Fjak crafts its organic, ethically traded, bean to bar chocolate in the depths of Hardangerfjord in Norway. Sourcing its cacao beans from exciting origins far, far from Norway, Fjak is a chocolate maker that also likes to keep things close to home; it experiments with Nordic nature inclusions grown locally to the factory.

Making chocolate since 2015, it was only late 2017 that Agur and Siv officially launched Fjak. Those initial two years acted as the experimental stage, where Agur and Siv endeavoured on the pursuit of crafting great chocolate – from ethics to flavour – with the vision of making production scalable from the get go.

Fjak took its name from the Hardanger dialect, where people of a certain generation in the region would refer to each other as ‘fjak’. Roughly translating to ‘loveable’ or ‘honest’, Agur and Siv felt there was no other name better suited for their chocolate vocation. As chocolate is, after all, “the most loveable thing in the world”.

At the 2018 Academy of Chocolate awards, Fjak made a powerful first impression, winning Best Newcomer amongst other Gold, Silver and Bronze awards. Fjak also took away six stars at the Great Taste Awards 2018 – the first Great Taste it entered – with the 70% Madagascar being awarded three stars.

We caught up with Agur when she visited London for the Academy of Chocolate awards 2018, and naturally we had some burning questions for her and the Fjak team:
 

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

My background is in photography, where I have been working for the last 20 years as a photographer both in Norway and internationally. My other big passion was for food and food culture, which meant that I was always experimenting with and making different foods at home. Then I discovered how chocolate was made, which was fascinating for me, so I ran to buy a Premier Grinder while visiting the UK and brought it with me to Norway in my suitcase to try to make chocolate myself. Since then chocolate is the biggest love and part of my life. I think and dream about chocolate every day!

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

Fjåk Chocolate project started in 2015 in our kitchen top when after watching some videos about craft chocolate we decide to purchase a little Premier grinder and a kilo of cocoa beans. In 2017 we founded Fjåk Chocolate AS and in October that year we started to sell commercially. We are two founding partners in Fjåk, both women; Agurtxane Concellon (Spanish) and Siv Hereid (Norwegian).

What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?

Our mission is to be THE Norwegian craft chocolate maker, combining a Nordic touch to the international craft chocolate community. Working with fine quality organic cocoa and small farmers, to show our customers, especially in the Nordic countries, the diversity that real chocolate can bring.

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

We are always experimenting with new flavour combinations and testing new beans from different regions, so we could say that we will be continuing to develop more chocolate bars and products, with new origins and also new Nordic inspired flavours. We hope to grow Fjåk into new markets in Europe and beyond especially with our chocolate bars. Our ‘bean-to-bon-bon’ range is also developed every season for the local markets in Norway.

Who designed your packaging – and what are you most proud of about your packaging?

Our packaging is designed by designer Ian Holcroft a British designer based in Bergen together with myself, Agurtxane Concellon. Together we are constantly developing our packaging, identity and communication.

How did you source your beans?

We source our cocoa beans mostly direct from the farm, in the case of our Madagascar and Brazil cocoa beans we source directly from Åkesson or through suppliers such as Uncommon Cacao or Cocoanect.

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

I have a fascination for Gin, not because of the alcohol, but because of the use of botanicals that makes every Gin so unique. I love foraging in the Norwegian nature for all kinds of plants, berries and mushrooms that will inspired new chocolate bars.

Among my favourite chocolate makers are: Fruition, Palette de Bine, Green Been to Bar… and many more, the list will be way to long.

What chocolate achievement are you most proud of to date?

To have manage, in less that one year, to have 7 Awards with our chocolate bars. All the bars we presented to the Academy of Chocolate Awards won an Award, for me this was so big considering that we are in the market just for 9 months.

Misina Cokolada is a micro-batch chocolate maker in the Czech Republic, crafting its chocolate on the outskirts of Prague.

Misina Cokolada is the culmination of Michaela Dohnálková’s passion for chocolate. Although having always loved chocolate, it wasn’t until Michaela received a present from her husband – the book ‘Real Chocolate’ by Chantal Coady – that she began dreaming of making her own chocolate. This dream, however, was put on hold. After moving to Dublin with her husband, this was the first time Michaela tried small batch, bean to bar chocolate – her eyes were suddenly open to the wonders of craft chocolate. Still in awe, a move back to the Czech Republic set Michaela on her own journey of crafting chocolate from bean to bar.

Misina Cokolada sources its cacao beans from select origins. Each origin has been awarded Cocoa of Excellence awards, largely thanks to the co-operatives and farmers growing and harvesting the fine-flavour crop. The Tanzanian cacao is sourced through Kokoa Kamili, a network of smallholder farmers, who centrally ferment the beans. Kokoa Kamili pay fine attention to details when its comes to fermentation, for example monitoring the temperature and pH of the cacao so to achieve a uniform, high quality process. Any batches that fail to meet Kokoa Kamili’s expectations are further evaluated to check for “off-flavours” and are not exported.

We caught up with Michaela when she visited for the Academy of Chocolate Awards 2018…

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

How it all started back in 2015? I have been a chocolate-lover all my life. Whenever wherever I go I taste new chocolate bars. Many years ago I got the book Real Chocolate by Chantal Coady as a gift from my husband. I loved the book and I started dreaming about making my own chocolate. I put this dream at the back of my mind for some time. While I was living in Ireland I came across bean to bar chocolate made by Shana Wilkie (Wilkie’s chocolate). What an eye opener! Bean to bar chocolate was something new to me and it was a truly amazing experience. So much flavour!

After I moved back to the Czech Republic and my kids grew a bit older I decided to pursue my dream. I signed up to the Ecole Chocolat course “Chocolate Making from the Bean” and started experimenting. After some time the chocolate tasted so good that everybody around me was hooked and there was no way back. The word spread and my chocolate started selling in shops, coffee shops and chocolate shops. In 2017 I sent one of my chocolate bars – Tanzania 75% Dark – to the Academy of Chocolate Awards. I wanted to get feedback and see where my chocolate stands internationally. I was thrilled that this particular bar held up so well among all the great chocolate bars and was awarded a silver award.

What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?

To make chocolate that’s close to the flavours of the beans from which it’s sourced. That’s why I decided to make only single origin bars. Ethics and sustainability are important values to me. I want to educate customers about bean to bar process and also where the beans come from.

What is the story behind your company name?

Why Míšina čokoláda? My name is Michaela, friends have always called me Míša (in English Misha) and Míšina čokoláda means Misha’s chocolate in English. In the very beginning friends asked each other….Have you tasted Míšina čokoláda i.e. chocolate made by Misha? I decided to keep the name

Who designed your packaging – and what are you most proud of about your packaging?
A friend of mine who lives nearby designed it. I am proud of the fact that we worked on it together step by step although we were both quite busy and it wasn’t easy to find the time.

