It’s a beautiful summer day and, just as I’m arriving home, Jonathan and the kids call me from the backyard. I find them and am greeted with ear-to-ear grins and the smell of chocolate cake. “Here, try a dinosaur egg!” they say. A freshly roasted cacao bean is placed in my hand and they tell me to peel it. The ‘dinosaur egg’ hides inside—deep brown and shiny, with cracked seams running throughout and a rich aroma. I pop it in my mouth and chew. The aroma is all consuming—floral, acidic, fruity, nutty, toasted, and chocolatey.
This is chocolate in its purest form: beautiful, delicious, and powerful. It is anything but candy. This is the chocolate we want to eat, make, share, and teach others about.
Jonathan got started with research. At the time there was little to no equipment available for small-scale chocolate making. Sourcing what was available and experimenting with the rest, he puzzled together a mini chocolate making factory that allowed us to roast, winnow, and mill the cacao beans. I was occupied with taste testing, quality control, and product research. I LOVE chocolate! If there isn’t chocolate in the house—an unlikely scenario—I simply wish it into existence.
And this is one of the reasons why Jonathan and I make a perfect team. He figured out all the steps, created and found the equipment, and left me with roasted beans. The house is always filled with the smell of chocolate, tools are scattered here and there, and we are always triumphant with bars of chocolate in hand—with flavour true to that of freshly roasted beans.
You need to know that I’ve been working with chocolate for almost 20 years. So when we started this experiment, I was no stranger to tempering, molding, and packaging chocolate. Or purchasing chocolate in bulk to create bars and other delicacies.
Constantly on the hunt for the purest chocolate with the fewest ingredients, it was impossible to find the chocolate I wanted. There were always additions like cocoa butter, cocoa powder, vanilla and/or other flavourings, and oftentimes more offensive ingredients. And, to top it off, an emulsifier, generally under the name soy lecithin, was added to keep unnecessary ingredients mixed in. We set out to make things right and strip away all of the common extras in modern chocolate to create something special in its purest form.
We purchase organic, fair trade beans picked from trees in Guatemala, Belize, and the Dominican Republic. Their flavours are unique to the region they grow in, and come through in the chocolate. Chocolate made with beans from one region is called single origin—the type of chocolate we make. Our only ingredients are cacao beans and cane sugar.
In case you’re not familiar, chocolate grows on trees—colourful pods grow directly from the trunk. Inside these pods are white beans and pulp that get scooped out and fermented in large boxes, often lined with banana leaves. After drying out in the sun, they are shipped, in large sacks, to chocolate makers like us.
It took us a few years to go from home experimentation to having a full-fledged business. We built a commercial kitchen and started selling our bars in local shops and through our website. We chose the name Coal Creek Roasters because the sunny backyard where we started roasting was located beside Coal Creek Historic Park in Cumberland. Many days were spent in the woods or creekside playing with the kids as they grew. Two years ago we moved to Tahsis in order to simplify our lives and focus on making chocolate full time.
I’m not sure whether life is any simpler, but it’s definitely exciting and full—and we’re doing it together. One thing is certain: we ALWAYS have chocolate on hand!