We hope you’re getting a boost from the sunny weather this week. The cherry blossoms are just starting to pop on Granville Island and we’re seeing more and more people out on the boardwalk near our shop.
We received quite the boost ourselves last Thursday with the exciting news that our chocolate won 10 awards at the International Chocolate Awards Americas in New York. It was especially nice to hear that 3 of our bars made with Philippine beans were recognized (2 golds, one bronze). This origin is very special to us; it’s not often seen in the craft chocolate world, but having worked with Philippine beans since we started in 2015, we know first hand that they have some fantastic flavour profiles.
Below are our winning bars and a link to the awards site showing all the categories. Congrats to all the craft chocolate makers out there, and especially to the cacao farmers who grow and ferment such amazing beans.
After much experimenting and taste testing, we’re excited to let you know about a new product we just launched. We’re now serving ‘bean to cup’ drinking chocolate at our shop on Granville Island. We are offering each flavour as either a European style drinking chocolate (rich and creamy) or a classic hot chocolate made with either dairy or oat milk. We currently have 3 flavours:
70% Single origin dark chocolate made with our cacao beans from Davao in southern Philippines
65% Chai spice dark chocolate made with our Costa Esmeraldas cacao beans from nothern Ecuador
60% Raspberry dark chocolate using BC raspberries with our Philippine cacao providing the base.
There’s still some winter chill out there, so if you’re in the area, swing by the shop Friday to Sunday (10-5pm) for a warm-up and a chocolate boost!
On the chocolate bar side of things, the Single Malt whisky bar, barrel aged with Odd Society’s Commodore whisky is now back in stock. We also made one last batch of our Lunar New year Hakka Lei Cha bars for the weekend.
For us it has been a year of new beginnings, and, as the winter ebbs and spring beckons, we have something new to share with you.
In celebration of Lunar New Year, the Year of the Ox, which begins on the 12th of February, we collaborated with Noisette by Olivia to bring you this special chocolate bar. It is an homage to Olivia’s Hakka Taiwanese upbringing. The Hakka are a diasporic group of people scattered throughout the world with a distinct tradition of “Lei Cha” (Thunder Tea).
This ‘pounded tea’ drink is commonly served as a herbal remedy to promote good health and is a welcome gesture for guests. It is traditionally made from tea leaves ground together with various roasted nuts, seeds, grains, and herbs.
For this limited release, Olivia baked us a thin Hakka Lei Cha biscuit which we combined with a 55% dark milk chocolate made from our Philippine cacao beans, resulting in a creamy chocolate bar with a crunchy center and notes of toasted nuts, herbs, and tea leaves.
The cover art for this bar was hand-painted and calligraphed by local artist and Kasama team member, Ann Liao. The brush-painted Chinese calligraphy greeting translates to, “All will be well”. To all our old and new friends, may your year be filled with good health and blessings throughout!
EXCITING NEWS!!! Final inspections are finished, permits are stamped, and we will be officially opening our new chocolate shop on Granville Island this Friday, January 1st! Our shop, at 2-1244 Cartwright Street, will be open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 10am-5pm. For the rest of the week we’ll be closed for production, but you can pick up your online orders if you let us know when you’ll be stopping by. To help you find us on Granville Island we made a video showing where we are located that you can watch here, otherwise just type “Kasama Chocolate” into your phone’s maps app for directions. The pandemic, of course, will make this a rather different ‘grand opening’ than we had envisioned, but we’re very excited to have you over, even with masks and at a distance. There may even be a secret special release, just for the weekend 😉
As a new year begins and a new chapter for us unfolds, we thought we’d reflect back on the past and tell you a bit more about ourselves and how our friendship led us down this chocolate journey. Stefan and Oliver grew up in the West Kootenays, on the banks of the Arrow Lakes, and have known each other since 8th grade. Vince and Dom grew up in North Vancouver and also went to the same school. Many years before Kasama was born, we first got to know each other playing in a friendly (mostly:))) weekend roller hockey league. Stefan played forward, Oliver defence, Dom goalie, and Vince played everywhere. Strangely (or not), we play much the same roles at Kasama today.
