17 3 / 2014

With Spring around the corner, it’s time to meet Middlebury Chocolate, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Middlebury, Vermont. All of their cocoa beans are fairly traded from farms and co-ops that promote long-term sustainable growth. Middlebury makes intensely flavorful chocolate that  
people absolutely love to eat. Make sure to share, happy tasting!

1. What inspired you to create Middlebury Chocolate?

We founded Middlebury Chocolates in early 2010 as a chocolate and dessert cafe, with no intention of being a chocolate maker.  After months of making confections with an unnamed chocolate that we were sourcing, every little flaw in the chocolate began popping out at us, and it wasn’t long before we could not stand to eat it.  Having no desire to consume the products we were producing posed a serious problem for us!  In the summer of 2010, we purchased a little tabletop chocolate grinder, and began experimenting with small batches of chocolate.  When the intoxicating aroma of freshly roasted cocoa began pouring out of the grinder, we were completely addicted.  We tore up our previous business plan, and never looked back!

2. What is your favorite part about creating craft chocolate?

Our favorite part about crafting chocolate is the embracing of flavors throughout the process.  Our bars are like our children (no offense to our real children!) in that we try to encourage positive qualities, occasionally inhibit negative qualities, and very much enjoy seeing their unique qualities blossom into something beautiful.  Being a part of this process is, with our chocolate and with our children, is a truly beautiful experience.

3. What makes your chocolate unique?

While we try to work with cacao of exceptional quality that the farmers and co-ops have taken great care in growing and processing, we don’t focus on masking flaws or covering up “unwanted” flavors.  We work more on embracing the qualities that we find intriguing and bringing those qualities to the foreground.  Other distinguishing factors in our process would be the pressing of our own cocoa butter and the roasting of our cocoa beans in a unique wood-fired roaster.  All of these things work together in allowing our chocolate to be entirely unique, bold in flavor, but completely approachable.

4. How do you think craft chocolate is changing the industry?

Craft chocolate is certainly drawing attention, and has built a lot of momentum over the past several years.  The most substantial change it has brought to the chocolate industry, in our opinion, is education;  customers have been able to see how much work and dedication goes into growing cacao and how much time and effort goes into making quality chocolate.  Many customers are now aware that chocolate isn’t some Frankenstein substance created in a scientific laboratory, they now know that cocoa beans are not actually beans(!), and some customers are even aware of cacao’s genetic diversity, as well as post-harvest fermentation and drying methods.  General awareness has raised customer appreciation significantly over the past several years, and the credit for that awareness certainly goes to the craft chocolate industry.

5. What flavor of Middlebury represents you the most, and why?

The VerMonty bar represents Middlebury Chocolates the most as it combines our love for chocolate, our love for coffee, and our love for community.  The bar itself is named after Monty, a customer of ours who always puts maple syrup and a touch of milk in the coffee we prepare for him.  In the VerMonty we roast our own coffee, we use organic milk, and we use maple sugar from maple producers within our community.  While this is certainly not a chocolate bar for “purists”, it reflects who we are as people, as chocolate makers, and as a part of a larger community that cares about our products and the effort that goes into producing them.

16 12 / 2013

Happy Holidays! This month we’re featuring Patric Chocolate, a Missouri chocolate maker who is one of the first craft chocolate makers in the US to make bean-to-bar chocolate. Since 2006, he’s won numerous industry awards for his complex flavor combinations. We’re sure you’ll enjoy the selection of amazing chocolate we chose from Patric this month.

1. What inspired you to create Patric Chocolate?

I was a huge chocolate fan, and after having tasted some amazing chocolate in France, I started playing around with chocolate-making as a hobby.  The hobby turned into something serious as it coincided with my asking the post-college question: “What do I want to do with my life?”  I had a lot of interests, but most of them revolved around food, so as I gradually became drawn more and more to chocolate, it just seemed natural.  Of course, learning that I could make chocolate better than most of what is on the market didn’t hurt either.

2. What is your favorite part about creating craft chocolate?

It is the creation itself.  To work hard to make something that is delicious and interesting and to know that it didn’t exist before and would not exist without your effort is an exciting thing.  Every new chocolate bar that I create reminds me of why I started Patric Chocolate.

3. What makes your chocolate unique?

My taste and specific sensibilities make Patric Chocolate what it is and make it unique.  Everything we do flows from me in some way.  I don’t make bars just because I know they will be a success, I make them because I enjoy them personally.

4. How do you think craft chocolate is changing the industry?

I’m not sure that craft chocolate has changed the overarching chocolate industry that much yet.  The big companies are paying some attention insofar as there might be new ways to make money from new types of products, but most people still don’t know that craft chocolate even exists.  Over time I hope that craft chocolate in the US will develop into something more like craft beer or craft coffee.  Right now we are still in the dark ages in terms of developing the market.  I think that the more new companies start up and create excellent chocolate, the better it will be for the market.

