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Chocolate On The Road: Hidden Costs Of Crafting Chocolate

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“The passion and the love runs out at some point, when there isn’t enough return.”

-Sunita De Tourreil, Founder of The Chocolate Garage

Most people who grew up eating chocolate will remember it as a cheap candy, something you bought from the store for less than a dollar. So to most people, the idea of a $10 chocolate bar⁠— or a $5 or $15 chocolate bar⁠— is ludicrous. What could possibly cost so much? But the real question you should be asking is why was it so cheap in the first place?

After all, cacao is grown in tropical regions around the world, and most often shipped to a western country to be turned into chocolate. Just the physical inputs alone should push the price sky high, yet those chocolate candy bars are as cheap as ever. Today’s episode is an exploration of why that is, and the varied places from which all those extra costs in craft chocolate arise. Hint: the materials themselves are not really the culprit.

To read an article related to this episode, click here.

Topics We Cover

  • how fine flavor cacao farmers change their techniques to aim for the craft market
  • the way individual chocolate makers define and identify with “craft” chocolate
  • testing & making new single origin chocolates
  • various middlepeople in the chocolate supply chain & how their roles have appeared and changed over time
  • intangible value added to chocolate at each step
  • how SoMA learned about chocolate making & cacao sourcing in the early 2000’s
  • cocoa brokers’ role in allowing small chocolate makers to exist in the first place
  • the costs & risks of putting on chocolate tastings, running a craft chocolate retail shop, and having a subscription box or similar model

Show Timeline

0:00-1:55~ Episode introduction, digging into some of the reasons why craft chocolate is so much more expensive than the stuff from convenience stores.

1:55-7:00~ How an Ecuadorian cacao farm completely restructured how they cared for their crops in order to become one of the world’s best cacaos. (Freddy Salazar)

7:00-15:45~ The chocolate making processes & costs as a part-time solo chocolate maker located in one of the most expensive countries in the world. (Yoon Kim)

15:45-24:30~ Sunita De Tourreil elaborating on the role and value add of retailers (& other middlepeople) in craft chocolate.

24:30-31:30~ The beginnings and struggles of building SoMA Chocolate as a micro-batch producer in a manufacturer’s world, including sourcing cacao and equipment. (Cynthia Leung)

31:30-36:20~ David Castellan discussing his first experiences making chocolate from the bean and trying to buy cacao from a large cacao distributor, before cocoa brokers existed at the scale they do today.

36:20-43:20~ Educating chocolate consumers by challenging their existing perspectives, and the literal cost of doing so. (Sunita De Tourreil).
Also, the end of the episode.

Chocolate bars from Cacaum, a craft chocolate retailer in Seoul, South Korea.

More About Our Guests

Freddy Salazar, Jr.: Manager of Costa Esmeraldas, a fine cacao producer based in northwestern Ecuador. Check out Costa Esmeraldas’ Facebook, Instagram, and Bean Profile.

Yoon Kim: Founder & chocolate maker at Smooth Chocolator, proudly produced in Geelong, Australia by Yoon herself. Check out Yoon’s Instagram and Website.

Sunita de Tourreil: long-time chocolate educator, CEO & founder of the Chocolate Garage, and former judge for several national & international chocolate competitions. Check out her Podcast, Instagram, and Cacao Documentary Series.

Cynthia Leung & David Castellan: Co-founders & chocolate makers at SoMA Chocolate in Toronto, Canada, one of the oldest small-batch chocolate makers in the world. Check out SoMA’s Website, Instagram, and Facebook.

Further Reading

Connect With Chocolate On The Road

On Instagram@chocolateontheroad

On Facebook: @chocolateontheroad

Show music is Roadtrip by Phil Reavis, and our transition music is We’re Gonna Be Around by People Like Us & Multiple songs by Lobo Loco.

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