The Well-Tempered Chocolatier The Science of Sweet Things Tue, 28 Oct 2014 01:53:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Meet the Maker: Thibault Fregoni of Matale Chocolate /2014/04/meet-the-maker-thibault-fregoni-of-matale-chocolate/ /2014/04/meet-the-maker-thibault-fregoni-of-matale-chocolate/#comments Tue, 29 Apr 2014 16:29:52 +0000 /?p=3661 Continue Reading]]> I have many favourite things, but travelling and chocolate are definitely tops. Even better is when I get to travel and meet chocolate makers, like I did this February on a trip to Australia. I had one weekend in Melbourne—hardly enough to even crack the surface of such a vibrant food and art city—and between celebrating an aunt-in-law’s 70th birthday and hanging out on Brighton Beach, I met with Thibault Fregoni.

In Melbourne, Thibault is better known as the former owner of Monsieur Truffe, two chocolate shops that make bonbons and recently started a bean-to-bar operation. In 2013, Thibault sold his share of the business to concentrate on a new venture, Matale Chocolate.

Seven Seeds, coffee shop in Melbourne

We met at Seven Seeds, a chic coffee shop that offered a choice of single-origin espressos. Thibault rocked up on his bicycle and we talked for over an hour about all things chocolate. Originally French, he went to London to work on his English, and life took him to Australia. As you’ll see from the interview below, his speech reflects all those elements—proper syntax that comes from formally learning English (he uses “whom” in a sentence, correctly), French idioms (“you know” at the end of sentences) and Aussie-isms (“look” at the beginnings of sentences).

I tried four of his bars: Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and a blend of the three, and was impressed. The Madagascar’s probably the most polished—more acidic than most, but with all the brightness of beans that come from Bertil Akesson’s plantations—but I also loved the nutty, moreish quality of the Vanuatu.

Thibault’s ramping things up with Matale Chocolate in Melbourne, and also developing a cacao plantation in Sri Lanka. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

Thibault Fregoni of Matale Chocolate

What does Matale Chocolate do?
Matale Chocolate is specialized in bean to bar, so making chocolate from cacao. And transforming it into classic products, which are bars of chocolate. There are no flavours added and the aim is to highlight the individuality of cacao, depending on where it’s from and its genotype. And then there’s the creativity of the chocolate maker in interpreting the manufacturing of beans.

How did you come to chocolate?
It was sort of lucky. Basically, I had a friend, a pastry chef, with whom I started to work part-time, and we started working with chocolate and I just thought it was cool. And eventually I started to learn more about techniques and so we started in more traditional stuff. A pastry environment, you know? Making cakes or pralines and bonbons and eventually this led to more of a specific work with the concept of single-origin or single-estate. So over time, I left the confectionery side to specialize more on working with specific cacao and being more interested in plantations and the growing of the cacao.

What’s the best part of your job?
The best part is…. Look, there’s a lot of nice parts. The cliche would be to eat chocolate and not have to pay for it. The other part is travelling.

What’s your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge at the moment is to get hold of good cacao, so that’s the main challenge. Sourcing cacao which is of good quality.

What do you do when you’re not making chocolate?
I’m a cyclist, freak cyclist. So I cycle a lot and that’s about it. I eat a lot of chocolate and lose weight by cycling. And then you’ll ask me to eat more chocolate and then I’ll do that until I drop, you know?

/2014/04/meet-the-maker-thibault-fregoni-of-matale-chocolate/feed/ 0
Meet the Maker: Bertil Akesson of Akesson’s /2014/04/meet-the-maker-bertil-akesson-of-akessons/ /2014/04/meet-the-maker-bertil-akesson-of-akessons/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:29:17 +0000 /?p=3657 Continue Reading]]> Bertil Akesson of Akesson's ChocolateBertil Akesson is a household name within chocolate circles. If you’ve tasted a single-origin bar from Madagascar, especially from a US bean-to-bar chocolate maker, chances are good that it was made with Bertil’s beans. (Those in the biz call him Bert, but it seems an overly chummy name for such an elegant man.)

