Saturday, May 16, 2020

Meet Finnia Chocolate & Cacao

Now that the Covid crisis seems to be settling in to some kind of 'new normal' and I have a little more time to finally sit down and write a blog post (sorry for the year-long hiatus, it's been a busy one), I thought it was time I introduced you to my own business, and told you about the changes that have taken place over the last several years.

For nearly 11 years, I've run a small little chocolate business way up here on Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario. It was called Ultimately Chocolate, because when I started out I made a mixed bag of goodies: chocolate, cakes & cupcakes, and pastry. I quickly chose a name to let everyone know that ultimately, I am all about chocolate. So don't be ordering date squares and lemon squares and cookies from me. That wasn't my thing and it never would be (although I do make a mean lemon buttercream). I make chocolate. And when I make a cake, it is chocolate, or at least mostly chocolate.

But as I delved deeper into the business, I discovered the world of chocolate can go much deeper and darker than double-chocolate cheesecakes and dark chocolate truffles. I fell in love with bean to bar chocolate more than 10 years ago, and slowly it took over my business and my life.

So now I've been making bean to bar chocolate in one form or another for at least five years, although I was making a gritty form of bean to bar for a few years prior in my coffee grinder (that's right, you can grind up cocoa beans in your coffee grinder with sugar!). It came naturally since I'd been tasting every bean to bar chocolate that I could get my hands on for the five years prior to that. I knew what kind I wanted to make, and what textures I loved (very smooth and creamy, although I often love the gritty stuff too).

So the business has grown and I finally made my way off this literal island I live on, and also beyond my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario as well. My chocolate can be found in stores around Ontario and as far as British Colombia. Some awards have been won the last two years at the Northwest Chocolate Festival and in the International Chocolate Awards. So the business has certainly grown.

And with all that growth came change. I now have an amazing business partner (Trish) who has helped me to propel the business forward in ways that I never considered or had time for. We've moved the business out of a small commercial kitchen that was in my home to a small production studio in downtown Gore Bay. There is a small staff (well, was prior to the pandemic and hopefully will be back at work soon) and much larger equipment. And we are planning a move to a larger space to not only increase our capacity, but have a storefront finally to serve local customers and tourists.

So all that said, meet Finnia. That's right, we outgrew our name and decided to re-brand Ultimately Chocolate to something simpler, and something more meaningful to me.

I grew this business with my children in tow, who watched it grow every step of the way. With a home-based business, I was able to let my kids come home after school several days a week, and only go to daycare part-time. So they have been right there with me the whole time. And now at 11 and 8, the new name reflects these two little inspirations in my life. My son, Finn, loves all kids of chocolate, but in particular shares my love of dark chocolate. My daughter Fia prefers white chocolate to all other kinds of chocolate, but will sometimes indulge in milk chocolate too. So these two have been my tasters for many years, and my inspiration.

Too often I can take the chocolate a little too dark. I like my 'darks' very bitter and my 'milks' also on the darker side.  Finn and Fia bring me back down to earth, and help me see what the general population would enjoy, while balancing my preference for low-sugar chocolate. Fia reminds me that white chocolate is delicious too, so inspires me to explore it further. Finn is an inspiration for a lot of the dark chocolates I make. All the while, I explore the cocoa beans and seek to highlight the flavours of each bean in any new creation.

So there you have it, Finnia is the new name of the business. Fia and Finn are the reason I moved to this Island (Manitoulin Island), and had I not moved here, I may never have left the marketing career I was building in Ottawa. And I might still be stuck in a cubicle in some office sitting down all day (I hate sitting down!).  So I am thankful for them, and for the love of chocolate which I have had all my life. I am also thankful for a year in France that showed me chocolate can be dark and pure and not at all sugary. And I am thankful to all the other bean-to-bar makers out there who have inspired me over the years. I will never copy your recipes, but will always enjoy learning from your path, your techniques and your tasty treats.

So here's to the next chapter. It may seem a little stuck right now during this time of Covid and business closures, but we are so far managing to pay the bills and keep the chocolate 'flowing' to our existing wholesale customers, including grocers, cafes and bean-to-bar specialty shops. If we can continue to weather this storm, the future will be much brighter for Finnia.

Finnia Chocolate can be found at Harvest Wagon,
a high-end, specialty grocer in Toronto.

Finnia can also be found at Belle's Bakery in Toronto.

So cheers for a love of craft chocolate! And cheers to a brighter future (even if it is a little unknown and unpredictable at the moment).

Cheers to a brighter future!

And cheers to the 'new normal' :-)