“To me, chocolate represents my hope for social justice and equality in the world. I sometimes feel depressed when I look at the state of the world because there’s so much to feel unhappy about. I make chocolate with a hope to make everyone including the farmers, the consumers and myself more hopeful and happier. We can be the change in the world and we can start to heal our heart and soul through chocolate.”
Cocoaro chocolate makes socially responsible, single origin, delicious bean-to-bar chocolates in Port Moody. They use traceable fine cacao beans where they know that the cacao farmers have been paid real value for their work growing the fruit. In addition to being nut-free and dairy-free, their chocolates are experimental and unique in both the flavours and the very presentable packaging that pay homage to the cacao farmers as well as to Margaret’s Japanese heritage.
She has a Master’s degree in history and was doing historical research on land claims for The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC). While working in the Union, she felt like she needed to make a change in her life and she left the city for Wells, BC, where she had previously spent one summer during her Master’s program.
VOICE(V) : “ What inspired you to start a chocolate business?”
Margaret(M): “For a long time, I used to make chocolates for fun and for gifts to people. As I learned more about conditions of the cacao farmers making the smallest wages, the idea of making ethical chocolates started to grow. If I made this into a business, I could bring an awareness around the cacao beans and impact the world through something so delicious. One of my ethos is to leave the world a better place for the next generations of people and try to make a difference. I found food, itself, is very important for that reason; it’s not just our chocolate but everything we eat affects the survival of our species. I feel very passionate about food justice.”
Having her own small chocolate brand seemed to her a fairly achievable goal in Wells. She initially starting off the business by making her signature, two ingredients chocolate bars with only cacao and cane sugar. She source her cacaos from Tanzania, Ecuador, Peru and Columbia through suppliers like Meridian Cacao Co. and East Van Roasters who have personal and direct relationships with the farmers and fermenters. It is very important to her to buy the beans through the transparent trading system and knowing that the farmers are getting paid real wages even if it means she needs to pay more for the beans.
Everything was smooth sailing until she decided to move back to Metro Vancouver to take care of her elderly mother.
M: “I came back to the city in 2018. I still wanted to keep making chocolates and making it as a business in Vancouver so I joined the commissary kitchen, YVR Prep, in Burnaby. Following year, there came an opportunity to open my own shop at a retail space where CakeYa was, in Port Moody’s heritage district on Clarke Street. Just less than 2 months after I opened the shop, there was a fire that destroyed the two buildings beside me. Luckily my shop survived the fire, but I had to close for several months. When I finally reopened in October 2019, Covid-19 struck few months after. Because my business was in operation for such a short period of time, I wasn’t eligible for the federal supports but the local community was very supportive of my new business and interested in learning about my chocolates. Despite everything that has happened, my business has grown thanks to all the community support.”
V: “What differentiates your chocolate from others?”
M: “I use less cocoa butter and less sugar to bring out more flavour of the single origin cacao. The flavour is affected by the variety, the terroir and the fermentation process of each cacao bean. There`s so much to explore in chocolates! I love doing a lot of experimenting with flavours because I do such a nano-batch and I have all the freedom to be creative. It is all up to how I feel and what’s available seasonally. Besides my two ingredient chocolate that uses only cacao and cane sugar, I try to do more inclusion products inspired by my Japanese heritage. Some of my chocolates have unique ingredients like black sesame, sake-kasu (sake lees), and mochiko (Japanese sticky rice), and Genmaicha (roasted rice green tea). Many people have asked me to make a chocolate with matcha, which I have’t played with yet.”
V: “Your packaging design is also very unique and beautiful. What is the story behind your packaging?”
M: “With my chocolate, I wanted to make something that you could easily buy and gift to people without having to worry about gift wrapping it yourself. Each of my chocolate bars is in a butterfly fold envelope and there is a decorative square of chiyogami paper inside it. It is an authentic chiyogami paper that is hand-printed in Japan. I used to fold origami (the art of paper folding) when I was younger, so I have enclosed the origami instruction inside for the customer to learn how to fold a heart. In Japanese, “kokoro” means heart. When you have good Cocoa-ro, from the farmers to the person eating the bar, you have chocolate with good heart. I also put my heart into making the chocolate.”
V: “What does chocolate mean to you?”
M: “Cacao is known as “Food of the Gods”, and it’s been regarded as a sacred plant. It is so amazingly delicious and makes people happy. To me, chocolate is also about social justice and equality in the world. It is my small way of impacting the world through what I create with so much joy and love.”
Margaret offers free local delivery on all orders to people who live or near Port Moody. Her quaint little retail shop is open from Wednesday to Sunday. Also make sure to check her online shop frequently as she creates a new batch of seasonal flavour almost every week! The current project is making Easter bunny and dinosaur chocolates for children!
Margaret’s Favorite: Her favourite is always changing, but if you have not tried single origin chocolate, she would recommend trying two different origins side-by-side to savour the difference of the delicious beans.