Escazu Chocolates makes “bean to bar” chocolate bars and truffles with cacao from small farms. They roast and grind the beans on antique equipment in their workshop in Raleigh, and handcraft each piece of chocolate.
Escazu began in 2005 when founder Hallot Parson went with friends to Costa Rica. During the trip, he visited a cacao farm that was just beginnging to make chocolate as well. The farm inspired the group to make their own bars when they returned to North Carolina. They began in 2006 with Venezuelan chocolate, but Hallot soon began studying the process of making the chocolate from the beans, often using trial-and-error since the old-fashioned processes of handcrafted production were not in use anywhere nearby.
In 2007 Escazu moved to Raleigh and opened a retail shop along with their workshop, and in 2008, their first bean-to-bar chocolate was released. They embarked on a venture to make all of their items bean-to-bar, and by June, 2009, they had succeeded.
Hallot, who has a background as a chef, is now head chocolate maker at Escazu. Danielle Centeno, a native Venezuelan who also comes from a culinary background, is the chocolatier in charge of confections. A team of workers aids them in roasting the beans, making the bars, and running the shop.
Escazu sources Ceritfiied Organic and Rainforest Alliance Certified beans from the Costa Rican farm that first inspired Hallot. They also use a lot of “Carenero Superior,” a Venezuelan bean from a family farm they have visited. They sort, roast, winnow (crack and separate), and grind the cacao beans using a 1920’s roaster and stone grinder. Then they age the chocolate, temper it, and pour it into bars or craft it into truffles and other confections.
Visit Escazu online at www.escazuchocolates.com. Watch a video (with some trippy background music) of their chocolate making process.