I saw Bertil at the London Salon du Chocolat in October 2013, where he was making the rounds of the show. When I caught up with him, he had a bottle of wine in one hand, and a tower of plastic glasses in the other—he was on a mission to spread a bit of cheer to the chocolate makers who were manning their booths.

Side note: There’s a little dot over the A in Akesson’s that I can’t figure out how to add. In Swedish, this means pronouncing the A like a round “oh” that projects from the back of your throat. Oooh-kess-ahns.

What does Akesson’s do?
I’m a planter, so I consider myself a planter. I started growing beans in Madagascar and then I bought a plantation in Brazil, so ultimately I was selling to pretty much all the top chocolate makers, these beans. And they would achieve such different chocolates that I got intrigued and I wanted to develop my own chocolate to give my own interpretation of the beans, and that’s what I’m aiming at. Bringing out the taste of the fruit.

When you have the plain Madagascar I want to bring out the citrusy acidity and these red fruits, but in a pleasant way. I pay very much attention to the texture. And yah, I grow on the plantations and I try to incorporate the other crops in the chocolate, like chocolate and peppercorns, chocolate and coffee… I’m making a new chocolate, a white bar where it is single-plantation white chocolate. I take cocoa butter from my own beans and I do drinking chocolate with the powder, and this white chocolate, I will make with a citrus that I’m growing in Madagascar called kombaba and they’re a great mix, in this white chocolate. So yeah. I incorporate products from the plantation in the chocolate.

But again, I want to make the taste of the fruit a priority, so when I make chocolate and pepper, it’s a priority to the pepper. If I want to give priority to the cocoa, then it’s the plain stuff.

How did you become a planter?
It’s funny things in life, I always wanted to work and travel around the world so I found materials would be the way. The first job I found was in industrial minerals, something not so sexy like graphite and mica, silicon carbide, huge multinationals. I didn’t like it. My father was getting older. He asked me to help him managing his company because he couldn’t do any more; he was in a wheelchair. I helped him, I managed his business over 7 years and the core business was plantations. And mainly sisal plantations and train factories.

At some point in Madagascar, the government said, “if you want to keep your ownership of the properties in the south, where the sisal grows, then you need to buy a piece of land in the north.” So my father bought the piece of land to keep the ownership of his main business. We thought we should do something with it. There were cocoa trees on it and nobody wanted to buy cocoa from Madagascar. Valrhona was already checking possibilities and making chocolate with it and otherwise everything else was sold to Mitsubishi trading and it was not fine cocoa.

I didn’t know anything about chocolate so I went to see Valrhona, I weent to see Domori, I went to see in Venezuela how they grow it. I went to see Guittard and Scharffen Berger.  Gary [Guittard] and Robert [Steinberg] in America, they are wonderful people who gave me wonderful feedback. I sent samples, they gave feedback. And eventually we improved our technicity, you know—fermentation and the whole process.

Then it wasn’t feedback we got, but an order. Same, it was also major companies and it was good companies, major companies that inspired newcomers to the market. In America we have people like Amano, Patric, they were among the very first new American chocolate makers and yah, they started buying and now I supply all of it in America. And in Europe as well. But it was a process.

It was good timing but a lot of work too, and it was a human adventure, that’s the thing. I love life, I love food, I love chocolate. I like chocolate as much as I like this wine [he points to his glass], but what I really love is the people behind chocolate and cocoa, and this is unique. It’s what really, that’s what I fell in love with. The people in this world of chocolate.

What’s the best part of your job?
That’s meeting the people, you know. Spending time with the growers, spending time with the chocolate makers here in England. We have a few new guys around the block making an effort, it’s always good guys. Even the retailers that are in our segment, which is high-end chocolate, these people are passionate about food, nice people usually, enjoying life and we love that. People.

What’s your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was buying the plantations.

What do you do when you’re not planting or making chocolate?
When I’m not making chocolate, the main thing…I spend more time on the plantations, that’s the main thing in my activity. So when I’m not on the plantations I’m making chocolate and I’m selling the chocolate and I’m selling the beans. Travelling a lot around the world. We just got a daughter and I’m going to spend more time at home. We are relocating in London now and hopefully I can spend more time at home with the family. But it’s great to be able to bring your daughter in the plantation and share nature, and she loves already being on the plantations.



