Meet the Maker: Aaron Barthel of Intrigue Chocolate

Posted on October 31st, 2013

Aaron Barthel of Intrigue Chocolate

Here’s another scientist-turned-chocolatier for you. Given the opportunity, Aaron Barthel will talk your ear off about plants and herbs, so it’s not surprising that he’s best known for his basil truffle. He’s come out with other things, but the basil’s still my favourite: bright, fresh and clean.

Here’s what we talked about at last year’s Northwest Chocolate Festival.

What does Intrigue Chocolate Company do?
We do chocolate truffles primarily, and cocoa mixes as well. My specialty is the chocolate truffles. We’ve been around for seven years.

How did you come to chocolate?
Accidentally. I have a degree in ecology with an emphasis on botany. My mom was worried that I wasn’t using my degree, so she got me a subscription to a horticulture magazine. A couple of years ago I found a recipe for herbal-infused truffles in that magazine. I hadn’t grown the orange mint the recipe called for, but I had grown habanero chiles. So I tweaked it and came up with my Jamaican hot chocolate. That was just for fun. I did it for fun for 4 or 5 years.

The second flavour I came up with was basil, because I didn’t want to do mint but I looked for other things in the mint family. I gave it a try and today, those are our two most popular flavours.

What’s the best part of your job?
Flavour invention. I get to play with spices and herbs and plants from all over the world and come up with new things. I get to be a mad scientist and that’s exciting.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Actually running a business. Running a small business is a lot of work. You don’t get to do just the fun stuff. Two-thirds of the job, at least, are the bookkeeping and the advertising and business-to-business relationships…and there’s graphic design, there’s marketing. There are all these things that aren’t necessarily the fun parts, even if there are fun aspects to them.

What would you be doing if you weren’t making chocolates?
That’s a really good question. I don’t know. I’ve never had a plan so things kind of happened. Luckily my business partner has a plan so the business keeps growing. But I have no idea what I’d be doing.

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