Have you ever dreamed about working in a chocolate factory? Tomasz Sienkiewicz and Krzysztof Stypułkowski left their secure corporate jobs and followed the love for chocolate. Manufaktura Czekolady Chocolate Story was founded in 2009 and has been providing chocoholics with traditional bean-to-bar chocolate ever since.
Where does your interest for chocolate come from?
Chocolate has always been an important part of our lives. We both worked as IT professionals, so our path towards chocolate was an easy one - sitting in front of a computer screen, we used to consume tons of chocolate.
At one point we both decided that rather than creating virtual products, we wanted to do something substantial, something real. And what’s more real than chocolate? People don’t appreciate computer systems that much and that’s hardly a surprise. Our work was recognized by our bosses, but that’s not enough to call a job rewarding. Today we have constant contact with customers, we get to hear that our chocolate is the best they’ve ever tried.
Why do they enjoy your chocolate so much?
We produce our chocolate in a very traditional way - it was the same 150 years ago. We make bean-to-bar chocolate, which means that the whole process, from cocoa bean to chocolate bar, takes place in our workshop. We select the beans by hand, we roast them, crush them, remove the shells and then ground the beans, we conche the cocoa liquor, combine it with sugar, temper and form bars. It’s all natural, we don’t use leavings, emulsifiers or artificial aromas.
When you read ‘70% cocoa’ on our chocolate box, it actually means that the bar contains 70% of cocoa beans without shells. With mass-produced chocolate, ‘70% cocoa’ usually means any combination of cocoa products - cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, cocoa powder. The difference in quality would be similar if you compared 100% orange juice from concentrate with fresh juice squeezed from the fruit.
Where do you get the beans from?
We have various suppliers, mostly from Colombia, Venezuela, Ghana, Ecuador, Dominican Republic. The beans have great influence on the final taste of chocolate. First of all, there are different cocoa varieties. The main two are Forastero, the most commonly grown, and Criollo, the rarest and most expensive cocoa on the market, as it is particularly difficult to grow. Then there is Trinitario - a natural hybrid between the two. Apart from the variety itself, there are other aspects, like soil type or weather conditions. Chocolate is just like wine - it tastes differently depending on the year.
Those differences are not present in commercial chocolate. Big chocolate brands want their product to always be the same, which is why they adjust the roasting and production to recreate the texture and the taste of chocolate. Most chocolate producers have their characteristic aroma that is added to the chocolate towards the end of production process.
How many kinds of chocolate do you sell?
At the moment we have over 20, not counting different toppings. We’re always trying to select toppings that enhance or complete the flavour of our chocolates. For example, to Ghana we add roasted cocoa beans, fleur de sel, strawberry with coconut or red berry with coconut. Apart from our suggestions, anyone can create create their own chocolate composition.
We also offer a special selection for advanced chocolate users, with no toppings, just chocolates made with different beans. Among them we have Porcelana - a genetically pure strain of the highly prized Criollo, extremely hard to get, a real delicacy. Its name derives from the porcelain-like colour - the beans are almost white. They do darken during fermentation and roasting, but Porcelana bars are never as dark as other types of chocolate. Despite the fact that our Porcelana has 70% cocoa, there’s no bitterness at all, it’s very delicate, very creamy.
You also have chocolates for beer lovers.
Yes and we’re quite proud of them. The first one, Smoky Joe, was created in cooperation with AleBrowar, Polish craft brewery. You can actually taste the smoke - we used smoked malt, usually used in whisky production. AleBrowar uses this malt to brew beer, their whisky extra stout, Smoky Joe, has a distinctive smoky flavour. It’s similar to our chocolate and things get really interesting when you sample both products together.
Our brand new beer chocolate is called Przewrót Mleczny. It’s a name of a beer that was created to celebrate anniversaries of top Polish craft breweries - AleBrowar, Pinta and Piwoteka Narodowa. We provided cocoa beans from Ecuador that were used in the brewing process. In return, we got barley to make chocolate, so the composition of the two products is very similar. We don’t have alcohol, they don’t have milk. There’s cocoa bean fermentation on our side, yeast fermentation on theirs. The chocolate is so good that you don’t necessarily need to pair it with beer - but a glass of chocolate milk stout can only help.
How does the chocolate creative process look like?
We run a lot of tests. Eating chocolate is a tough job, but someone has to do it. We see this place as our laboratory, our R&D department. We try something new all the time: chocolates, cakes, desserts.
That can’t possibly work in favour of your diet.
The problems begun when we started making pralines. Chocolate ganache based on heavy cream - that’s dangerous. The chocolate itself is a different story. You can handle three pieces of high cocoa percentage dark chocolate at most.
We also have xylitol sweetened chocolate. We like to joke that you could take it to bed. After brushing your teeth, you can treat yourself to a piece of chocolate and fall asleep with chocolate melting in your mouth. It’s supposed to be good for your teeth. Xylitol is a common ingredient of toothpastes and cocoa beans are said to be beneficial to tooth enamel.
Do you ever get fed up with chocolate?
There’s no such thing as too much chocolate!
After a little test of our own (no such thing as too much chocolate) we were quite surprised at how distinctively different the bars from Ghana and Dominican Republic are. Our favourites were definitely delicate Porcelana and extraordinary Przewrót Mleczny with roasted barley.
You can buy Manufaktura’s chocolates online on their website or in a number of specialty stores around Poland. If you wish to try their sensational pralines, you have to pay a visit to the workshop in Łomianki. They’re all natural and not distributed elsewhere. Once you’re there, make sure to take part in chocolate making workshop and create a chocolate bar of your dreams.
Manufaktura Czekolady Chocolate Story, ul. Brukowa 6A, Łomianki