Over the past few months, Christopher Elbow has been hard at work on his next chocolate creation.
The acclaimed pastry chef and chocolatier is working with Signal Theory, a local marketing and branding agency, to create The Cacao Experience, a new customer-facing educational tour centered around the history of chocolate.
“My goal with this project was to create an immersive, educational experience for my customers where they would learn the history of cacao, where it is grown and the challenges and expense involved with growing and harvesting it as a crop and finally ending with a demonstration of how chocolate is made and a tasting,” says Elbow.
Elbow is planning to install The Cacao Experience in the back of Elbow Chocolates, where he used to keep his bonbon production equipment. With a new factory and corporate office completed last year, he was able to move the chocolate production equipment to the new space and build an interactive tour for his fans in its place.
When customers walk into the new exhibit, there will be a large display mounted against the back wall, showing maps of cacao-growing regions around the world, tools that are used to grow and harvest it, along with photos and videos of cacao farmers talking about the process to grow and prepare the cacao to make chocolate.
From there, guests will learn the nuts and bolts of making chocolate, something that Elbow has learned to do over the past few years in preparation to launch his single-origin chocolate bar line.
“We will be taking them through the entire process from start to finish, and then we will finish the tour with a tasting of four to five single-origin chocolates, talking about the various flavors found in chocolate made from cacao harvested from different parts of the world, and how those flavors influence my decisions on how much cacao to use in any given bar,” explains Elbow.
As part of this project, Elbow has also created a 501c3 foundation that will allow him to put money from the ticket price of every tour into a fund to support the cacao farmers he buys from to make his single-origin bars. “We are a small chocolate company, but this is something we can do to help make a difference in the lives of these farmers,” he says.
The chocolatier has set a goal for himself to visit every farm he currently buys cacao from to help him build that personal connection with the farmers, and to get a deeper understanding of what their lives are like and what their needs might be. Most of his beans right now come from farms in Central and South America and Madagascar.
“With the Cacao Experience, it is important to me that people understand that the cacao that is used to make chocolate is grown in the poorest parts of the world, and consumed in the richest,” says Elbow.
Elbow plans to open The Cacao Experience to the public sometime this fall.
Elbow Chocolates, 1819 McGee St., Kansas City, Missouri, 816.842.1300, elbowchocolates.com