How did you source your beans?

I wanted to source the beans as directly as possible. In the very beginning I mailed farms and
cooperatives but the typical answer was that I would have to order a few tons. So for now I order via cocoa beans suppliers in Europe but I know exactly where the beans are from. When the business grows I can order large quantities directly.

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

Chocolate for sure! Mole Poblano with chile and chocolate sauce.

What chocolate achievement are you most proud of to date?

Definitely AoC awards! I am a lifelong chocoholic. In the past I noticed that there were AoC
stickers on some amazing chocolate bars that I have bought. It is like a dream that these stickers are now on my own chocolate bars.

Husband and wife, Andres from Ecuador and Sara from Colombia, share an intense love for chocolate and an altruistic desire to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers.  And this passion has materialised into an Ecuadorian focused craft chocolate company based in Cornwall, UK. Their craft chocolate company, Rio Nuevo was a project that begun at Andres and Sara’s Amazon rainforest wedding, when the pair were shown how to make chocolate by the local Ecuadorians, and that has now brought them to the UK.

Nacional is a highly regarded, special genotype of cacao in Ecuador, often associated with being Ecuador’s ‘national brand’; this native cacao is known for its exceptional flavour quality. The strength of the ‘Nacional’ name has encouraged Ecuador to become a leading producer of fine flavour cacao. However, when being introduced to chocolate making, Andres and Sara discovered the struggles many cacao farmers were facing and the substantial cultivation of ‘bulk cacao’ such as CCN-51, which all threatens Ecuador’s fine cacao heritage.

Rio Nuevo, which translates as “new river”, is bean to bar chocolate, handcrafted in Cornwall, made using fine-flavour Ecuadorian cacao. Andres and Sara directly source their single estate Arriba Nacional cacao through their pre-existing connections to cocoa farmers in Ecuador. Rio Nuevo currently sources its cacao from a small farm in Vinces, Ecuador, owned by Don Julian and Doña Julia. Andres and Sara are very proud to work with, and buy directly from, the cocoa farmers. The cacao is collected in a small pick-up truck, one or two sacks at a time, which then makes its way to Guayaquil, a port city in Ecuador, en route to Penryn, Cornwall.

We first met the family behind Rio Nuevo at the London Coffee Festival 2018. After tasting the chocolate and listening to the story and background behind the brand, the cacao, and the family, we really didn’t need any more convincing that Rio Nuevo was perfectly suited for Cocoa Runners.

We sat down with Andres and Sara to find out a little more about Rio Nuevo:

What’s your background? Why and how did you get into chocolate?
Sara studied Environment, Development & Policy at Sussex University and Andres studied Economics at the University of East London. We had always dreamed of working with communities back at home, Sara grew up in a small coffee farm in Colombia and knows first hand the struggles small scale farmers face. We always felt we had a responsibility and a role to play in creating change.

Our project was born when at our wedding (in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador) we were shown how to make chocolate by the local residents, there we learnt about the struggles cacao farmers face and the propagation of CCN-51 which is threatening our cacao heritage.

We returned to the UK wanting to do our bit, we wanted to make chocolate bars that have a positive impact on the land and its farmers as well as raising awareness of the lack and limitations of fair trade practices in the cacao industry.

When did you start your company — and with whom? How many are there of you?
We started learning how to make chocolate in April 2016 and it wasn’t until December 2017 when we felt ready to launch our chocolate bars to the market. In the past few months we’ve had Diana’s (Andres’ sister) help.

What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?
Our aim is to help farmers in Ecuador to improve their livelihoods, we want to do this through direct trade. Around one hundred thousand families depend on cacao crops. Our dream is to raise the bar and see a real change in how the chocolate industry can help develop sustainable livelihoods for cocoa-farming communities.

How did you source your beans?
We buy the cocoa beans directly from a farmer in Vinces-Ecuador. They own a small farm that has been in their possession for generations, their names are Don Julian and Doña Julia, their daughter and grandchildren are also involved in the day to day running of the farm. They also plant fruits and vegetables for their own use.

What inspired your choice of wrapper/mould design?
Our packaging motifs were inspired by the Inca patterns found in Ecuadorian textiles. We wanted our packaging to reflect something of who we are in a very strong, clean and minimal way.

What is your favourite food? Wine? Other chocolate makers?
For the past couple of years we’ve been spoiled by our neighbours’ authentic Italian food and we love everything they make and bring us from the Bologna region, cheese, wine, prosciutto, etc.

Right now we’re enjoying Sirene Artisan Chocolate, there is so much choice out there! and it’s always nice to discover different chocolates from other makers.

With craft bars wrapped in paper cut to the shape of Nordic mittens, Chocokoo is Estonia’s first bean to bar chocolate maker, crafting its chocolate in Tallinn, the multi-cultural capital city of Estonia.

Although Estonia is famed for its Baltic cuisine, Estonia is not often associated with chocolate or confectionery.  But Estonia can trace a long history of confectionery production dating back to the early 17th century. During these early times, with sugar somewhat hard to come by, sweet-toothed Estonians opted for honey as a daily pick-me-up. Suggesting to be the original inventor, Tallinn’s Old Town Pharmacy also sold marzipan as a medicine, proclaiming the health benefits of the almond sweet treat. Chocolate emerged later, with confectioners producing chocolate from the late 18th century.

Yet, it wasn’t until 2015 that Estonia embraced artisan, bean to bar chocolate making. Kristel Lankots, who at the time was a board member working at a road construction company, wanted to radically change her life’s direction. Kristel wanted to do something she really loved and something that she could call her own, which meant moving away from financial responsibility in her respective industry and into the world of chocolate-making. Equipped with a degree in economics and business management, Kristel founded Chocokoo with the aspiration to create something tangible from her hard work.

Kristel visited cacao farms in the forest-rich country of Costa Rica and made invaluable contacts to get her hands on great, traceable beans. Kristel saw how the farmers in Upala worked and what they considered important. It was on this trip that she really fell in love with Costa Rican cacao and the chocolate that they made; so much so, that Costa Rica has now become Chocokoo’s ‘house’ chocolate. Kristel also sources beans from Vietnam, from the Mekong Delta Region, and is on the hunt for more origins and bean varieties that showcase unique flavour profiles.

