Made at Origin Chocolates at the Deli
Photo Credit: @conexionchocolate
What it means, why it matters, and the producers we love
Chocolate that’s “made at origin” is what you might guess it is—the chocolate is made in the same country or state where the beans are grown. Keeping all aspects of the process in one location is not all that unique for some types of foods, say cheese or wine, but it isn’t as common with chocolate. Made-at-origin chocolate has a number of benefits for the environment, for local economies, and for more sustainable supply chains. We’ve been carrying some of these chocolate bars at the Next Door Café for years, but our Chocolate Specialist, Jennie B. has made a concerted effort to continue to grow the selection. She elaborates on why it’s a model we want to support:
Made-at-origin chocolate helps reduce transportation costs (including fuel use), keeps the financial benefits within that country, and allows for creativity with local inclusion flavors that are unique and/or regional. It also gives recognition to the country for its culinary endeavors and to the people who grow the chocolate, which in turn helps remove the misconception that all great chocolate has to come from countries like France or Belgium.
Producers We Like a Choco-lot
Mission Chocolate makes bars at origin using only Brazilian-grown cacao. Owner Arcelia Gallardo says, “Our ingredients are native to the Americas, grow wild, are endangered, promote environmental preservation, encourage community development, and taste good. Their farmers receive almost four times more than the market rate, and they travel through Latin America to work with cacao growers and fellow chocolatiers. Mission Chocolate also teaches Indigenous women to make chocolate; they’ve worked with Zapotec women in Oaxaca, Maya women in Guatemala and Belize, and Ngäbe women in Panama.
Our selection of Mission Chocolate
- 85% Dark Chocolate: This award-winning 85% dark chocolate bar is made with cacao grown in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest by a family that is replanting native trees on previously deforested land. Cacao is their main source of income and a great way to provide shade to the understory of creatures and other plants.
- Two Rivers 70%: Using two different cacao beans from Brazil, this 70% dark chocolate bar is made to resemble the joining of two large rivers in Brazil: Rio Negro and Rio Solimões. The confluence of these two rivers, referred to as the Meeting of Waters, remains separate for miles before joining together to create the largest and most forceful river in the world, The Amazon River. This bar was created to resemble this mighty river: one side of the bar is darker in color, with notes that are rich and chocolatey with brownie flavors, while the other side is lighter in color, with bright, creamy citrus notes.
- 70% Dark Chocolate with Guava: This multi-award winning 70% dark chocolate bar is made with Brazilian-grown cacao and candied guava. It’s part of the Brazil Biome project, which means the ingredients are native to Brazil, grow wild, are endangered, and additionally, promote environmental preservation and encourage community development.
- Wild Brazil 65%: A 65% dark chocolate bar made with wild cacao from the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest. Wild cacao grows naturally in the Amazon, no humans necessary, and produces smaller cocoa pods and smaller cocoa beans. Mission Chocolate purchases the cacao from a cooperative that purchases whole cocoa pods from locals who harvest the pods from the forest.
Not only does Marou Faiseurs de Chocolat make their chocolate at origin in Vietnam, they were the first artisan chocolate maker in the country and among the very first “bean-to-bar” chocolatiers in Asia. Co-founders Vincent Mourou (a U of M alum!) and Samuel Maruta are committed to ensuring that “the whole cacao-to-chocolate value chain is strong, socially responsible, and environmentally sustainable,” explaining:
All the cacao for our award-winning single-origin chocolates is sourced by us directly from the same small farmers and fermenters we have worked with for the past ten years. Over that time, they have taught us and we have taught them. Together we’ve learned how to control fermentation in each province to achieve the consistent bold flavors each Marou bar is known for. Our relationship with our farmers and fermenters is everything.
Our selection of Marou Chocolate
- 68% Kumquat: Bold and fruity with hints of honey and cinnamon, the Tien Gian 68% bar features kumquats (sometimes called calamondins in Vietnam) that grow nearby. It’s named after the province the cocoa beans are grown in and the bright sweetness of kumquats highlight the warm, spicy notes of this chocolate.
