Bean to Bar Chocolate Maker: Hazel Hill Chocolate

Bean to Bar Chocolate Maker: Hazel Hill Chocolate

Bean to Bar Chocolate Maker Location: Topeka, Kansas
Website: Hazel Hill Chocolate
Date Established: 2005
Ingredients Used: 3 - Roasted cacao, organic sugar, coco butter (pressed from same origin) 
Allergy Information: Processed in an allergen free facility.

Hazel Hill Chocolate is all about family and tradition.

Nick Xidis and his wife Terry opened Hazel Hill Chocolate in 2005, based on Nick’s family history of chocolatier and confectionery work. Nick’s grandfather immigrated to the United States from Greece in 1914. After serving in World War I, the Greek community in New York City provided an apprenticeship in chocolate and confectionery which Nick's grandfather took up. In 1929, Nick’s grandfather moved to Clinton, Iowa, and opened a small shop called Candyland. Everything was handmade, in small batches, from simple ingredients.

In 2015, Nick and Terry decided to expand into bean-to-bar chocolate making. After two years of research, training and practice, they launched their first single-origin, bean-to-bar chocolate in 2017. They tasted single-origin bars from other makers and were amazed at the flavors from these artisan chocolate bars. As they explored more, they found so many interesting sources for high-quality cacao and wanted to share these with their community.

Nick and his youngest son Daniel make the chocolate. Daniel focuses on roasting and processing cacao into nibs, while Nick does most of the refining and production of finished bars. When they started, there weren't any formal training programs, so they experimented. They purchased small quantities of already roasted nibs from various origins and a small melanger, and started tinkering with refining times, temperatures and ingredients. They learned how to roast cacao from transferable concepts, from coffee to cacao.

Their first batch of chocolate was Sambariano from the Akesson family in Madagascar. This variety has quite a bit of acidity and fruit flavors. Early on, they also added way too much cocoa butter to their chocolate, because of their experience with couverture (French for “coating”) chocolate. In one case, they struggled with tempering a batch of Marañón cacao chocolate for weeks. So now, they take their time when developing a chocolate recipe.

Using a sensory analysis process, Nick and Daniel evaluate and score test batches for aroma, acidity, bitterness, astringent, and so on to determine a roast profile that best expresses the unique attributes of the cacao and origin. Some chocolates have a simple melody of flavor while others have flavors that come in waves and change as the heat in your mouth loosens the fats in the chocolate.

To them, making chocolate is magical. Nick adds, "The whole idea that a fermented fruit seed can become a beautiful bar of chocolate filled with flavors distinct to origin is magic that would light up people's faces when they taste our chocolate.”