As with craft beer, wine and coffee, chocolate lovers are looking for new flavours and authentic origins
This Valentine’s Day, check out B.C.’s bean-to-bar chocolate makers. They craft small batches from cacao beans sourced directly from farmers, then used raw or roasted and processed in-house.
1. In 2015, Glen and Helen Davies moved their family from Vancouver to Invermere, where they launched Wild Mountain Chocolate. The couple keep their products simple, using just chocolate and sugar. At Invermere Farmers and Artists Market, stores throughout B.C. and online.
2. At Wild Sweets, molecular gastronomy pioneers Dominique and Cindy Duby take a scientific approach to sweet food creation, including chocolate making research projects with UBC and experiments to come up with new tastes and textures at their Richmond lab. Chocolates (the Dubys also make bars and desserts) include two fillings–ganache plus gelée or praliné–and are coated with vibrantly hued cocoa butter. At their on-site store and online.
3. When friends Vincent Garcia, Stefan Klopp, Oliver Koth-Kappus and Dominik Voser discovered in 2015 that cacao beans were growing on a small property in the Philippines owned by Garcia’s family, they went into business a year later. Kasama Chocolate in East Vancouver makes bars and truffles, using seasonal and local ingredients like Sons of Vancouver Distillery amaretto, EastVan Bees honey and marmalade from Le Meadow’s Pantry. At craft and farmers markets around Vancouver.
4. Takanori Chiwata and Kayoko Hamamoto were researchers at a confectionery company in Japan before opening La Chocolaterie, since closed, in Vancouver in 2010. Now they produce Coco-Labo bars from organic beans plus cane or coconut sugar at Coconama Chocolate in North Vancouver. At Coconama Chocolate, farmers markets and online.
5. Becks d’Angelo started making Take a Fancy Bean to Bar Chocolate about a decade ago and began selling it at Vancouver farmers markets in 2010. Last April she opened the Folly Artisan Food Shop and studio in Roberts Creek, limiting production to focus on quality, design and interacting with customers. At the Folly Artisan Food shop, farmers markets and online.
6. Opened in 2013, East Van Roasters is a 16-seat café and social enterprise of the PHS Community Services Society that mentors and trains women re-entering the workforce. In Vancouver’s Gastown, it also roasts coffee and cacao beans, making organic chocolate and coffee on-site. At the café and various B.C. shops and eateries.
7. Beanpod Chocolate, owned by James and Mary Heavey in downtown Fernie, emphasizes old-fashioned quality and freshness over modern speed, taking five days to produce small batches using vintage machines, with no artificial ingredients or preservatives. At Fernie retail store and (bars only) online.
8. A globetrotter with degrees in cell and molecular biology and economics who also studied finance, Taylor Kennedy has put down roots in Victoria. There he handcrafts small batches of ethically sourced chocolate, incorporating flavours (cardamom, Mayan chili mix) from the same places as the beans, in the Sirene Chocolate workshop. At shops in Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver or online.
9. Since 2013, pastry chef and chocolate maker Paul Dincer has opened two Koko Monk Chocolates shops, both in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood. Made from unprocessed cacao beans to preserve their personality, his chocolates incorporate unexpected combinations like blue cheese and candied pear; curry and coconut; and lavender, fig and chamomile. At Koko Monk Chocolates Lounge and Koko Monk Hot Chocolate Lounge, and online.
Last October, an international study funded by a UBC Hampton Fund Research Grant revealed new insights into the history of chocolate. Cacao wasn’t first domesticated in Mexico some 4,000 years ago, as previously thought, but in Ecuador at least 1,500 years earlier.