Visiting Manoa Chocolate Hawaii

One of our favorite moments on Oahu took place in a traditional Hawaiian establishment in Kailua called Hale Kealoha, with slack key players on stage, hula dancers called up from the crowd, many bowls of delicious and traditional Hawaiian food on the table, and surrounded on all sides by locals. Two of those locals, Dylan and Tammy, sat across from us and shared both a piece of birthday cake and a lot of knowledge. Dylan is the chocolate-maker and founder of Manoa Chocolate Hawaii, and Tammy, his fiance, manages the front of the house, the wholesale accounts, and much in between!

In business for just over two years, Manoa Chocolate Hawaii has taken on the massive task of educating the general population about bean-to-bar chocolate. Tammy leads an interesting and educational tour of their factory, starting with the exciting revelation to their guests that Hawaii is the only state in the country that has a climate hospitable to cacao. When Richard and I participated in the tour, we were the only non-Hawaiians. Part of the Manoa challenge is building the pride that local Hawaiians feel for their burgeoning chocolate industry.

Tammy opens the door to the bean room, where the new winnower, large modified coffee roaster, and bags upon bags of beans are stored. Here’s where Dylan takes over! Introduced as the Manoa chocolate-maker, he starts to explain the process of making chocolate from the bean. Our fellow tour participants are thrilled by the smell of raw beans in the bag, shocked by the flavor of plain nibs, and fascinated by the tempering machines jerry-rigged in the molding room.

The tour ends with a tasting in their front room. I liked a lot of their bars! Richard and I both loved the Breakfast bar (brilliant naming & contents!). And I found the goat milk bar and the lavender bars really creative and delicious! (You can purchase any of these and others here.)

We were particularly interested in the dynamic of a couple like ourselves running a chocolate business together. When we had dinner with Dylan and Tammy later that night, we learned about how they divide the labor wisely between them and how they really do love chocolate and its industry quirks.

Manoa and me

Manoa and me

Overall, we had a great time at Manoa, learned a lot from Dylan and Tammy, and look forward to staying in touch with our new Hawaiian friends!

Learning from Dr. Nat

One of our most decadent evenings on Oahu was spent at Madre Chocolate in Kailua. We were the last ones to arrive for a whiskey & chocolate tasting, taking place in their tiny retail storefront. We squeezed into our chairs at one of the two tables of 8 people each. In front of each person was a placemat with two sets of flavor wheels on one side and a colorful list of all the available chocolates and whiskeys on the other. We also each had a line of whiskeys in shot glasses and the table was laid with about 15 different cocoa pod-shaped dishes, piled with small tastes of various chocolate bars made by Madre.

We made our way down the line of whiskeys, popping in chocolate before, during and after the aromas of whiskey cleared our sinuses. I determined that my favorite order was a sip of whiskey and putting chocolate on my tongue before the whiskey flavor left my mouth. And with the many whiskeys and many chocolate flavors and origins, I couldn’t tell you which combination was the most delicious. Frankly, they were all good! My favorite chocolate bar was a traditional 70% Lachuá Guatemala bar followed by the Dominican Republic Chipotle Allspice bar.

chocolate and whiskey

chocolate and whiskey

Another day, we headed to Madre for a bean-to-bar chocolate class. One of Madre’s cofounders, Dr. Nat Bletter, led both events, and has one of the most scientific approaches to chocolate we’ve seen. He has a Ph.D. in Ethnobotany and works with the University of Hawaii to continue to research cacao, particularly its flavor components and fermentation techniques. He told us, proudly, that Hawaii is the only place in the world where you can find chocolate researchers, chocolate-makers, and cacao-growers!

We enjoyed learning his style and methods and look forward to staying in touch so we can stay updated on the latest research in the field of making delicious chocolate from high quality beans.

Chocolate Business Models

How do we transform our experience with chocolate from a hobby to a business without losing the fun, collaborative, part-time nature of it all?

Honestly, this is a very difficult question and we don’t assume that there is an answer. This question goes much deeper than the surface question of how to start a business – it asks how we want to spend our free time, how we want to spend our working hours, how much financial risk we are willing to take on, how confident we are that our chocolate is actually any good, if chocolate bars are our ultimate product, what the future of our family looks like, and how permanent we are in our current living location.

All that said, we are trying to follow the practices of The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, in order to keep the potential business light and flexible. Some of the recommendations in the book are difficult to apply to a brick and mortal chocolate shop, since it’s mostly geared toward tech startups. However, we’re doing our best!

Let’s take a look at the different business model options for starting a bean-to-bar chocolate business (at least to our knowledge in California):

Cottage Food Operator (CFO)

In another post, we went into some detail about this business model. The basic idea is that this business model allows the food maker to prepare food in a private home and sell by delivery or pick-up. We don’t know of a chocolate-maker who has successfully done this.

Pros

  • We could set this up in our kitchen with limited financial input
  • We could work on chocolate at any hour of the day, in our pajamas if we want

Cons

  • We would have to deliver the product to our customers, since shipping is not permitted
  • Most famers’ markets do not allow CFOs, which would limit our distribution
  • Sales are restricted to our county, which is quite small and limits our growth potential significantly
  • Licensing is by county, so if we moved to another county, we would be required to start the process over
  • It would be very difficult (nearly impossible) for us to be profitable due to these limitations
  • We could not import (or store) large quantities of beans in our apartment

Private Wholesale Commercial Kitchen

This business model constitutes a private space in a commercial zone rented and outfitted as a legal commercial kitchen. With the wholesale model, the assumption is that there will not be customers purchasing products directly from the physical site. Instead, the product will be sold either online or through a third party distributor. This is what our friends at Arete have at the moment.