One accomplishment of Chocokoo is with its 70% dark chocolate with rye sourdough; this bar was made the official chocolate of Estonian presidency of the EU in 2017. However, this wouldn’t be the first time Chocokoo has been associated with such prestige, as for the 98th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, Chocokoo produced 2,400 filled chocolates for the reception of the celebration! Chocokoo has also been awarded as the ‘interesting new product on the market’ by the Best Estonian Food Product 2018.

We spoke to Kristel to get a deeper insight into what and who Chocokoo is:

What’s your background? Why and how did you get into chocolate?
At university I studied economics and business management. For many years I used to work at the road construction supervision company as a member of the board responsible for finances and contracts. I felt it was time for me to change my life and do something that I really love. I wanted to have an actual physical outcome of my work. I have always loved chocolate and eaten a lot of it. When I started thinking what I know about how chocolate is made, I realised I didn’t know much. As a result of my research I found bean to bar movement and bean to bar chocolate producers. I started to go to chocolate festivals and fairs in Europe (Islington Business Design Centre, Chocoa Amsterdam), made contacts and travelled to Costa Rica to stay in cacao farms and see the beginning of chocolate. That was an amazing experience and opened my eyes. In addition to bean to bar chocolate I also took classes of pastry chefs to be able to temper chocolate by hand, make bonbons/truffles out of couverture, ganaches, etc.

When did you start your company — and with whom? How many are there of you?
Me and my husband, Asso Lankots, started the company in May 2015. He has his day job in another company, but he has been supporting and advising me from the start. It is a family business. We opened Chocokoo chocolate shop in November 2015, it is both our factory and a shop where people can buy our bars. I was the first bean to bar chocolate producer in Estonia. For the first year I was doing everything by myself, now I have a good helper, Aaron. Most of the daily work is done by the two of us, and my husband helps out from time to time.

What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?
First of all to make chocolate from the beans and let their origin speak its story in the chocolate. Due to our location up in the northern hemisphere, so far from cacao trees, I’ve made it my mission to educate people about cacao, where it grows, what it takes to have chocolate bar in the store, different ways of production, so that people would find their way to bean to bar chocolate, to discover the flavours they never expected to find in chocolate.

What is the story behind your company name?
Chocokoo – the Choco part refers that we are dealing with chocolate and is internationally understood and the Koo part is a bit Estonian enabling to make some word games.

Who designed your packaging – and what are you most proud of about your packaging.
Chocokoo’s mitten shaped packaging was developed by Estonian company Identity and the idea was to emphasize that we in the Nordic country (wearing mittens most of the year) can appreciate the work done in the warm countries to provide us with the beans to make chocolate ourselves. It is tricky to wrap bars into these mittens but I really love the shape of it and this shape is done for me/Chocokoo and it is well recognisable.

How did you source your beans?
As I have been to Costa Rican cacao farms, I have good contacts there. I appreciate the love these farmers put into their work and Costa Rica is my so to say house chocolate. The quantities I purchase are rather small therefore I have used the help of European middlemen, Daarnhouwer.

What is your favourite food? Wine? Other chocolate makers?
My favourite food – as I was born on the island of Estonia (Saaremaa) I like fish and of course chocolate. I like a lot of chocolates from other chocolate makers, current favourites are Dandelion Chocolate Kokoa Kamili, Tanzania 70% and Pump Street Jamaica 75%.

AMMA is a “passionate meeting of people who love what they do and who want to change the world by doing what they love”.

Brazil was once one of the largest exporters of cacao in the world; however, in the late 1980s, in the face of plant-diseases such as ‘Witches Broom’ and ‘Black Pod’, the shoots, flowers and pods of the cocoa trees were attacked. Cacao production reduced significantly. To overcome this, cacao producers began growing hardier beans, typically of the ‘Forastero’ variety, which meant switching from growing diverse fine cacao varieties to then growing rather mono-varietal, disease-resistant cacao.

In pursuit of restoring Brazil’s reputation of growing fine-flavour cacao, partners Diego and Luiza in 2002 returned to the traditional cacao-growing family farms in the South of Bahia, Brazil. The mission was to promote organic planting of cacao in the Bahia region, which would in turn ensure the preservation of the forest and the livelihood of the families of rural workers in the region.

In 2005, Diego took the cacao beans grown within his family’s farm to the Salon du Chocolat in Paris, showcasing them directly to European chocolate makers. Many makers were astounded by the quality of the Bahia beans.  Included amongst these makers was François Pralus who travelled to Bahia to learn about the planting, fermentation and drying practices of the farms and to build a direct sourcing relationship with Diego and Luiza.

Pralus then started to craft chocolate bars from Diego’s cacao, launching their first chocolate bars at Pralus’ factory  to showcase Amma’s potential to prospective cacao buyers and chocolate makers.

In 2007, Frederick Schilling, founder of Dagoba Organic Chocolate, after receiving samples of Diego’s cacao, visited Bahia. Enthralled, Federick started to build a craft chocolate factory in Brazil, which soon became AMMA Chocolate. Luiza, a renowned Brazilian artist, is responsible for the designing of the packaging.

Armed with a love for dark chocolate and all its health benefits, Deanna Tilston set out on a personal journey to learn about and craft her own chocolate. What started out as a self-nourishing endeavour has ultimately ended up becoming an award-winning chocolate maker. It seems that every element of Tosier chocolate elicits reverence for cacao and chocolate, from sourcing its cacao beans to the reason behind the name. ‘Tosier’ dates back to the 18th century, where a man named Thomas Tosier had the privilege of being George I’s personal chocolate maker; Thomas, and his wife Grace Tosier,  ran a very successful chocolate house on Chocolate Row in Greenwich in the 18th century.

Tosier crafts its chocolate in eight kilogram micro batches. This means that Tosier can only produce a limited number of bars  from each harvest; however, producing batches on this sort of scale also means that Deanna is able to keep a very close eye on every step of the chocolate-making process. It also means that no single batch of chocolate Deanna makes will ever be quite the same. Each batch and harvest that Tosier receive will have different characteristics.  We think that this variety is part of the beauty of craft chocolate.

Tosier sources its cacao from Belize and Haiti, via Uncommon Cacao.  Uncommon Cacao, originally part of Taza, are a key partner for many emerging craft chocolate makers and they pride themselves on ensuring a high quality and transparent trade, as well as maintaining significant market access for smallholder cacao farmers. Working with Uncommon Cacao means Deanna is able to see the biodiversity of the cacao, that is, what grows amongst the cacao, be it bananas, avocados, citrus fruits, as well as other fascinating details, such as fat percentage of the different cacao beans. From the country of origin to Uncommon Cacao, the beans are then transported to Suffolk in the UK for Tosier to turn into award-winning chocolate in their newly built facility near Burnham Market.

