Following a lifelong passion for chocolate, in 2005 I co-founded Bittersweet Café, a chain of chocolate cafes located in the Bay Area. At the time there were several new faces popping up on the chocolate scene, both locally and across the country. A new generation of chocolate makers was laying the groundwork for today’s craft chocolate industry. At Bittersweet, we started to sell these new craft chocolates, but we also imported bars from producers around the world, so that our customers could continue to educate their palates by tasting bars from many origins. This led to my own bean-to-bar experimentation and a line of bars called Bittersweet Origins. I was buying beans from various countries, bringing them to California, and making chocolate as fast as I could learn.
In 2008, I was asked to curate the chocolate panel at the Slow Food Nation conference in San Francisco, where we had a panel of leaders from the artisanal chocolate industry. Throughout the three-day event, nearly 100,000 attendees, chefs, farmers, and consumers learned how to better connect with their food and searched for transparency in the food chain, and with that inspiration in mind, I decided to create an estate-grown chocolate company. I would grow cacao, harvest, ferment, and dry the beans, then turn these beans into chocolate bars. Hopefully the farm would show through in the chocolate I made, and we could begin to demonstrate a more transparent food cycle for chocolate, and educate people about this age-old, but often misunderstood food.
In 2011 my childhood friend, his wife and their son joined my wife, daughter and me in this adventure. We expanded our orchard to the current 14-acres and built a chocolate factory in Honolulu. Over Thanksgiving week 2012, the six of us made our first 100% estate grown chocolate bars, and in May 2013 we began to release bars to the founding members of our Chocolate Club.
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