operation is functional, he is going to step back...and have someone operate day to day functions. What is the point here? Isn't the beauty of a chocolate shop to see the wonderfully passionate chocolate master clad in a convincing garb working studiously behind the counter dreaming up the next masterpiece. Perhaps I am a dreamer here...but again, I can't stress how important it is to convince us the customer that we are being whisked away into the land of the best truffles here... It is not believable, nor particularly sellable. I am in no place to tell someone how to operate a business, however he has placed the flagship of this kingdom of franchises in an area of Calgary that is predominantly owner operated. In inglewood the passion is paramount, money is secondary... but nothing less important. Inglewood is artisan, exquisite and very fine-...that means flawless experience from the front counter to the perfect chocolate truffle, packaging, owner, chocolatier, quality and smell..... in the mean time, I will be waiting patiently for Bernard Callebaut to open up in Inglewood for my quick fixes in between impulsive trips to visit Thomas Haas in Vancouver, or Jacques torres or Payard in NY. I wish Choklat all the success, but please- no plastic packaging!

                1. re: rae26

                  I made my first visit yesterday & was totally impressed with the passion & innovative spirit of the owner, he took the time & trouble to talk me through his chocolate making process from bean to bar. In a world where the chocolate you eat, no matter how the marketing gurus dress it (and in this I include our hometown stars), comes from no more than a few global mega-factories, it is exciting to have someone here in Calgary creating their own unique product.

                  For what it's worth I loved the decor, clean, minimalist & totally in-keeping wth an operation that the great Heston Blumenthal would be proud of. This is food alchemy & to dress it up as a Victorian Chocolate box type shop from the streets of old London town would totally suck.

                  I bought the milk chocolate, Ocumare - which had a clean, slightly buttery taste - actually reminscent of a typical milky British chocolate. I was knocked off my feet by the strong, champagne like flavours of the porcelana dark chocolate bar!

                  I will be back for sure.

                  1. re: graemejw

                    Alright, I gave in. How could I not go for a few bars of dark chocolate? I just ordered one of each of the dark offerings. Tomorrow I get to pick them up... will report back afterwards!

                    1. re: peter.v

                      Hehe, I just did the exact same thing but I ordered them for pickup today. So far I haven't heard back if that's doable. Guess I'll find out when I go there after work.

                      1. re: peter.v

                        Bah! I forgot to report back!

                        Anyways, the order went through perfectly, my order was waiting for me. I didn't stick around for long at all as I was hoping to make a stop by Knifewear and Bite (off topic, Knifewear is one of the coolest shops I've ever been to. Service at Bite was a bit snooty. I know I look young, but I know a bit about food and I have money to purchase it, so I don't need your attitude thanks.) Anyways!

                        I ordered one each of the three bars, Ocumare, Brazilian and Porcelana.

                        The Ocumare is a great deal and was the favorite of most of the people I force fed it to. Spicy and fruity but still fairly close to a more traditional chocolate flavor profile.

                        The Brazilian was the closest to a regular chocolate. You can tell it's very high quality, and is still a great deal, but it's not as interesting as the Ocumare.

                        The Porcelana is a completely different bar of chocolate. Intensely fruity and tart. It kind of tastes like lots of slightly unripe raspberries were involved, but there's no fruit in this chocolate. Very close in taste to a young red wine. This was my favorite, if only for the wow factor of tasting something so profoundly different from regular expectations of chocolate.

                        Overall, the chocolate is very smooth and has a great mouthfeel. It is a bit on the sweet side which was surprising for a 70% cocoa bar.

                        I highly recommend visiting the shop.

                2. Wow that website isn't easy to use. So the only way to order online is to pre-order and then pick up? I'll have to wait to try it in that case.

                  I can definitely see how paying with PayPal in-store would throw people off. I wouldn't be comfortable using someone else's computer to do that. Obviously the owner is trying to save some money by not paying the fees for a traditional credit card system.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: anonymoose

                    Hi Everybody.

                    This is just a quick post from Brad Churchill at Choklat to say that we NO LONGER use the Paypal Payment system - either in our shop or through our public website. This was discontinued in December. We have switched over to another, much friendlier and easier system.

                    Thanks for your honest feedback. It allows me to continue to improve our products and services.

                    1. re: bc9701

                      Glad to hear it Brad :)

                  2. the brownies are to DIE for! all 4 outside edges are crunchie and sticky because they have been baked in a mini loaf tin and the inside is so soft and chewy. they are made not with cocoa but the choklat chocolate! so yummie..... thank godness i'm only pregnant for another 3 weeks or so, i crave them!!!!!!!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: cdn

                      Mini loaf brownies, now that sounds deadly good!

                      (OT here mods please forgive me) 3 more weeks cdn? Wow time flies! Ok maybe just for me... since I'm not the one having difficulty sleeping/reaching my toes etc...(fond memories now that my youngest is 2&1/2)

                      Take care cdn :)

                    2. I'm visiting Calgary, and stumbled on Chokolat the other day. Can I say - wow. I got a Porcelena bar and a cup of their hot chocolate. The latter: really thick, but not quite as pudding-thick as a Spanish hot chocolate. Very creamy and delicious. It seemed a little steep at $6, but considering that the portion is huge, it's actually quite do-able. (It would be nice if they offered a smaller size, though).

