Picture a pair of Caribbean islands right off the coast of Venezuela. Fertile soil, tropical climate, lush rolling hills crowded with row after row of cacao trees. Trinidad and Tobago make up one of 15 countries around the world that produce high-quality cacao.

Dominic, Nicolas and Daniel Maloney, co-owners of Sol Cacao, grew up there—and even years after moving to New York City during their primary school years, they still have cacao pumping through their veins. Recognizing that the abundance of pure chocolate they had known in Trinidad wasn’t readily available here in the U.S., they created a chocolate company that combined their interest in nature, health and agriculture.

Walking into their production facility in Port Morris on a recent Saturday morning, it’s apparent that, while bare, it holds endless potential waiting to be unearthed. A makeshift roaster sits prominently in the large open space, and the smell of roasting cacao vaguely resembles the scent we all know to be chocolate.

 

Chocolate Bars
Chocolate Bars at Sol Cacao

“There aren’t as many machine options for chocolate making, especially compared to the coffee industry,” says Dominic Maloney, “We’re, like, 30 years behind them.” Dominic oversees the daily operations at Sol Cacao. He shows off their roaster, one that looks more like an invention from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids than a state-of-the-art machine. “There are a lot of people experimenting, creative people, trying out new things,” he continues, his love for the craft apparent as he proudly takes us through the creative process. “There’s no blueprint for chocolate yet.”

 

After the whole beans are roasted, they’re tossed into the makeshift machine and are agitated to remove the outer husk and shell, spouting out cocoa nibs. The nibs are then ground with raw cane sugar for 48 to 72 hours, tempered, molded into perfect bars, wrapped in gold foil and placed lovingly into a linen paper wrapper, all done by hand.

The health properties of chocolate also played a role in the creation of their family business, as they all maintain a vegetarian lifestyle. This aspect of the business has been particularly significant to Nicolas Maloney, a registered nurse and “visionary” at Sol Cacao. “Food plays an important part of your life, from when you’re young to very old,” he says. “It’s important to put healthy things in your body.” Cacao in its pure form contains heart-healthy anti-inflammatory properties and flavonoids.

But don’t think you can just pick up any bar at your local drug store and call it a “super food.” Most mass-produced chocolates are loaded with fillers, stabilizers, palm oil, preservatives and chocolate flavorings, rather than the real-deal beans.

Currently, Sol Cacao offers three single-origin bars, from Peru, Ecuador and Madagascar. The result is dark and smooth; it melts to a thick velvet coating in your mouth—decadent and complex, slightly bitter, sour and a touch sweet. Each bar has a different flavor profile—that’s the beauty of a single-origin product: the purity of the beans and the ability to taste the distinct notes of each strain of cacao, flavored by its native soil. All are vegan and full of said health benefits.

Sol Cacao chocolate bars
Sol Cacao chocolate bars, photo by Alex Rivera

Read more about Sol Cacao at Edible Bronx