Our chocolate making adventure began with a trip to visit Ecuador. There, Mindo Chocolate founders, Barbara and José, fell in love with the tiny town of Mindo. Mindo is located about 2 hours from Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Surrounded by protected Cloud Forest, it is a lush and biodiverse area where more bird species than just about anywhere on earth.
In 2008, they bought a plot of land in Mindo with a plan to build a winter home.
Even though they had stepped out of the day-day operations of their Michigan-based business. They still wanted to stay in contact with it via the internet. But there was a problem: it was not cheap to get Internet access in the middle of the Cloud Forest, in the middle of the mountains, in the middle of Ecuador. Go figure.
So the two entrepreneurs opened an internet cafe to offset the cost of internet access. They began roasting and serving locally grown coffee in the café and Barbara made brownies that were really good. Really, really good. So good that tourists who tried them would beg to have them shipped to places as far as Belgium. Now there was another problem: Barbara could not find quality chocolate In Ecuador. So on trips back and forth from Michigan, she would pack a few pounds of chocolate into her suitcase. Ridiculous. right? Barbara thought so, too, and decided to do something about it. She started learning all about chocolate and learning why she couldn’t find the best chocolate in a country that is known for having the best cocoa in the world. In fact, Ecuador is where cocoa and chocolate originated.
Making chocolate started with a 53 lb bag of cocoa beans (what seemed like a massive amount at the time) and a tabletop juicer. It resulted in a rustic-style chocolate, a primitive first batch that led to many, many more. Things sort of snowballed from there – the homemade chocolate took on a life of its own. Barbara and José devoted more and more time to cacao processing. They searched for native, fine-flavor Nacional variety of cacao grown in an environmentally friendly way. On their property, they set up facilities that allowed them to ferment, dry. roast, and winnow cacao.
In 2009, Mindo Chocolate Makers opened in Dexter, Michigan.
Almost by accident, the entrepreneurs had setup two bean-to-bar chocolate making businesses that spanned international waters. Since that time, José in Ecuador and Barbara in Michigan, have been busy searching always to improve each part of the process, ultimately in pursuit of the most delicious finished chocolate.
Barbara and José have always been welcoming and open with information to anybody who wants to make chocolate on their own. Education about chocolate remains at the core of Mindo Chocolate Makers - from daily tours at our Ecuador facility, Chocolate Making Experiences in the Dexter location, to week-long intensive chocolate making courses in both Dexter and Mindo.
Mindo Chocolate spans two countries, two continents, and over 3,000 miles. As a result, our idea of community lends to be a little different than the norm. We believe our community includes anyone and everyone who comes into contact with our raw ingredients and finished products. We are a small business, and no matter how big we grow, we’ll always have a small business mentality that relies on great people coming together – our growers, our employees, and our customers to create the most delicious Chocolate experience possible.