#110 Kasama Chocolate

Vince, co-founder at Kasama Chocolate

“If you are a small business owner, be optimistic that brighter days are ahead. You are not alone, everybody’s affected by this unprecedented situation, but it also provides an opportunity to try new things. Positive thinking and surrounding yourself with good people are really important.”

Kasama Chocolate is more than a chocolate. It is a symbol of great friendship and passion of four Vancouverites, Vince, Oliver, Stefan, and Dom, who first met in a weekend roller hockey league, had beers together, and some even became roommates. Little did they know it, but they would start making chocolate together and open a new chocolate shop on Granville Island. 

Everything happened by chance when Vince received pictures of his dad Mario holding small yellow fruits on their family’s neglected property in Philippines. Looking at the pictures, they thought they were mangoes at first, then they were told those were cacao pods! Vince asked his dad to bring back some cacao beans, and they started experimenting making bean-to-bar chocolate. 5 years later, what once was a passion project has turned into a chocolate company that makes award-winning, small batch, bean-to-bar chocolate with ethically sourced, fine-flavoured cacao.

VOICE(V) : “ This is such a fascinating story! What was it like to turn a passion project into an actual business?”

VINCE (VIN): “ It was more like an accident. We happened to be at the right place at the right time, being excited about the discovery and sharing the passion of doing something collaboratively. We didn’t even go to chocolate school. We live in an age now that all the information you need is at your finger tips, and you can accomplish something by how you use that information. Also, there is a lot of knowledge that’s been shared in the chocolate making community that we are grateful for. It creates a great network of support and friendship. I was a part time graphic designer/typographer, so I do most of the branding and marketing of the product, whereas Oliver does a lot of recipe development. All of us have different skill sets to contribute to Kasama Chocolate.”

V: “What does Kasama mean?”

VIN: “ Kasama, in Phillipines, means “friendship”, “camaraderie” and “collaboration”. That is what we are all about. We are part of a community and everyone including cacao farmers, families, friends, neighbors and many other people who have shown us support and shared our passion for chocolate is a part of our journey.” 

Personally for Vince, Kasama has reignited his cultural relationships in the Philippines. As their chocolate business continues to grow, it was such a big achievement to open a retail shop on Granville Island on January 2021. It is more of a little gallery than a shop, where you get to see all pictures of Kasama history and their bean-to-bar chocolate making process and eye on the products that are showcased like nice bottles of wine. Their artisan chocolate making workshops are unfortunately on hold amid the pandemic, however, as VOICE was given a private tour and educational cacao talk, what better place than here to show how every batch of Kasama chocolate is so specially made! There is no short cut to making a bean to bar chocolate…

VIN: “Our chocolate is made from scratch, directly from fine flavored cacao beans we ethically source from Philippines, Ecuador, Peru, and Papa New Guinea. We source, hand sort, roast, crack, winnow, and stone grind the beans in-house. The time and careful craftsmanship truly bring out interesting flavours that come from different origins. Just like single origin coffee or wine, chocolate has a flavour profile that is connected to where they are grown and when they are harvested.

As raw, fermented and dry cacao beans arrive, they are sorted and roasted through a coffee roaster. We know where cacaos are from and know the details of their ferment period, so we are able to control the roasting time and temperature by each of their different origins. It usually takes 18-24 mins roasting and another 18 mins cooling down for just 2lbs of beans! So it is a long day of labour just roasting the beans.

Once we have them roasted, we have to remove the shell. We have built our own custom-made winnowing machine (Thanks to the mechanic genius, Dom and his father Rudy), we run through them and separate shells and nibs. Then finally nibs are ready to turn into chocolate! 

Nibs go into stone grinders for up to 72 hours. Cacao bean is 50% fat and 50% cocoa mass, and once you start to combine heat and grinding, it starts to liquify easily and some of the acidic and bitter notes evaporate. After hours of grinding, sugar and butter are added to lock in the flavour. (This is already looking so smooth and smelling delicious!) A lot of chocolatiers will buy this post-grind product to make their chocolate.

Now we temper chocolate. Tempering is a process of heating up to 150 degrees and cooling it down so that it will form the proper beta crystals. The famous beta-5 crystal structure is the most stable cocoa butter crystallization. Once it is formed, the tempered chocolate is poured into molds, and we have finished chocolate with smooth sheen surface and a crisp snap when broken. A lot of commercial chocolates don’t have this nice snap.

We are able to be adventurous and to experiment with different flavours, because we work from the bean level. Chocolatiers cannot do that. There are so many possibilities we can do.”

V: “Please tell us how you would recommend to taste the uniqueness of your single origin chocolate.”

VIN: “You take a piece of chocolate, smell it before put into your mouth. You chew it a little, let it melt on your tongue and as it melts on your tongue, you take a deep breath. When you exhale, that’s when you will notice the note. It truly is like wine or whiskey tasting. ”

Speaking of whiskey, they are now showcasing a special release “Single Malt” bar. They age the single estate cacao nibs from a family owned farm in Ecuador in an oak barrel with Odd Society Distillery’s Commodore whiskey for 1 month. This rich dark chocolate has delicious oaky and whiskey notes. 

Also something new is their bean-to-cup drinking chocolate and classic hot chocolate. Drinking chocolate is a rich and creamy European style hot chocolate. You can choose either style in 3 flavours: 70% Dark Chocolate, 65% Chai Spice, and 60% Raspberry.

These are good enough reasons you want to run to their shop on Granville Island. And there is so much more to explore and enjoy in the house of Kasama as they release special editions every other week. 

Don’t forget to chat with four friends who love and are passionate about making chocolate, and you know what they say: love and passion are easily contagious.

You can also meet Kasama at Vancouver Farmers Markets this year, including Riley Park, Trout Lake and Kitsilano.

On March 4th (just yesterday!), they just achieved a great milestone in winning 10 awards including 3 Gold Medals for the International Chocolate Awards for the Americas 2020-2021(North America, Central America & South America)!!!!

VOICE Community: Storm City Coffee

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