Every single one of our chocolate makers has a unique story, and the husband and wife team behind Ara are no exception. We are delighted to be able to welcome them to the chocolate library.
Based in France, but originally from Venezuela, Andres and Sabrina’s environmentally conscious ethos guides everything they do. Both are vegan, as is all their chocolate and they strive to use all organic ingredients whenever possible. The simplicity and quality of their ingredients, they feel, is key to expressing the flavour of the bean in each bar.
Ara is the French for Macaw, whose habitat Sabrina and Andres are committed to protecting. They try to find organic cocoa growers in Central and South America, who grow their cocoa using sustainable farming techniques that don’t destroy local ecosystems.
Their beautiful packaging made out of recycled paper also features the colourful Central and South American bird, a symbol of everything Ara stand for.
We were fortunate enough to chat to Sabrina and discover a bit more about Ara.
- What’s your background? Why and how did you get into chocolate?
We are both Venezuelan, so we fell in love with chocolate since we were little… Lucky I married a chocolatier when I grew up!
My husband, Andres is the chef chocolatier. He studied to be a pastry chef in Venezuela, then worked as Pastry Chef at a Marriot Hotel in Venezuela. After that he moved to London, where he lived for around five years and worked for several Michelin Restaurants, such as The Green House and La Noisette.
He has loved chocolate since he was little, but it was when he took a trip to the east coast of Venezuela, that he discovered the magical world of cocoa trees and started seeing the different varieties. He decided he wanted to retrain as a chocolatier.
He went back to London worked at Sir Hans Sloan Chocolates while he decided what he was going to do next and learnt more things about the chocolate making process.
Some months later he went back to Venezuela, where he worked for three years with Chocolates Franceschi, as Chef Chocolatier. He worked very closely with the Franceschi family before finally coming to France where we are trying to make people fall in love with bean to bar.
- What mission have you set for making chocolate?
Our mission is to help people understand what bean to bar is all about. We want to help them find out the differences that exist from one origin to the other, so they buy bean to bar chocolates from small makers instead of mass market chocolate.
For the long term we would like to own a little organic plantation, where we can rescue and grow unknown beans varieties, such as Pentagona beans or other Criollo beans from Venezuela. So we can use our own beans to make our bars.
- When did you start Ara — and with whom? How many are there of you?
Ara Chocolat is a family project that we started a couple of months ago. We had been thinking about it for a while, since there are not many bean to bar chocolatiers in France and we finally decided to get on board this summer. There is only my husband and I and, of course, the love and passion we share for cocoa beans and chocolate.
- Where do you want take your business next? New bars? New beans? New markets?
I think we will always be seeking for new beans! Besides, my husband never stops thinking and tasting new recipes. So we might have new ones coming out…
- Tell us a little about your how you make the bars?
We have a small oven to roast the beans, then we pass them through two different winnowers (one of which was made by my husband), then we put them into a small grinder and then into a small melangeur.
We leave our chocolate conching between 12 to 48 hours and then we mould the bars.
- Tell us a little about how you source your beans?
As we are a small chocolate maker and we buy small amounts of beans, most of the time we have to buy through cocoa traders. But we are looking for local growers that can sell to us directly. We will be going to Venezuela in December for that.
- What is your favourite food? Wine? Other chocolate makers?
My husband and I are vegan. When we eat out, we love Indian and Thai food, at home my husband cooks delicious vegan meals. We love spicy food, all kinds of fruits, olives, we are crazy about Spanish olives. Being vegan, all our recipes are dairy free, which is even better when eating chocolate, because people get to really taste and enjoy the flavour of each bean variety. Even our pralines and spreads are made with 70% chocolate to enhance the different aromas of our cocoa beans.
One of the things we love the most about France, is its incredible wine variety. Every time we buy a bottle, we try to get a new variety, and if we really love it, we write it down in a little wine notebook we have. This summer we tried a white wine named “Le Caprice de Clémentine” from “Côtes de Provence”, in the South of France and we really loved it.
Other chocolate makers? Of course, we really admire the work that the Franceschi family has done in Venezuela to recover Criollo varieties that were almost extinct and their Canoabo bar is one of Andres’ favourites. We also admire the work of Mott Green, with the Grenada Chocolate Company and the way he promoted the quality of Grenada’s beans, by setting up his chocolate factory over there.