Pros

  • We would have full access to the space
  • Once we pay for the outfitting of the space, our cost of operation would decrease significantly
  • This provides the highest potential for growth
  • We could import beans and store them here

Cons

  • It is difficult to find a space small enough to be practical for small-batch chocolate-maker use
  • These types of spaces are few and far between, can be very expensive to rent, and are almost always very expensive to outfit
  • This is very location-dependent and would require the decision to permanently be located somewhere

Private Retail Commercial Space

This business model constitutes a private space in a commercial zone rented and outfitted as a legal commercial kitchen, like the wholesale space described above. Products could still be sold online and through other distributors. In addition, this model makes it possible for customers to come purchase products on site, like Dandelion’s Valencia Cafe.

Pros

  • We would have full access to the space
  • This can be incredibly lucrative, depending on the location, marketing, local foot traffic, and many other factors
  • We could import beans and store them here

Cons

  • It is a huge investment to build out a retail space
  • There are a lot more requirements, such as ADA bathrooms, to consider
  • This is very location-dependent and would require the decision to permanently be located somewhere
  • We would need to either quit our jobs or hire staff to physically run the store

Shared Commercial Kitchen

This model involves renting shared commercial kitchen space, typically by the hour or with a monthly membership fee. An example of this is KitchenTown, located in neighboring town, San Mateo.

Pros

  • This provides the lowest up-front cost of making chocolate commercially
  • The commercial kitchen has legal documentation and gear for producing and selling food
  • There’s a particularly amazing shared commercial kitchen about 10 minutes away from our apartment
  • The hours are usually flexible, so we could continue to do this on nights and weekends
  • This provides a community of food makers who we could get to know
  • We could import beans and store them here

Cons

  • Since cocoa butter is so susceptible to other scents, it’s possible that the chocolate could take on the flavor of whatever else is being cooked in the space while it’s in the melanger
  • It’s possible that we do so well that we would outgrow the shared space
  • Not all of the gear is provided, so we’d need to bring our own in
  • We would need to share the space with other chocolate-makers, which means coordinating times and machine usage

So, what’s the verdict? Good question. We’re not sure yet. We’ll keep you updated with our decision!

Where do you make your chocolate? What do you think the best option is for a chocolate start-up? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Our Chocolate Factory

It’s been about 8 months since we starting playing around with chocolate. And in that time, we’ve collected quite a bit of equipment, tools, and ingredients that now fill an entire area of our apartment. We like to call that area our Chocolate Factory.

We started with just a bag of cocoa beans from the Grand Central Market in LA and some white cane sugar. From our very first coffee grinder to the old fashioned grain mill to the melanger we use today, we’ve gone through more than a few iterations of our process.

I’d like to show off a little about our current set-up, in the hopes that it will be useful to other chocolate-makers or aspiring chocolate-makers out there!

Let’s start with our documentation board. Here’s where we keep track of our batch sizes, temperatures, and results. We also keep a list of interesting R&D ideas that come to mind.

Documentation board

Documentation board

Then we have our new peg board system that Richard built from Home Depot parts, where we store tools like thermometers, spatulas, molds, and safety goggles. We’re also intending to try out a new storage method for our finished chocolate. The Rubbermaids are drying out after an initial cleanse before we stuff them with chocolate bars! And finally, the beautiful homemade quartz table is for tempering.

Peg Board & storage

Peg board & storage

Here we have our current chocolate storage system. Have I mentioned we’re in the market for a wine fridge? We realize this method isn’t quite sustainable at our rate of churning out delicious chocolate bars!

Chocolate shelves

Chocolate shelves

What’s a chocolate factory without some fun decorations? Check out our map, where we intend to document the origins of the chocolate we’re producing. And this is our awesome cocoa bean bag given to us by John Nanci of Chocolate Alchemy, when we visited Eugene last month.

Wall decorations - cocoa bean bag & wall map

Wall decorations – cocoa bean bag & wall map

Here’s our fun bean cooling station, handmade by engineer Richard. I’m excited to use this for our next batch!

Bean cooling system

Bean cooling system

Our shelves full of tools, beans, and documentation, are topped by our beautiful Premier Wonder Grinder, one of the key pieces of equipment in our process. We also have a gorgeous marble display slab, which we bring to parties to show off our different varieties.

Shelves & Premier Wonder Grinder

Shelves & Premier Wonder Grinder

Our winnower, still very much a work in progress, has developed since the last time I photographed it. We now have an additional entrance spout and a much stronger shopvac than our home vacuum. Hold onto your horses, because a guest post from the engineer will provide more detail on the winnower soon!

Winnower

Winnower

And last but not least, a good chocolate factory must provide inspiration and guidance to its chocolate-makers. Take a look at our chocolate library to see what we’re reading these days. The books lean heavily toward entrepreneurship & chocolate science!

Chocolate & entrepreneurship library

Chocolate & entrepreneurship library

Here are a few of our favorites:

What does your chocolate factory look like? As I’ve mentioned before, even if your factory is just a coffee grinder and paint scraper, you’re a chocolate-maker in the making!

Advice from Experts

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with two true chocolate experts. The first was Chloe Doutre-Roussel, author of The Chocolate Connoisseur: For Everyone With a Passion for Chocolate. We sat at Dandelion in San Francisco, where she was doing a book signing on her way up to the Northwest Chocolate Festival last weekend.

