Despite stereotypes about my fine gender, I have never really been a chocolate fan. I enjoy Zingermans chocolate bars and I like Atwater’s Decadent Delight, but that’s really about it. But then I fell in love with Boyfriend Ken who I quickly learned is quite the chocolate connoisseur. He is also very difficult to shop for.
One day in early December, I was looking for chocolate Christmas presents for him. After shopping at the food co op, I meandered to the farmers’ market where I found the nice Mindo folks. I asked if it was possible to tour the facility and she said YES! I emailed them, got a very nice reply from co-owner Barbara and we were off to the races!
I love the story of how this company got started. Barbara’s husband Joe is originally from Ecuador (a top exporter of chocolate). They returned to the country, with the idea of buying some land, building a house and retiring. Until…
…they found out that the local folks in Ecuador couldn’t really enjoy their own bounty because so much was exported. (It would be like us not being to eat our cherries or drive our cars). So, that “retirement house” turned into a cafe/restaurant where they made chocolate brownies made from local cocoa beans. And those were such a hit that they expanded into the chocolate making business and…here we are! Folks in Ecuador and Michigan get to enjoy this awesome stuff and we got to see where it is made! I learned a ton and got to smell chocolate the whole time I was learning.
Okay first of all, I had NO idea that cocoa beans came from a huge pod. I just thought they sort of grew on trees like berries or something. Nature is awesome and if you don’t believe me, look at this:
This pod contains the beans that eventually make chocolate. This is either proof that God loves us and wants to be happy or that nature is totally rad or both!
According to Barbara, the beans are taken out and brought to their facility where they ferment the beans. She showed us pictures of the fermenters, which rely on gravity to mix the beans. The fermenters are arranged into stair steps and the beans filter down from step to step. Then they are taken out and put out to dry. (The pictures reminded me of drying hops! Lots of yumminess on large screens, happily drying and waiting for their next destination).
The beans are then roasted (can you even imagine how good that smells?!?) This is how good it looks, anyway:
The beans travel to Dexter to meet their destiny ~ chocolate, cocoa butter or cocoa powder! Mindo uses its own beans to make its cocoa butter. Personally, I think they should sell the stuff…I used a little tiny bit on my hands and it lasted for several luxurious hours.
It looks good enough to eat, doesn’t it??
The cocoa powder is pressed by hand. I did about three pumps and ready to sit down…Barbara and her crew do this for hours because they are awesome and they love us and want us to have good cocoa.
I could now spend about five paragraphs describing the chocolate to you but I am going to insist that you try it yourself instead. You can find it at the Peoples’ Food Co Op, Morgan & York, Arbor Farms, Plum Market, the farmers’ market and several other fine locations. If you want a real treat, go see Barbara and learn about this process in person!
So thanks to Boyfriend Ken and Barbara & Mindo, I am quickly fulfilling the stereotype of the chocolate loving woman. Next I’ll be wearing pink and painting my nails! Hmmm…well, maybe not!