To find out a little bit more about Tosier, we spoke to the leading lady behind the chocolate, Deanna….

What’s your background? Why and how did you get into chocolate?
I trained originally as a Teacher of the Deaf, I don’t come from a food background. I have always liked dark chocolate. I got ill in 2016 and attempted to change my diet to avoid an operation to remove my gallbladder. I needed to eat clean and started making my own chocolate to give me a burst of Magnesium, antioxidants and Iron. The more I looked into chocolate the more I realised I didn’t know a thing!

When did you start your company — and with whom? How many are there of you?
I launched the company at the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival in September 2017, prior to that I was experimenting with different beans and getting the roast and grind right. My partner Jonathan took care of getting the packaging, promotional material and marketing.

What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?
To make the best chocolate I possibly can, the two strong influencers on me were right at the start in Atlanta meeting Chloe Doutre Roussell and Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbem. They talked so passionately about all the elements you need to get right to make good chocolate including the provenance of the cocoa and the importance of a good supply chain. As they said, “ There is enough bad chocolate out there, we don’t need anymore!”

What is the story behind your company name?
The Tosier name has a great deal of UK chocolate heritage behind it. Thomas and Grace Tosier ran a very successful chocolate house on Chocolate Row in Greenwich in the 18th century. Thomas Tosier was also George I’s personal chocolate maker – a privileged position within the Royal household at Hampton Court. One of his key duties was to serve the king his chocolate; and Tosier was responsible for making and taking a cup of chocolate to George I in his bed chamber every morning. We also know that the chocolate maker had his own bedroom – a luxury and an honour for a servant at court. If you visit Hampton Court you can see the original Chocolate Kitchen.

Who designed your packaging – and what are you most proud of about your packaging
Suffolk-based company, That’s Brave, designed the packaging, it took quite a while to get it right. I wanted the designs to relate to the origin of the cocoa, so we looked at textiles colours cultural icons and went from there. e.g The Bolivian bar design is based on the cactus from the salt plains

How did you source your beans?
I went to the North West Festival in Seattle in 2016. I tasted some raw liquor there, and knew I had to get hold of those beans, they tasted hands down better than the beans I was sourcing. After some hunting we discovered they were from Uncommon Cacao, and our relationship with them started there and then. We heard them speak at the festival about the supply chain, provenance and transparent trade. I bought samples back with me and never looked back.

What inspired your choice of wrapper/mould design?
We are looking at creating our own bespoke mould now and after much thought we have decided to base it on a vintage bar mould that I sourced at this year’s Chocoa festival in Amsterdam. It a classic bar mould that relates back to the historic aspect of my brand.

What is your favourite food? Wine? Other chocolate makers?
My favourite food is very much basic (one pot) peasant food! I’m a great fan of simple great ingredients combined quickly with love. I prefer red wine and the odd espresso martini…. With other chocolate makers I’m a fan of Soma, Marou and Ritual. From Europe and the UK chocolate from Forever Cacao, Pump Street Grenada 70% and Seaforth’s 100% Dominican Republic

After careers in management consultancy, Sabrina Mustopo and Simon Wright founded Krakakoa, the first bean to bar company in Indonesia in 2013. Their objective was to show firstly that Indonesia could craft great chocolate from its beans whilst also demonstrating the economic advantages of growing and crafting high quality chocolate. Indonesia has been a major exporter of “bulk” cacao for many years, but the prices paid and developmental benefits for most Indonesian cocoa farmers have been limited. Sabrina and Simon are driven by a vision of farmers making a sustainable, good living from their hard work, protecting the local environment and also showing that producing chocolate at origin could bring significant development opportunities for Indonesia.

Sabrina and Simon, have both lived, studied and worked in Indonesia, meeting whilst working for consultancy firm McKinsey & Company. Originally, Krakakoa was named “Kakao”, and started as an experiment, to test firstly whether it was possible to make high quality chocolate at a small scale in Indonesia, secondly whether the pair could actually cooperate with local cocoa farmers, and thirdly whether these local farmers would benefit from moving to “fine cacao”. Since October 2016, the brand promise developed even further and became more expressive; they’ve sharpened their brand promise to a commitment to showcase the best cacao from the Indonesian archipelago. The new name, Krakakoa, took inspiration from the volcano “Krakatoa”, which sought to reflect the chocolate as being proudly Indonesian.

Krakakoa sources its cacao from four islands in Indonesia: Sumatra, Sulawesi, Kalimantan, and Bali. The cacao beans are harvested on a single estate on each island, where the partner farmers have each undergone an 8-16 week workshop, on behalf of Krakakoa in partnership with SwissContact, where the farmers learn good agricultural practices and sustainable farming methods, including: organic farming techniques, disease management, fermentation, and conservation. Once graduated, the farmers are provided with the proper farming tools and continual support from this programme.

Krakakoa truly is chocolate made with passion and purpose. We wanted to hear more from the social entrepreneurs of the business, Sabrina and Simon:

What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?
We are driven to improve the lives of people living at the bottom of the pyramid and to preserve the world’s biodiversity and natural heritage. As such, Krakakoa was founded with a mission to improve the lives of Indonesian cocoa farmers and the sustainability of cocoa farming sector. Supporting that ultimate goal are also raising the poor international perception of Indonesian cacao and chocolate and contributing to the development of Indonesia by maximizing economic value creation in the country.

Where do you want to go next? New bars? New beans? New markets?
There’s a lot that we still want to do across all aspects of the business. But at a high level we’ll be entering new markets, launching new products for new customer segments and trying to see how we can further improve our social impact and environmental sustainability.

What is the story behind your company name?
Our brand name until October 2016 was actually “Kakoa” we rebranded as Krakakoa, because we wanted needed a name that matched our aspiration to become an iconic, global Indonesian brand, and also one that linked to the company’s roots in Lampung, Sumatra. So we settled on our current name which is a play on the historic volcano, Krakatoa, which is situated in Lampung province is famous around the world.

Who designed your packaging – and what are you most proud of about your packaging?
Our own in-house designer, who happens to also be our first and longest serving team member. We’re probably most proud that our first team member is still with us! And, that we won an AoC design and Red Dot award last year for our Single Origin gift set.

How did you source your beans?
Our initial two farmer groups were found through a contact we made at WWF, who were training farmers on Good Agricultural Practices and sustainability to avoid encroachment on the Bukit Barisan Selatan national park that the farmers boarder, and has some of the last remaining Sumatran tigers, elephants and rhinos. We found further communities ourselves, but we have also been approached by many farmer groups after they heard about the success of our training and sourcing programs.