I felt honored to spend some time talking to Chloe about her vast experience with chocolate. I sat down with a Mission hot chocolate from Dandelion and when the chocolate-making staff at Dandelion joined us, I felt totally surrounded by experts. I had the opportunity to show them my bean to bar activities at home, and we discussed roasting and winnowing issues.

Landen and Chloe Doutre-Roussel

The second expert was Tad Van Leer. I’ll go into detail about my conversation with Mr. Van Leer – I learned a lot! Mr. Van Leer grew up and worked in his family’s chocolate manufacturing company, Van Leer Chocolate, until selling to Barry Callebaut in 1999, and more recently worked as General Manager of J. Emanuel Chocolatier, in Chester, NJ. His Van Leer chocolate was named the top chocolate in the world in a blind taste test at Chez Panisse in 1995 by Cook’s Illustrated also our cocoa powder was the top choice by Cook’s in 1999, and was the chocolate provider for the White House from Carter to Clinton’s presidency.

I also happened to go to high school with Mr. Van Leer’s daughter, Liz. So, it was an honor to be able to reconnect and discuss his background and recommendations in the world of chocolate. And some of what we discussed melded well with some of the lessons I’ve previously learned and other parts were entirely new and different! There is a wide range of advice out there as far as how to make chocolate, and we’re open to learning it all!

Let’s go through the chocolate-making process and I’ll highlight the new and different bits from my conversation with Mr. Van Leer.

Beans

Mr. Van Leer recommends getting cocoa beans from Ghana. He loves the Accra beans; they have “the cleanest flavor” and ferment better than anywhere else. Ghana beans also have the best yield, have more cocoa butter, and have the truest “chocolate flavor”. They are also the beans that went into the chocolate that won Van Leer Chocolate all its awards. Previously we had heard that most of the best bean genetics (Criollo) are in Latin America. Now we’re looking forward to expanding our bean sourcing horizon! He suggests that everyone develop their own taste rather than taking the advice of others.

Winnowing

Using screens to filter the nibs and husks could improve the speed and quality of the winnowing process. Using screens after cracking allows the nibs to go through the screen while keeping the shell above. One can then easily “blow” the shells away. Using a series of smaller screens mimics a true winnower, and will give you the cleanest nibs.

Roasting

Rather than our intensive kill step at 400 degrees, then dropping to 250 degrees, Mr. Van Leer recommends a completely new way of roasting (two step process): one to pop the shells, and again after winnowing and cracking the beans, never taking the temperature above 212 F. This allows for a more even roast with more of a consistent sized nib. Cocoa beans are of varied size- roasting them as whole beans over roasts small beans and under roasts larger ones. He suggests roasting with steam in a drum, something we haven’t heard before and are curious to try. Some of the roasting devices used by other bean-to-bar makers look like engineering feats out of Star Wars, particularly Art Pollard’s creation at Amano Artisan Chocolate. I encourage anyone interested in this to check out the documentary, Bean to Bar, which can be viewed on IndieFlix. If you roast in an oven ensure that the nibs are even on the pan. Coffee drum roasters also work well.

Refining

Mr. Van Leer’s refining recommendations were the most different from our previous advice. He suggests using a mill only to make the chocolate liquor. From there, the best refiner for uniform particle size is the three roll refiner. We’ve seen these before – Ritual Chocolate uses one, and goes into more detail on it here. Mr. Van Leer recommends a particle size of less than 25 microns, and encourages us to refine sugar to small particle size as well! He suggests refining the chocolate liquor and the sugar together. This makes for more uniform mass and also improves the conching flavor. Using a three roll refiner allows more fat release from the bean which makes the mass flow better, reducing the viscosity.

Conching

Another idea is to remove the chocolate from the Premier Wonder Grinder for further conching in a Kitchen Aid mixer, placed on a heating pad at about 145 F for 12 hours. At the moment, we’re conching directly in the grinder, so this could provide an alternative method! We learned that “cheap” chocolate is conched in a grinder- you usually get a less consistent flavor and the particle sizes are not uniform. He suggests tasting a cheap Easter Bunny from CVS or Walmart as an example.

Tempering

Tempering seems to be a point of agreement (besides the exact temperatures) among chocolate-makers. Mr. Van Leer recommends starting the chocolate liquor at 105, then cooling rapidly to 85 degrees, then heating it back to 90-92 F. He suggests a microwave at power level 3 (for about a pound of chocolate) and stirring often. His recommended test is not paper or a knife, but rather to pour it into a small flat mold and see if it shrinks with no discoloration. If that works, then the chocolate has been tempered appropriately.

Molds

Finally, Mr. Van Leer suggests using polycarbonate molds, found online at many sites including TomricMicelli, and Chef Rubber among others. At the moment, we’re using some polypropelene and some silicone molds – neither are amazing, so we’re definitely open to alternatives.

This was quite an educational conversation and we’re excited to stay in touch as we build out our recipes and process further! Let us know if there are additional chocolate experts you’d like to hear from, and we’ll try to get in touch to share their knowledge as well!

Cottage Food Operations (CFO) and Chocolate

You may be wondering when we’re going to get on with making this delicious hobby into a business. Well, we’re not quite there yet, but I’ll share one option we’re considering: the CFO or Cottage Food Operation.