/2014/04/meet-the-maker-bertil-akesson-of-akessons/feed/ 0
Meet the Maker: Brett Roy of Sweet Lollapalooza /2014/04/meet-the-maker-brett-roy-of-sweet-lollapalooza/ /2014/04/meet-the-maker-brett-roy-of-sweet-lollapalooza/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 16:28:02 +0000 /?p=3659 Continue Reading]]> I’ll confess: Before last year, I had never heard of Brett Roy or Sweet Lollapalooza, his chocolate shop in Edmonton. But then the International Chocolate Awards rolled around, and he won a Canadian silver medal for his Pure Nacional confection, and a nomination for his raspberry noir. I travelled to London to judge in the world finals, and couldn’t have been more proud when both of those pieces won silver medals—ranking among the best of the entries from Europe, America and Japan.

Post-win, I chatted with Brett about chocolate, Australia and the unexpected delights of 5am phone calls.

Brett Roy of Sweet Lollapalooza
Photo credit: Jimmy Jeong

How did you find out that you had won two silver medals in the world finals of the International Chocolate Awards?
It was Sunday night here [in Edmonton] and the phone kept ringing. I picked up at 5 am and I didn’t want to pick it up—it’s either good news or bad news at that time of the day. It was my parents in Australia. They already knew about it through the Internet. That was a nice way to wake up.

Besides make award-winning confections, what does Sweet Lollapalooza do?
We do caramels—butter caramels, salted butter caramels, raspberry caramels, passionfruit caramels…sometimes the flavours will change. We did a white peach caramel, and a lime and licorice caramel. But that’s seasonal. We also do chocolate chip cookies that we dip, and we do a milk chocolate toasted coconut dip. And we do a buttercrunch which is like an English toffee, covered with milk chocolate and toasted almonds. We have some chocolate bars, hot chocolate…quite a few different things.

We’re in the heart of the financial district and we’re in one of the two towers. They’re  about 40 stories high so we have a lot of professional clientele. It’s a good spot. We’re opening a new location in Calgary, opposite where Holt’s is downtown. It’s a really good location.

How did you come to chocolate?
I’m from Queensland [in Australia] and I started an apprenticeship with the Conrad hotel chain, the flagship company of the Hilton. And then I worked in all different hotel chains, like the Ritz-Carlton. I worked on a private island on the Great Barrier Reef, 400 nautical miles off Cairns, for a private airline. I worked all over the place for about 22 years.

I ended up as a corporate chef, running a chain of restaurants in Toronto. I went to New York City to check out restaurants. I would go once a year to see what was going on. It was 2000, 2001 and I just noticed all these chocolate boutiques in Manhattan. MarieBelle, La Maison du Chocolat, a couple others.

And what brought you to Edmonton?
I’ve always loved working with chocolate and a few years later, my wife and I wanted to grow our family and we couldn’t afford to buy a house in the GTA [Greater Toronto Area] unless we wanted a 3-hour commute. My wife’s family is from Edmonton, and we moved out here so we could grow our family and be able to buy a home. So when I came out here I knew I wouldn’t be able to get the same sort of salary as I was getting before, working in Toronto, so I started to pursue my passion in chocolate. [My wife] Kirsten went off and did a course at Callebaut in St. Hyacinth, Quebec, and I did a couple of courses at the French Pastry School [in Chicago]. We visited chocolate boutiques throughout America, France, Italy, and decided to do some research by doing farmers’ markets in Edmonton. That’s what jump-started us to open our first location in 2009. And we haven’t looked back.

What’s the best part of your job?
Just starting every day. I love to turn on my enrobing machine and smell the aroma that fills the store and the lab. I love that.

What’s your biggest challenge?
Staffing. It’s very hard to get staff; I do most of it myself. It’s touch and it’s very labour-intensive, but I enjoy it. In this part of the country [Edmonton] it’s hard to find qualified staff. For our expansion into Calgary, I’ve already got four people lined up to work for me. It’s like night and day.