What inspired your choice of wrapper/mould design?
Our mould is a modification of a popular off-the-shelf mould that we used during our first two years. We added some traditional batik patterning in addition to slight dimension adjustments to add some Indonesian feel to it.

What innovations in tech, crafting, marketing etc. are you pursuing?
By global standards, none currently, but by Indonesian standards we are one of the few if only chocolate makers to actively train and incentivise farmers for fine cocoa production. Less than 5% of Indonesian cocoa is fermented, and the farmers we trained into Academy of Chocolate award winners had no idea how to ferment cocoa beans when we first partnered with them.

What is your favourite food? Wine? Other chocolate makers?
This is a tough one.
Simon: As a South African, I’m going to go with a traditional braai of boerwors, maize meal and chakalaka, paired with a local Pinotage. That said, I’m more of a craft beer person than a wine person, and there I prefer my sours. In terms of chocolate makers, that is really tough but I’d say Pump Street Bakery cause I’ve never had a bar of theirs I’ve felt comfortable sharing and Meiji THE Chocolate because the packaging and value for money is so great.
Sabrina: I love Japanese food. My wine is my happy place, and my go-to would be Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand or a Riesling from Germany. For chocolate, the Smooth Chocolator, Pump Street and Bonnat.

What chocolate achievement are you most proud of to date?
We are the first and only Indonesian chocolate maker to win an AoC or ICA award when we won six AoC 2017 awards. And that year we were also the only winner to use Indonesian beans. Krakakoa was started to show that Indonesian cocoa can be on par with the best out there. Despite this country having a history of producing bad quality beans, we believed that if we worked with closely with farmers, treated them as partners and made sure that they get a fair deal for their hard work, that we could produce something exceptional. We wanted to show that chocolate made in Indonesia, by Indonesians, using only cocoa grown here, can compete on the global stage. And winning the awards showed that all this is true and possible.

Islands Chocolate is a story of passion, cricket (from Oxford and elsewhere) and cocoa that sourced from St Vincent and the Grenadine Islands. Wilf, who runs Islands Chocolate, modestly describes himself as a “semi-professional” cricketer before he decided to switch his passions to Craft Chocolate. Despite being the site where the Pirates of the Caribbean films were made, and despite possessing amazing beaches and fertile land (albeit full of mountains and prone to volcanic eruptions and cyclones), St Vincent is the 10th poorest country in the World. To date its main industry has been banana cultivation, with tourism becoming increasingly important. Wilf and his family discovered that Cocoa was also being grown on the Island. And inspired by the success of their Caribbean neighbours, they set up the St Vincent Cocoa Company as a family owed cocoa company in 2014. Since then they’ve grown to employ around 250 people and partner with over 100 farmers. They’ve been successfully selling on the Islands for a number of years under the brand name Vincentian Chocolate and armed with new packaging for the UK and EU, Wilf launched Islands Chocolate in late 2017.

Unlike many of its Caribbean neighbours such as Jamaica, Haiti or Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines are relatively unknown. The Islands were first colonised in 1719 by the French (until then indigenous Caribs had successfully defended the islands with the assistance of formerly enslaved Africans who had been shipwrecked or escaped from nearby islands). The French and British fought over the islands, with the British eventually maintaining control and establishing plantations of sugar, coffee, tobacco, cotton and cocoa. St Vincent volcano, La Soufriere, erupted in 1812 and 1902 and caused major economic damage. The beautiful beaches, popularised by movies, have helped a tourist industry grow. But the Islands remain very dependent on banana cultivation. Witnessing the success of its neighbouring Caribbean islands in growing, harvesting and craft Fine Flavour Cacao, Islands Chocolate has a vision to introduce the world to Vincentian Chocolate. The company ethos is ‘Think Beyond the Bar’. And to quote Wilf on his mission and where he sees the opportunity, “I feel that there is too much emphasis on the chocolate bar and not enough attention paid to those who farm the cocoa, the passionate chocolate making team, the culture of the island and the Caribbean as a whole. I want people to feel a connection between our chocolate and the Caribbean”.

We caught up with Wilf, and below are some notes from our discussion

• What’s your background? Why and how did you get into chocolate?
I was a semi-professional cricketer up until the age of 21, but having graduated from University, I realised that cricket wasn’t for me. Bearing in mind that cricket was my life until that point; I wanted to replace it with something that I was incredibly passionate about. A family friend of mine works on the sustainability side of things for Barry Callebaut. He sent me out to Malaysia to work on Barry’s research farm. It was incredibly tough but I definitely caught the chocolate/cocoa bug. I then went to work for Prestat in the kitchen with the aim of experiencing the chocolate making side of things. When I left Prestat, I went to work for Doisy and Dam, a chocolate start up – I was doing door to door sales trying to get their chocolate into independent cafés/deli’s. After these three jobs, I had managed to experience all of the different parts of the supply chain that were all vital to understand if I wanted to work in the industry.

• When did you start your company — and with whom?  How many are there of you?
Islands Chocolate is the sister company to St Vincent Cocoa Company. It all started with St Vincent Cocoa Company that launched in 2014. This is a family owed cocoa company that employs around 250 people, looks after 100 farmers and is dedicated to growing fine flavoured cacao in a sustainable way and creating opportunities for locals. We then launched a chocolate company on the Island to make the islanders aware of what we are doing. Bearing in mind St Vincent is the 10th poorest country in the world, the locals where over the moon that their country had a product that was being produced on the island. With the success of the chocolate company in St Vincent, I thought that it would be silly if we didn’t try and sell our chocolate in the UK market.

• What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?
Our company ethos is ‘Think Beyond the Bar’. I feel that there is too much emphasis on the chocolate bar and not enough attention paid to those who farm the cocoa, the passionate chocolate making team, the culture of the island and the Caribbean as a whole. I want people to feel a connection between our chocolate and the Caribbean.

• Where do you want to go next?  New bars?  New beans?  New markets?
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about this question. New bars – Yes. I already have a few more flavours in the pipeline for Christmas. They are delicious!  All of our beans will come from St Vincent however at the moment we are mixing them all together. In the future we want to be able to single out our varieties so that we can utilise each variety and the flavour profiles.

I also want to educate consumers on cocoa nibs. On average they have 40 times more flavonoids and antioxidants than blueberries. It is about educating our customers and teaming up with influencers to get this message across.

• What is the story behind your company name?

The chocolate is sold in St Vincent under the name of Vincentian Chocolate – This has no meaning in the UK so I suggested that we re-name it to Islands Chocolate. As mentioned previously, we want to be able to make our customers feel like they taste the Caribbean. When you think of islands, you think of blue turquoise seas, sun and being happy (well I do anyway!). I also wanted to get St Vincent & The Grenadines on the map and not have the sole emphasis on St Vincent. I want people from St Vincent all along the grenadines (32 islands) to be proud of a product that was born in St Vincent.