5. What flavor of Patric represents you the most, and why?

I’m not sure that there is any one bar that represents me most.  The different bars are more like different parts of my personality.  If I had to pick one, it might be the limited-edition Spicy Thai Peanut bar that we did in September 2012 only because so much of what I like was put together in one bar.  Still, I wouldn’t want to eat any one bar every day for the rest of my life. Given excellent quality, I still like variety.

22 11 / 2013

An amazing creation. Drool.

An amazing creation. Drool.

22 11 / 2013

We support American Made craft chocolate makers.
Join us and buy American Made on 12.2.13

We support American Made craft chocolate makers.

Join us and buy American Made on 12.2.13

18 11 / 2013

What’s the best Holiday combination? Thanksgiving and chocolate, of course! Meet Askinosie, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Missouri that direct trades every single cocoa bean they buy on four different continents, paying farmers directly and profit sharing with them. Enjoying Askinosie Chocolate is truly sharing in their mission of social responsibility… Happy Thanksgiving!

1. What inspired you to create Askinosie Chocolate?

In 2005, I was a criminal defense lawyer in Springfield, Missouri. I was good at it, I was famous (or notorious, depending on who you ask), I was making a lot of money, I loved my work, and I knew without a doubt that if I didn’t quit, it was going to kill me. As in, dead.I had no hobbies (except for taking my daughter to Backstreet Boys concerts) and didn’t really know how to be comfortable anywhere but a courtroom. So I prayed a simple prayer nearly every day for 5 long years: “Dear God, please give me something else to do.”   

Given my yearning to leave a job I knew was going to mean my early funeral, maybe it’s not surprising that it was when I was driving home from someone else’s funeral that it struck me—dropped into my head out of the clear blue Missouri sky I was driving through—that I needed to be a chocolate maker. It could have been one of those weird flashes—but flashes, by definition, don’t stick around. This stayed. Turns out, it wasn’t a flash; it was a dawning (the figurative sun of which we’ve remembered in our logo).

At that point, all I knew about chocolate was that I loved eating it. But I brought my lawyer skills to bear on learning all I could about chocolate: where it comes from—botanically, historically and culturally—how it’s made, and how to harness its ancient and mystical properties to craft something people would love. Within a few months of that flash I was in the Amazon studying cocoa farmers’ post-harvest techniques and how those influence the finished chocolate’s flavor.

2. What is your favorite part about creating craft chocolate?

My favorite part is actually makingthe chocolate on the one hand and on the other it’s about making relationships. We believe the social purpose of Askinosie Chocolate is to not only compensate our farmers fairly and treat them like the business partners they are, but to connect those farmers with our customers to build relationships of mutual understanding and appreciation, which makes our chocolate better and our business better. Threaded through everything we do is the importance of community impact because it’s one of our favorite parts of what we do. We’re a small company of 14 people sustainably providing lunch to over 1,500 students per day in Tanzania and the Philippines with zero donations. This would not be possible but for the chocolate we make.

3. What makes your chocolate unique?

We Direct Trade every single cocoa bean we buy on four different continents, paying farmers directly and profit sharing with them. Having built the business from scratch, I can confidently say the greatest opportunity and challenge has been weaving social responsibility into everything we do; it’s not just a buzzword, it’s who we are. Askinosie Chocolate was born committed to fairness, sustainability, minimal environmental impact and community enhancement. Those commitments will be in place as long as the company is. We’re dedicated not just to making the best quality chocolate you can buy, but to making it in such a way that the more you learn about it, the better you feel about it. 

4. How do you think craft chocolate is changing the industry?

Craft chocolate is giving consumers greater choice and an increase in overall quality that is not found anyplace else in the world.

5. What flavor of Askinosie represents you the most, and why?

That’s like asking which one of my children or grandchildren are my favorite. I would not be able to say but I am partial to Ecuador because it is the first place I traveled returned in awe of the entire process.

18 11 / 2013

19 10 / 2013

What’s a chocolate lovers favorite holiday? Halloween, of course! This Fall, meet Potomac, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Virginia that uses an artisan approach to chocolate making. Potomac hand crafts every bar to get the best flavors from the cacao bean through every step of the process. Enjoying Potomac Chocolate is a true flavor journey… trick-or-treat!

1. What inspired you to create Potomac Chocolate?

I was introduced to fine chocolate on December 23, 2009. My brother and his wife had taken a fine chocolate 101 class at Caputo’s in Salt Lake City and did a tasting for us when they were visiting. I was initially very skeptical, having a terrible palate, loving 3 Musketeers bars and was not a fan of dark chocolate. I had an open mind and was willing to try it, but I was not expecting to like it.

