By Naomi Szeben
Canadian chocolatiers put love in their products
By Naomi Szeben
When Kyle Wilson went travelling in Africa, he and his wife, Katie were drawn to the cocoa fields. They both had a background in the coffee industries as baristas, but wanted to travel the world, and bring something special back with them to Canada. What they found was an opportunity for FairTrade cocoa, and ethically sourced, bean-to-bar chocolate in Toronto.
“You find the path you want to go down, and you can go as far down that path as you want. I think it’s interesting to the both of us that we’re not limited by anything. We can be creative where we want to, we can be traditional where we want to. That creates your business, adds your own personality to the chocolate you want to make.”
Wilson and his wife are a product of their time; in a start-up generation that loves a new venture and wants to make a positive change in their world, they opted to make a bean-to-bar, ethical gourmet chocolate.
The result is their single shop, Soul Chocolates, on Gerrard street in Toronto. Known for their decadently good chocolate chip cookies, and rich drinking chocolate this tiny shop is populated by chocolate lovers inside and outside of the culinary profession.
#While the only baked good found in Soul Chocolate is the chocolate chip cookie, there have been no complaints: The Wilsons pride themselves in a quality vs. quantity philosophy behind their business. Their chocolate processed from the bean into bars right in the back of the shop.
They sell their line of chocolates directly out of their shop, and aside from their online presence, Soul Chocolates sells its product to pastry chefs around the city. However, one of their biggest draws the shop sees is their chocolate chip cookie, which uses their Madagascar dark chocolate.
“I’ve had people come in and say, ‘These are the best cookies I’ve ever had in my life!’ So, it’s quite validating, knowing that they recognize a quality product. If you follow the ingredients, all the way through, and people will recognize it’s a quality product.”
This duo builds their product in line with their philosophy to build a better community. Whether Soul Chocolates contributes to the artsy vibe of Gerrard street, or pays a living wage to its cacao producers, they aim to make their chocolate make a difference.
“Why focus on bars when we could make it into anything we want? So, To stand out, we try to focus on transparency and direct trade with the farms.
We’re trying to take it a step farther, and we’re trying to find the farms that are less heard of, or less travelled and go down there ourselves and meet people face-to-face, and bring back something special.”
It can be challenging creating an authentic bean-to-bar chocolate company. Some of the difficulties may be centred around what Wilson refers to as “vague terminology” of some of the qualifications that makes or breaks ethically sourced cacao.
“I’d say there are a lot of similarities, which is great, because we trying to find some great raw products. You can’t make something good unless it is good all the way through.”
The couple chose the company name to reflect their philosophy in making something that feeds the soul, and in keeping with their core values. Wilson can identify with many culinary start-ups who’ve faced challenges in their first year.
“Trying to find a system for sales without sacrificing who we are as a business…it’s tricky. In the beginning you’re hungry for sales, you need it to work, you’re willing to do almost anything to make it work. So that was probably the biggest hurdle, just keeping aligned with the brand. Now, we feel like we really happy with the market that we’re going after, the people we work with are really excited for us, and it’s got us here.”
At this point, the chocolate making duo are not planning a chain, or expanding what they have, unless it means finding an equally affordable storefront with more space. They seem themselves eventually moving out to the Niagara region, and selling wholesale from a bigger facility. However, at the moment the Wilsons are enjoying the bohemian charm of its current location in Toronto’s Little Vietnam.
“Soul Chocolates is just creating its own unique flair in this area. I would never want to take credit for that, we just try to create a community by being open and transparent in all that we do here, and that helps create a community,” demurs Wilson.