Welcome to the first installment of Kindred Kitchen! You know how most of my posts include a Local Spotlight? Well, consider this one big, huge floodlight! I am so excited to bring you this non-recipe (!) post today about Sovereign Chocolates. Abigail and Chanel are the masterminds behind this amazing bean-to-bar chocolate company that makes their chocolate right here in Tulsa! They have been a part of the most recent class of Kitchen 66, a program that helps food businesses get off the ground. We got in touch and I promptly invited myself to the Kitchen 66 into their space to see their magic at work!
Abigail and Chanel use cacao and cocoa butter from the same location, so they can consider themselves “single-sourced.” They receive the beans raw, and then do the roasting, winnowing, grinding, and tempering right here in town. I’m eating one of the bars as I write this and the milk chocolate straight up melts in your mouth. It’s fruity, creamy, and way better than anything mass-produced chocolate can offer.
We put together a little “interview” so that you can hear what making chocolate is like straight from them! Pictures are from their space at Kitchen 66 when I visited.
Now, tell me how you started making chocolate together.
We met in our freshman year of high school and quickly became best friends. We loved to cook together and especially to make sweet treats. Our first projects with chocolate were pretty standard, we bought some chocolate, re-tempered it, experimented with flavors and fillings, bought some molds from Wilton and had a lot of fun. Around that same time, however, a craft chocolate movement was forming and the internet began to blossom with information about the bean-to-bar process. We spent several years watching the movement grow and learning more about chocolate-making along the way until finally we weren’t satisfied with our current projects. We bought some second-hand equipment and placed a tiny order for 3 pounds of cacao beans (1lb forestero, 1lb trinitario, and 1lb criollo) and started making chocolate from the bean in Chanel’s home kitchen.
What makes your chocolate special?
The bars we produce for sale through Sovereign Chocolates are made with trinitario cacao beans and cacao butter from the Dominican Republic grown by the Rizek family cacao farms, which is fair trade and organic certified and criollo cacao beans from Peru grown by the Norandino Cooperative of cacao farmers, who are also fair trade and organic certified. We use caster sugar, a super fine granular sugar, in our standard bars because we believe it yields a smoother textured bar. We keep the flavor profile of the bean in mind in everything we do. We prefer to use our trinitario bean, which has a fruitier, slightly floral, and sweet flavor in our dark chocolate bars so that the additional sweetness of sugar and milk powder won’t overwhelm the cacao. We prefer to use our criollo bean, which has an earthier, nuttier flavor, in our milk chocolate because the additional sweetness balances this out and brings out the best parts of the bean. What makes our chocolate special is that we hand-craft it in small, quality-controlled batches and we only use ingredients we can be passionate about. We use only cacao beans, cocoa butter, sugar, and, in the case of milk chocolate, milk powder.
How do y’all make such a great team?
It’s a little bit like a union of art and science. Abigail is, primarily, the chocolate-maker and Chanel is, primarily, the chocolatier. For those who might be unfamiliar with the difference, a chocolate-maker produces chocolate from the bean and a chocolatier works with that chocolate to produce delicious treats by making combinations, adding flavors, and innovating. Abigail tends to be a purist who hyper focuses on sourcing the best beans, roasting, winnowing off absolutely as much of the husk as possible, getting a fine grind, and making sure the proportions of the chocolate are correct and that it is refined to perfection. Abigail thinks there’s nothing better than a high percentage, pure dark chocolate bar. Chanel dreams up new flavors, perfects the presentation, and leads the team in experimenting for new products. Her current favorite bar is the white chocolate with cacao nib, so that may give an indication of our different styles. We don’t always stay strictly in these categories, however. For example, Abigail invented our recipe for creamed honey ganache and Chanel perfected our current system of winnowing beans.
What comes next for you, after graduating from Kitchen 66?
We are currently focused on expanding our manufacturing capabilities and forming relationships with local retailers. The Kitchen 66 program gave us a lot of wonderful opportunities to test our products and now that we have an idea of which bars are the most popular, we want to find ways to get them to as many chocolate-lovers are possible. We will be continuing our bespoke chocolate program taking custom orders into the near future but most of our focus right now is on broadening the reach of our core products.
Where can we find Sovereign, if we need a chocolate fix?
We are currently on the shelves at Kitchen 66’s location in the sun building at 907 S. Detroit Ave. and we will be on the shelves of the general store within the new Mother Road Market opening this spring at 11th and Lewis. Custom orders can be placed through the contact form on our website. We’re excited to announce we will be a part of the Tulsa Farmer’s Market for this coming season and will be creating specialty bars and truffles using Oklahoma-grown herbs, berries, and nuts as available from market vendors. Additionally, we periodically take part in pop-up sales events at stores around Tulsa so follow us on social media to stay informed!
I loved getting a chance to meet Abigail and Chanel. They are fun, upbeat, and so passionate about this outstanding products they are creating. Look out, Tulsa. Sovereign Chocolates are coming to you!