• Who designed your packaging – and what are you most proud of about your packaging?
I designed our packaging alongside an intern. I love the colours and think our logo that is embossed in silver matches the colour scheme perfectly. In addition, the surprise of opening up the packaging and finding more information inside the wrapper will hopefully be a good experience for the customer. Being able to get St Vincent & the Grenadines on the packaging will give the people back in St Vincent a huge amount of pride.

• How did you source your beans?
We grow them ourselves – Tree to Bar

• What inspired your choice of wrapper/mould design?
We wanted to go for a high-end look whilst incorporating island colours. We want to create a wow factor.

• What innovations in tech, crafting, marketing etc. are you pursuing?
Well, I may be wrong but I feel like myself running Islands Chocolate (wilf), opens up Islands Chocolate to a whole new age demographic. With the craft chocolate on the rise, I would of thought that a young face at the front of the company will help educate the young generation and also give a fresh perspective of the industry. I want to make use of my experience growing up with social media & technology to enhance Islands Chocolate by showcasing the cocoa making process & the Caribbean. Showcasing at the LCW really surprised me, pretty much 1 out of 100 people know what a cocoa tree looks like. Some people thought that I had photos of peppers behind the stand. Education is high up on my list, to get people to appreciate that making chocolate is more time consuming than making coffee & wine (arguably harder as well). Chocolate is everywhere so everyone assumes that it is easy to make but in fact it is the polar opposite.  In addition, Collaborating with fun innovative brands is high on my list as well.

• What is your favourite food?  Wine?  Other chocolate makers?
Pump Street – Absolutely love the chocolate. Mast Brothers- Love the branding (not sure about the chocolate). Fever Tree tonic – The way they have revolutionised the gin market is something that inspires me. I love red wine but do not have a specific maker that I prefer; I need to sell a few more chocolate bars to be able to afford a nice bottle!

• What chocolate achievement are you most proud of to date?
When we exhibited at the London chocolate in 2017 show we had only been making chocolate for a year. We had around 20-30 people come back to our stand saying that this is the best chocolate that they had tasted at the show – I know it is only small, but it gives you a great deal of confidence considering how many established brands where at that event.

• Is there anything else you want to tell us, or you think our customers should know?
We are unique. We are single origin, Single Island, tree to bar, sustainable, employing over 250 locals, supporting schools. Every bean that comes off St Vincent comes through St Vincent Cocoa Company and every bar that is sold from St Vincent comes from Islands Chocolate.

Your Beans:
• Who farms them? What’s their mission? How long have they been growing cacao (co-op, the farmer, bean supplier)
We farm our cocoa on our own land and also buy cocoa from over 100 Vincentian farmers. Some farmers are managing cocoa that was planted in the 1970’s. On some of our new land there are some fantastic old varieties that are at least 50 years old. But most of the cocoa has been recently planted from 2012 till now.

 

Tom and Monica were living in Los Angeles as a TV producer and real estate agent and, in their own words “first discovered craft chocolate in, of all places, a vintage furniture shop in Los Angeles.  The incredible flavors we tasted in those bars completely changed how we thought about chocolate, and started us on our journey to become single origin chocolate makers”.

 

They fell in love with the idea of harnessing, and revealing, the flavour of “single origin” beans. For Tom and Monica “ beans sourced from only one farm or region (enables us) to highlight the distinct flavor characteristics of that particular bean.  Discovering those flavors is one of the joys of making (and eating!) single origin chocolate.

 

So after a little pondering, Tom and Monica upped sticks and moved back to the East Coast – to a  225 year old farm in Sudbury, Massachusetts called – appropriately – GoodNow.

 

Not only do they pay huge attention to the crafting of their bars (they are one of a very small number of our makers who even press their own butter), but they also work directly with their partner farmers to select, ferment and dry the “most flavorful beans”.  Working directly with farmers in Mexico and Central America also means that they are “able to ensure that they’re fairly compensated for their cacao, and also that the farming practices they’re using are sustainable”.  They also “put their money” directly into the farmers – investing directly for example in new fermentation and drying areas in Guatemala for their Asichovite bar.

 

We caught up with them to find out more about the stories behind the brand…

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

I used to produce television shows and my wife was in real estate development.  We came across craft chocolate about ten years ago when we were living in Los Angeles.  The idea that chocolate could have different flavors based on the beans themselves fascinated us and we started making chocolate as a hobby in our home kitchen.  The more we learned about cacao the more it fascinated us and we made it our goal to make chocolate full time.

When did you start your company — and with whom?  

We started as Goodnow Farms Chocolate in 2016, but we’d been making chocolate on a smaller scale since 2008.  We spent years traveling to Central America and Mexico sourcing our beans before we launched our first bars in the fall of 2016.  It’s my wife and myself, and we have several people who help us on a part time basis, both in the kitchen and wrapping bars

What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?

To make incredible chocolate that’s true to the flavours of the bean from which it’s sourced, and to source those beans equitably and sustainably

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

We want to continue finding great beans and developing close, personal relationships with farmers and post harvest processors who are doing incredible things with cacao.  We also are developing new inclusions bars with unique flavour pairings.

What is the story behind your company name?

We make our chocolate on our farm in Sudbury, Massachusetts.  The farm is named Goodnow Farm after one of the families who owned it in the mid-1800s.  We also like that it reminds people of the connection between chocolate and the farmers who grow it.

Who designed your packaging?

We had a very specific idea of what we wanted for our packaging and we worked with a boutique design firm in Boston to bring it to life.  We very much wanted to quality of the packaging to reflect the care that went into making the bars, and we feel we’ve accomplished that.  Each bar is hand-wrapped from start to finish.

How did you source your beans?

We travelled to several countries in Central America and also to Mexico looking for beans with great flavour, and for farmers who were capable of achieving a consistently high level of quality with their post harvest processing.  We also wanted to make sure the farmers were using fair labor practices and sustainable farming methods.

What inspired your choice of wrapper and mould design?

With the wrappers we wanted the look and feel of a “classic” chocolate bar – something that was fun and not stuffy or inaccessible.  With the molds we wanted something simple, hence our logo.

What innovations are you pursuing? 

We’re always experimenting with innovations in crafting.  Little things make a big difference.  One of the things we do that almost no other makers do is press out own cocoa butter – that’s been a continual evolution and is often frustrating, but the end result is a unique and exceptional chocolate bar.

