I had the wonderful and most enjoyable time interview Maianna about her bean to bar company, Tiny House Chocolate. I will let you get to know about it in her words...
When I imagine working with chocolate I immediately think of the North Wind led and free-spirited Vianne from Chocolat. How did you find yourself drawn to learning about and working with cacao?
My husband (Gustavo) and I are both from Brazil. We were led by the same North Wind, four years ago, when we decided to quit our jobs, sell everything and move to the US. By that time it wasn't clear what to do here, but we had a feeling burning in our hearts, the vibrant desire to create things. Almost at the same time, my father was starting the first batch of bean to bar chocolate for his own chocolate company (that he started a few years before). We got involved and curious about the idea of making chocolate and saw it as an adventurous opportunity to start afresh in our new home, Santa Cruz. Learning this skill from my father allowed me to connect with him in a deeper way, and also to connect and feel part of our new community. I can relate with the character from the movie/book Vianne, because she also managed to find her place in the community through her love for chocolate. We want to be able to create and give something valuable to our community as well, that's one of our goals.
Craft chocolate has gained huge momentum and popularity, what makes the “craft” different/better than more mainstream practices?
In craft chocolate, is all about quality, not quantity, that's the big difference. Craft chocolate makers work hard to preserve and enhance the beauty and unique personality of each cacao origin. When you make chocolate in smaller batches, you are able to source and use the best or even the rarest cacao beans. This care and involvement don't start at the kitchen, it starts with the relationship makers establish with their producers and farmers. One of the most important processes of the flavor development happens on the farm, with the fermentation of the cacao. Makers and farmers achieve the highest qualities when working together, therefore, they improve the quality of the final chocolate, as well as the farmers, work conditions, by paying better rates, for example.
There must be so many steps from bean to bar, which step of the process do you look forward to the most?
It is a fairly long process. Gustavo is the creative mind of our brand identity and packaging design. He loves to create new chocolate flavors and also likes to research for different and surprising ingredients used in new formulas. It's not unusual to see him around the vibration table, used after tempering, to make the air bubbles come out of the molded chocolate. Personally, I love to develop the formulas and I also have been into learning more about roasting. It is complex and wonderful how it works and what you can get out of it. Chocolate is not all figured it out, there’s a lot to be discovered, learned and created, that amazes us.
It’s hard to have favorites when they each feel like labors of your love, but what single origin bean do you enjoy the most? What about it sets it apart?
The Amazon origin we carry has a beautiful project behind it, devised by the Solidaridad Organization, which has brought awareness to local family agriculture and sustainable development in areas that have suffered from deforestation and exploitation of its natural resources. The project acts providing technical assistance and training, bringing investments and economic alternatives to its community, reducing deforestation and reconstituting the local biodiversity of our beloved Amazon Forest in Brazil. The flavor of the chocolate we made using those beans (Amazon 71%) is delicious, so unique and deep. It also reminds me of a Brazilian candy I used to eat in my childhood. I can say it's a little nostalgic.
Santa Cruz is such a special place to grow a burgeoning business, how do you feel that living there has influenced your vision?
We’ve changed a lot since we moved from Brazil. We’re so grateful to be part of this supportive community, that values everything that is local and handcrafted. We started to value the craftsmanship more than we used to. In Brazil, we grew up with the wrong idea that everything imported from another country was better than what is produced there. That is just not true, now we can see that, and we explore creatively our Brazilian essence to inspire our flavors and cacao sources.
Living in the beautiful nature of Santa Cruz made us also realize that we don’t need much, we just need the essentials. That’s what has inspired us for the creation of the concept and name of our company. We embrace the virtue of simplicity and try to apply it in every aspect of our brand, including the decision to use only 2 ingredients, cacao beans, and organic sugar.
If you could use one word to describe the essence of cacao, what would it be?
Follow their journey on Instagram and get to know their amazing single origin bean to bar chocolates on their website. They are launching their e-commerce site next month BUT they are happy to take orders over Instagram DM or email.