Bean to Bar Chocolate Maker: Maribea Chocolate
Bean to Bar Chocolate Maker Location: Odessa, Texas
Chocolate Makers: Mark Merritt and Meredith Horton
Website: Maribea Chocolate
Date Established: April 2018
Ingredients Used: 3 - Cacao Bean, Cane Sugar, Cocoa Butter
Current Chocolate Production Output: 500 - 700 per month
Allergen Information: Possible traces of peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and dairy
Mark Merritt began experimenting with making chocolate in 2013. Through much research, he taught himself how to make chocolate and bought the (small-scale) equipment: a winnower, melanger, and later, a tempering machine. Being the owner of a successful machine shop, he set up his miniature chocolate factory in a spare room at his shop and set out to perfect his new craft.
Having done such thorough research beforehand, his first few batches came out well. Mark really only encountered two issues starting out. At the time, he did not know when the batches were done, so the chocolate was a little gritty, and he also did not yet know how to temper.
Despite the grit and uneven temper, the chocolate still came out pretty tasty! His hobby led him to explore the origin of the cacao bean and how flavors develop to culminate in a bar of chocolate. In a day when less is more, he discovered that the essence of bean to bar is ultimately in the process. Bean-to-bar chocolate requires a proper balance of both chemistry and physics. With limited ingredients – cacao beans, cocoa butter, cane sugar – each aspect of the method enhances the unique character of a cacao bean.
Mark named his chocolate passion after another passion – his best friend and wife Maribea (pronounced "merry bee")! After years of encouraging feedback on his homemade dark chocolate, Mark decided to turn his hobby into a business and opened Maribea in 2018. In 2019, he brought on Meredith Horton to take over the chocolate-making process for Maribea. He taught her everything he knew and she quickly learned the art and science of making bean-to-bar chocolate herself. Even though Mark does not do much of the chocolate making anymore, he is still heavily involved in every step of the process.
Before starting a batch of chocolate with a new origin of bean, Meredith roasts samples of the bean at various times and temperatures. These samples are then evaluated for taste, so she can determine how each bean will be roasted in a way that best complements its natural flavors.
Another thing that Meredith and Mark do when making each batch of chocolate is taste it at various points in the grinding process to determine if the batch needs to be aerated to allow volatile components out of the chocolate. This is an important step in getting the bitterness or acidic flavors out of the chocolate before it finishes grinding days later. After volatile components such as lactic acid have aerated out, the lid of the melanger is secured to keep the remaining flavors inside the chocolate. The appearance, aroma, taste, and mouth-feel of the chocolate are all important in knowing when the chocolate is ready and at its peak of perfection.
Most bars are 72% cacao, because through Mark’s years of chocolate experimentation, he realized that that amount of sugar was just enough to complement the flavors of the beans without being overly sweet. However, each bean is treated individually and only the amount of sugar necessary to bring out the best flavors in each bean is used. So you might find a 60% Tabasco, Mexico bar available in their shop, because for that bean, a little extra sugar brings out a world of new flavors that are not present in a 72% bar.
Maribea chocolate takes pride in its commitment to high-quality ingredients, minimal sugar and processing, unique chocolate flavor, and artisanal packaging. All aspects of Maribea chocolate come together for a pleasurable, guilt-free chocolate experience that will leave you appreciating dark chocolate like never before.