The best kind of chocolate, according to chocolate entrepreneur Jonas Ketterle, is organic and locally made, low-temperature processed, and sweetened only with coconut sugar. It should also only feature stone ground cacao beans that are shade grown and direct trade. Strict rules, he agrees, but in service of an awesome taste.
Ketterle should know. Since going on a fateful trip to Mexico in 2012, where he learned how to make traditional Oaxacan chocolate, the 28-year old Stanford graduate has been training himself as a chocolatier in a mobile chocolate factory in Marin and Sonoma Counties. He’s now upgrading to a commercial kitchen in Sebastopol — complete with state-of-the-art customized chocolate equipment from Italy and stone grinders from India — and is taking pre-orders for his awe-inspiring Firefly Chocolate on Crowdtilt.
Milk chocolate lovers need not apply. Unlike other brands, Ketterle’s treats are all 85% cacao. “Most chocolate producers only produce one or two truly dark chocolates, but I’m dedicated to creating a whole lineup of 85% dark chocolates, and have paired strong flavors to match our strong cacao content,” he says.
Ketterle recently shared with us some additional tips for making great-tasting chocolate and what ingredients to look out for.
What makes a good chocolate?
In my perspective, it’s the cacao content. My preference is for 85% cacao, so the chocolate takes center stage above the sugar. Cacao’s health and medical benefits also come into play more when it’s available in higher concentrations. The less sugar, the better, as sugar can counteract the health benefits. It’s also really important to make chocolate “bean to bar.” This lets the chocolatier have control over the whole process and allows for the chocolate to be delivered fresh to the customer.
For the last two years, I’ve been experimenting nonstop with the bean to bar process to figure out my optimal chocolate. There are many variables that affect the texture and flavor development, and it is different for each cacao bean. I tried cacao from 10 different countries before settling on my favorite, an organic direct trade cacao from Belize.
How many flavor profiles did you try out for your speciality chocolate bars, like your roasted almond and sea salt chocolate or your maca and reishi mushroom chocolate?
Most of the inspiration for our flavors has come from friends and family. For Christmas last year I let everybody in my family design a flavor of their choice. That’s how our peanut butter and raspberry jam bar, which is totally addictive, was born. For the reishi mushroom, I discovered them when hiking in a forest of Eastern Hemlocks after I came back from Mexico. The mushrooms are typically pretty rare, but they were in abundance in the forest and I thought they would be amazing to add. A more local ingredient is the sea salt in our roasted almond and sea salt chocolate, which is harvested from the Mendocino Coast in California.
How does your chocolate differ from other artisinal chocolates?
I really see chocolate as an educational platform — it is widely accepted culturally and socially, making it a great way to connect with people. My growth as a chocolate maker came during a time I was spending a lot of time in nature, and I’m passionate about helping people build deeper relationships with the local ecology. Chocolate is a great way to share fun and connective experiences in nature while learning something new. Being able to relate to and understand ourselves as a part of the ecosystems around us can have a lasting impact, in that we are more likely to feel a sense of belonging, and steward these ecosystems wisely.
Want to taste Jonas’s chocolate?Preorder Here