Way before bean-to-bar was a term. Way before anyone was anyone making their own chocolate. Way before there were individual chocolate makers, when only the big guys were making chocolate. That’s when David Castellan and Cynthia Leung started their adventure into micro batch chocolate making and became pioneers of the craft chocolate movement.
In 2003 David and Cynthia opened Soma Chocolatemaker in a tiny space in the Distillery District of Toronto. Their chocolate making focused on their firm belief that the cacao bean’s inherent flavours should be the flavour of the chocolate bar. Using only 3 ingredients - cacao beans, cane sugar and cocoa butter - was initially challenging, but with persistence and dedication, they created the bars they so believed in. They introduced these wonderful bars to Toronto, and so it began.
Working with very select beans, such as the rare Porcelana cacao in Venezuela, as well as selecting very specific farmers and farms to work with, such as Desmond, who’s Bachelor Hall Estate in Jamaica is a sweet spot for growing cacao, SOMA has introduced us to some pretty amazing cacao. And what they do with these fabulous beans has introduced us to some pretty amazing chocolate. Their chocolate drew in those of us infatuated with chocolate and soon there was a community of people spreading the word on how wonderful chocolate could be without fillers, additional ingredients or unnecessary preservatives. This in turn inspired others to try and we saw the beginning of a chocolate revolution.
SOMA is often referred to as one of the best chocolate makers in the world. Their bars have received numerous awards from both the Academy of Chocolate in the UK and the International Chocolate Awards based in the US, including many Gold awards as well as the Best in the World for their Porcelana 70% bar a few years back. Among their peers there is a great deal of respect for their approach on chocolate making and what they have done for the chocolate craft movement.
SOMA has 2 locations in Toronto where you can see chocolate being made on site, sit down and enjoy a Mayan drinking chocolate in the winter or order house made gelato during the summer months. SOMA also creates other amazing chocolate, such as truffles, toffee, revolutions, branches and tree parts. Not sure what branches and tree parts are? Moulded out of chocolate to look like branches or twigs and filled with delicious flavour combinations that change seasonally - a must try!
In 2018, David and Cynthia had a dream to build their own chocolate factory to make more of their own chocolate. They purchased an old building that needed a complete overhaul. After much work and through a pandemic, their dream has come true and the Cacao Lab is ready.
“The factory is where the magic of chocolate making happens and where a variety of chocolate experiments are conducted. Visitors can watch the process unfold and sometimes if at the right moment taste chocolate before being released into the world.” - Cynthia
When we opened our store in 2012 we asked SOMA if we could carry their chocolate. Turns out, we were their first wholesale customer and are so thrilled to have Soma milk, Soma dark and Soma white bean to bar chocolate in our collection.
If you haven’t had a chance to try this wonderful chocolate, there’s no time better than now. Come by our place or drop in to SOMA if you’re in the Toronto area.