After 18 incredible (and enviable!) years at National Geographic as a photographer, writer and editor – Taylor Kennedy, founder of Sirene, has turned his hand to chocolate. His creativity shines through in the impeccably stylish packaging of his bars, but what’s more is the completely luscious flavour of his chocolate – perfectly smooth and deliciously rich.
We had the pleasure of asking the man himself a few quick questions about how he found himself in the world of small-batch chocolate…
1) What’s your background? Why and how did you get into chocolate?
My academic background are degrees in Cell and Molecular Biology, and Economics. After aiming for a career in medicine, at graduation I made an abrupt turn into photography. After 18 wonderful years working with National Geographic (where I still have active editing and photographic contracts), I decided to change a hobby of mine into a business. Making chocolate had been a casual and interesting hobby when I noticed that the bean to bar revolution was under way, and that rather than staying a hobby it could evolve into a viable business. Sirene was launched and I have loved the change in focus, while still maintaining connections to the photographic world.
2) What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?
I want to show the world the incredible diversity of flavours that beans from different origins can provide. It is for this reason that my packages have two separate origins in them; to provide a built in comparision for those unfamiliar with craft chocolate, and to provide two origins to those who are.
3) When did you start your company – and with whom? How many are there of you?
I started selling bars in stores in January of 2014, and though I started the company on my own I now have a part time helper.
4) Where do you want to go next?
I would like to start producing new bars with new origins. I am currently testing a half dozen origins right now in the lab, and hope that two of them will make a good pair for the next package. Finding the right origins that complement each other is an exacting process, but one that I very much enjoy.
5) How did you source your beans?
I source my beans through a partnership with another chocolate maker who brought over a container of beans directly from the farm (Somia from Madagascar brought over by Dandelion). Sharing shipping costs like this along with many other collaborations is one of the many great things about the chocolate making community. People are very open to working together for the benefit of all. The beans from Ecuador I am buying from a company that distributes that farms beans for them. The new origins I am working with come from a variety of sources varying from direct to the farm contact, collaboration with other makers to distributors.
6) We would love to hear more about some of the great innovations in tech you’ve made for producing your chocolate?
My winnowing machine is my most viable hand made machine. Cobbled together with the majority of the products my local hardware store sells it has done a surprisingly good job of reducing beans to separated nibs and husks. Local restaurants and a brewery are clamoring for the husks, which makes it convenient for me.
7) What is your favourite food? Wine? Other chocolate makers?
I enjoy most foods, though lean towards a wonderful Indian meal or a finely produced and presented French meal. When not enjoying chocolate, I am an avid whisky drinker. I do love fine scotch, am partial to rye but find bourbon a bit sweet. As for other chocolate makers, there are some really good ones that I admire for a variety of reasons. Dick Taylor is making incredible strides in small scale chocolate manufacturing processes, Taza sets the bar for sourcing and working with cocoa farmers that we all should strive to emulate and Askinosie does a magnificent job of connecting the makers and the farmers and then bringing that awareness and story to the end customer.