Nfld. & Labrador

This N.L. chocolate maker crafts sweet success, from bean to bar

Darryl Pike has a dream job: making chocolate all day long.

Jacobean Craft Chocolate the only bean-to-bar maker in N.L.

Jacobean Craft Chocolate owner Darryl Pike holds some of his chocolate ready to be melted down, tempered and set in moulds. (Maggie Gillis/CBC)

Darryl Pike has every kid's dream job, and he knows it.

"Who wouldn't want to own a chocolate company?" he says.

But Pike doesn't just pump out any old chocolate from his studio in Mount Pearl. His company, Jacobean Craft Chocolate, elevates the confection into something that has more in common with a merlot than a Mars bar by using the bean-to-bar method.

"I'm the very first bean-to-bar operator [in Newfoundland and Labrador]. We're very proud of that, actually," he said.

A lot of work goes into those three words: since starting the company 18 months ago, Pike sources all his cacao beans single-handedly, either from farmers or co-ops in Honduras, Mexico, Peru or Papua New Guinea. When the bags of beans arrive in Mount Pearl, each type is kept separate and become their own bars, so the region's distinct flavour qualities shine through.

"Just like making wine, where the grapes come from is very important, the terroir of the environment is extremely important. And the beans are no different," he said.

He says his Mexican bars boast a fruity taste, while Peruvian holds more of a "yogurty overtone." Others feature distinctly North Atlantic flavours, as he uses locally foraged partridgeberries and blueberries, and more far-out flavours like juniper berries.

Pike made his own moulds to stamp some provincial pride onto his chocolate bars. (Maggie Gillis/CBC)

"Some of our chocolate is very eclectic, and very few people will want to eat it," he said.

"But then we have our Mexican cacao, which is very mild, well-rounded, fudgey chocolately flavour. that even a child will like."

Hardwork by hand

All of this might sound like something that might make Willy Wonka jealous, but Pike has no Oompa Loompas around to to help with time-consuming tasks, although there are a few employees to help wrap bars and clean.

Pike hand-sorts the beans by size and checks for cracks or defects, a process he says takes between three to four hours per 50-kilogram bag. It takes about 20 days to complete the entire bean-to-bar process, he said.

"We only use the beans that are perfect, and that's part of what makes the bean-to-bar process unique, and the flavours unique," he said. 

We know that our bars are being made to our ultimate best.- Darryl Pike

Hard work might just be Pike's main ingredient, as he tries to keep a laundry list of other things out of his bars, which all are nut, soy, gluten and dairy free, and organic. He does, of course, add sugar.

And any (metaphorical) sweat shed Pike feels is well worth the public reaction.

"We know that our bars are being made to our ultimate best, and so selling bars, and seeing people smile — it makes us, I guess, very happy," he said.

A countrywide trend

Those smiles have translated into repeat sales, he said.

"We're at a point that we have people coming to us saying that they can't have any other chocolate. They like our chocolate so much that this is the only chocolate that they buy. So that makes us very proud."

Pike holds a few of his bars, which are sold online, at select shops across the province, and at the Quidi Vidi Plantation leading up to Christmas. (Maggie Gillis/CBC)

Jacobean is cashing in on a chocolate trend across the country.

When Pike began production, he said, there were 28 other bean-to-bar makers in Canada, and there are now close to 40. The company name pays tribute to that "renaissance" in chocolate, with the Jacobean era being the period of 17th-century English history when Shakespeare and other artists, architects and artisans rose in stature.

As sales grow, so does his production facility, as he's planning on expanding to keep up with demand. Between sorting beans and tempering chocolate, he'll be selling his treats at the Quidi Vidi Plantation every weekend until Christmas.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Maggie Gillis

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