Savour­ing choco­late’s true, com­plex flavours

Soul Choco­late’s hand­made fare sources beans di­rect from farms, meant for tast­ing, not gorg­ing

Toronto Star - - BUSINESS - DIANE PETERS SPE­CIAL TO THE STAR

Peo­ple now un­der­stand that wine is not just for get­ting tipsy, but of­fers a com­plex taste ex­pe­ri­ence. Even if you can’t get hints of rasp­berry or hazel­nut or long dry fin­ishes, you un­der­stand that some­one else le­git­i­mately can.

Now, you can do the same with choco­late. Not while in­hal­ing the Mars bar you grabbed on the sub­way to boost your blood sugar, but while savour­ing a small but oh-so-per­fect bar of Soul Choco­late.

Get one at the choco­late-mak­ing com­pany’s new pub­lic out­post on Ger­rard St. near Broad­view Ave. Choco­late maker Katie Wil­son runs the ever-whirling ma­chines in the back while hus­band and busi­ness part­ner Kyle Wil­son serves cof­fee drinks, hot choco­late and choco­late shots ($3) in the front. (He’s brew­ing De­tour cof­fee at the mo­ment, but ex­pects to ro­tate sup­pli­ers as of­ten as monthly.)

The six types of Soul Choco­late bars sell for $5.50 for a 28-gram bar ($5 on­line). It’s meant for tast­ing, not gorg­ing. “We source beans di­rect from the farms. We pay them more,” Katie says. She makes her bars thin so they melt eas­ily and cover more of the palate.

Choose from Mada­gas­car (the big seller), Tan­za­nia, Pa­pua New Guinea, Venezuela, Do­mini­can Repub­lic and Ecuador ori­gin flavours. Each bar comes with tast­ing notes. Mada­gas­car is de­scribed as jammy, with red fruit and cit­rus flavours.

The cou­ple — who both hail from the Ni­a­gara re­gion — worked for many years in restau­rants; Katie as a baker while Kyle was a barista.

The Wil­sons went trav­el­ling in 2010 and came across choco­late mak­ers in Aus­tralia and New Zealand.

“I was blown away. I didn’t know real choco­late could taste like this,” Katie says. “Ev­ery­one needs to ex­pe­ri­ence this.” Back in Canada, Katie got a small re­finer — the tool that grad­u­ally grinds down ca­cao beans — and be­gan mak­ing her own small batches.

She took the pro­fes­sional choco­latier course at Ge­orge Brown Col­lege start­ing in 2011, and kept re­fin­ing her from-scratch recipes at home. (Choco­latier work of­ten uses pre-made choco­late, but she wanted to make it right from the bean.)

In fall 2015, while Kyle was run­ning the cof­fee pro­gram at Queen St. E.’s Im­pact Kitchen, he se­cured a cor­ner of the res­tau­rant’s am­ple kitchen.

Katie would work all day roast­ing beans, win­now­ing (re­mov­ing the husks), re­fin­ing (a process that takes sev­eral days), flavour­ing (she adds only or­ganic cane sugar), ag­ing (two weeks seemed best), tem­per­ing and then pour­ing the choco­late into cus­tom moulds.

At the end of his shift, Kyle would help her in the la­bo­ri­ous process.

Mean­while, his am­ple con­tacts in the cof­fee world helped land clients. They started do­ing a monthly mailout cof­fee and choco­late pair­ing ser­vice, then moved to sell­ing bars to re­tail­ers (mainly cafés) in the city and beyond, and di­rect to cus­tomers on­line. They now have 130 whole­sale clients, and make the pil­low choco­lates for the Broad­view Ho­tel.

But hav­ing their own kitchen, sell­ing cof­fee and choco­late, was al­ways the goal. They found this space, which fea­tures great foot traf­fic and a fair rent — plus they live nearby.

They opened in Septem­ber and are now mak­ing about 45 kilo­grams of choco­late a week. Al­ready, hav­ing a re­tail space has in­spired the cou­ple to try new things, such as cre­at­ing an ad­vent cal­en­dar and choco­late tast­ing flights. By next year, they hope to be sup­ply­ing high-end restau­rants and bak­ing op­er­a­tions with bulk bak­ing choco­late.

But larger plans will see Soul Choco­late set up a pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity and store­front in Ni­a­gara, ide­ally on the wine trail.

It’s an­other move to pro­mote the big, thought­ful taste po­ten­tial of choco­late not just in Toronto, but beyond.

RICHARD LAUTENS PHO­TOS/TORONTO STAR

Co-owner Katie Wil­son roasts, win­nows, re­fines, flavours, ages, tem­pers and shapes choco­lates for Soul Choco­late.

Soul Choco­late sells six types of choco­late for $5.50 per 28-gram bar. Each bar comes with tast­ing notes.

RICHARD LAUTENS PHO­TOS/TORONTO STAR

Own­ers and Katie and Kyle Wil­son now make about 45 kilo­grams of choco­late per week. They also have 130 whole­sale clients.

The choco­late shop of­fers flavours with roots in Mada­gas­car (the big seller), Tan­za­nia, Pa­pua New Guinea, Venezuela, Do­mini­can Repub­lic and Ecuador.

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