What do you do when you’re not making chocolate?
You know what, it’s just my wife and my kids. We’re a food family and we go out and wine and dine quite a bit, so that’s our hobby.

/2014/04/meet-the-maker-brett-roy-of-sweet-lollapalooza/feed/ 0
Meet the Maker: Hodie Rondeau of Xoxolat /2014/04/meet-the-maker-hodie-rondeau-of-xoxolat/ /2014/04/meet-the-maker-hodie-rondeau-of-xoxolat/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 16:23:03 +0000 /?p=3653 Continue Reading]]> Hodie Rondeau of XoxolatVancouverites may know Xoxolat as the source for fine chocolate from around the world, but they might not know Hodie, the brain and heart of it all.

I’ve had the honour of working with Hodie for the last few years. Where I’m spreadsheets and to-do lists, Hodie is creative vision and big thinking. Like the best pairings, she sees things that I don’t—like roping me into a chocolate-and-whiskey seminar a few years ago, when I didn’t even like whiskey. (I’m glad to report that I am now a dram-loving convert.)

My favourite project so far was a couple of days in fall 2013, when we took over the library at Grenfell Elementary to teach kids from grade 4 through 7 about real chocolate. And most recently, she was the gracious host of the launch party for The Chocolate Tasting Kit. Here’s a bit more about the woman I can’t say no to.

What does Xoxolat do?
We primarily import fine chocolate. It’s been amazing to me. When I bought the shop my intention was to be another chocolate store that did kind of candyish chocolate. When I started tasting a lot of these imported chocolates, it was amazing to me how unique each one of them is. And instead of getting rid of all the imports, we in fact have grown so that we probably have the most imported lines of anyone in Canada. And my feeling is that in the last 6 years since I bought the shop, the growth in the number of people wanting to learn about what chocolate really is has been amazing.

We also teach classes. They’re our opportunity to help people see chocolate for what it really is because it’s amazing to me, and certainly to us, that for a word or a product that’s known by the world, no one knows what chocolate really is. For us, we have the thrill and honour of telling people what they don’t know about chocolate. And that it’s an actual food, and that it’s good for you, and that the chocolate they buy probably contains less than 10% actual chocolate in it. So when they taste real chocolate, they get to learn all the real benefits of it.

What do you say to people who think it’s just snobby?
Oh, exactly the opposite. I think that learning to taste through chocolate, tasting anything, helps you enjoy things more. But when you do it through chocolate you don’t get a hangover. You just get to relax and enjoy and just get the taste of it. It becomes about enjoying it.

What’s the best part of your job?
I think the people. On both sides. I came to this from natural health and I thought natural health had the nicest people because they were taking charge of their world and their health, but I think nothing is better than chocolate. Even the saddest person coming in here wants to feel better. I can count on one hand from the supplier side and the customer side of people that aren’t happy…other than that, everybody is happy. It’s amazing.

What’s your biggest challenge?
Trying to do it all. That’s probably the most challenging. It’s hard to do it all, and I want to do it all and it’s hard not to do it.

What do you do when not eating chocolate?
I feel like I breathe, eat and everything chocolate right now. It’s just people and food. Actually, my world has been very much about food. Everything is around people and laughing and talking and enjoying.

Photo credit: Jason McRobbie

/2014/04/meet-the-maker-hodie-rondeau-of-xoxolat/feed/ 0
The Chocolate Tasting Kit: Events galore! /2014/03/the-chocolate-tasting-kit-events-galore/ /2014/03/the-chocolate-tasting-kit-events-galore/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 16:30:01 +0000 /?p=3694 Continue Reading]]> The Chocolate Tasting Kit, by Eagranie Yuh

Photo credit: Jason McRobbie

It’s been a whirlwind couple of months in chocolate land, least of which was the launch of The Chocolate Tasting Kit. I’ve kicked off with a few events in Vancouver, notably with a well-attended launch last week. Thanks to everyone who came out and made the night so special. It was so nice to see you. Vancouver Eater posted some lovely pictures of the event, courtesy of the even lovelier Jason McRobbie.

