Inside Soul Chocolate’s new east-end factory and café

Inside Soul Chocolate’s new east-end factory and café

Read on to see how chocolate chips are born

Soul Chocolate's Campfire Hot Chocolate, a smoked version of the sweet drink

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Name: Soul Chocolate
Contact: 20 Wagstaff Dr., unit C, soulchocolate.com, @soulchocolate
Neighbourhood: Leslieville
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.

Soul Chocolate's co-owner Kyle Wilson
Co-owner Kyle Wilson

Related: This Toronto pastry chef opened her own chocolate shop in a 120-year-old Simcoe County farmhouse

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.

A Soul Chocolate team member in the Leslieville factory

The food

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.

Sorted cacao nibs are ground into powdery chocolate shavings
Sorted cacao nibs are ground into powdery chocolate shavings

 

A pile of freshly ground chocolate shavings at Soul Chocolate in Toronto
Here’s a closer look

 

The making of chocolate chips at Soul Chocolate in Toronto
Ever wonder how chocolate chips are made? Wonder no more

 

A conveyor belt at Soul Chocolate spits out freshly made chocolate chips
Coming soon to a batch of chocolate-chip cookies
A pile of cacao beans at Soul Chocolate in Toronto
The chocolate-making process at Toronto's Soul Chocolate
A series of truffle molds
A series of truffle moulds, including maple walnut in action

 

A trio of Soul Chocolates truffles
Truffles, from left: pumpkin, filled with pumpkin-seed gianduja and topped with a pumpkin seed; salted caramel, featuring grass-fed 45 per cent Sheldon Creek cream and Vancouver Island salt; and a single-origin truffle featuring Guatemalan chocolate, with citrus and black tea notes typical of chocolate from the region. $3 each

 

A flourless chocolate torte
A deeply fudgy flourless chocolate torte made with 80 per cent dark chocolate sourced from the Dominican Republic. $5.75 a slice

 

A stack of chocolate chip cookies and two coffee cake muffins
On the bottom is a stack of stellar chocolate chip cookies made with St. Brigid’s Creamery butter, Madagascar dark chocolate chips and Brodflour’s red fife flour. It’s a simple recipe, but top-tier ingredients make all the difference ($3.32 each). On top is a coffee cake in muffin form, inspired by a recipe from Katie’s grandmother. Again, it’s the ingredients that make this a standout—Soul Chocolate’s own chocolate chips, small-flock eggs and that incomparable butter ($3.98 each)

 

A trio of Soul Chocolate's single-origin bars
A trio of chocolate bars. $4.87 each

 

The drinks

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.

A selection of drinking chocolate, which customers can get as a shot or paired with their choice of steamed milk for rich hot chocolate
A selection of drinking chocolate, which customers can get as a shot or paired with their choice of steamed milk (including house-made oat milk) for rich hot chocolate

 

Soul Chocolate's creme brulée latte
This is the crème brûlée latte, featuring a concentrated vanilla simple syrup base, two shots of espresso, foam and dry caramel torched to make a crunchy topping. Just like with the dessert, crack the lid to enjoy. $5.75

 

A mug of hot chocolate topped with a house-made marshmallow
Here we have a finished mug of hot chocolate. It’s made with Dominican milk chocolate (though guests can also opt for dark or chili-spiced varieties) and steamed milk. It’s topped with a torched house-made marshmallow. $4.20 for 6 oz, $4.87 for 12 oz

 

Soul Chocolate's Campfire Hot Chocolate, a smoked version of the sweet drink
This is a Campfire Hot Chocolate in the making. It’s a whole experience—think BarChef, but for chocolate—meant to emulate the feeling of sipping hot chocolate by a glowing fire. A cup is filled with aromatic smoke, flipped and quickly filled with silky hot chocolate. Served with a toasted house-made marshmallow. $7.08

 

Soul Chocolate staff pours the smoked Campfire Hot Chocolate into a glass
Almost done

 

The finished Campfire Hot Chocolate at Soul Chocolate in Toronto
Et voilà!
The space

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.

The counter and retail section at Toronto's Soul Chocolates

The retail section of Soul Chocolate in Toronto

Soul Chocolate's seating area for indoor diners

Soul Chocolate's new Leslieville factory has a small seating area for indoor diners

A Soul Chocolate team member makes a latte at the company's new Leslieville factory and cafe