Over the years we hung out frequently, and Dom and Stefan even became roommates. The house they rented in East Van hosted many a backyard gathering – beer was brewed, bread was baked, and occasionally a kitchen dance party would spontaneously break out. It was more or less a ‘normal’ friendship. That would change. Little did we know it, but the stones of fate were rolling, and things were about to get wacky. One fateful day, as they say in fairy tales, in the summer of 2015, Vince showed us pictures of some yellow fruits growing on his family’s small plot of land in the northern Philippines. Sweet, mangoes, we thought! Except, they weren’t mangoes (they were cacao pods), and soon after, he brought us a small bag of cacao beans, and then another…
And so, that once tranquil house on William Street started rumbling every weekend with the sounds of stone grinders, hair dryers, shaker tables, and other strange contraptions. More than a few people wondered, “Why are these guys (well into their 30s) getting together every weekend to make chocolate? For like 2 years!? That can’t be normal. But our stubborn geekery pushed us further and further into the abyss. And Vince kept bringing us more cacao beans – a sack from farmer Fred! Another from farmer Noli! – soooo many beans all over the house. So what can you do? You just gotta keep making chocolate. And we have ever since.
For us, at least for the first 3 years, this was a passion project more than a business. Of course, the dream was always in the back of our minds, but mostly it was about getting together and doing something collaboratively. There was no business plan. It gave us that feeling of being kids again, building a tree house – the excitement of discovery, and creating something we thought was ‘cool’. When Vince first suggested the name Kasama, a Filipino word meaning ‘friendship’ and ‘togetherness’, we knew right away it was the perfect fit.
Gradually turning this from a friendship project into a business has not always been easy. We’ve all felt the stresses, and there have been some near breaking points. But there’s one thing we’ve always agreed on: our friendship is more important than this business, and we won’t let it compromise that.
We could never have gotten this far alone, though. We’ve had a ton of support from friends, strangers, wives, girlfriends, and far too many people to list here. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Starting this project, it really hit home how interconnected we all are. We’re not operating in a vacuum, we’re part of a community. By sharing your enthusiasm for what we do, you’ve also been a part of our journey, and perhaps we’ve been a small part of yours. We’d like to wish you all a safe and hopeful New Year. Tagay (Cheers), and see you on the Island!
Typhoon Ulysses descended on the Philippines, wreaking havoc throughout the archipelago, including Cagayan, Vince’s family’s home province and origin of our chocolate journey. Vince’s friends and family are safe, but the typhoon caused some of the worst flooding in decades, destroying crops and submerging whole villages in water.
We really wanted to do something to help, and doing it through chocolate seemed like a natural choice. Our newest bar – A Benefit for Typhoon Ulysses Victims in the Philippines – is a vegan white chocolate made using ube (purple yam) which was sourced, slow roasted, dried, & ground (an 8 hour process) by our friends at Layunin, a Vancouver-based pop up restaurant and trailblazers in the local Filipino Food Movement scene. We stone ground the ube with Philippine pineapple to create a bar with trademark ube texture, balanced by tropical and citrus notes. It contains no added colours, extracts, or flavourings – just ube, pineapple, organic cacao butter, and a small amount of unrefined cane sugar.
This bar is now available in our online shop. (UPDATE: *Thank you so much for your amazing support for this bar and for the cause of bringing aid to typhoon victims. We are now sold out, but please check back as we’ll have more in a few days.*)
The bar cover depicts a carabao (water buffalo) swimming through a river and was painted by Vancouver-based artist and Kasama team member Ann Liao. In the Philippines, water buffalos are a symbol of strength, perseverance and resiliency. It serves as a reminder for us to cherish the foundation of community and friendship that we’ve built, and to come to each other’s aid during times like this.
50% of proceeds from the sale of this new chocolate bar will go directly towards the purchase of supplies for flood victims in affected towns in Cagayan. Since the typhoon landed, we have been corresponding regularly with typhoon relief workers and volunteers from the town of Tuao and from the Provincial Health Office in Peñablanca. We’d like to thank Maria Peachina Matammu and Dr. Rhea Danguilan for the updates and photos below:
After a hectic week of drawing, designing, and printing (and Stefan burning the midnight oil to code the interface!), we’re excited to launch a new feature on our website. You can now purchase gift boxes of our chocolate bars and include a custom message for the person receiving the gift, which we’ll print on a card and include with the box.
You can choose from 3 different card styles, and choose either your own selection of chocolate bars, or pick from our themed collections. Shipping is free in Canada for orders of $50 or more.
We hope you’re all doing okay in these challenging times. Here on the west coast, the winter storms are starting to sweep over our city. But while it may be dark and cold outside, something warm and fiery is flowing from our chocolate forges here in the heart of East Vancouver.
For this very special batch of chocolate, we roasted our single estate Costa Esmeraldas cacao beans, then cracked them into nibs and aged them in an oak cask with Odd Society Distillery’s Commodore single malt whisky for 4 weeks, turning the barrel twice a day.
This whisky was distilled with 100% BC grown, malted barley, and aged in ex-bourbon barrels, giving it a distinctive peppery-sweetness, along with dark fruit, clove and toffee notes. Once finished aging, the cacao nibs were dried and stone ground for 3 days to create a deliciously rich dark chocolate with a backbone of oak and whisky, along with hints of stone fruits and spices.
