Thank you for answering our questions, John.
You have a long pedigree in the food industry according to the Macalat website. How did you get involved in the food industry and where were you trained?
|Wizard Baldour's Power Pac|
What was your experience with chocolate before you developed Macalat? Were you a consumer of chocolate or did you also make products using cocoa beans? Both?
I was never a chocolate person. My preference was for Vanilla. I am more interested in Cacao as a superfood. I am a superfoodie. My food career has been based around innovative organic flavor profiles using nutrient dense foods in different categories. Macalat is my only venture into chocolate. Dark chocolate never tasted good to me and I don't like eating sugar. It is a big challenge for me but a worthy one. I am impressed with the way Cacao accepts and embraces other flavors and I enjoy working with it and finding the art in it. I experimented with many flavor combos. My vision was to create an organic sugar free dark chocolate that tastes really good that even the kids love.
How many years of experimenting did it take for you to find what you consider a good balance of the various ingredients you use? Did you use test consumers in your process?
I am more focused on the resulting flavor, superfood ingredients, and their benefits than on company infrastructure or being a chocolatier. I had to learn how to make chocolate and then do it without sugar. I researched Cacao in depth. I traveled to Peru and Amsterdam to the Chocoa Conference for even deeper insights. It took two and a half years and over 100 batches and many different ingredient combinations to be happy with the Macalat formula. I have a test market scenario with the local food co-op and a hand full of food outlets in Asheville. I also do the store tastings, myself, for receiving direct feedback. I did a couple of blind taste tests in recent tweaks. The last tweak is the organic mushroom extract. It takes the bite out of the bitter as it melts in your mouth for a nicer finish. The bitter is a distraction from the exotic Cacao flavors. I get a lot of feedback from the customer reviews on our website.
Yes, they contain natural sugars. However, I use small enough increments so that the inherent sugars do not add up enough above zero to declare. Monk Fruit is more a sweet flavor than an actual sweetener. Lucuma is a flavor, too. In fact, Lucuma is the favorite flavor of ice cream in Peru. It outsells both Vanilla and Chocolate. Lucuma has a similar action as milk in milk chocolate.
The Mushroom extract helps reduce the need for sugar. Looking at the formulation, systemically, reducing the need for sugar is the first step. The Mycelium used comes from the stem of the mushroom and works its magic on the tongue modulating the distracting bitter peaks in the finish. This functionality reduces the need for sugar. Maca is another flavor that enhances the malted notes. It is the synergy and equilibration of all these superfood flavors that bring out the succulent taste of Macalat.
Do you hand make your chocolate?
I start with Cacao liquor or Mass. The Cacao beans are already roasted and winnowed and the fat cell walls have been broken to allow fluidity. I can't do that part nearly as well as the larger, more sophisticated facilities. I warm the Cacao liquor, add the other ingredients and grind in artisan wet grinders for 60 hours. I then temper and hand ladle them into the molds to set.
|Artisan Grinders for Chocolate|
I hand wrap each one in metal foil and then in a sleeve. The foil prevents the chocolate from absorbing outside aromas.
You use single origin Peruvian Criollo Cacao in your chocolate. (For readers who may not know, Criollo beans are considered the finest on the market) Do you have a direct relationship with the farmers you get the beans from?
No. I source from a Cacao importer who sources the cacao from village co-ops in Peru.
The ingredients you use are organic, do you have direct relationships with those farmers?
No, most ingredients come from Peru and China. The Vanilla comes from Madagascar.
Before you developed Macalat, what was your favorite chocolate brand?
I did not have a favorite Chocolate brand. I have been Paleo or sugar free for a couple of decades. It turned out that I made my favorite brand.
Finally, where do you hope Macalate will be in five years?
I am going with what wants to happen. I do know that sugar is the elephant in the chocolate room. People who are paying attention to diet and self help do not want more sugar. My goal, as a pioneer in organic flavor profiles, is the get the sugar out and still serve up a delicious Cacao treat as well as a wholesome organic superfood. Right now, it is a very small enterprise that I enjoy in a hands-on way, immensely. Who knows what may happen? The magic has worked with me so far. I think I will just trust it.
Thank you for answering our questions, John. Sisters and Brother in Chocolate, please leave additional questions in the comments if we missed a question you still have.