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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Askinosie Chocolate

My blog is an opportunity for me to sound off about the things that I find exceptional in life. The majority of my postings have been about music, but I have written occasionally about other passions too.

My most recent obsession is dark.

Dark Chocolate that is.

A few weeks ago I watched a news program on cable TV where a former criminal defense lawyer from Springfield Missouri was interviewed about his new business. Entrepreneur Shawn Askinosie, with a bit of help from he what he attributes to divine intervention, hit upon the idea of going into business to make the best chocolate possible. He quickly became an expert in the subject, and dove head-first into starting Askinosie Chocolate.

Askinosie Chocolate caters to a high-end niche in the market, and probably wont pose any threat to the mainstream commercial chocolate industry any time soon. But his bean-to-bar philosophy is unique in the industry. Askinosie travels to remote regions of the world to meet with farmers in person, and if he likes their cocoa crop, pays them handsomely for it. In fact, his farmers are the stars of the show, and featured by name and photo on the labels.

Shawn Askinosie (second from right) with some of his farmers.

The following short video on YouTube provides some background information about Askinosie and his growing business. They have begun shipping to Europe even though the competition on the continent is stiff. But I'm sure chocolate connoisseurs in Europe will devour his product once they get to know it.

Shawn sent me a few of his bars to review on my blog, and although I'm no food critic, I have to say that this is the best chocolate I've ever tasted in my life. It's packaging is unique and fun to read, but once you shed the wrapper, the rich aroma is out of this world. And when you taste it, you'll wonder how you lived for so many years with artificial mass-market substitutes. This is the real thing.

Just as great cheeses are made from known and trusted sources of milk, gourmet chocolate should follow the same rule of law. In the case of Askinosie, his product derives from cocoa beans of exceptional quality and that are carefully selected for their distinctive taste. Askinosie's beans are not purchased from third-party brokers or wholesalers, but are carefully chosen by Askinosie on site. You can rest assured that every product stems from a single agricultural origin, and that only natural ingredients of top quality are added (e.g. cocoa butter, organic cane juice, goat's milk powder, sea salt).

Specifically I sampled a San Jose Del Tambo "Nibble Bar" from Ecuador (photo on left). It includes 70% dark chocolate and 2% Askinosie cocoa butter made from the same beans. The farm where the beans come from is situated in the foothills of the Andes Mountains near a village founded by the Quechua Indians by the Rio de San Miguela. This bar delivers Ecuador's centuries old Arriba Nacional flavor in a 3oz package. Vitaliano Saravia, shown on the packaging, is the lead farmer.

The yummy Soconusco Dark Milk Chocolate (+ Fleur de Sel) is made with 52% Cocoa. The beans come from Soconusco, Mexico and contain 52% cocoa liquor and a touch of Fleur de Sel sea salt. The lead farmer is Jorge Marroquin.

Shawn Askinosie has a good business model. He strives to make a delicacy of top quality, and a healthy product. (Their roasted nibs have almost 65 times more antioxidants than broccoli). All of their beans are grown organically and harvested without the use of pesticides or insecticides. They pay their farmers above Fair Trade prices, and share 10% of the net with them.

In other words, not only does it taste great, but you can feel good about eating it too. While I have not been able to find this product in local stores around the Boston-area, you can purchase his chocolate online at and read about the process. You can even track the "choc-o-lot" from the number on your individual package, and read the detailed notes about the journey of your particular item from the rain forest all the way to your home.

I'm hooked.

Askinosie Chocolate
514 Commercial Street
Springfield, MO 65803


Another YouTube video...