First of all, to operate a food business is no easy task, particularly in this litigious society of ours where McDonalds needs to label coffee as hot and Nytol has to label sleeping tablets with “may cause drowsiness.” There are quite a few licenses and permits and certifications required before one is legally able to sell food in the United States, and in our case, in San Mateo County, California. Specifically, the ability to make and sell food from a home kitchen raised enough interest that California passed a law that went into effect January 1, 2013, called the California Homemade Food Act.

The bill allows individuals to prepare and/or package certain non-potentially hazardous foods in private-home kitchens referred to as “cottage food operations” (CFOs).

All cottage food operators will have to meet specified requirements pursuant to the California Health and Safety Code related to preparing foods that are on the approved food list, completing a food processor training course within three months of registering, implementing sanitary operations, establishing state and federal compliant labels, and operating within established gross annual sales limits.

There are many benefits of this law. The biggest is that it is now possible to sell food made in your home! The law provides clear requirements in order to legally set up a business that sells non-perishable food made in a home kitchen.

There are also a few limitations. The one that is most challenging, in my opinion, is that cottage food operations are not allowed to sell products online or outside of the state of California. They may only be sold for pickup or delivery, or in the case of Class B permit, through a third party like a bakery or a chocolate shop. Additionally, there are annual income ceilings, specific food lists, and incredible labeling requirements. Finally, every county has a slightly different process, so a lot of detailed research is required before starting the steps required to legally sell as a CFO.

Our friends at Letterpress Chocolate are on their way to successful sales as a CFO, so we know it’s possible.

There are a few useful guidelines out there as to how to get started with filing the appropriate paperwork in order to start a CFO. Here are our favorites:

We’ve also discovered a few outlets for sales, if/when we get this going:

I hope these resources are useful to others considering this option. We’ll keep you updated on our process as well, particularly if we decide to take the CFO route! Leave us your thoughts below – are you considering a CFO? Where do you produce your bean-to-bar chocolate?

Importing Cocoa Beans

My first ever post on The Chocolate Life was a naive call for small-scale farmers to send me their beans. Little did I know that one of the biggest hurdles to starting a “from the bean” chocolate business is obtaining high quality, well-fermented cocoa beans! And collaboration is the best way to a successful importation process.

The difficulty of obtaining high quality beans can actually be considered both good and bad.

Why is it good?

There is a definite shortage of good cocoa beans in the world. Chloe Doutre-Roussel writes in her book, The Chocolate Connoisseur: For Everyone With a Passion for Chocolate, the following:

An estimated 15% of world production:

Good beans (e.g. Crillo/Trinitario hybrid of Trinitario) + good fermentation = good chocolate

Good beans + bad fermentation = bad chocolate

An estimated 85% of world production:

Poor beans (e.g. Forastero) + good fermentation = poor chocolate

Poor beans + bad fermentation = terrible chocolate!

Our friends at Arete reminded us that while we are joining a very welcoming community, not everyone can! Cocoa beans are a scarcity and it’s actually a benefit to the industry that it’s difficult to obtain them.

Why is it bad?

Well, we want to be using good beans, so of course, we’d prefer this process was easier. Plus, in the spirit of Slow Food, we’d love it if delicious chocolate were accessible to everyone. That said, we’re always up for a challenge!

So, how do “from the bean” makers obtain cocoa beans?

There are two options. We can obtain them directly from the source or indirectly.

Obtaining beans indirectly

Obtaining beans indirectly is much easier. This would mean buying beans that someone else has already imported. We’ve done that by stopping by the Grand Central Market in LA, a few small markets in San Francisco, purchasing a bag of beans from Dandelion, and samplers from Chocolate Alchemy. Even our purchase from Piper of Siriana Cacao was an indirect buy, since we did not work directly with the farmers/co-ops/international producers in country.

Another way of purchasing beans indirectly is through one of the many members of the Cocoa Merchants’ Association of America, among other suppliers.

The pros are that this is faster, easier, and often cheaper than buying directly from a cocoa producer. Additionally, it is possible to buy in small quantities (less than 100 lbs at a time).

The cons, on the other hand, are that this way does not build a relationship with the producers and can hide many of the issues related to supply chain that are important to me and many other small-scale chocolate makers. Additionally, this limits the selection of beans to those that someone else is already working with.

Obtaining beans directly

Obtaining beans directly from the source is considerably more difficult, as it requires international trade, minimum orders, and often a direct relationship with the cocoa producers. At the moment, as far as I’m aware, there are two ways to obtain directly: hire a broker to facilitate the sale and shipping process, or take care of that process ourselves. According to our friend Dan at Tabal, hiring a broker is a good idea if the total sale comes out to more than $2,000. (Wow, the most we’ve spent on beans so far was about $25 for 2 kilos from Dandelion!) You can find a list of brokers here.

Alternatively, there are two ways to follow through on the process without a broker: ship beans by a mail carrier like DHL or FedEx, or ship the beans in a shipping container by boat. A colleague on The Chocolate Life, Juan Pablo Buchert of Nahua Chocolate, helped explain to us what a cost structure of shipping beans with a mail carrier would look like:

You can receive the beans at you home, or shop, at an extra cost that is charged by the freight forwarder (FedEx, DHL). They can deal with the customs clearance as well. For example this is the cost structure for a 250 kg (550lb) shipment that we recently sent from Costa Rica to Chicago and delivered to a chocolate shop there:

Air Shipment……………………  $437,50

Charges at origin………………  $386,50 (Customs, pallets confection, pick up)

Charges at destination………… $  297,50  (Doc Handover & Delivery)

Total Shipping…………………….  $1.121,50    ($4.49/kg or  $2.04/lb)

The incoterm selected was DAP – Delivered at Place-  (Not FOB or CIF). Some clients decide to deal with customs clearance themselves and save the Charges at Destination, in this example $297.50. Obviously, this is an example of a large shipment for a home based chocolatier.

