Interview | Wren McMurdo of Dark Days Chocolate
Cover photo credit to Kristina Moravec.
Today we introduce you to Wren McMurdo, Seattle-based artist and owner of Dark Days Chocolate. Her Dark Days Moon Patties are all palm-oil free and infused with a special blend of herbs that promote 'emotional and digestive wellness'. Certain orders even come with a Dark Days Comic - illustrated and written by McMurdo - making Dark Days a truly unique business, nourishing body and mind.
So, if you want to get to know the woman who makes some of Seattle's best gluten-free, vegan, fair trade, and organic chocolate confections, check out this excerpt from our phone interview:
One of our readers was really anxious to share you with us. You're palm-oil free and we don't really encounter that too often with chocolatiers.
Being palm-oil free is definitely important to us. Dark Days Moon Patties are made with coconut oil. Coconut oil melts at lower temperatures than dark chocolate but it’s simply not an option to move into using non-sustainable ingredients. It’s not part of [our] core values.
So, that’s a decision that you’re making at this point as you deal with your expansion. You’re kind of at an impasse…
Right, but it’s totally fine because there are a lot of environments that can carry our product, even though it is a product with a lower shelf life. I think if it’s a successful product, it will still fly off the shelves, regardless of how ‘stable’ it is, which seems to be the main drive that is behind palm-oil.
We experience that in our area -- stores are providing their customers with whole food alternatives, keeping refrigerated sections that are only for those kinds of foods.
And even in those shops that are boutique-like, and may not have climate control - they can still just carry the chocolates on a seasonal basis. Which, as a concept, is more sustainable than constantly refrigerating foods. So, that’s another direction to maybe go in: looking at the seasonality of the product.
I spent a lot of time in rural parts of India and I noticed that no one refrigerated anything. They just purchased foods from the carts that go around the little towns and they’re done with [the food] by the end of the day. Because they eat mostly vegetables, they can pretty much gobble up all the vegetables they buy in one day. I really liked that concept of not refrigerating anything. I guess the whole point is moving away from decisions like including additives, like palm-oil. And instead working with what I have and the reality of what I want to use, continuing to stay within those lines. As a small company, I can still make those decisions now and sort of work with what I have, which is very manageable.
You infuse your moon patties with herbs, like motherwort, ladies mantle, nettle, chamomile, etc. Tell us more about that.
I will say that since I have been creating these chocolates, I eat them regularly and I do notice the subtle benefits within my life. Whether it is all inside my head or if the herbs are actually having their own subtle benefits in my body and life, it doesn’t really matter. Just the fact that I know that I’m feeding myself food that is organic, whole food, fairly traded, vegan, gluten free… I mean, I’ve got a whole long check list of things I apply to the things I eat. It’s a little bit [of] extra magic, if you will.
I really love that. There’s also the element of your comic book art and comics, which directly ties into this concept and your whole brand.
Comics I do for the Moon Patties are simply broad snapshots of my reality and I present them via the moon phases. So, I will look at the coming lunar phase and all of the astrological aspects happening around those days and sort of view the week, as an astrologer may look at a person’s birth chart. [I'll] discern the mood or possible inspiring words to speak that may align with those concepts. Astrology is so much fun to me, I think because its just like any other mystical practice, be it religious or just for fun. It unlocks certain parts of your brain that hadn’t been unlocked, period. It just gets those little neurons firing, whether or not anything does pan out the way an astrologer says. It doesn’t matter because the astrologer said something to you that made you think a thought or feel a feeling that played a role in your next days.
I love to look at astrology in that way because it gives me a sense of intuition. Even if it is just a bunch of hullabaloo, it’s hullabaloo that I’ve added meaning to…
Yeah, it’s like a cosmic prompt for self-reflection and insight. I’ve always dug that stuff, because it’s interesting just to look at your own reaction to the [horoscope] you read. It’s kind of like, how excited or how depressed was I by that? Why was that? You know, when you read that something will or won’t happen, you become more aware of your own desires through that experience.
Exactly. Life is exceedingly overwhelming at times. Sometimes it helps to just read your horoscope and just relax; it’s a little meditative cue, I guess. I think that becoming aware of yourself is a great way to start becoming aware of other things, like palm-oil and organic food, and the clothes you wear and the choices you make.
Becoming aware of your own desires is something we’re not really trained to do. I think we’re entering an age where we can all see that we all need to connect in different ways in order to move forward. And one of those ways is ‘to ourselves’ - always, always. Always connect more deeply to yourself.
There's an interesting aspect to your business that, much like monthly beauty boxes, people can order a Dark Days Moon Patty subscription. How does this service work?
The first month you would get a tin with three chocolates and a comic strip. You can get a three month, six month, or twelve month subscription. The shipping fees are included in the price on the Etsy page. The whole goal by the end of the summer is to switch over to completely biodegradable packaging so you can compost [everything] and just keep your tin for [future] chocolate. So, the concept is absolutely no waste. Aside from the ice packs, which I’m working on, which would be sent out during the summer months. Those would be reusable but not recyclable or biodegradable.
You would have your little moon calendar to fill out each month and keep track of... so essentially if you have a subscription for a month and you got our moon charts and calendars, you could keep a little log of your cycle or your life and keep it for yourself.
You offer three flavors of Moon Patty. Which would you recommend most?
I have different mood suggestions for each of the flavors. Just to reiterate, our products are currently only dark chocolate enrobed coconut patties, so you will definitely taste coconut in each and every one of them. But, we have Peppermint, Date and Bourbon Vanilla, and Sea Salted Lemon —
I love the flavor of Peppermint because I feel like it is a great cooling tool to use whenever you may be feeling hot-headed or in any way ‘out of control’. So, whenever I’m feeling a bit insane or OCD or working too hard or eating without thinking - I’ll have a Peppermint Patty. There’s something about it. You can eat chocolate and imagine suppressing your appetite for certain things like revenge or love. Certain things you feel like you really need to have right then.
Date Bourbon Vanilla is great for when you need comfort. It's a super comforting flavor; you know how some people feel like ‘I need a drink’ after work? Or you’re having a teary day perhaps or you’re just feeling super low. That flavor is a bit sweeter than the others; the dates are endlessly nourishing and the sweetness is so satisfying. We use agave which is very low glycemic, so all of the sweeteners in our products are not going to make you crash.
The Sea Salted Lemon is a light-hearted flavor. It’s very zesty and salty, so it’s a great stimulating patty to have. It’s actually great for breakfast... [Haha] I often eat it for breakfast when I’m in a pinch - I love that about those. They’re good summertime flavors. They're all perfect for any time of the year obviously, but that’s the one I’m the most into right now - it’s nice to pair sunshine with sunshine flavors and sort of get the most out of the warmer days.
All photos owned by Wren McMurdo, Dark Days Chocolate, or Kristina Moravec.