Takeaway: Meet your local bean-to-bar chocolate makers and hear what makes their bars special (and especially tasty!).
Reading time: about 3 minutes
What I love about these folks: Meaningful mission to connect people with other cultures, places and flavors through delicious, storied, chocolate bars made locally.
How they started
You know those “dream job/what if” conversations you have with your friends? As in, if you could do any job, what would you be doing? Robert Wallace’s “what if” conversation with a chef-friend seeded the idea for a bean-to-bar chocolate company. “Making Chocolate”, the book from the brains behind Dandelion Chocolate, was a 2017 Christmas gift from his father-in-law. That gift pushed the dream to reality by providing the information to get them going. Following that, they did a lot of research and experimentation to make their first chocolate bar.
Robert’s wife, Viny, and his father-in-law, Harry–a detail-oriented mechanical engineer originally from Chennai, India–are part of the family-run business. They obtained the certifications from the state of North Carolina to make food at home for commercial sales, and they dedicated their dining room as their production area.
What’s in the bar
Minimal ingredients ensure the unique terroir (remember that word from my cocoa post?) of the beans shine through. They use only organic cane sugar and fair trade single-country beans in each bar. That two simple ingredients make such a fabulous product is amazing.
The beans are sourced through traders who ensure the transparency and fair dealings with the farmers. After consulting other chocolate makers, they currently source through Meridian Cacao and Chocolate Alchemy. Current bar offerings feature beans from Tanzania, India, and wild-harvested beans from Bolivia.
Friends indulged me (and their sweet tooth) by taking part in a blind taste test (much like we did for peaches). Most popular were the straightforward flavors from Tamil Nadu in the Indian bar featuring the national colors. Second-most popular were the cooperatively produced beans from Tanzania, with high cocoa content and bright citrus notes. Bolivia was a strong contender, and the uniqueness of having cocoa gathered from wild-growing trees was appreciated. Everyone was impressed that there were just two ingredients in each bar.
National Geographic in a bar
Wonderland isn’t just about bringing high quality chocolate to our area, but chocolate with a purpose of connecting people. They want their chocolate company to be not only a platform to expose people to other flavors, but also connect people to other cultures. Vinny delights when the labels on their bars cause people to ask her about the origin countries. She can help them figure out where Tanzania is located, for example and tell them about how the patterns on the bar wrapper match textiles from those areas.
Speaking of the wrapper, next time you pick up one of their bars, checkout the texture and unique printing. The paper comes from a social enterpries, TARAgram, in Madhya Pradesh, India, which primarily employs women. The ladies handmake the paper from textile waste and then custom print each wrapper. (This makes me think of other women’s groups I’ve learned about and supported through Dining for Women and Ten Thousand Villages, another group on a mission to connect people and make the world a better place).
I can’t wait to see what’s next for these chocolate-makers! On deck are a partnership with local coffee roasters, Fireweed, on a bar pairing coffee and cocoa beans from Tanzania and wider distribution beyond face-to-face sales at the farmer’s market. Eventually, possibly a brick and mortar location in Greensboro. All sounds fantastic to me!
Where to find their products:
Visit them at the Greensboro Farmer’s Curb Market in Greensboro most Saturdays, and order online from their website. (Note that warm summer months are typically not conducive to shipping and receiving intact chocolate bars.)