I guess it’s pretty obvious, but I was completely wrong. :) The first bar we tried was Manjari 64% from the French company Valrhona, and it was unlike any chocolate I had ever tasted before. Incredibly smooth with these great citrus notes. Over the next hour or so, we tried about 10 different bars from different makers: Amano’s Dos Rios and Madagascar bars, Domori Java Blond and Arriba, Patric Rio Caribe, and Amedei’s Toscano Brown and Chuao bars, as well as a couple other Valrhonas if I remember correctly. I was blown away by the incredible differences in flavor as I tried each of these bars: spices, various fruits, earthy notes, tobacco, nuttiness, etc. I never knew chocolate could taste this way and that there so much variety was possible.

I just fell in love with it and started learning more, tasting lots of bars, and then started doing tastings for some friends. At one of these tastings, a friend said we should try making it. I thought it was basically a preposterous idea, but started looking around and decided it was worth trying. We got a used melanger, some beans and started messing around with it in my kitchen. From that humble beginning, Potomac Chocolate was born.

2. What is your favorite part about creating craft chocolate?

There’s so much that I love about making craft chocolate, that I’m not sure I have one favorite part. 

I enjoy the whole process from bean to bar (except maybe sorting the beans). I love roasting the beans and watching (and smelling!) the nibs be transformed into chocolate liquor by the melanger. 
 
On a different note, I really, really enjoy figuring out how to improve my chocolate. I am constantly researching chocolate, reading (and re-reading) everything I can find on cacao, chocolate and the chocolate-making process, tweaking my process and trying new processes to try to improve my chocolate.Sometimes, this is through learning more about chocolate itself, and how I can change my process to take better advantage of the equipment I currently have. Sometimes, this is through acquiring or building a new piece of equipment.  
 
One of my other favorite parts is sharing my chocolate with others—especially those who have never tried craft chocolate before. I love that moment when someone tries my chocolate and says something to the effect of “I never knew chocolate could taste like this,” and realizes that there’s a whole ‘nother world of chocolate out there that they’ve never experienced.


3. What makes your chocolate unique?

Part of what makes my chocolate unique (from mass-produced chocolate, at least) is that it is hand-crafted all the way from the raw, fermented cacao bean through finished chocolate, using only cacao and sugar to best bring out the flavors of the cacao. But, there are a bunch of smaller makers doing this these days, so that’s not truly unique. What really makes my chocolate unique is the same thing that makes any craft chocolate maker’s chocolate unique: my/their personal vision of what makes great chocolate. Each maker is going to interpret a specific bean in different ways and will use a different process, which will result in different chocolate. Tasting different makers’ creative vision is one of the best parts of craft chocolate!

4. What flavor of Potomac represents you the most, and why?

The thing that blew me away when I first tried craft chocolate was how varied the flavor could be from origin to origin. After almost 3 years of making chocolate, it still kind of blows me away. So, with that being said, I’d say that the bars (I know I’m cheating here) are my two single-origin 70% bars made using cacao from Upala, Costa Rica and San Martín, Peru.

07 10 / 2013

07 10 / 2013

15 9 / 2013

With Fall officially here, it’s time to meet Hu Chocolate, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker in New York City that’s taking a healthy approach to chocolate creation. Hu Chocolate lives by their motto “Get back to human” - they approach the process from a health-concerned customer perspective. As you’re enjoying Hu Chocolate, just remember, it’s truly good for you. Happy tasting!

1. What inspired you to create Hu Chocolate?

Never in a million years did we think we would have a chocolate line. We were simply looking for a chocolate that met our specs and was delicious, and nothing really measured up. We needed a non-raw chocolate that used no emulsifiers (no soy lecithin and no sunflower lecithin) and no cane sugar. Once we started trying to make our own based on those specs, we said “hey - this is actually incredibly delicious.  Let’s run with it!” As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.

2. What is your favorite part about creating craft chocolate?

Surprisingly, the best part is knowing that we are providing a chocolate that so many people who cannot otherwise eat chocolate can eat. So many of our customers are allergic to dairy and/or soy and just as many have had to remove cane sugar from their diet for a host of reasons.  Knowing that these folks can eat our chocolate is the most rewarding aspect of our chocolate.

3. What makes your chocolate unique?

Most chocolate has gotten more complicated and processed over the years. We decided we wanted to simplify. (A) we do not use cane sugar or refined sugars (B) we do not use any emulsifiers/stabilizers/lecithins (e.g. soy lecithin or sunflower lecithin)

4. How do you think craft chocolate is changing the industry?

We are new to the chocolate world, so answering that is tough. We approach it from a health-concerned customer perspective - chocolate has gotten a bad wrap over the years because it typically is mass-produced with low quality, unhealthy ingredients that have rendered the cacao bean unfairly labeled as “unhealthy.” We are looking to change that association and get back to a less processed, yet delicious way of eating chocolate that is healthier for all (humans).

5. What flavor of Hu represents you the most, and why?

Without a doubt, the “Almond Butter + Puffed Quinoa” bar. Why?  Because my sister and I are obsessed with almond butter and a crunch!