In the third instalment of the Be a Villager series, we speak to the founder of ChocoSol, Michael Sacco, who turned thousand-year-old chocolate recipes from Mexico into one of the most ecologically sourced and packaged chocolate in the country.
How did ChocoSol come about?
My background is in solar technology. I have a Masters in Environmental Studies from York University and was studying in Oaxaca, Mexico. While I was there, a grandmother from one of the villages asked if I could do a special chocolate with this technology. I was looking for other applications – I already made pizza and coffee and I was excited to try to make chocolate.
The process of making this 1,000-year-old recipe fascinated me. It meant going to the traditional marketplace where all of your transactions are relationship based. I grabbed cinnamon, cacao -spices and things I had never even heard of.
Eight months later, I was still making chocolate, refining the recipe. To me, chocolate became the delicious invitation to taste the solar technology, support the project and get a flavour of what it can do.
What makes ChocoSol unique?
We consider ourselves slow food chocolate makers and we take a socially just, ecological ‘cradle to cradle’ approach to our process. The main ingredient used in our chocolate is the organically- and shade-grown cacao bean that comes from indigenous communities and forest gardens in the Lacondon Jungle of Chiapas, Mexico and the Oaxacan mountains of Southern Mexico.
We use a stone-ground process that is environmentally friendly. Our products also don’t contain any dairy, gluten, nuts, soy, preservatives or additives, and are also vegan.
What product are you most proud of right now?
Our raw cacao nibs. We take pride in sourcing the best. We use a blend of five cacao.
From the time they are shelled to the time they are in customers’ hands is 10 days. That’s typically how long cacao is in transport.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I have three babies under the age of 3. I start the morning changing diapers and making sure my wife has 45 minutes to take a bath.
I get to our production facility at 8:30 am. I look at the production schedule and then get grinds on right away. I check the moulds and do some quality control.
For me, 70% of my job is production, sourcing, lining things up for 2015 and looking at the harvest. I don’t think it’s good enough to be just an environmentalist, you also have to be a good business leader. 30% of my job is getting out there and getting involved with other local sustainable projects.
On a typical day, I try to get out of the facility at about 6 pm and I usually have other meetings around the city.
What is the best part of your job?
The people I work with. Everyone here is using this job as a vehicle for their creativity.
When you’re not at ChocoSol, where can we find you?
What is your favourite place in Toronto?
Evergreen Brickworks. It’s such a dynamic food community.
Name one thing people would be surprised to find in your home kitchen?
Wine. We make our own from organic grapes in Ontario.
What are five things you can’t live without?
Water, cacao, my family, adventure and a higher purpose.
What is your favourite juice?
Be Nourished and Be Happy, of course. It has our cacao nibs, so I’m biased.
Village Juicery’s Be a Villager series takes a look at the men and women who have inspired us. They are members of our team, our partners and the larger community who, by honing in on their craft, are doing great things for the city in which we live.