Smaller quantities (up to 50 lbs at a time) come in at 2.5 lbs for $22, including shipping, charges at origin, and charges at destination, then it goes up from there.

This also required an FDA-certified facility, USDA registration for the import, a copy of the invoice, and a phyto-sanitary certificate issued at origin.

What should we do about it?

Good question. The difficulty of importing beans prevents many small batch makers from establishing a relationship with the cocoa producers and controlling our supply chain. Facilitating the process involves many moving pieces: international law, trading regulations, and an incredible amount of support both for the farmers (to get their beans from the farm to a shipping port) and for the chocolate-makers (to organize a payment agreement for a shared shipping container).

For that reason, we’ve begun conversations with organizations like Yellow Seed, which seeks to fill the gap between chocolate-makers and cocoa producers. We’ve talked with chocolate-makers like David at Letterpress Chocolate, Eli and Tracey at Bisou, and David and Leslie at Arete, among others about sharing costs to charter a container to California.

This is a service that could revolutionize the small batch industry, so we’re looking forward to continuing the conversation and learning about available options. If you have ideas or suggestions, please leave your thoughts below in the comments. We’re certainly open to learning more!

List of “From the Bean” Chocolate Makers

You may have noticed by now that we at Root Chocolate are not the only ones making chocolate “from the bean,” as Clay Gordon likes to call it. In fact, we are among many small- and micro-batch makers dedicated to the craft (part art, part science) of making chocolate.

I wanted to do a brief post about the many other bean-to-bar companies out there to pass along the advice we’ve been given time and again: eat more chocolate. Refine your palate. Taste all those other delicious bars in order to understand what you really like. First, please note the many sites that review chocolate bars and share their wealth of tasting knowledge with the world:

And now, without further ado, I give you the list of all the “from the bar” chocolate makers I’m aware of. Please feel free to comment to add or correct anything on this list, so I can build out this list even more thoroughly!