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

Being part Lebanese my favourite food is Kibbe Naya.  I’ll always opt for a cabernet, and my current favourite chocolate is Pump Street’s Sourdough and Sea Salt.

What chocolate achievement are you most proud of to date? 

We’re pretty proud of our Good Food Award for our Esmeraldas Bar.

When Dan and Jael Rattigan met at a wedding in 2003 they didn’t imagine that within a few years they’d have travelled all over South America, run a coffee/chocolate ship and set up French Broad Chocolates. But as their interview below highlights, French Broad is a true love story. After their friends wedding they decided to go on a trip together to Costa Rica and that made them realise that “life in the Midwest just wouldn’t do”. So they dropped out of graduate school, packed their lives into a 40-foot vegetable oil-powered school bus (converted by Dan), and drove south (having just learned Jael was pregnant).

A few months later, they arrived in Puerto Viejo de Limon, a small Caribbean village filled with fisherman, surfers, and expatriates from around the world. And soon after arriving Dan and Jael opened a café and dessert shop, Bread & Chocolate. Bread & Chocolate still exists, but Dan and Jael decided they weren’t beach people and, in their words ” somewhere along the way, Asheville, NC, became their destination and French Broad Chocolates was soon birthed” (as was their second son, Max — their first having been born in Puerto Viejo).

The business began out of their home kitchen, with the pair selling their chocolates online and at local farmers markets. Demand quickly grew, by 2008 they were able to open the “French Broad Chocolate Lounge”, and in 2012, Dan and Jael’s dream of becoming a bean-to-bar chocolate maker was realized when they opened French Broad Chocolate Factory & Tasting Room. Intent on nurturing connections to the source of their food, French Broad Chocolates imports cacao directly from “trusted farmers” and crafts amazing chocolate that win awards galore

Our path to bring on board French Broad isn’t quite one of unrequited love … but definitely did require lots of patience! From when we first started, we’ve loved their bars … but we had to wait for a few years before we could  pry some bars from Dan, Jael and Chelsea for international sale.

We spoke to Dan and Jael a little about their background, mission, passion and beliefs – please see below for a summary!

What’s your background? Why and how did you get into chocolate?
The story of French Broad Chocolates is a love story. Our path in chocolate began in 2003 with a moment of inspiration, right in the beginning of what is now commonly called the bean-to-bar revolution. I became excited about chocolate when I first tasted Scharffenberger chocolate, and began making recipes from Alice Medrich’s cookbook, Bittersweet. This phase of chocolate experimentation and play led me to the thought, “Chocolate is the thing that will make me happy.”

At the time, Dan and I were both in grad school (he was in law school and I was in business school). That January, a few short months after we met, we both decided to drop out of grad school and move to Costa Rica. We bought a 40-foot school bus, transformed it into an RV, converted it to run on used vegetable oil, and drove that bus to Costa Rica. We found a sweet little open air cafe off the main street in Puerto Viejo, and opened our first business together, a restaurant called Bread & Chocolate. We were in a cacao growing region, and were able to visit cacao farms, talk with farmers, and see how rustic chocolate was made on the farm. This experience affirmed our path in chocolate.

We have hit a limit with the amount of chocolate we can make in our current facility, so now it’s time for our next growth phase. Every expansion project is our biggest yet, and this is no exception. We’re building a new chocolate factory with scaled up equipment and production capacity. It will be built to offer fantastic tours, educational classes, pairings and other events. And we’ll have a cafe that will serve our ice cream, pastry, chocolates, and coffee.

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

After two years in Costa Rica, we decided we were ready to move on. We sold our restaurant to one of our cooks, hopped back on the bus and headed for the mountains of Asheville. We founded French Broad Chocolates almost immediately in 2006, just the two of us. We started as chocolatiers, handcrafting bon bons using other people’s chocolate, and selling them at local farmers markets.

In 2008, we opened French Broad Chocolate Lounge and created a sacred space for chocolate lovers, with wine and beer, coffee and tea, and seating in a beautiful cafe atmosphere. We were really honing in our food philosophy and values, buying only local berries, honey, herbs, eggs and flour from local farmers and producers. When we couldn’t buy it locally, such as almonds, for example, we’d buy direct from a farmer in another region. It felt right. But something was nagging us. It was the chocolate part.

Chocolate was in the name of our company, but it was the ingredient we had the least connection with. We were buying good quality chocolate, a lot of fair trade and organic, but we had no connection to the source. We came to realize the next step in our journey was to create a connection to the source of our cacao by opening a bean-to-bar chocolate factory and making all the chocolate we use in our confections and desserts.

Our company continues to grow; we now have 80 employees, including a pastry team, confections team, chocolate making team, service, shipping, and various administrative positions.

What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?

Our company mission is “To make awesome chocolate – beautiful, wholesome and delicious, crafted with love and served with gratitude”

As a B Corporation, certified September 2017, we strive to use business as a force for good, in way that aligns with our principles and is good for people and the planet.

Where do you want to go next? New bars? New beans? New markets?
We are in a really exciting growth phase right now. We’re building a new chocolate factory that will allow us to make more and better chocolate. We are creating new products, such as a home baking line, a professional line for chefs, and smaller bar formats. We’ll continue to support the farmers and producers with whom we have relationships, which is one of the most exciting aspects of growth. We’re thrilled to continue to share our chocolate and our story with chocolate connoisseurs in other parts of the world, like the U.K!

What is the story behind your company name?
Our company is born and raised in the beautiful mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina. French Broad River, which runs through our town, is a symbol of this: a geographic stamp marking our relationship to Asheville. The metaphor of the river has taken on new significance to us of late. As we meditate on chocolate, on how we can do justice to this craft, we often think about the only constant in life: change. We consider ourselves lifelong students, always looking to learn from our colleagues, our experiences, and our medium. We are committed to continuous improvement, to never settle.

Who designed your packaging – and what are you most proud of about your packaging
Dan and I came to realize that every person and every company has a story to tell, and ours makes us who we are. We wanted our packaging to convey the story of the chocolate – of us, of our company and of our partners, whether that be a cacao farmer or producer, a local coffee roaster, or a malt house.

So we had the idea to design our bar boxes like a book, quite literally. They are designed to look like an antique book, with gold foil spine. They open like a book and tell the story of the chocolate within. We want to honor all of the people involved in the journey of the chocolate, and create an emotional experience for the people enjoying our chocolate.

How did you source your beans?
Each origin has a story to tell and a deepening relationship. We are committed to being a part of a community that brings mutual respect and equity to our cacao partners.

