Look around anywhere foodies, locavores and health nuts congregate and you are almost certain to find a display of Olivia chocolate bars nearby. Its minimalist black packaging may not scream “local product” however the high percentage certified organic dark chocolate is being produced from bean-to-bar at a factory right next door in Cantley, Quebec.
The company is the brainchild of David A. MacDonald, a manufacturing engineer and Willy Wonka wannabe who discovered a fascination with chocolate making a decade ago when he helped to design the technique for enrobing and packaging Dare’s Puffs, those chocolate covered marshmallow treats that have been around for more than 50 years.
No one would dare call those childhood confections healthy, but these days chocolate is being touted as a healthful product. At least the high-quality ultra-dark stuff that is less of a sugary treat and more often an earthy bitter chocolate that battles against one enemy: astringency. That’s the little shiver you may have experienced after eating some 85%-plus cocoa content dark chocolate.
MacDonald wanted to remove the shiver and so he developed a modern adaptation of a method used in the late 18th century in France by the first global scale chocolate makers before Joseph Lindt, of the Lindt chocolate empire, introduced the conche method so widely used today. All MacDonald will say is Olivia’s secret process for making pure, smooth non-conched chocolate involves refining the cocoa beans for 4-5 days.
He launched the Olivia line of 76 % and 85% bars in 2008 at La Bottega—the bars are now sold in dozens of shops across the region. Then last year, MacDonald decided to see what would happen if they applied the same process to raw, unroasted cocoa beans. The idea was to develop the raw bars for the health food market, with special appeal for vegans and raw foodists who argue for the many health benefits of raw ingredients. “We never expected it to taste good,” says MacDonald, “To our surprise, many people actually prefer the taste of raw chocolate to what is the traditionally known as roasted, European style chocolate.”
Now the Raw 76%, Raw 85% and Raw Almond bars are popping up in gourmet shops as well as health food stores. “The bars taste completely different, with a wonderfully round, softer and even a sweeter taste without the addition of more sugar,” says MacDonald.
Olivia recently launched a new less-expensive line of raw chocolate in reddish-brown packaging under the name Plantète Chocolat, which is only available in a somewhat sweeter 63% Raw. MacDonald hopes this bar will help to attract new customers—people who are unaccustomed to the higher price of high-quality bars. Prices vary depending on where you buy them but I spotted them recently at Herb & Spice on Wellington St.: the Olivia bars, both raw and regular, sell for $4.99 for 50 g, the raw Plantète Chocolat is $3.29, and minis are $1.49 for 12 g (not available in raw).
O L I V I A Chocolatiers, http://www.oliviachocolatiers.com