And now, a word from our sponsors. I’m grateful for the support of:

Of course, thanks to my entourage….erm, team at Raincoast Books and Chronicle Books.

In other news, The Vancouver Courier put my mug on their front page last week, along with a fun Q&A. And I’m teaching at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks on April 1 (no fooling), so if you missed the launch, there’s more opportunity for chocolate goodness.

In April, I’ll be in San Francisco for a few days–notably, teaching a (free!) class at Omnivore Books. Teaching at Omnivore Books is a bit like singing at the Apollo, and I want to point out that Michael Ruhlman is speaking the day before. I won’t go as far as to say he’s my opening act, but I will hint at it because I doubt I’ll have many opportunities to. So there.

Check out my events page for more fun as it develops, and I hope to see you at some of these events.

/2014/03/the-chocolate-tasting-kit-events-galore/feed/ 2
Announcing The Chocolate Tasting Kit! /2013/12/announcing-the-chocolate-tasting-kit/ /2013/12/announcing-the-chocolate-tasting-kit/#comments Fri, 06 Dec 2013 01:59:01 +0000 /?p=3577 Continue Reading]]> The Chocolate Tasting Kit, by Eagranie Yuh (Chronicle Books, 2014)The Fedex man arrived on an otherwise ordinary Thursday afternoon. I signed for the package: rigid items inside a flabby, floppy padded bag. A quick glance at the sender label told me it was from Chronicle Books, a publisher in San Francisco.

Scratch that. MY publisher in San Francisco.

It took a split second for it all to sink in. It started in the tips of my toes and quickly rose through my body, shooting out my fingertips as I ripped the package open. Inside: three pristine copies of The Chocolate Tasting Kit. By Eagranie Yuh.

My book. By me.

The ensuing happy dance was more joyous than I’ve done in a while, with limbs flailing, feet kicking and much squealing. It was a wholly undignified, unfettered expression of pure glee.

I’m drowning in other projects right now, but I did want to share the good news with you. You’ll be hearing plenty more between now and March 18, 2014, when the book comes out. But hey, if you wanted to, I don’t know…preorder said book, I’d reprise the happy dance. In fact, I might hug you and squeal and we could do a happy dance together. It would be undignified, and I think that’s entirely appropriate.

Pre-order The Chocolate Tasting Kit:
Barnes & Noble

/2013/12/announcing-the-chocolate-tasting-kit/feed/ 0
Meet the Maker: Cameron Ring of Dandelion Chocolate /2013/11/meet-the-maker-cameron-ring-of-dandelion-chocolate/ /2013/11/meet-the-maker-cameron-ring-of-dandelion-chocolate/#comments Tue, 05 Nov 2013 17:15:15 +0000 /?p=3526 Continue Reading]]> Cameron Ring of Dandelion Chocolate
Cameron Ring comes from a technology background, but he’s ended up in chocolate. And why not? At Dandelion’s new shop in San Francisco, you can watch them make the chocolate while sipping a hot or cold chocolate (with homemade marshmallows, naturally) or snacking on one of their baked goods. If you’re lucky, they’ll have cocoa fruit pulp in stock and you can try a smoothie. It’s delicious.

One of the larger bean-to-bar gigs in the US, Dandelion’s also supplying some of the smaller makers with beans. It’s win-win-win, since Dandelion gets more buying power, farmers can sell more and smaller makers can piggyback on Dandelion’s efforts. More interesting to me is the fact that so many chocolate companies are dealing with the same beans, but each one of them creates distinctly different products. Different recipes, different styles, different chocolate.

I spoke with Cam at last year’s Northwest Chocolate Festival, a few months before the shop opened.

What does Dandelion Chocolate do?

We make bean-to-bar chocolate bars. We’re in San Francisco, opening our combination factory-cafe in the Mission district on Valencia Street. It’s been a long time coming but we’re really excited. [ED: When we spoke, Dandelion’s shop was still in the works. It has since opened and is constantly packed.]

