Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Made in Canada Series: Chocosol

On a cold January afternoon in Toronto we visited ChocoSol Traders on St. Clair West. We met with Mathieu McFadden, tasted some delicious coffee (with grass-fed butter!) and chatted about the business and the philosophy behind it.

Here is their story...

The story of Chocosol began in Mexico 10 years ago when Michael Sacco, the founder of of this social enterprise, left Canada to pursue research focused on using solar power to roast coffee beans, cacao, peanuts etc. From Canada he brought a solar-powered roaster that eventually led him to an indigenous community where he learned traditional craft of chocolate making from a local medicine woman. Quickly the focus of his research shifted to traditional chocolate making practices. He started selling his chocolates at local farmers markets which in return funded his research.
After having spent five years in Mexico, the call of Michael's homeland was tugging too heavily at his soul so he decided to return and bring with him all the knowledge he acquired and share it with his fellow Canadians.

The idea behind ChocoSol is not merely to sell chocolates. The team also likes to emphasize the importance of educating the public on the topic of sustainably grown foods but also the denaturing of food (mass production of food and its pitfalls) . Intercultural and ecological collaborations present the core of ChocoSol as a social enterprise. Their farmers receive above average wages. Cacao is grown following ancient Mayan traditions that preserves biodiversity of the local ecosystem.

Coffee with butter!
This bike powers the blender that makes the hot chocolate of the gods

Consumers are encouraged to reuse the packaging and in return receive small price reductions.
They refer to the space they occupy as a showroom rather than a store. A place where people can purchase the products they sell but also get educated and informed about food and food growing traditions. They strongly believe in the importance of interaction between the food growers/sellers and their customers.
half of the back area where the magic happens

ChocoSol products (5 eating and 5 drinking chocolates, cacao, coffee and spices) can be found in 40 stores in the downtown core but also at different Farmers’ markets. For a full list of retailers and markets please click here

We were lucky enough to go to the back to watch them grinding the cocoa. This one has vanilla pods in them and smelled glorious.

While we were there Mathieu let us try a new fun little project test he was working on, a lipstick made from natural ingredients and an unusual die from a mexican spice called Achiote. It was in it’s early stages so it was intensely orange and fun and spicey when you lick your lips. Here is a short video of Mathieu talking about achiote and some other projects he’s working on:

The stick of lipstick achiote we were able to test
Achiote tree/bush