Name Location Website
A. Morin France http://www.chocolaterie-morin.com/
Acalli Chocolate New Orleans, LA http://www.acallichocolate.com/
Adi Chocolate Fiji http://www.chocolatefiji.com/
Agapey Chocolate Barbados http://www.agapey.com/
Akesson’s Sweden http://www.akessons-organic.com/en/akessons/
Alain Ducasse France http://www.alain-ducasse.com/en/category/la-manufacture-de-chocolat
Amadei New York, NY http://amedeistore.com/pages/about-us
Amano Chocolate Orem, UT www.amanochocolate.com
Ambrosia Pastry Canada http://ambrosiapastry.com/
Amma Chocolate Brazil http://www.ammachocolate.com.br/
Anahata Cacao New Jersey http://www.anahatacacao.com/
Antidote Chocolate Brooklyn, NY www.antidotechoco.com
Ara Chocolate France http://www.arachocolat.com/
Arete Milpitas, CA http://www.aretefinechocolate.com/
Askinosie Springfield, MO www.askinosie.com
Bahen & Co Australia http://www.bahenchocolate.com/
Bar Au Chocolat Manhattan Beach, CA http://www.barauchocolat.com/
Baravelli’s Welsh Chocolate Ireland http://www.baravellis.com/
Beanpod Chocolate Canada http://www.beanpod.ca/
Benoit Nihant Chocolate Belgium http://www.benoitnihant.be/
Bernachon France http://www.bernachon.com/fr/
Beussent-Lachelle France http://choco-france.com/fr/
Bisou Chocolate Berkeley, CA http://smallbatchchocolate.com/
Bittersweet Chocolate Cafe Oakland, CA www.bittersweetcafe.com
Black Mountain Chocolate Black Mountain, NC www.blackmountainchocolate.com
Blue Bandana Vermont http://www.lakechamplainchocolates.com/bars-hot-chocolate/blue-bandana-chocolate
Bonnat France http://www.bonnat-chocolatier.com/
Bright Chocolate Australia http://www.brightchocolate.com.au/
Burnt Fork Bend Chocolate Stevensville, MT http://www.burntforkbend.com/
Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Co. Atlanta, GA www.cacaoatlanta.com
Cacao Prieto Brooklyn http://www.cacaoprieto.com/
Cacaosuyo Peru https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cacaosuyo/393139707478225
Cao Artisan Chocolates Lynchburg, VA http://www.caoartisanchocolates.com/
Captain Pembleton New Zealand http://www.captpembleton.co.nz/
Caribeans Chocolate Costa Rica http://www.caribeanschocolate.com/
Castronovo Florida www.castronovochocolate.com
Cello Chocolate Nevada City, CA www.cellochocolate.com
Charley’s Chocolate Factory Australia http://www.charleys.com.au/
Charm School Chocolate Baltimore, MD
Chequessett Chocolate Cape Cod, MA http://www.chequessettchocolate.com/
Chocolarder England http://www.chocolarder.com/
Chocolat Ferrier France http://www.chocolat-ferrier.fr/
Chocolate Alchemy Eugene, OR www.chocolatealchemy.com
Chocolate Naive Lithuania http://chocolatenaive.com/
Chocolate Sandander Colombia http://www.chocolatesantander.com/
Chocolatemakers Netherlands http://chocolatemakers.nl/
Chocolates El Rey Venezuela http://www.chocolates-elrey.com/
ChocoSol Traders Canada http://chocosoltraders.com/
ChocoVic Spain http://www.chocovic.es//
ChocoVivo Los Angeles, CA https://chocovivo.com/
Choklat Canada https://www.sochoklat.com/
Cicada Artisan Chocolate Australia http://www.cicadachocolate.com/
Cocanu Portland, OR http://coca.nu/
CocoaTown LLC Roswell, GA www.cocoatown.com
Cotton Tree Chocolate Belize http://www.cottontreechocolate.com/
Cravve Chocolate and Tea Australia http://www.beanandleaf.com.au/
Csokolade Keszites Hungary http://www.szantotibor.com/en
Daintree Estates Australia http://www.daintreeestates.com/
Dandelion Chocolate San Francisco, CA http://www.dandelionchocolate.com/classes/#anchor
Danta Chocolate Guatemala http://www.dantachocolate.com/Eng/Home.html
Davis Chocolate Mishawaka, IN http://www.davischocolate.com/
Dead Dog Chocolate Denver, CO www.deaddogchocolate.com
DeVries Chocolate Denver, CO www.devrieschocolate.com
Dick Taylor Arcata, CA http://www.dicktaylorchocolate.com/
Doble & Bignall United Kingdom http://www.dobleandbignall.co.uk/
Domori Italy http://www.domori.com/
Duffy’s Chocolate England http://www.duffyschocolate.co.uk/
Dulcinea Pennsylvania http://www.dulcineacraftchocolate.com/
DV Chocolate South Africa http://www.dvchocolate.com/
Eastvan Roasters Canada http://eastvanroasters.com/
El Ceibo Bolivia http://www.elceibo.org/ceibo/en/index.php
Emily’s Chocolate Japan http://emilys-chocolate.com/pg32.html
Erithaj Chocolate France http://www.erithaj.com/
Escazu Raleigh, NC www.escazuchocolates.com
Ethereal Confections Woodstock, IL www.etherealconfections.com/bean-to-bar
Finca Chocolate Logan, OH http://www.fincachocolate.com/
Fine and Raw Chocolate South Africa http://fineandraw.com/
Firefly Chocolate Sebastopol, CA http://fireflychocolate.com/
Forever Cacao United Kingdom http://www.forevercacao.co.uk/
Franceschi Chocolate Venezuela http://www.franceschichocolate.com/
Frederic Blondeel Belgium http://www.frederic-blondeel.com/
French Broad Chocolates Asheville, NC www.frenchbroadchocolates.com
Fresco Chocolate Lynden, WA www.frescochocolate.com
Friis Holm Denmark http://www.friis-holm.dk/en/
Frolic Chocolate Charlottesville, VA http://frolicchocolate.com
Fruition New York www.tastefruition.com
Gabriel Chocolate Australia http://www.gabrielchocolate.com.au/
Gaillot Chocolate Bulgaria http://gaillot-chocolate-en.blogspot.be/
Garden Island Chocolate/ Nanea Chocolate Kauaii, HI www.gardenislandchocolate.com
Guido Castagna Italy http://www.guidocastagna.it/index.php/en/
Guittard Burlingame, CA http://www.guittard.com/
Habitual Chocolate Roasters Canada http://www.habitualchocolate.com/index.html
Hoja Verde Ecuador http://www.hojaverdegourmet.com/
Holy Cacao Israel http://holycacao.co.il/
Hotel Chocolat England http://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk/
Idilio Origins Switzerland http://www.idilio.ch/idilio-origins.html
Indi Chocolate Seattle, WA http://indichocolate.com
IQ Chocolate Scotland http://www.iqchoc.com/
ISIDRO Chocolate Austin, TX www.isidrochocolate.com
It’s Chocolate! Winston-Salem, NC www.itschocolatews.com
IXCACAO Maya Belizean Chocolate Belize http://www.ixcacaomayabelizeanchocolate.com/
Jacques Torres Chocolate New York, NY www.mrchocolate.com
Jordi’s Chocolate Czech Republic http://www.jordis.cz/
Kakaw Belizean Chocolate Belize http://www.belizechocolatecompany.com/
Kallari Ecuador http://www.kallari.com/
KISKADEE Chocolates Austin, TX www.kiskadeechocolates.com
KYYA Springdale, AR http://www.kyyachocolate.com/
Laia Chocolaterie France http://www.laia.fr/
Letterpress Chocolate Los Angeles, CA www.letterpresschocolate.com
Levy Chocolate Finland http://levychocolate.com/
Lillie Belle Farms Central Point, OR www.lilliebellefarms.com
Lonohana Hawaiian Estate Chocolate Honolulu, HI www.lonohana.com
