Mokaya brings unique chocolate to Grand Rapids

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Tree-to-bar chocolate comes from trees in Honduras, an ancestral home of cacao that dates back to before the Mayan civilization. Courtesy Mokaya

Mokaya, a Grand Rapids chocolatier known for high-tier chocolates, partnered with a South American producer on a unique product.

Mokaya Owner Charles “Smitty” Golczynski partnered with Efren Elvir Maradiaga, owner of Honduras-based chocolatier Atúcun, to make chocolate called “Tree-to-Bar.” The trees are located in Honduras, an ancestral home of cacao that dates back to before the Mayan civilization. This process allows for artisanal handcraft to be executed at every step.

“When I bite into it, I can taste things that I can’t taste in other chocolates,” Golczynski said. “It just has wonderful earthy mushroom tones, and you know you can taste the canopy forest feels to it.”

Chocolate is a product of the cacao tree, which sprouts orchid flowers from its trunk and creates colorful cacao pods. The pods are harvested by hand and the cacao beans are removed from the interior.

Atucún’s specialty is in the critical step of the process of creating chocolate, which is fermentation. The beans must sit and ferment for specific periods to get the right flavor profile for the end product. After the fermentation, the beans are dried and roasted. The shells are winnowed off and the beans get ground into a fine paste and melange for days with cane sugar.

When the bars have been molded and cooled, they are artfully painted with golden cacao butter dust, accentuating the mold’s rhythmic geometric shapes.

Mokaya was able to try this product from several producers and decide on the Terrero Blanco as the best choice for this bar. The chocolate Mokaya received goes through special tempering and refinement to make the crystal structure of the cacao butter stay in a specific state that allows for a shiny and crisp bar and prevents melting.

“We’ve spent our time at Mokaya doing a lot of education around chocolate,” Golczynski said. “I hope we can communicate how special this is to bring to the public. Artisanal hands are creating great chocolate at every step from tree to bar.”

Tree-to-Bar is now available at Mokaya, 638 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids. Regular hours are Tuesday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Pickup and local delivery are available.

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