Erik and Jessica of El Buen Cacao making craft chocolate in Idyllwild California
Erik Landis and Jessica Ramirez of El Buen Cacao first met when they were contract archaeologists in the Colorado desert. It was 2012 when they decided to experiment with making chocolate. It was the history of chocolate that first caught their attention and drove them into the rabbit hole. They would experiment with chocolate in micro-batches in their house kitchen.
Like many other craft chocolate makers learning how to make chocolate, they would research online, read many books, dig deep into the history of chocolate and spend many hours of trial-and-error attempts. Soon, their entire house became a chocolate lab as their small-batch equipment quickly took over the entire kitchen. They first experimented with cacao beans from Peru and they were hooked! It quickly became a discussion about expanding and sharing their love for chocolate with others.
Erik and Jessica fell in love with Idyllwild, California, whenever they would visit their family in a small town located in the San Jacinto Mountains surrounded by beautiful pine trees. Without hesitation, they moved and opened their first chocolate shop in the back of an alleyway in the mountains. Soon, they outgrew their shop and expanded into their manufacturing facility which is now located in the middle of town where they continue to create single-origin, ethically sourced and organic chocolate made with 3 ingredients – cacao bean, sugar and cocoa butter.
Jessica knew they wanted to make chocolate from scratch, using the bean-to-bar process. She shares, “We enjoy making things. It is important to be able to control the entire process and know what quality ingredients were used. A lot of work and pride goes into saying that you’ve made something versus buying melted chocolate and claiming you made something. I love every single process of making chocolate, from the brownie smell you get from roasting cacao to the slow process of dumping nibs into the stone grinder. Our least favorite part in the process is hand sorting as it’s quite meticulous and exhausting after a few hours, but we still do it as it’s an essential part of the chocolate-making process.”