Mindo – Bean to Bar Chocolate
Chocolate. Yes chocolate is ubiquitous, but this chocolate company is a far cry from those giant processed preservative laden sugar sticks you can usually buy. Mindo takes chocolate and turns it into an art form. We spent a little while at their processing facility in Dexter, right outside Ann Arbor, getting the scoop on how great chocolate is crafted.
Answers from Barbara Wilson, owner and founder (along with her husband Jose Meza)
Tell us a little about yourself and the company you own/run
Mindo Chocolate Makers was born out of a desire for quality chocolate in Ecuador. Back in 2007, my husband José and I opened a café and restaurant in a small town in the cloud forest of Ecuador called Mindo. We started roasting coffee and making brownies that became very popular. The problem was that we couldn’t find good chocolate in Ecuador – when we would travel back and forth from Ann Arbor, we would have to bring higher-quality chocolate from the U.S. just to keep making the brownies. We had heard that an excellent variety of cacao grows near Mindo, so we decided to give chocolate making a try. From the first small batch of chocolate we made, we’ve grown and grown – so much that we started making chocolate back in Dexter, Michigan in 2009.
What is your location and when did you start/how long has the company been in business
We don’t currently have a retail location, but our production facility is located just west of downtown Dexter, tucked back in the woods a ways. We’ve been making chocolate here since 2009, and a little longer at our facility in Ecuador.
What makes your products special/unique
We’re what’s known as a “bean-to-bar” chocolate maker. That means that we’re starting with the raw ingredients (cocoa beans) and making stone-ground dark chocolate in small batches. Ten years ago, there were only a handful of artisan bean-to-bar chocolate makers, but within the past few years, more and more bean-to-bar makers have been popping up. So we’re part of a craft chocolate movement that’s producing a lot of incredibly diverse and delicious chocolate bars right now. Even among craft chocolate makers, though, we have a unique connection to the farmers who grow our cocoa beans. We work directly with small family farms in Ecuador and pay two to three times fair trade prices in order to receive the best Nacional cacao possible. We source all of our ingredients responsibly and locally (whenever possible), and the care that we put into our process shows in our final product.
What’s the favorite part about your job
So many things: learning about chocolate, teaching others about chocolate, working towards creating the best possible tasting chocolate, going on cocoa bean expeditions in search of amazing cocoa beans, and nurturing along young people to be really good at their jobs while teaching them my philosophy of business.
Where can we buy more of your products
All over Washtenaw County and Metro Detroit: Whole Foods Markets, Plum Markets, Westborn Markets, Papa Joes Markets, Great Lakes Coffee, Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea, Eastern Market, the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market and many other great coffee shops and grocers that support local food producers. You can find a full list online at http://mindochocolate.com/
Whats the best way to enjoy/eat/prepare/utilize your product
Slowly! No matter which of our bars or products you’re enjoying, take your time with it. Dark chocolate can be incredibly complex and can have all kinds of flavors that you may miss out on if you don’t take the time to let it unfold. It’s like fine wine: a little bit goes a long way and there’s no need to rush it. Let it warm up in your mouth. Savor the taste and take note of the different flavors you’re getting. Different batches will have different qualities: some are nutty, some are fruity, some are earthy; others have caramel or coffee or floral undertones… A quality chocolate should have a long, pleasant finish. Take the time to get to know and enjoy what you’re eating.