                      The owner/chocolatier said he makes it with melted chocolate, homogenized milk, and icing sugar that helps keep the chocolate suspended in the liquid. A bit more chocolate than I was planning to consume at lunch, but no regrets - I would put this up there with the hot chocolate from Jacques Torres.

                      While I was savoring, the owner offered me a sample of melted Porcelena. It was so delicious that I immediately bought a second bar. As well as a brownie to-go.

                      Yeah, so I spent something like $30 on impulse chocolate purchases over lunch, but this is amazing stuff. I'm thinking of going back to stock up on Porcelena, and also check out Knifewear (which I passed but didn't have a chance to check out because I was rushing back downtown).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: peckish

                        Yep the porcelana bar is fabulous! So I can only imagine that the hot chocolate made with it is too! I'll have to check out the hot chocolate - mmmmmmm

                      2. I ordered the bars online... so far I've quite liked the chocolate although the porcelana was a bit too odd for me. Definitely interesting though. This place is trying an entirely new concept, I'll be interested to see if it catches on.

                        17 Replies
                        1. re: AriaDream

                          I cant believe how all the users posts above extol the virtues of this chocolate while professing to be chocolate lovers. I went today and I am by no means an expert but with the types of beans they claim to offer the chocolate bars do not do it service. I mean the 70% ocumare looks and tastes like milk chocolate (albeit with good undertones of fruit) which is no comparison to a similarly styled Venezuelan dark from amedei. Ultimately at the price point I question how much cocoa solids actually enter the bars for them to be 70%. Do yourself a favor and buy the Lindt & Sprüngli excellence 70% or better yet step up to a 85%. Bitterness can often be the sign of a good bar.

                          http://www.seventypercent.com/chocop/...

                          1. re: 300rwhp

                            I claim to be no expert either, but I'm pretty sure the Choklat bars I had were well beyond run of the mill Lindt bars. Yes, their Excellence line is a great option at the price point, but I don't believe them to be near the complexity of Choklat's bars. Is it possible that this is like coffee? Some people feel a cup of a fruity, spicy Ethiopian coffee is not something they'd like to drink if their usual cup is an earthy, full bodied Sumatran (or for even greater contrast, a dark roast vs. lighter roast). Could it all boil down to different cacao roasting practices since Choklat processes their own?

                            1. re: peter.v

                              you can judge alone by colour, and run of the mill is not something you should associate with the lindt bars. The ocumare is the colour of milk chocolate, which is indicative of the amount of cocoa solids used. The ocumare states they use 40% cocoa solids and 30% cocoa butter. Hence the colour/mouthfeel and lack of complex taste. At a price twice that of the lindt bars I wont be buying any more choklat. Save my money for Amedei which for all but chuao is the same price as Choklat and sublime.

                              http://www.thenibble.com/REVIEWS/MAIN...

                              1. re: 300rwhp

                                I cannot speak to the Ocumare as I have not tried that one, but I do not think chokat has necessarily inferior chocolate. The particular blend of cocoa solids and cocoa butter may not be to everyone's taste, but I for one quite enjoy the Porcelana bar.

                                Lindt is well-known for putting in a higher percentage of cocoa butter in their chocolate, to get the smoother mouthfeel. This is entirely valid. When chocolate is listed as 70% it is expected that a part will be cocoa solids (less expensive) and a part will be cocoa butter (the expensive part of chocolate). The remaining 30% is not cocoa-derived. "Chocolate candy" is so-called not because it is missing cocoa solids but because the cocoa butter has been replaced with a lesser oil (and usually hydrogenated!).

                                Whether a higher percentage of cocoa butter means a lack of taste is a matter of, well, taste. Cocoa butter can also have a "terroir" quality to it (reflecting the fruitiness and earthiness of the bean)--it need not be flavourless. I think Valrhona's Ivoire is an excellent example of what a good quality cocoa butter can taste like.

                                1. re: aktivistin

                                  I dont think discussing white chocolate (not chocolate) is relevant here. When i mention lindt i am referring to the excellence line. Higher cocoa solid content will result in more flavour compounds. Which is my main criticism of the ocumare from choklat, it has the mouthfeel and taste of milk chocolate not dark. There is a lack of complexity.

                                  1. re: 300rwhp

                                    I tried a couple of the dark chocolates a couple months ago, and would have to say they are too fruity for my taste. I agree with Peter.v's comment about it tasting like raspberries. I had a fairly long conversation with the owner, and he admitted that he doesn't like dark chocolate (gasp, a chocolatier that doesn't like dark!), and so makes his dark to taste more like milk chocolate.

                                    1. re: 300rwhp

                                      300rwhp, besides some obvious disagreements over what makes chocolate, I think you and I share a passion for chocolate "connoisseurism." What chocolate-makers (besides choklat, of course) do you recommend for purchase locally? I often buy my chocolate online or on holiday as I have trouble finding it in Calgary.