Lulu’s Chocolate Sedona, AZ www.luluschocolate.com
Madecasse Madagascar http://www.madecasse.com/
Madre Chocolate Honolulu, HI www.madrechocolate.com
Magdalena’s Cacao Bean Chocolates Philippines https://www.facebook.com/BeanToBarDarkChocolates
Mahogany Chocolate Lubbock, TX www.mahoganychocolate.com
Malagos Chocolates Philippines http://www.thegiftfarm.ph/
Malie Kai Chocolates Hawaii http://www.maliekai.com/
Mana Chocolate Portland, OR www.manachocolate.com
Manoa Chocolate Kailua, HI www.manoachocolate.com
Manufaktura Czekolady Poland http://www.manufakturaczekolady.pl/
Marigold’s Finest Canada http://marigoldsfinest.com/
Marou Vietnam http://marouchocolate.com/
Marsatta Redondo Beach, CA http://www.marsatta.com/best-chocolate.html#.VCIjivldXQo
Marsatta Fancy Chocolates Redondo Beach, CA http://www.marsatta.com/
Mast Brothers Brooklyn, NY http://mastbrothers.com/
Maverick Chocolate Co. Cincinati, OH www.maverickchocolate.com
Mayta Ecuador http://www.maytachocolate.com/
Meadowlands Chocolate Company Meadowlands, MN www.meadowlandschocolate.com
Menakao Madagascar http://www.menakao.com/
Meridian Cacao Portland, OR www.meridiancacao.com
Metiisto Artisan Chocolate Sweden https://www.facebook.com/pages/Metiisto-artisan-chocolate/572826362743339
Michael Recchiuti San Francisco, CA http://www.recchiuti.com/index.html
Michel Cluizel France http://www.cluizel.us/
Middlebury Chocolate Middlebury, VT http://middleburychocolates.com/
Millcreek Cacao Roasters Salt Lake City, UT www.millcreekcacao.com
Mindo Chocolate Makers Dexter, MI http://mindochocolate.com
Molucca Fresno, CA http://moluccachocolate.com/
Monsieur Truffle Australia http://monsieurtruffechocolate.com/
Mucho Mas Chocolate Pennsylvania http://www.muchomaschocolate.com/
Nahua Chocolate Costa Rica http://www.nahuachocolate.com/
Nathan Miller Chocolate Pennsylvania http://nathanmiller.myshopify.com/
Nibble Chocolates San Diego, CA http://www.nibblechocolates.com/home/
Nick’s Chocolate Australia http://nickschocolate.com.au/
Night Owl Chocolate Greenville, SC http://nightowlchocolate.com/
Nuance Chocolate Fort Collins, CO http://nuancechocolate.com/
Oialla Denmark http://oialla.com/
Olive and Sinclair Nashville, TN www.oliveandsinclair.com
Olivia Chocolat Canada http://oliviachocolatiers.com/
Omnom Chocolate Iceland http://www.omnomchocolate.com/
Organic Fair Canada http://www.organicfair.com/
Original Beans Netherlands http://originalbeans.com/
Otago Chocolate Company (Ocho) New Zealand http://ocho.co.nz/about-ocho/
Pacari Chocolate Ecuador http://pacarichocolate.com/
Palette De Bine Canada http://www.palettedebine.com/
Parliament Chocolate Redlands, CA www.parliamentchocolate.com
Patric Columbia, MO http://patric-chocolate.com/
Patrice Chapon France http://chocolat-chapon.com/
Paul A. Young England http://www.paulayoung.co.uk/
Pierre Marcolini France http://www.marcolini.be/#/en
Pinella’s Chocolate Company Florida http://pinellaschoco.com/
Pipiltin Chocolate Indonesia http://www.pipiltincocoa.com/mainsite
Pitch Dark Chocolate Portland, OR http://www.pitchdarkchocolate.com/
Potomac Woodbridge, VA www.potomacchocolate.com
Pralus France http://www.chocolats-pralus.com/en
Pump Street Bakery England http://www.pumpstreetbakery.com/
Raaka Chocolate Brooklyn, NY www.raakachocolate.com
Rain Republic Chocolate Guatemala https://www.facebook.com/rainrepublic
Raw Cocoa Poland http://rawcocoa.pl/index.php/pl/
Republica de Cacao Ecuador http://www.republicadelcacao.com/
Ritual Chocolate Denver, CO http://www.ritualchocolate.com
Rogue Massachussets http://www.roguechocolatier.com/
Rozsavolgyi Csokolade Hungary http://www.rozsavolgyi.com/en/index.php
Sacred Chocolate Novato, CA www.sacredchocolate.com
Salgado Chocolates Argentina https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.234055730003443.57009.190985724310444&type=1
Sandpoint Chocolate Bear Sandpoint, ID www.sandpointchocolate.com
Santosha Chocolate Asheville, NC www.santoshachocolate.com
Shark Mountain Chocolate Charlottesville, VA http://sharkmountaincoffee.com/htdocs/shark2/home/chocolate/
Sibu Sura Chocolates Myersville, MD www.sibusura.com
Sirene Artisan Chocolate Canada http://sirenechocolate.com/#
Sjölinds Chocolate House Mount Horeb, WI www.sjolinds.com
Solkiki Chocolate England https://www.facebook.com/pages/Solkiki/723232394365556?fref=ts
Solstice Chocolate Salt Lake City, Utah http://www.solsticechocolate.com/
SOMA Chocolate Canada http://www.somachocolate.com/
Somerville Chocolate Somerville, MA http://www.somervillechocolate.com/
SPAGnVOLA Gaithersburg, MD http://www.spagnvola.com/
Spencer Cacao Australia http://spencercocoa.com.au/
Spirited Artisan Chocolate Bisbee, AZ http://www.spiritedchocolate.com/
SRSLY Chocolate Austin, TX www.srslychocolate.com
Stone Grindz Arizona http://www.stonegrindz.com/
Sublime Chocolate Dallas, TX www.sublimechocolate.com
Sun Eaters Organics Trinidad and Tobago https://www.facebook.com/suneatersorganics
Tabal Milwaukee, MN http://tabalchocolate.com
Talamanca Chocolates Costa Rica https://www.facebook.com/TalamancaChocolates?fref=photo
Taza Massachussets www.tazachocolate.com
Tejas Chocolate Houston, TX www.tejaschocolate.com
Terroir Chocolate Fergus Falls, MN http://tasteofplacechocolate.com/
The Chocolate Conspiracy Salt Lake City, UT www.eatchocolateconspiracy.com
The Chocolate Tree Scotland http://www.choctree.co.uk/
The Fudge Shoppe Flemington, NJ http://www.thefudgeshoppe.com/
The Grenada Chocolate Company Grenada http://www.grenadachocolate.com/
The Oakland Chocolate Company Oakland, CA www.theoaklandchocolateco.com
The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory Kailua-Kona, HI www.ohcf.us
Theo and Philo Philippines http://theoandphilo.com/
Theo Chocolate Seattle, WA www.theochocolate.com
Treehouse Chocolate Portland, OR http://treehousechocolate.com/
Twenty-four blackbirds Santa Barbara, CA www.24blackbirdschocolate.com
Valhrona Brooklyn, NY http://www.valrhona-chocolate.com/shop/index.php
Vicuña Chocolate Peterborough, NH http://www.vicunachocolate.com/
Videri Chocolate North Carolina https://viderichocolatefactory.com/
Vintage Plantations New Jersey https://www.vintageplantations.com/home/
Wellington Chocolate New Zealand http://www.wcf.co.nz/
White Rabbit Chocolate New Zealand http://www.whiterabbitcacao.co.nz/index.html
Wild Sweets Canada http://www.dcduby.com/
Wilkie’s Organic Chocolate Ireland http://www.wilkieschocolate.ie/
Willie’s Cacao England http://williescacao.com/fine-chocolate/home/
Woodblock Chocolate Portland, OR www.woodblockchocolate.com
Zokoko Australia https://www.zokoko.com/
Zotter Austria http://www.zotter.at/de/startseite.html

