You probably buy chocolate pretty frequently, but the likelihood of knowing where it came from is pretty slim.
A lot of people know that Shawn Askinosie started out as a lawyer, but he took some time off and went to the Amazon to study how farmers influence the flavor of chocolate.
He transitioned out of law, bought equipment and a building, and now sells chocolate all over the country -- and internationally.
Askinosie says what's different about chocolate made in a small business goes even deeper than the flavor.
"Our chocolate is different from what we call industrial chocolate -- Mars, Hershey's, and places like that really -- because this is a small business where we do the entire chocolate-making process from beginning to end in very small batches and paying a great deal of attention to the quality of the cocoa bean."
Askinosie says his company will output about 24 metric tons of chocolate this year.
"That's about the same amount
that mars will output in
He says having a smaller business enables him and his employees to pay greater attention to detail, flavor, and quality.
"You spend a lot of time with the product," says Kevin Cott, one of Askinosie's employees.
But that's not even as personal as it gets.
"I actually go to these countries and buy the cocoa beans -- Honduras, Ecuador, Philippines, Tanzania -- and I travel there and meet with farmers, and as far as I know, there's not another small batch chocolate maker in the world, including Europe, that directly trades with farmers on multiple continents," says Askinosie.
Their mission is simple: it's the bean to the bar.
"Really having that customer not only enjoy the product but know what went into it and the hands that were behind it," says Cott.
"When they get a chocolate bar of ours, they know exactly where it came from. We can trace the chocolate back to every single farmer that we buy beans from, and that's very unique in this world," says Askinosie.
He says it's kind of like farmers
"People want to go and they want to talk to the farmer. They want to ask them how they grew the green beans. What they put on the green beans."
And this is the next best thing.
"Bring the farmers from around the world that we do business with as close as possible to the consumers who will enjoy our chocolate."
"Knowing that that fits into a bigger goal or a bigger plan than just handing someone a chocolate bar at the end of the day," adds Cott.
Askinosie says that the recipe is very simple; it's just chocolate and organic sugar.
It's a long process, but he says roasting them is when you can influence the flavor of the chocolate.