Bean to Bar Chocolate Maker: Makenu Chocolate
Bean to Bar Chocolate Maker Location: Kentucky
Chocolate Maker Name: Jess Diebel & Tucker Juan
Date Established: September 2020
Ingredients Used: Cacao Bean, Cocoa Butter, White Granulated Sugar
Allergen Information: The facility contains nuts and dairy
Makenu Chocolate was started in 2019 by Jess Diebel and Tucker Juan who are friends and business partners. They were connected in Jacksonville, Florida, over shared conversations focused on different aspects of chocolate.
After changing career paths and moving back to the beach from the mountains of Colorado, Jess began learning about the intricacies of the coffee world and dabbling in hand tempering, truffle making, and dried dipped fruits. With his mother’s toffee recipe in hand, Tucker started a small toffee company called Topsy Toffee in 2014. While Topsy Toffee was thriving in the local and regional market, Tucker began looking into origination of each ingredient in his toffee, finishing with chocolate.
After many conversations, a trip to the Seattle-based NW Chocolate Festival and an origin chocolate maker trip to Belize with Uncommon Cacao, Makenu Chocolate was born. Makenu Chocolate’s goal is to transform sustainably harvested cacao into chocolate that speaks to the senses.
Makenu, pronounced Muh-Ken-ew, is Maori for “trail” or “imperfection”. Jess and Tucker have interpreted the name to include journey, specifically the chocolate journey. With both owners gravitating towards their love of the outdoors, the chosen name brings the adventure of New Zealand’s nature to Northeast Florida.
Makenu opened its production and retail space officially in September 2020. Jess and Tucker learned about the chocolate-making process through much hands-on learning, trial and error in the shop, consultations with Videri Chocolate founder Sam Ratto, roasting workshops with John Nanci, and lots and lots of quality control taste testing.
Makenu chose to maintain a tight focus on the Single Origin 70% line-up as the owners feel this offering connects their local consumers directly to the origin, including farmers, agriculture practices, family life on the farm, pay, export, and finally what happens in the shop to produce high quality and transparent chocolate.
Both owners are highly involved in every step of the chocolate-making process, as well as training their small staff to slowly step into each process – from hand sorting, roasting, cracking and winnowing to melanger use and tempering.
The first few months of chocolate making integrated learning on how to mitigate the high humidity of Northeast Florida in the making process, the characters of each piece of machinery with each origin, and how to engage the customer in this process…during the pandemic! This time period is highlighted with the highs and lows of owning a business, the successes and the struggles, and how to manage the ongoing problem-solving and work-arounds to continue moving forward.
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