- Phở Spice 65%: Marou created this limited edition bar to celebrate ten years of producing award-winning chocolate. It is a delightful blend of cardamom, star anise, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves. Each of these five elemental spices pairs well with cacao; together, it’s a full spectrum of flavor. Enjoy this quintessential ode to Vietnam.
- Ginger Lime: Marou’s single-origin Ba Ria 76% chocolate is made with cocoa grown in a family-owned cocoa farm in the province of Ba Ria, Vietnam. The cacao, ginger, and lime are all grown in this same lush Vietnamese region. With notes of citrus and spicy ginger, this bar is bright, fruity, and refreshing!
- Pepper & Pinch of Salt: Along the lush trails and red basalt soils of Dak Lak Province, Marou sources fine-flavored cacao and fresh Vietnamese peppercorns. This bar has a mouth-watering blend of nutty cacao and aromatic white pepper, with a pinch of sea salt added for perfection.
- Set of 6 Single-Origin Bars: Six Vietnamese provinces lent their names to these single-origin dark chocolate bars. This set allows you to experience the chocolate from various growing regions within the country, from cacao trees growing in the shade of coastal fruit farms to the jungles north of Saigon. These bars are named after the provinces the beans are grown in: Dak Lak 70%, Tien Giang 70%, Dong Nai 72%, lam Dong 74%, Ba Ria 76%, and Ben Tre 78%.
Since 2010, Mānoa has been making chocolate on the Hawaiian Island of O’ahu. The Hawaiian word mānoa means solid, vast, and depth, and they founded their company with that meaning in mind. As they explain, “Mānoa stands for taking care of the land where we harvest our cacao, the nuanced process of crafting our chocolate, and leaving the world better than when we came into it.” Hawai’i is the only state in the U.S. with an appropriate climate for growing cacao. There are a limited number of Hawai’i-based cacao farms, making the beans some of the most exclusive (and expensive). Mānoa works directly with these farms to make sure the beans they use are ethically sourced and of the highest quality and that the farmers are fairly compensated. (Note: All of the Mānoa chocolate we carry is made at origin, but they also work directly with farms in Uganda, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic for other bean-to-bar chocolate.)
Our selection of Mānoa Chocolate
- Chocolate Coffee Bar: This 60% dark milk chocolate bar is sprinkled with a layer of cacao nibs and Kona coffee, creating a crunch that pairs perfectly with the creamy dark milk chocolate.
- Dark Chocolate Banana: Polynesian settlers brought mai’a (banana) with them on their long voyage to Hawaii. It was used as an offering to ali’i (ruling chief) and was a highly regarded gift. Fruit was scarce in ancient Hawaii and banana was one of only a handful available. This 70% dark chocolate bar tastes like ripe, sweet banana with fruity chocolate notes and roasted vanilla undertones.
- Dark Chocolate & Mango: This 70% dark chocolate bar brings together locally grown cacao and mangos, creating a pleasantly sweet bar to beat the heat of the islands!
- Dark Milk Chocolate & Passion Fruit: This 50% dark milk chocolate bar features Hawaiian-grown passion fruit. It’s smooth and creamy with a delightful sweet-tart fruit kick.
- Hawaiian Sea Salt: This 72% dark chocolate bar features salt from Hawaii’s pristine waters. Hawaiian salt makers evaporate ocean water to create clean salt crystals containing ocean electrolytes and trace minerals.
Cuna de Piedra
Cuna de Piedra uses only Mexican-grown and harvested ingredients, like heirloom cacao, a rare strain of hibiscus, and Slow Food Ark of Taste-protected salt. They work directly with growers who harvest and ferment in the same place, with no intermediaries, so they can ensure they get “the highest pay for what their own land provides them.” That’s a major part of their mission:
Our mission is to raise the quality of life of everyone involved in the process of our chocolates, from those who grow and harvest the land, to those who consume our bars. We want to reshape the perception about Mexican products, inside and outside Mexico, and to share the beauty of our traditions to all the corners of Mexico and to the rest of the world. We make 100% Mexican products, with Mexican ingredients, by Mexican hands, in a country with the longest unbroken history of cacao domestication, growth and consumption. For us cacao is more than a crop; it is deeply rooted in our culture and always associated with community and sharing.
