Meet Your Maker: ChocoSol
We've been long-time fans of ChocoSol, our local slow food chocolate makers. When talking with anyone from their team, it's easy to see the passion and joy that is derived from making good food. We asked ChocoSol a few questions to give you a small taste of this company with big heart. Scroll down to hear a bit of their story, and do stop into their space on St. Clair to meet the team and learn more!
When and why was ChocoSol founded?
ChocoSol celebrated its 10 year anniversary in late 2014! Our roots in Toronto started with ChocoSol’s Founder, Michael Sacco, bringing organically grown, forest garden cacao back from Mexico and grinding chocolate on his front porch to sell at Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market and the Riverdale Farm Farmers’ Market. Before that, in 2002, Michael drove down to Mexico with a solar concentrator as part of his Master’s in environmental studies program. He was energized by the community and conviviality in Mexico and was first introduced to chocolate making informally by an elder who asked him to make traditional drinking chocolate with her. He had an ‘aha’ realization that chocolate could be channeled as a vehicle to fund future environmental projects and research, instead of depending on government grants. I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate!
Why chocolate? (Loaded question, I know!)
At ChocoSol, we take the ‘food of the gods’ - cacao - and turn it into fresh, stone ground artisanal chocolate. For us cacao and chocolate are symbolic products that represent the values we carry with us. We don’t draw a line between our "work lives" and "our personal lives" in the sense that what we do at ChocoSol is an extension of the community and values that we engage in outside of "work". Chocolate is a great symbolic product. Almost everyone loves chocolate and it’s a great way to engage people in conversations and action around a number of issues, including where our food comes from, how it’s grown, the relationships between farmers and chocolatiers, soil ecology, and environmental technologies, just to name a few. Even people who might not be interested in explicitly supporting beyond fair trade and organic products are doing so when they enjoy our delicious chocolate, coffee, spices, and tortillas.
How is the chocolate made?
First, we source our cacao from farmers in Southern Mexico via horizontal trade relationships. We pay above fair trade prices directly to the farmers and the relationships are based on reciprocity, exchange of knowledge/practices, and friendship. The cacao is organically grown in forest gardens and is dried and fermented before it arrives in Toronto. In Toronto, we roast and winnow the cacao. Winnowing is the process where the shell is removed from the bean and the bean is crushed into nibs. From there, we stone grind the cacao nibs in a cacao liqueur. Then we move the liqueur to our secondary grinder, add our fair trade, organic sugar (plus additional ingredients depending on the flavour), and let it grind for a few hours. Next, the chocolate is tempered (raising and lowering the temperature of the chocolate to create chocolate crystals) to create the final product that is then molded. The process is a little bit different for our drinking chocolate, as we use whole beans for the drinking chocolate and the chocolate isn’t tempered. It’ll just lose its temper as soon as you add hot water to it. We have a lot of jokes about the chocolate "losing its temper" [laughing]. At ChocoSol, we make low heat, low shear stone ground chocolate that is free from nuts, soy, gluten, dairy, and is also vegan to boot.
Where do you source your ingredients?
The vast majority of our ingredients are sourced via horizontal trade relationships with farmers in Southern Mexico. This includes the cacao, coffee, vanilla, coconut butter, coconut oil, cinnamon, sea salt, achiote, rosita de cacao, mamey, and other spices. Our default sugar is a raw cane sugar that is organic and fair trade. We also use an organic coconut sugar and Quebec maple sugar as delicious low-glycemic sweeteners. We have a lens for where the ingredients we use come from, how the farmers were compensated, and how the ingredients were grown (either organically in forest gardens or certified organic). You won’t find any GMOS, additives, or preservatives in ChocoSol chocolate!
Your packaging is very unique - what was/is the inspiration?
Thanks! Our packaging is inspired by the Day of the Dead (in Spanish, Día de los Muertos), Mayan culture, the teachings of cacao, and bicycle culture. Día de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday that gathers family and friends together to remember and celebrate family, friends, and ancestors that have come before. The skull on our packaging is a symbolic invitation to learn more about the elements it represents and to learn more about ChocoSol. You’ll even notice that the eyes, nose, and mouth of the skull are composed of bike gears and chains. And for the packaging itself, the bags and the labels are made from biodegradable and compostable materials.
Tell us about ChocoSoil.
The ChocoSoil Project is an urban agriculture project that takes a cradle-to-cradle approach to waste management. Basically, it integrates soil making into the day-to-day operations at ChocoSol and reflects our work towards producing healthy urban soil ecosystems and rooftop grown spices for chocolate making on site at our location in Toronto. We added a page on our website about ChocoSoil. Check it out: www.ChocoSolTraders.com/ChocoSoil
Anything else you'd like to share?