It’s November, the nights are getting chilly, and a long lost traveller has sojourned back into our workshop, spreading aromas of warm spices all throughout the kitchen. This seasonal release, which returns every year on the wings of an icy breeze, is made with cacao beans from Costa Esmeraldas (Emerald Coast) in northern Ecuador. We stone ground the cacao with organic Ceylon cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, pepper, and turmeric from Eternal Abundance in East Vancouver, resulting in a 65% dark chocolate with bold spicing and a smooth, buttery texture.
It’s that time of year when the spirits cross over from the shadow realm, and we’ve been brewing up some dark magic here in the hollows of East Vancouver. After much stirring and bubbling, our latest creation is ready to be unleashed.
A forest dark as starless night
With berries red as firelight
A scarlet shimmer in the gloaming
Where spirits lurk and ghosts go roaming
Where Witches in the hedges weave
Fiery spells ‘neath tangled leaves
Such sorcery perhaps you’ll find
When this wrapper you unbind
This dark chocolate is made with our Philippine cacao beans from Davao, roasted over a bonfire (well, actually a coffee roaster), and stone ground in a giant cauldron (well, more of a granite bowl) together with BC raspberries :). It’s not too sweet, and when you hold it to the light, you can see a faint red glow through the darkness of the cacao.
It took all 4 of us (gathered ’round a toadstool) to invoke this new spell. Dom did the artwork, Vince the wrapper design, Oliver composed the dark verses, and Stefan did the spooky photography. Of course, we all taste and make the chocolate!
You can get the Dark Forest bar now in our online shop!
Throughout the year, we make a ton of test batches. One of the funnest parts of making bean-to-bar chocolate is tasting new bean origins with unique flavours, and learning about where they’re grown. Only a small fraction of those tests ever turn into a release, but, after much tweaking, we’re excited to finally be able to share these new bars with you.
The single estate cacao beans used to make this chocolate are grown in Costa Esmeraldas (Emerald Coast) in northern Ecuador. This family owned and operated farm, situated on emerald green hills overlooking the ocean, grows unique strains of native Ecuadorian ‘Nacional’ cacao. Made with beans from the 2019 harvest, the 70% chocolate has notes of cassis, oak, and red wine. In the 88% bar, things get a lot more intense, and we get notes of concord grape, rum, and roasted almonds.
When we first tasted these cacao beans, sourced from the rainforests of the upper Amazon in northern Peru, we were instantly enchanted by their bright, fruity flavours. This chocolate, made with beans from San Martín, ignites the palate with notes of lemon and red currants and finishes with a hint of pine and mild tannins.
We are really excited to be able to feature these three unique bars from Peru and Ecuador.
Kasama Chocolate’s Single Malt chocolate bar was recently announced as an honourable mention for the Made in Vancouver Awards from Vancouver Magazine. This is a limited release we do annually using Odd Society Distillery’s award-winning single malt whisky. For this limited batch, we roasted our cacao beans, then aged the nibs in an empty cask of Odd Society Distillery’s award-winning single malt whisky for 4 weeks, shaking the barrel twice a day. The nibs were then dried and stone ground to create a deliciously rich chocolate with oak and whisky notes. Lookout for this bar to make an appearance again this
BIG NEWS! Kasama Chocolate is moving to Granville Island where we will be opening a bean-to-bar chocolate workshop and retail space!
This has been in the works since last fall, but we’ve had to keep it hush-hush until the lease was officially signed.
a lengthy application and interview process, we’re very honoured to
have been chosen as the new tenants at #2-1244 Cartwright Street, the
former home of Feathercraft, whose owners recently retired.
As we are building the space out from scratch, it will take some time, but we’re hoping to move in before the end of the year.
Since we started this craft chocolate journey almost 5 years ago, it has always been a dream to have our own little chocolate workshop. Yet, the high cost of rent in Vancouver, and the huge amount of work involved in making chocolate straight from the bean, has often made that dream seem like a distant reality. It’s been a long road.
For more than a year we ran our stone grinders at the house Dom and Stefan were renting in East Van, essentially turning their living space into a mini chocolate factory. We then moved to another house where we had a little more room for our equipment (thanks Yoshi!). Then came the move to a commercial kitchen (thanks Nathalie!), and now, we are beyond excited to soon have a space of our own, where we can welcome you all to enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of artisanal chocolate being made directly from the bean!
When COVID struck, it sent our long-term plans into a tailspin, and we had serious doubts about whether to make this next step. Thank you all so much for your support over these last few months. It has been truly moving, and has given us the encouragement to take this leap forward.
