Cacao owner Kristen Hard’s latest project, Twigg & Co., wants to give customers a healthy and sustainable treat. At her 284-square foot store, customers design their own chocolate bars for only $5.50. Here’s how it works: choose from a list of toppings like rum raisins and smoked sea salts to dot the melted chocolate that clerks pour into a mold and then refrigerate for a few minutes to set. For an additional fee, patrons can buy special packaging from Blue Canoe Letterpress, a local printer. The store has shipping labels on hand as well as a mailbox in store in case you want to send the chocolate as a gift. During warmer months, Hard says the store won’t ship chocolate unless it’s bought in a large quantity, but be on the lookout for chocolate dipped frozen bananas.
For every bar sold, the store hopes to donate a tree to a cacao farmer. Hard has worked extensively to help protect the cacao criollo tree, a rare varietal prized by high-end chocolatiers. It makes up a tiny percentage of the world’s cacao production, due to low yields and diseases, but Hard wants to ensure that chocolate makers will still have access to it.
Hard is also emphasizing the health benefits of chocolate at her new store, pointing to research that suggests chocolate can lower bad cholesterol, help your heart rate, and promote good brain function. “The idea is that chocolate is healthy, and we still get a little pushback on that because there’s a historic perspective on chocolate being related to guilt,” she says.
Her menu features chocolate’s health benefits, and she offers healthy toppings like goji berries. But she’s not above offering marshmallows and sprinkles either. “The store is intended to be a healthy solution for a treat, but we have a few things for fun as well,” she says.