Ari Weinzweig, Zingerman’s Co-Founder, says, “Their vision and their values—which manifest in the chocolate—are very aligned with ours,” and, “The more I eat them, the more I like these special chocolate bars.” Read more of what he has to say about Cuna de Piedra.
Our selection of Cuna de Piedra
- Comalcalco 73%: Single estate, Mexican heirloom cacao beans produced by grower Malaquias on his farm in Comalcalco, Tabasco. These cacao trees coexist with wild black pepper and various citrus, and are harvested, fermented, dried, cleaned, and packed at origin by the farmers and their families. This dark chocolate bar has notes of sweet berries and hazelnuts.
- Hibiscus 73%: This dark chocolate and hibiscus bar uses flowers harvested by the Indigenous community Numa Gamaa Ski Yu Me’Phaa high in the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico. The members of the Me’Phaa community have been cultivating the creole Hibiscus tree for centuries, a variety known for being particularly robust and aromatic. Mezcal Reposado 73%: This dark chocolate and mezcal bar is made from 100% Maguey Espadín Mexcal in Santiago Matatlán, a town located in the central valleys of Oaxaca and considered to be the “world capital of mezcal.” The agaves are crushed in a stone mill, the liquid is fermented in oak vats, then double distilled in copper stills, and rested in white oak barrels for two years.
- 73% Smoked Heirloom Chile: This limited-edition bar showcases Mexican-grown cacao from the state of Tabasco and single-estate, smoked heirloom chile from the state of Veracruz. This bar has hints of smokiness and heat but it is not a dominant force.
This woman-owned chocolate company was founded by Jenny Samaniego. After years of working in the chocolate industry in the U.S., she wanted to support the cacao farmers in her home country of Ecuador. Initially, she wanted to help the farmers find a market for their cacao abroad, but it wasn’t long until she was making her own high-quality chocolates with a commitment to sustainability, traceability, and transparency. As she explains:
By its nature, cacao is a collaborative crop. … we work directly with farmers’ cooperatives in each region of Ecuador, supporting over 4000 small farmer families. These farmers and cooperatives are dedicated to organic practices and the preservation of the fine Ecuadorian Nacional cacao. We are committed to paying fair prices to our producers, the empowerment of women, involving young people in the sector (generational relief), and incentivizing education. By sourcing directly from cacao cooperatives and working together with them on projects, we are the connection between hard-working producers in Ecuador and professionals and chocolate lovers all over the world.
…hence the name, Conexión! Not only is Conexión working to improve the lives of cacao farmers, support a new generation of cacao farmers with the Young Farmers Project, and protect heirloom cacao trees, they’re also busy making delicious chocolate—they’ve won dozens of awards from the international chocolate community.
Our selection of Conexión Chocolate
- Esmeraldas 66% Dark Chocolate: A classically chocolatey chocolate bar, with fruity and woody touches balancing the long-lasting chocolate flavor. This vegan and gluten-free bar is the ultimate expression of fine cacao from the Esmeraldas province of Ecuador.
- Passion Fruit 66%: Dark chocolate made with heirloom Nacional cacao, paired with the bright tropical flavors of passion fruit. A vegan and gluten-free bar that’s a true taste of Ecuador, where both passion fruit and cacao thrive.
- Lemon Verbena & Amaranth 70%: This bar combines 70% single province, Ecuadorian dark chocolate with native crops of amaranth and verbena. The ancient grain of amaranth is sweet and nutty, balanced by the herbal citric aroma of lemon verbena. These flavors are a perfect match for the fruity aroma of this vegan, gluten-free chocolate.
- Wasabi & Cacao nibs 70%: A flavor explosion! This award-winning vegan and gluten-free bar uses cacao from a single province in Ecuador. Combine this with crunchy cacao nibs and a sprinkle of wasabi and you might have one of the most unique bars around.
- Creamy Mocha 43% milk chocolate: Made with single province, Ecuadorian milk chocolate, this creamy bar provides the perfect balance for bright coffee beans. This gluten-free bar is a taste of Ecuador, made with Ecuadorian cacao, coffee, and milk.