We’re beyond excited to be joining the amazing craft community on Granville Island and to build a home there for Kasama. Granville Island has long been known in Vancouver as a cultural hub for artists and makers. As a small-scale maker of an artisan product, there is no place we’d rather be.
We acknowledge that Granville Island is located on the unceded territories of the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam) peoples, who have lived on these lands for thousands of years before colonization by European settlers.
We aim to be respectful of Granville Island’s mission statement and to create a space that is inclusive and welcoming to all who visit.
We can’t wait to open our doors and have you over!
We are excited to tell you about a new collaboration we did with our friend and artist Emma Fitzgerald to celebrate the launch of her new book, Hand Drawn Vancouver, a collection of sketches and stories of the city’s neighbourhoods, buildings, and people. The cover art on both the book and the chocolate bar was created by Emma and depicts a view of Vancouver’s False Creek.
This limited release bar is a white chocolate made with Peruvian cacao butter and a ceremonial grade Japanese matcha from Yame, Fukuoka, curated by our friend Jude from Cultivatea. It is a first harvest matcha, the leaves of which are hand picked and grown at high altitudes, where the air is moist and foggy and the trees grow slowly, yielding a matcha with exceptional depth and complexity.
You can find the bar as well as a few different book + bar bundles in our online shop available for purchase. The bundles are for pre-order as we are just awaiting arrival of the books (should be here any day now).
About the Book
Visitors and locals alike will love this book of whimsical sketches of Vancouver, British Columbia, accompanied by thoughtful observations and snippets of overheard conversations.
Take a tour of Vancouver’s sights and sidewalks with Emma FitzGerald’s hand-drawn impressions of her hometown, a city filled with stories–funny, surprising, and sometimes dark–amidst the cherry blossoms, beaches, and forests. Included are more than 100 sketches completed on location that, together, capture the essence of Vancouver. From Stanley Park’s seawall to Kitsilano’s salt-water swimming pool, and East Van’s first craft brewery to the ferries in Horseshoe Bay, Hand Drawn Vancouver is a love letter to this beautiful and iconic city.
About the Author
Emma FitzGerald was born in Lesotho in Southern Africa to Irish parents, grew up in Vancouver and calls Halifax, Nova Scotia home. She has always loved to dance and draw, and wanted to become a choreographer, writer or architect when she was 10 years old.
After completing a BFA in fine art and a Masters in Architecture, she worked in architecture offices in South Africa, Vancouver, Calgary, and Halifax. She taught architecture in the Gambia, West Africa. Since 2013 she has run her own business as an artist, creating drawings of buildings and people in Halifax, Nova Scotia, selling them as both cards and prints. This led her to create her first book “Hand Drawn Halifax” (Formac Publishing, 2015), which has become a bestselling and well loved ode to the city. As Emma draws on location people approach her and tell her stories, which are woven into the book.
Subsequently Emma explored the South Shore of Nova Scotia in a similar fashion, resulting in “Sketch by Sketch Along Nova Scotia’s South Shore” (Formac Publishing, 2017), and she recently completed “Hand Drawn Vancouver” (Appetite, 2020), which shares stories of the city she grew up in.
Emma shares her passion for drawing through teaching on location sketching workshops. She has done so at the Lunenburg School of the Arts, at Urban Sketching Symposiums in Brazil and the UK, and in Libraries all around Nova Scotia.
When Laura and Stefan got married in June of last year, the theme of their wedding was Forest and Sea, an homage to their roots – Laura, an ocean girl, having grown up on the coast, and Stefan, a man of the forest, hailing from deep in the woods of the West Kootenays. It was a special day for all of us at Kasama, witnessing two of our dear friends tie the knot, and gathering together with so many amazing people. Those memories feel all the more precious now, living in the time of a global pandemic.
One perk of co-owning a chocolate company is that you get to make your own wedding favours, and that’s how this recipe was first created. After the festivities, we had a lot of requests from people wanting more of this chocolate. Some even told us that they must have eaten their chocolate during the flurry of wine and dancing, but couldn’t remember, and were greeted with an empty wrapper when they opened it the next morning craving a chocolate treat.
Well, your wishes have been granted. On the 1 year anniversary of the
wedding weekend, it’s springing out of the woods as a new seasonal
release. The wrapper art was patiently created by Dom (he submitted many
different variations after more than a few emails from the rest of us
debating the finer points of the colour palette) who re-imagined the
original wedding favours designed by Laura’s sister Emma FitzGerald.
Blanketed in rich Honduran dark chocolate, the piney flavour of whole
rosemary, combined with Pacific Ocean sea salt make for a most excellent
marriage. This bar is now available for purchase in the online store.