                                      1. re: 300rwhp

                                        I believe Choklat has that bar to cater to those people who do not like dark chocolate. Have you tried their other bars? The Porcelana struck me as quite interesting. Not entirely to my taste, but interesting.

                                        1. re: 300rwhp

                                          Alright, I think I'm understanding where you're coming from more now. As it happens I am currently melting a piece of Lindt Excellence 85% in my mouth. It's quite good. Nice balanced acidity, lots of dark, toastier notes from the cocoa solids. Thanks for reintroducing me to the Excellence bars! Just picked this one up for 2.59 at London Drugs!

                                      2. re: 300rwhp

                                        People over at the redflagdeals forums have been talking about finding Scharffen Berger bars for $1 at Dollarama (liquidating since Hershey's shut down the SF plant)... Since there seems to be many chocolate connoisseurs amongst us, has anyone tried them? How do they compare to other mid-market chocolate?

                                        As a result of this thread, I too am currently consuming a Lindt Excellence 85% bar.

                                        1. re: Strider

                                          The Scharffen Berger 41% milk chocolate bar is a perfect "entry drug" into the world of becoming a chocolate connoisseur.

                                          1. re: DeeDub

                                            Was just at a Dollarama in Edmonton and over by the cashier they had a whole big cardboard display of Scharffen Berger 41% milk, 62% semisweet, 70% bittersweet, and 82% extra dark, all at a buck each. :)

                                            1. re: anonymoose

                                              I have been reading that Hershey's (owners of Scharffenberger) is closing down the plant in Berkeley...I wonder if this is the reason for the blowout price.

                                              1. re: fmed

                                                Yes, that's exactly the reason... they're liquidating the stock that's already been produced at the SF location.

                                                I found some 62% and 70% at the 32nd ave NE Dollarama in Calgary if anyone's interested, others have found the other bars (41% and 82%) at the deerfoot south location.

                                                From what I gather, Scharffen Berger is top notch chocolate (for being mid-market), but it has a very distinct fruity taste that many would describe as acidic or astringent. Because of it, most people either love it or hate it... I personally love it. I like it better than the Lindt 85% excellence bar that I tried.

                                                In any case, for $1 I'll take a bar or Scharffen Berger over a Kit Kat any day!

                                    2. re: 300rwhp

                                      As a matter of fact, bitterness is NOT the sign of a good chocolate. If it were, then everybody would just eat Baker's chocolate, and/or chocolate companies would stop putting cocoa butter in their recipes, as it's quite expensive. The 100% liquor we make from the various beans we import is in fact not very bitter at all. When you think about it for a minute, cacau is a fermented tropical fruit - the juice from which the locals often drink as they harvest the pods and beans. A good quality fermented criollo cocoa bean is not actually that bitter, but rather nutty with fruity notes. Forastero beans on the other hand (forastero is the workhorse of the chocolate world and mostly grown in Ghana) is much more earthy, and has a heavier flavour.

                                      It sounds as though some of you like a darker chocolate. As a producer I've been working with recipes of higher percentages of cacau, and have in fact introduced cocoa nibs as one of our truffle toppings. I anticipate that come summer, we should have a couple of "intense 80%" bars available.

                                      As far as Lindt goes.... Well.... We have some in the shop to use as comparison, and so far about 80% of our customers actually spit out the Lindt after sampling ours.

                                      Having said that, everyone's tastes are different. Nobody's right, and nobody's wrong. Everybody likes what they like, and to each of us, it's all good.

                                      1. re: bc9701

                                        We are very fortunate in Calgary to have a producer of such high quality chocolate. The Lindt comparison has been very entertaining.

                                        1. re: bc9701

                                          Even though our chocolate-making instructor was from Lindt, I came away from the class with more appeciation for other chocolate brands and less for Lindt. The Lindt chocolate, though smoother as a result of the extra cocoa butter, had less taste--less so than one of the white chocolates we tried (though we didn't use terms like this with the instructor, rather focusing on it "smoothness").

                                          If SAIT is still offering the chocolate-making class, I highly recommend it. Very informative and fun, with lots of chocolate to eat and take home! Covers everything from how the bean is grown, harvested, and processed, how chocolate is made, different beans, what "x%" cocoa means, how to temper chocolate and fill molds, alpha and beta crystals, and much more.

                                    3. Here are some photos of our bars. I created them after my last post and couldn't figure out how to add them.

                                       
                                       
                                      1. I just noticed on their website that they have this "Choklat Snobbery 101" session almost every week? Has anyone one been and can let me know what is it? Is it worth the money and 2 hours of my time?

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: jorgep18

                                          It is a fairly interesting and educational 2 hours on the chocolate making process with some chocolate sampling thrown in. I haven't decided whether the $40 would have been better spent on several of their amazing chocolate bars instead.

                                          1. re: jorgep18

                                            A friend and I went last year. It was informative and you get to eat a lot of chocolate but our instructor spent a lot of the time putting down other brands of chocolate. It got annoying after a while (we get your point!) and I didn't think it was very tasteful.

                                            1. re: Beachy1

                                              Agreed. Their website echoes your sentiment.