Slow Food

A better, cleaner and fairer world begins with what we put on our plates – and our daily choices determine the future of the environment, economy and society. – Slow Food USA

It’s hard to disagree with that statement. The slow food movement also purports that “the future of food is the future of the planet.” Again, I couldn’t agree more.

The slow food movement originated in Italy in 1986 when Carlo Petrini led a protest against a McDonald’s opening in Rome. The philosophy is “good, clean, and fair food,” as defined by the slow food international website:

  • GOOD: quality, flavorsome and healthy food
  • CLEAN: production that does not harm the environment
  • FAIR: accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for producers

Boiled down to its roots, the slow food movement encourages us to connect more with our food, be more intentional about its origin and how it arrives at our lips through preserving tradition and providing a “taste education.”

The movement has remained mostly in the sphere of counterculture, though its popularity is growing. In 2008, Woddy Tasch published Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered and opened the nonprofit Slow Money to support the efforts of small-scale and local food enterprises. In 2014, Slow Money has grown to nearly 1000 participants in their annual event and the organization has invested over $35 million in more than 300 small food enterprises since 2010. Slow food movement as a whole now has over 80,000 members internationally, including food community  producers, cooks, and academics, according to the 2013 Slow Food Almanac.

What does this have to do with chocolate? I’d like to think of Root Chocolate as slow chocolate. Our chocolate is high quality, flavorsome, and contains only natural ingredients of cacao and sugar. Our chocolate is clean in that besides the ecological footprint of transporting the beans from where they grow near the equator to our apartment in the Bay Area, we try to reduce the environmental impact in all other ways, from the farm to the bar. And finally fair – we are highly sensitive to paying an appropriate price for the beans so that the cacao farmers earn a living wage. Granted, we’re not selling any chocolate at the moment, but when we do, feel free to remind me of this post, so we make sure it is accessible to those who want it!

Slow food has been integrating itself into my life for the past few years, and I’m enjoying its effect immensely. Richard and I received a dehydrator and a jarring kit for our wedding, both of which we’ve put to great use. Richard’s dehydrator has produced a variety of interesting jerkys and my jarring kit has resulted in cranberry sauce and apple sauce, which are wonderful gifts for friends and coworkers. What’s more thoughtful than homemade food, particularly something that hasn’t come from a kitchen since corporations decided they could take over that process for us. We’ve also successfully made cheese – both queso fresco (my personal favorite) and paneer, which went into the most delicious (and complicated) Indian dishes we’ve ever made from scratch. And finally, our favorite kitchen gadget, the Nutribullet, has provided us a variety of slow-cooked options, such as homemade hummus, juices, and nut butters like peanut and almond.

Jars of slow food - cranberry sauce, apple sauce

According to Michael Pollan’s Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, which I’m absolutely loving reading, “cooking from scratch” has recently been re-defined as anytime a person interacts with their food at all, which constitutes as little as spreading mayonnaise on bread or heating a can of soup. That’s substantially different from my grandma’s homemade sugo and gnocchi, which could take half a day to prepare. You may lament that half a day of cooking would prevent you from doing so many other things, but that’s part of the problem – cooking in community is an amazing experience that we’re starting to lose as a culture.

Making chocolate together with Matt and Malenca last month, and even when it’s just me and Richard, constitutes a challenge to be conquered together. And the pleasure of enjoying a meal or in our case, a bar of chocolate, after laboring over it as a group, is immeasurable.

I challenge my readers to cook something from scratch with a loved one (or many!) and share your experience in the comments below!