Inside Soul Chocolate’s new east-end factory and café
Read on to see how chocolate chips are born
Name: Soul Chocolate
Contact: 20 Wagstaff Dr., unit C, soulchocolate.com, @soulchocolate
Owners: Kyle and Katie Wilson
Accessibility: Fully accessible
Kyle and Katie Wilson, partners in business and life, spent years travelling together—including a stint backpacking through cacao-producing regions of Kenya and Tanzania. Somewhere on the road, they started mulling the idea of launching their own chocolate business, and in 2015, they took their first step. They both had jobs in the service industry at the time, but Katie quit hers to try her hand at making chocolate.
Roasting beans in their home oven and filtering them through a petite, apartment-friendly chocolate refiner, Katie produced a small run of chocolate bars. Kyle worked at Pilot Coffee (then called Te Aro), which started selling their products, and the retail side snowballed from there. They moved the operation into a commercial space at Impact Kitchen, and then into a 400-square-foot storefront at Broadview and Gerrard in 2017.
In its first year, Soul Chocolate sold 500 kilos of chocolate—by the sixth, it had sold nearly 5,000, steadily expanding its retail presence and upgrading its equipment along the way. (They now have an industrial-grade refiner that makes their first one look comically miniature.) That’s a lot of beans—hence the recent relocation to a 4,000-square-foot manufacturing facility–storefront hybrid. Sure, it’s much bigger now, and they have room for a bunch of shiny new machines, but the heart of this home-grown Toronto chocolatier remains intact.
This is bean-to-bar chocolate, meaning that Soul Chocolate imports cacao beans and takes over the process from there. Short of growing their own beans, it’s about as scratch-made as chocolate gets. The goal is to eventually purchase all cacao directly from producers—in the meantime, the company works with importers focused on transparency and sustainability.
Soul Chocolate started with bars, which it continues to produce in a variety of delightful flavours, including single-origin options made with beans from Madagascar, Guatemala and Tanzania, to name a few. There’s a rotating range of truffles and baked goods available at the storefront, all made with premium ingredients from suppliers including Toronto’s Brodflour and Huron County’s St. Brigid’s Creamery. And though there are no plans to halt the thriving direct-to-consumer business, this relocation is partly about a pivot to supplying chocolate components—like batons for pain du chocolat—to pastry chefs and hotels.
Every month, Soul Chocolate brings in a new coffee roaster to pair with its chocolate—November featured Edmonton-based Sorellina Coffee. You can buy the beans to go or try them in an espresso-based drink. There’s also chocolate for drinking, either in a concentrated shot that tastes like the distilled essence of the bean or in a mellower version with your choice of steamed milk. (For fans of the movie Chocolat, we recommend the chili-spiked Mayan hot chocolate.) And to really indulge that sweet tooth, there are seasonal specialty beverages, like a crème brûlée latte complete with torched caramel.
In the back, there’s a full-scale manufacturing facility with machines that roast, sort, filter and grind cacao beans for Soul Chocolate’s myriad applications. Separated from all that action by a glass partition is an airy lounge with colourful chairs and benches, pops of greenery, and exposed brick. There’s a retail section stocked with bars, beans and seasonal items like advent calendars adjoining a counter at which customers can order drinks and baked goods. It’s big enough to hold events, which is precisely what Soul Chocolate plans to do—look out for truffle-making workshops; wine, cheese and chocolate pairings; and more.