Our current partners:
CAC Pangoa, an organic cooperative in Satipo, Peru. We collaborate with Conservation Cacao and a small cohort of other makers to preserve endangered varietals and strengthen quality of process in this mature coop, that is evolving from primarily coffee to include fine flavor cacao.

Cacao Verapaz in Guatemala, a sister organization to Uncommon Cacao, a fellow B Corp: from this small group we are connected with three Mayan producer associations in the Lachua region. In the three years we’ve worked with them, we have seen them become certified organic, and their fermentation quality continues to improve.

Cacao Bisiesto, a boutique fermenter in Matagalpa, Nicaragua: since 2013 we have been their primary buyer, and share their beans with several other American makers. Their post-harvest protocol is exemplary, producing consistently chocolate-forward flavor with minimal fruity acids.

Cacao South, Limón, Costa Rica: since 2012 we have developed a new market in the Valle Estrella area for old timers who saw the cacao market implode decades ago, but still have groves to tend. From this region, the most active exporter is APPTA, but this producer association lost much of their farmers’ confidence and were paying at market, giving Daniel South the ability to be competitive on price and service. Daniel has developed his curing method to take the greatest advantage of the unpredictable weather in Costa Rica’s Atlantic zone, using a mixture of sun drying and greenhouse drying.

What inspired your choice of wrapper/mould design?

Our mold design was inspired by the idea of sharing and tasting chocolate. We designed it to easily snap into small rectangular sections, each bearing our company logo. We loved the idea of being able to share a little mini chocolate bar. Our wrapper is a plant-based cellophane, as compostable packaging is important to us. The wrapped chocolate is placed in our book-inspired box.

What innovations in tech, crafting, marketing etc. are you pursuing?
We are innovating our entire chocolate making process, moving from small-scale stone melangeurs to custom-made Italian ball mills. Our high-tech chocolate refining practices are balanced with an antique cacao roaster, also from Italy. We are happy to be on the forefront of making not just bars with our chocolate, but also bon bons, pastries and desserts, ice cream, and soon, baking chocolate.

What is your favourite food? Wine? Other chocolate makers?
I adore homemade pizza and a cold glass of French rosé. My favorite chocolate makers are the talented folks at Dick Taylor.

What chocolate achievement are you most proud of to date?
It was a proud moment to win the achievement of Best Origin Chocolate at the Northwest Chocolate Festival, especially because we were hosting our cacao producer from Nicaragua, whose terrific beans made the chocolate what it is!

We were proud of achieving Certified B Corp status, which required us to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. This represents our commitment to using business as a force for good.

Finally, we are proud that French Broad Chocolates has crossed the line of 10 years in business!

Let’s talk beans!  Who farms the cacao you use? What’s their mission? How long have they been growing cacao (co-op, the farmer, bean supplier)

Peru
When we set our sights on making bean-to-bar chocolate, we knew we needed to begin with a reliable source of cacao. So in the summer of 2011, we made an expedition to Perú. We met up with James, a friend of Dan’s sister who happened to work as an organic certifier for BioLatina. James helped arrange farm and fermentary visits at several organic cacao operations throughout the regions of San Martín and Piura. We traveled over two weeks through Huanuco, Tingo Maria, Tocache, Tarapoto, Piura, and Chulucanas.
As availability has changed over the years, we’ve gotten to explore other partnerships in Peru. We have had the pleasure of working with an indigenous community in Amazonas, a co-op from Tocache (San Martin), and another cooperative called Pangoa CAC.

Costa Rica
No cacao source connects us with our roots more than Costa Rica. Our farm partner, Daniel, worked for us at our restaurant, Bread & Chocolate, that we opened in Puerto Viejo! Now, Daniel buys cacao from several farmers in his area. On a piece of family land, he has built a fermentary and drying operation, and has developed his business to include agro-tourism, cacao export, and value-added products like nibs and baked goods for visitors to the region.

Nicaragua
In 2013, we were blessed with a direct connection from a mutual coffee contact to Giff Laube, who formed Cacao Bisiesto with his partner, José Enrique Herrera. Both are agronomists with a passion for cacao. They are taking a unique tack in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, attempting to protect heirloom varieties on the brink of extinction. They both grow their own and cure the harvests of surrounding farmers, providing a much higher value than the farmers could previously expect. Giff has been to Asheville to speak with our staff and customers, and we have been to visit him and his family in Matagalpa. In 2014, French Broad Chocolates’ 68% Cacao chocolate bar with Giff and Jose Enrique’s cacao won best origin dark bar at the Northwest Chocolate Festival, and in 2015, a Good Food Award!

Guatemala
In 2015, we brought a new partnership online, by allying with Uncommon Cacao. An awesome organization (a fellow B Corporation) with a mission to de-commodify cacao, bringing fine flavor beans to the craft chocolate industry while building value for producers so they are incentivized to continue! We purchased the entire export crop from a Maya Queqchi producer group in Lechua, in the village of Rocja Pomtila, called ASODIRP.

Tell us about your process…
Since we opened our factory in 2012, we have been evolving our chocolate making process to best highlight the flavors of our origin cacaos. Starting with initial bean sorting, in which we visually inspect to cull defective seed. I set up a dust hood, vibratory gravity feed sieve, and conveyor to optimize the comfort of this tedious but necessary step. We roast in convection oven, use a BLT Winn-45 to winnow, and then pre-mill cacao with Packint’s poriphry stone 2-roll mill. Horizontal melangers are used for the primary ingredient mixing and particle refinement, followed by FBM “kleego” vertical conche.

While we enjoy the flavors we’ve created, our evolution is currently accelerating. We are headlong into an expansion (target completion late 2018) that will bring us new methods for inspection, roasting, milling and conching, and that’s just the beginning. Our refurbished antique Italian FIMT drum roaster (as of today, it is clearing customs) will provide an exciting new challenge for our chocolate makers to harness cacao flavor. We are currently in lab testing with a new liquor milling paradigm, in which we employ a single stage antique colloid mill for coarse liquor, followed by Packint’s low-speed ball mill for completion of liquor milling. Ultimately we will be utilizing the ball mill for full batch particle refinement, and then Packint’s vertical conches to achieve better dispersion and viscosity reduction.

Our ingredient sourcing is generally producer-direct. From Wholesome Sweeteners we buy organic Paraguayan sugar. For milk chocolates, we buy Organic Valley organic dry milk, and we clarify our own butter fat from Natural By Nature grass-fed butter. When additional ingredients are used, their selection is highly intentional: for example, we have partnered with a local craft malter Riverbend Malt House, to produce 2-row barley malt for our Malted Milk bar. For our Sea Salt bar, we get South Carolina sun-dried flake salt (our local version of Maldon), collected from protected waters in Bulls Bay.