As cliché as it may be, the gift of chocolate is a tradition dating back before the time of Romeo and Juliet. Even though its aphrodisiac-like power may be a myth, I can honestly say if you give me a bite of good quality chocolate (I mean dark and rich, snaps-when-you-break-off-a-piece good), I’m in love. I was lucky enough to stumble upon such chocolate that is not only locally made, but has a great story for which I’m sure you will fall head over heels.
Dan Hankle’s tale begins in the subtropical mountains of Puerto Rico. He and his wife Nancy purchased a few acres in 2007 in hopes to eventually retire and leave their snow shoveling Ohio days behind them. While visiting his property, Dan’s new neighbor persuaded him to try something that by first sight was anything but love. This local Puerto Rican insisted the large pod filled with gelatinous pulp and small dark seeds was something with which Dan was familiar, but after tasting this uncommon plant he still didn’t realize that what he just consumed was raw chocolate. The first bite of a raw cacao bean was an “ah-ha” moment that forever changed the way Dan thought about chocolate. After much experimentation and research he decided to take an online course from EcoleChocolat professional school of chocolate arts and get serious about his new hobby. A few years ago, Dan started fincaChocolate and aimed to produce small batch, responsibly made chocolate bars for everyone, including hopeless romantics, to enjoy.
Their mission is simple: Organic cacao + organic sugar + love = fincaChocolate. I was lucky enough to visit Dan’s home to learn about his company and shadow the countless steps it takes to make just one of his delicious bars. With the heavenly aroma of roasted chocolate filling the air, Dan began by telling me about Puerto Rico. He explained how the name for his chocolate bar company came from the land or finca (meaning small farm or property in Spanish), on which he has already been busy planting cacao trees of his own. Dan’s infatuation with the cacao plant inspired him to take the tedious steps needed to turn beans into his final product. He explained how his chocolate bars begin with fine raw cacao beans which he sorts by hand and slow roasts to bring out their deep flavor. He then cracks the beans in order to separate them from their shells, grinds them into nibs, mixes them with high quality ingredients, and then tempers the velvety looking substance to create a perfect chocolaty balance. Each step is anything but speedy, but it is important to Dan to control every stage in the process. You can purchase fincaChocolate bars on their website or visit them at the 400 West Rich Farmers Market. You will undoubtedly notice a small crowd gathered around their lovely samples of 70%, 80%, 85% Raw Blend, 100% Cacao (no sugar added) Goat’s Milk Chocolate (lactose-free), and White Chocolate bars and don’t be surprised if the scene is somewhat reminiscent of Lucille Ball in the chocolate factory.
FincaChocolate should not be reserved for just the most romantic day of the year, but for any time you want a little indulgence. They are a locally made bean-to-bar operation that uses the highest grade organic ingredients available. One bite and I’m sure you’ll be sweet for fincaChocolate.
The fincaChocolate bar (pictured left) traveled 53 miles to Columbus, while the chocolate (pictured right) traveled 530 miles to Columbus.
ReferencesIs Chocolate an Aphrodisiac?
Chocolate-Dipped Coconut & Amaretto Macaroons
For this recipe, I used the 85% Cacao Raw Blend fincaChocolate bar, but feel free to experiment with any of their delicious chocolate offerings.
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