Disclaimer: Any errors in explanation of the chocolate-making process below are my own. I admit to suffering from a complete cacao-bean overload in the process of sampling the wares. In the interest of good research, I tried them all.
Beanpod Nose. Got one? No? Then you should head down to the new chocolaterie kitty-corner from Overwaitea and get yours. Owner and head cacao bean roaster James will be on hand to make you a latte from beans roasted in-house. And if you’re lucky, he just may pour you a cup of delicious artisan chocolate from the fountain next to the display case.
James’ father, Joe, taps the pane of fingerprinted glass in front of the fountain. “It’s called a sneeze-guard,” he says, “but really, it keeps people from swiping a finger through the chocolate.”
To get your own Beanpod Nose, you’ll have to tip your little cup of chocolate back — way back — to get the very last dregs of sweet, smooth goodness. As you pull the cup away, a line of chocolate will be left along the bridge of your nose. Voilà, Beanpod Nose.
The various contractors that worked on the new business, apparently had it worse. Or better, really, considering they got to sample the chocolate before Beanpod’s doors even opened. “They’d walk out of here at the end of the day, beards covered in chocolate,” laughs James.
James and Mary, owners of Beanpod, have spent the past two years traveling the world, sourcing the beans and equipment they needed to start their business. They have chosen to deal in fair-trade beans, working on a first-name basis with their suppliers in Ecuador. Ethical is a word that comes up again and again in conversation, as is sustainable.
“We used local contractors, and local construction supplies. It’s important to support the local economy.” James taps the counter. “We tried to re-use as many materials as we could. Recycled glass counter-top. The original doors to the building were re-used on the bean room. The floor is made from local fir.”
As James turns to deal with the influx of customers, Joe fills me in on the vintage equipment used to create the exquisite chocolate.
“There are lots of places out there that use modern equipment. They use one machine to do all the work. Beans in, chocolate out the other end.” Factory-made. Good chocolate-making, Joe tells me, is more like an art.
The process is completely visible through the glass wall at the back of the retail area. “Each environment is kept separate — bean room, preparation area, sales area.” Joe points out each area as he talks. “All the ingredients are organic.”
Beans are taken from the huge sacks in the bean room and roasted. Then they are fed into the classic 1948 Mélangeur, where they spend eight hours being de-husked and separated. After that, they go for one or two passes through the Refiner. The last machine is the Conch, where cane sugar is added and the final, gooey product is mixed for up to three days.
All of these steps can be calibrated to different specifications to create different consistencies and flavours of chocolate.
Mary works in the back with a little help from her son. She is the chocolatier, the creator. The hand-crafted chocolates she brings out taste even better than they look. She’s busy, no time to chat, so it’s James who shows me pictures of the amazing sculptures Mary has created from chocolate.
Suddenly, my old standby, the Cadbury Fruit and Nut bar, is not looking like such a treat.
On this first weekend, the rotating display case offers up four mouth-watering flavour options: raspberry, chili-orange and coffee bean are the pralines of the day, along with a solid dark-chocolate heart. Later on, the Beanpod Bar comes out. It’s a slim chunk of chocolate perfect for sharing. Or not.
So take the time to check out Beanpod, Canada’s Only Traditional Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Maker. Grab an Americano and relax on one of the plush sofas while you page through one of many books on chocolate. The kids have their own area complete with “choc” boards and kids’ books. (A Chocolate Calamity and I Love Chocolate are just two of the titles.) In the coming weeks, Mary and James are planning to have a sculpture out on view, and more flavours of pralines are in the works.
Come and get “schooled” in the art that is chocolate-making. You may even come away with your own fashionable Beanpod Nose.
– Kim McCullough