Carol Morse is the founder of Acalli Chocolate (www.acalli.com), a New Orleans-based "bean-to-bar" chocolate company that won a 2015 Good Food Award [honoring responsibly produced artisanal products]. Morse spoke with Gambit about the cacao supply chain, her inspiration for starting Acalli and the company's chocolate bars.
What was your inspiration for Acalli?
Morse: My husband and I moved to New Orleans about three years ago because he's getting his Ph.D. at Tulane [University] in Anthropology. He does a lot of field work, so when we went to Guatemala a while back we were able to talk to chocolatiers in Guatemala and go to Belize and visit some cacao farms. I just got really into it. Just getting to meet the cacao growers was inspiring. Chocolate felt like it combined a lot of things I am really passionate about. I have a background in anthropology — and, of course, am a chocolate lover — so it brings together so many things I'm interested in.
When did the company officially launch?
M: It's been exciting doing it in New Orleans and figuring everything out. I formed the [company] on Valentine's Day , but I didn't really start making sales until last month. I actually entered one of the chocolate bars I make, the El Platanal bar, into the Good Food Awards last summer based on samples I brought back from my Peru trip. It was right after I put in my first order for cacao from the cooperative in Peru. I entered on a whim, and the bar ended up winning. Things lined up pretty perfectly with that, and I actually started making sales through the Good Food Award marketplace. It's been exciting.
What are the different chocolate bars?
M: I buy all of my cacao from a cooperative called Norandino, and it's across Northern Peru. It's not just cacao growers, but they also sell coffee, juice, fruit and vanilla. I had them in my mind a little bit when I started making chocolate, so I was able to get in touch with them and visit this past June. That's the source of all my beans. The El Plantanal bar and the Norandino bar both are 70 percent dark chocolate bars, so they're 70 percent cocoa beans by weight and 30 percent sugar. The El Plantanal bar is made with cocoa beans from one particular community ... within the cooperative, and the Norandino bar is from six different communities in the Tumbes region of Peru. The bars have different cocoa beans and different growers that are handling them and fermenting them and drying them. The third bar I make is a milk and nibs bar, and it's 65 percent cocoa and has a little bit of milk in it. It also has cocoa nibs sprinkled on the back.