Wrapping machine at Dandelion Chocolate

This is what happens when you get chocolate makers together: they congregate around the wrapping machine at Dandelion Chocolate. From left to right: Bryan Graham (Fruition Chocolate), Ben Rasmussen (Potomac Chocolate), Cam Ring (Dandelion Chocolate), Anna Davies (Ritual Chocolate).

How did you come to chocolate?
Todd and I are the two people that started the company. When we started making chocolate, we didn’t set out to make a chocolate company. We just started tinkering in the garage and were just having a really great time making little batches of chocolate, learning how to do it and make really good chocolate.

Along the way we got pretty excited because we loved the chocolate we were making and really fell in love with the act of making chocolate itself: building the machines, sourcing the beans, putting all the pieces together and sharing our chocolate with people that really seem to like it.

So, when we started thinking about how to turn this hobby into a business we got really excited about sharing the act of making it with people, because it seemed like there were lots of people who loved chocolate—but even self-described chocolate lovers don’t know so much of the story. It’s such a great story so we wanted to put together this combination factory-cafe where people could see it being made and really learn a lot more about the food they already love.

What’s the best part of your job?
I think right now, every day is different. So sometimes that’s good because that means that you have this new thing you’re working on, you make this small change and now this part of the process is much better. And sometimes it’s bad. A machine breaks or some part of the process breaks down or you have beans you don’t like. But I like that whenever I get up in the morning, I don’t know whether I’m going to be foiling 100 bars or oiling our wrapping machine or doing a bunch of taste tests on 100% bars that one of our employees is really excited about.

What’s your biggest challenge?
Trying to fit all the stuff in that needs to get done. There are way too many things that need fixing or need working on, and trying to figure out what we should be working on at any one time is definitely our biggest challenge. There’s just too much to do.

What do you do in your spare time?
I like rock climbing and ultimate frisbee and hanging out with my girlfriend and my dog.

/2013/11/meet-the-maker-cameron-ring-of-dandelion-chocolate/feed/ 0
Meet the Maker: Aaron Barthel of Intrigue Chocolate /2013/10/meet-the-maker-aaron-barthel-of-intrigue-chocolate/ /2013/10/meet-the-maker-aaron-barthel-of-intrigue-chocolate/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 16:15:11 +0000 /?p=3529 Continue Reading]]> 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.

/2013/10/meet-the-maker-aaron-barthel-of-intrigue-chocolate/feed/ 0
Meet the Maker: Adam Dick & Justin Taylor of Dick Taylor Chocolate /2013/10/meet-the-maker-adam-dick-justin-taylor-of-dick-taylor-chocolate/ /2013/10/meet-the-maker-adam-dick-justin-taylor-of-dick-taylor-chocolate/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 16:11:02 +0000 /?p=3492 Continue Reading]]> Adam Dick & Justin Taylor, Dick Taylor ChocolateDick Taylor Chocolate is actually two people: Adam Dick and Justin Taylor. Adam’s the mustachioed one on the left; Justin’s the toqued one on the right.

These former carpenters make chocolate from the bean in their workshop in Arcata, California. A friend of mine from northern California tells me that it’s an odd place for chocolate, because it’s not the most, ahem, cosmopolitan place. But Adam and Justin maintain that it’s the perfect place for them to make chocolate, citing Cypress Grove, the award-winning cheese company, as one of the area’s better-known food artisans.

All this makes me want to visit Arcata, especially after reading this enRoute story about California’s lost coast, which, according to Google Maps, is only an hour outside of Arcata. Tall pines and chocolate? Sign me up.

I spoke with Adam and Justin in Seattle last fall. Here’s a snippet of the conversation.

What is Dick Taylor Chocolate known for?

AD: We’re small-batch bean to bar chocolate makers in Northern California.

How did you come to chocolate?
AD: We’re both carpenters by trade and we’ve always been fascinated with woodworking and finely crafting things. We’ve done lots of furniture work, we’ve built and restored some wood boats. The idea of taking something like a rustic commodity, like a rough-sawn board and transforming it into a piece of furniture, we love that kind of stuff.

