Unlike Willy Wonka’s sprawling factory with hundreds of workers, craft chocolate maker Xocolatl is tucked into a stall in Krog Street Market, the whole bean to bar operation only taking up about 250 square feet. Take a peek into the micro-factory, taste the flavors inspired by the Costa Rican jungle, and wash it all down with a glass of vino.
Unlike Willy Wonka’s sprawling factory with hundreds of workers, craft chocolate maker Xocolatl (pronounced “chock-a-LOT-l”) is tucked into a stall in Krog Street Market, the whole bean to bar operation only taking up about 250 square feet. It might even be the smallest in the country- but they’re too busy hand-making single-origin dark chocolate to confirm. Husband and wife team Matt Weyandt and Elaine Read are travelers and dreamers at heart, and headed to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, with no real plan. They ended up meeting chocolate makers, and learned the process of turning that little bean into the complex, sweet confection we know and love. They brought that knowledge and sense of pura vida back to Atlanta, and in 2014, Xocolatl was born. But the connection to the chocolate doesn’t end with the process; they import cacao from small East African and Central South American farmer co-ops, and have a direct relationship with the farmers so they can ensure fair wages and sustainable farming practices. Chocolate that’s delicious and responsible? Yes please.
All the chocolate is made on site with no fillers or additives- Xocolatl’s dark bars are somewhere around 70 percent cacao, and the rest is organic cane sugar and natural flavorings. Yep, that means they’re vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free, so anyone can enjoy a chocolate fix. And now you can get a peek into the inner workings of the factory, without the worry of falling into a chocolate river (there’s no room for one). Your guide Kip will lead you through the bean to bar chocolate-making process, beginning with roasting- if you’ve ever walked into Krog Street Market and the intoxicating aroma of chocolate permeates everything, that’s how you know they’ve started roasting the beans. The beans are then cracked and winnowed by hand and put into the grinder for three days, then are tempered and molded. Kip will walk you through the whole thing, and you might even find out what’s going on with that white powdery gunk you find on that melted chocolate bar you stashed in the fridge.
Now comes the best part- the tasting. Single-origin bars, like a fine wine or coffee, have different flavors depending on where they were grown and how they were fermented and roasted. The small operation means the offerings change regularly, but you’ll be able to taste single-origin chocolate from places like Madagascar and Ecuador, and flavors like the mint bar, made with Costa Rican cacao and actual mint leaves, and our favorite, the Wide Eyed coffee bar, made with Cafe Campesino coffee from Americus, Ga. Their most popular bar is the Kissed Mermaid, with coconut milk, sea salt, vanilla, and cocoa nibs- a tropical combination that whisks us to the Costa Rican coast in our minds. Top off your tastings with a complimentary glass of wine, and bask in the warm glow of all that chocolatey goodness. While we didn’t see any Oompa Loompas, we can’t promise we didn’t break out into song with every taste.