Wow. Where do we start with this one? There are some big, big changes coming for Areté over the next six months. Some of you know, and some of you may not know, that Leslie is Arete’s one and only fulltime employee. I have a full-time-plus day job, so I’ve been a weekend and occasional evening warrior helping out as much as I could. In about four months, though, after 36 years in the electronics business, I’ll be retiring from the W-2 world and joining Leslie as a full-time craft chocolate maker. Terrifying? Yep – a bit –wonderfully so!
Along with that big move, there’s another big move coming for Areté. Literally – a big move. At the end of April we’ll be moving us and our factory to Spencer, Tennessee. We found a beautiful 110 year old building (known locally as “The Haston Block Building”) that we’re in the process of renovating and getting ready to be a chocolate factory. We’ll live on the second floor and work on the first floor. We couldn’t be more excited.
While the outside is beautiful, some of the inside was…well…110 years old. And in need of some serious love. We tore out the old wood floor and rotted joists on the first floor several months ago, then in early November brought in 200 tons of gravel, and in mid-December poured concrete. We still have a LOT to get done with the building between now and the end of April (interior walls, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, drop ceiling, and lighting), and somewhere in there we have to pack up both the our current factory and our house and move it all most of the way across the country. We’ll wind down manufacturing in our Milpitas factory in the beginning of March, and hope to be back up and making chocolate in Spencer by May. We’ll do our best to build up inventory before March so that we can continue to ship through March and into April.
As to the “why” behind all of this, there are three main reasons. First is that most of our family lives east of the Mississippi. The move will put us within comfortable(-ish) driving distance. Second, our current factory doesn’t have heating, air conditioning, or humidity control which poses some serious chocolate making challenges. We’ve learned to work around those challenges by controlling the most sensitive processes and using space heaters, portable/wall air conditioners, and de-humidifiers in some critical areas, but it’s not ideal. In our new building each room will have its own independent temperature control, and the whole building will have humidity control. Ahhhhhhhh…. The third reason is that it’s just a LOT less expensive to live and run a small business in Tennessee than it is in Silicon Valley. We love the Bay Area and northern California generally, but it would be years (if ever) before we could make a go of it here as full-time chocolate makers.
New Origins and Evaluations
Last time we wrote we were just introducing three new India origins – Anamalai, Jangareddygudem, and Idukki. They’ve been very well received and we’re working hard to keep up with the demand (good problem!). In addition to the three 70% dark chocolate India origins, this month we’ll be introducing India Anamalai 58% Dark Milk.
Madagascar 70% dark is one of our ‘core holdings’. We’ve tried Madagascar as a dark milk several times and just haven’t been happy with the results. At last, though, we think we’ve got a winner – it’s a radically different roast that we use for our Madagascar 70% dark chocolate bars, and it’s wonderful. We’ll be introducing it this month also.
And as mentioned in our October letter, we'll also be introducing our first Columbia bar this month – Colombia Tumaco. Colombian cacao is a wonderful “swords to plowshares” story – after fifty years of conflict between the government and FARC there is now peace and the government is encouraging farmers to switch from growing coca (for cocaine) to growing cacao. It isn’t perfectly smooth sailing for a number of reasons, but overall it is happening and the movement appears durable.
We also mentioned a new Viet Nam origin in our last letter, and our sample of Dak Nong arrived just today (along with two bags of one of our very favorite beans – Viet Nam Ben Tre).
We’ll post more pictures and periodic updates on the progress we’re making with the building on our website (www.aretefinechocolate.com) on the blog page. It’s been quite an adventure already, and no doubt there’s more to come…
Here’s to a very happy, safe, and delightful holiday season, and best wishes for the new year. Thank you for being part of Areté – and for loving chocolate!
Our Warmest Regards,
David and Leslie