So that just translated [into chocolate] as a friend of ours introduced us to some of the American makers. The idea of converting this raw cacao bean into a smooth, silky chocolate bar is really cool, coupled with the fact that we’ve always been the type to…if you could buy something, that was cool. But why buy it if you could make it, you know? We’re always kind of driven by that. So we’re like oh, we can buy chocolate, but we can make it! And the process is so fascinating that it just kind of clicked with us.

Prior to making chocolate, did you work together as carpenters?
JT: Oh yeah. We worked together as carpenters, we play together in a band, we were roommates for a while, so we’ve known each other for a really long time. We’re basically like brothers.

What’s the best part of your job?
JT: Personally I like the roasting, the smells around the shop and when things are going smooth, that’s the best part of the job. When the machine goes down and the chocolate comes out looking gnarly, then you just really want to hit your head on the counter and think my god, what is going on?

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
AD: I think there’s daily challenges, like how are we going to temper this chocolate. I mean, we run those challenges being a small business, but what’s been interesting for us, you know, we’ve had a business model where we haven’t had any investment capital other than a little money that we put into it.

So right off the bat, any money we made would go back into the business. And now we’re looking at a place where we also need to put money back into the business because we want to buy different machinery or we want to source different beans, but we also need to start paying ourselves something or else our wives are going to revolt.

So it’s that trick as a small business of, if we had $200,000 right now in our pockets, it would be sweet. We could buy some different machinery, some beans we’ve been looking at and life wouldn’t be a drag. So it’s this constant struggle as a small business, with the model that we have, about not really wanting to be in debt, or as little debt as we can. To try to grow, do all the cool things we want to do. In time.

What would you do if you weren’t making chocolate?
JT: Carpentry…probably trying to build more furniture and stuff. [laughs]

In carpentry we kind of weasled ourselves into doing fine carpentry and we both have set up mill shops in our garages. Through that we collected old tools from the early 1900s through the 1950s, restored those and that’s kind of translated in the beauty of chocolate. These old tools, these old-fashioned ones are really the ones we yearn for. They’re the ones that are just rusty and gnarly that we can fix up…because then there’s a romance to them. There’s a story behind it. If you fix up a tool, it’s part of the family.

/2013/10/meet-the-maker-adam-dick-justin-taylor-of-dick-taylor-chocolate/feed/ 0
Meet the Maker: Gregory Landua of Nova Monda Cacao & Chocolate /2013/10/meet-the-maker-gregory-landua-of-nova-monda-cacao-chocolate/ /2013/10/meet-the-maker-gregory-landua-of-nova-monda-cacao-chocolate/#comments Thu, 24 Oct 2013 16:15:06 +0000 /?p=3498 Continue Reading]]> Gregory Landua, Nova Monda Cacao & Chocolate

I first learned about Nova Monda Cacao & Chocolate at the 2012 Northwest Chocolate Festival, where I also had the privilege to meet its founder, Gregory Landua. He’s an uncommon man: opinionated and not afraid to voice those opinions, but also thoughtful, gracious and kind. I think the transcript speaks for itself.

What is Nova Monda Cacao and Chocolate known for?
Our company makes craft chocolate, both bars and jars, that are all single-origin, ethically traded and beyond amazing. Nova Monda came into being in 2011. I’m the cacao hunter and the director of development, and at the moment I’m the production manager, as well.

How did you come to chocolate?
I got conned into it by a hippie.

What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is, undoubtedly, getting to go hack through the jungle with a machete and look for cacao. For sure. Getting to go on amazing adventures and finding great cacao and also growing trees. I like that too.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
I would say flippantly, mosquitoes. [laughs] The biggest challenge is almost too complex to point at. I think the biggest challenge is the complexity of doing it right. Going from tree to bar or jar and having attentiveness and care at each level of the process…it requires a skill set that I could honestly say I don’t actually possess, so I’m constantly failing. So I’m constantly failing and then having to do better and better and better. So the biggest challenge is wow, that’s sort of a superhuman task, to hold that all gracefully.

Nova Monda spreads

What would you do if you weren’t making chocolate?
I would probably be sailing around the world, or doing something else not as useful for the planet. But fun.

/2013/10/meet-the-maker-gregory-landua-of-nova-monda-cacao-chocolate/feed/ 1