My oh my. Now, I do this out of my love for spreading veganism and love for my community, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to have opportunities like getting the inside scoop on a super cool business like Nostalgia Chocolates. Big thanks to co-owner, Tyler Cagwin for spending so much time showing me how everything works and letting me taste some finished products! Just look at this beautiful chocolate grinding in the melanger….
The first thing we should get out of the way is that Nostalgia Chocolates is a chocolate maker. That is, they take raw cacao beans and turn it into beautiful chocolate, usually in bar form. Chocolatiers buy chocolate from a chocolate maker and use that to to craft their confections like truffles, candies, bark, and chocolate covered items. Some chocolatiers are also chocolate makers.
All of Nostalgia Chocolates products are currently 100% vegan, gluten free and nut free by ingredient. They are not formally certified, but currently do not use animal products, gluten ingredients, or nuts in their chocolate making. To be clear- their machines and workspace do not touch these ingredients, but they do operate in a building where those ingredients are used. Bob’s Red Mill GF Oats are used to replace the traditional dairy ingredient.
The total process can be completed in as little as three days, depending on how efficient the maker is working. First, the beans are roasted and cooled. The temperature and time chosen by the maker depend on the type of bean and the desired chocolate product. Next, the beans are put through a juicer to break them apart followed by a winnower to separate the nib from the husk. Now, for the pretty part. The fruit is then placed into the melanger who’s granite grinder heats and breaks the nib down over the course of about 2 days for dark chocolate. Sugar is added during this step; some makers add it at the beginning, others after it has been grinding. The next step is tempering, which gives the chocolate its shine and snap. This is a critical step where the chocolate is precisely cooled and cacao butter added. The chocolate is then poured into a mold, refrigerated to form and then packaged.
Nostalgia Chocolates just celebrated their first anniversary March 1st. They plan to open a brick and mortar shop with drinking chocolate, a coffee bar using local roasters, and food made with their chocolate. They’re also looking to make some confections (becoming both a chocolate maker and chocolatier) in about two to three years.
You can find Nostalgia Chocolates through their online store and at a variety of farmers markets. Follow them on Facebook and/or Instagram to find out more. They also sell select varieties at various retail shops including O Yoga and Syracuse Crossfit in Syracuse, Parry’s in Hamilton, 20 East in Cazenovia, and Synple in Camillus with others in the works. They’ve also recently released a special bar in collaboration with Salt City Coffee where the bar is available there for purchase.
A word about fair trade and sustainable practices
There are multiple Fair trade organizations and fair trade certifications, and it can be confusing for both the consumer and the sourcer of grown products. The waters have become murky as more people are looking to see those words on a label. Nostalgia Chocolates began this journey whilst traveling. They met real farmers and made connections. Currently, with the exception of the Mexican beans, all of their beans are directly sourced through two cooperative of farmers, Meridian and Uncommon. These cooperatives help farmers learn best practices and ensures the production of consistently high quality beans. Mexican beans are sourced directly through one farmer whose cacao grows in the Tabasco region.
Additional ingredients are locally sourced when possible, including the cayenne in their Mexican bar from Hartwood Farm in Chittenango. All packaging is recyclable with the exception of the sticker label and sticker inside.