Introducing Soma

By Angelica Ottaway  ·  19th January 2016  ·  New Makers, New Products

Soma Chocolate Maker

If you are a Cocoa Runners subscriber, then you might just be lucky enough to get a bar from Canadian maker Soma inside your next box. A modern craft chocolate pioneer, and a makes whose chocolate we have long admired, we are delighted to finally be able to welcome Soma and its wonderful bars to the Cocoa Runners Chocolate Library.

We spoke to Cynthia and David, the couple behind Soma.

What’s your background? Why and how did you get into chocolate?

David was working as a pastry chef and Cynthia was working as an architect. We really wanted to start something small together that would combine our skills.

Being huge chocolate fanatics with a natural curiosity to invent and explore- we got bit by the cacao bug. In 2003 our little chocolate shop was conceived. We made truffles, cookies, hot chocolate, and spun gelato- but the heart of our business was making small batches of chocolate from the cacao bean. Back then we called it micro batch chocolate the term “bean to bar” had not yet surfaced.

In a small 400 square foot space in an old whisky distillery with a refurbished refiner/conche and a modified coffee roaster, we dug deep into the world of cacao and went for it. Today the fascination continues- there are big smiles on our faces every morning knowing our work day involves chocolate.

There are 2 sides to our world- the science and technical side of making a single beautiful bar that makes a specific origin of cacao sing, and the exploratory playful side of finding new ways to enjoy chocolate with new products new techniques and new ingredient combinations.

What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?

Our mission has always been to explore the possibilities of chocolate. In the most basic sense this means discovering new sources of great cacao, but also how different chocolates interact in a blend, or the impact of a new roast profile or technique. Craft chocolate making is a continuous experiment.

Cynthia and Dave SOMA

When did you start your company — and with whom?  How many are there of you?

We started in 2003 and Soma is Cynthia Leung and David Castellan.

Where do you want to go next?  New bars?  New beans?  New markets?

As all craft chocolate makers Soma is always looking for and experimenting with new origins. With the rise in chocolate makers there are more small farms growing flavour grade beans. In our factory there are approx 20 samples from new farms right now that will go through testing and evaluation.

This year we will be making deeper connections at the farm level. A trip to the Caribbean will hopefully happen this year to set up a small chocolate making line for a farm we buy beans from so they can make their own bars.

More blends are in the works, with our expanding chocolate library of origins we have a lot of fun creating new flavour profiles from different origins.

On a nuttier level, our new approach to making Gianduja uses hazelnuts from Oregon and cacao beans from Jamaica. Hazelnuts are such a wonderful ingredient (apparently Europeans and Canadians share this love of hazelnuts).

With Cocoa Runners this will be the first time our bars will be sold outside of the Americas. This is a big exciting step for us.

How did you source your beans? 

Sourcing happens in a few different ways. Some of our beans are bought direct from the farms. Some of the rare beans or more difficult to get are bought through a broker who is a specialist in that region of origin. Some beans are bought from fellow makers within the chocolate community or traded to share origins.

What is your favourite food?  Wine?  Other chocolate makers?

Toronto is much like London there are a lot of pockets of exotic food from different countries. We love and eat a lot of different foods.

Current obsessions- David is crazy about Szechuan food his favourite dish is Dan Dan Mein, he makes and seeks out different versions from around the world. Cynthia loves an Iranian spiced lamb stew called dizi, it is meant to be slurped dunked in and shared and will warm the soul. Although we love wine, we love our rum more, in particular El Dorado from Guyana.

So many chocolate makers are doing amazing things. Such a great community to geek out with. Some stand outs- Rogue for his fanatical attention to detail. Domori as a pioneer in microbatch chocolate. Pump Street, we love his sourdough chocolate. Lonohana for the love he puts into his tree to bar chocolate.