Windsor·Pinto on Food

Experience bean-to-bar craft chocolate from this tiny Riverside shop

Michèle Bowman churns out some of the most unique chocolate bars in southwestern Ontario from a 350 sq. ft. shop on Wyandotte Street E.

Sweetness Chocolate is the brainchild of the Little White Kitchen's Michèle Bowman

Michèle Bowman runs Sweetness Chocolate at 5929 Wyandotte St. E. in Riverside.

A few years ago, Michèle Bowman owned one of the most celebrated and popular bakeries in Windsor. Called The Little White Kitchen, it served lunches, baked goods, and ice cream sandwiches out of a shop on Lincoln Road in Walkerville.

Then, in May 2017, she shut it down.

"We were super successful, [it] was really busy, I had fabulous clients — there was nothing about it that way that made me want to close," Bowman said.

The pressure of running the operation, however, became hard to handle. Prior to opening the bakery, Bowman had only ever baked from home.

CBC Windsor food dude Jonathan Pinto learns about the bean-to-bar chocolate produced by Michèle Bowman at Sweetness Chocolate on Wyandotte Street E. 2:08

"Next thing you know. I had 2,500 sq. ft. of space, full time kitchen, eight employees, bakery, cafe. It was 16 hours a day I was putting there; I was just going to drop dead," she explained.

But shutting down the bakery didn't mean that Bowman planned to leave food entirely. For her next act, she decided to focus an element of the dessert world that captured her interest: chocolate.

After experimenting at home with chocolate making and holding successful pop-ups around town, Bowman opened a chocolate shop and manufactory in a small, 350 sq. ft. space on Wyandotte Street E. last summer.

What sets Sweetness Chocolate apart from others is the fact that Bowman runs a full bean-to-bar operation. 

While most chocolate shops use chocolate from large companies and mold them into bonbons and other shapes, Bowman sources raw cacao beans and roasts them herself, a process she says is only done by about two-dozen businesses in Canada. 

By having control of every part of the process, Bowman's chocolate is able to take on the distinctive flavours of the particular cacao bean, which, similar to coffee beans, taste different depending on where they are grown. 

Between roasting, grinding and aging, the process of creating a single chocolate bar can take as long as two months. While many of the chocolates are of the classic dark variety, Bowman is constantly experimenting with new flavours and additions to her bars and bonbons.

As a result of her labour-intensive process, Bowman is in her shop throughout the week, but only opens to the public on Fridays and Saturday.

Between its tiny, non-descript storefront and restricted hours, it's almost like a chocolate speakeasy.

Sweetness Chocolate is located at 5929 Wyandotte St. E. in Windsor. It is open Friday 11 am. - 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m - 4 p.m. This weekend (Jan 18 - 19) the shop is only open Saturday. 

Bowman's chocolate is also available at The Butcher of Kingsville, CREW in Harrow, Sam's Percolator in Chatham, Charlie's Cafe in Blenheim, the Cheese Bar in Lakeshore and the Candy Bar in Toronto.

Jonathan Pinto is CBC Windsor's "food dude." Know of a place you think he'd enjoy? Have a craving for a food you haven't been able to track down? Send him an email: jonathan.pinto@cbc.ca — and be sure to follow his adventures on Instagram.

About the Author

Jonathan Pinto is a reporter/editor at CBC Windsor, primarily assigned to Afternoon Drive, CBC Radio's regional afternoon show for southwestern Ontario. Email jonathan.pinto@cbc.ca.

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