Local Spotlight—SRSLY chocolate
Tallahassee's First Chocolate Company
Natural Times, July/August/September 2013
By Michele Hatton
Imagine a bar of chocolate not too bitter, not too sweet, neither too brittle nor too soggy, one that explodes with subtle flavor: hints of toffee, overtones of malt… Welcome to Tallahassee’s new locally produced chocolate, crafted by SRSLY (pronounced “seriously”) chocolate, our local bean-to-bar chocolate company started by one of New Leaf’s own employees, Bob Williamson.
“I’ve always had food-making hobbies,” says Williamson. “I started out selling bread and pastries at the Lake Ella Market and have worked at New Leaf Market and Sweet Grass Dairy.” And how did Williamson become a chocolate chef and go on to create a chocolate company in Tallahassee (rare for a town our size)? “One day, I was working with a recipe that called for chocolate. I just found myself really curious about it and started experimenting.” After long hours of trial and error he mastered it; however, chocolate production is usually done on a much larger scale. “There are very few people making chocolate on this scale, and the equipment is not geared to medium-size production,” he explains. Tallahassee is fortunate to have his fresh, locally-made, luscious chocolate bars so readily available.
Williamson says that chocolate has a unique history. “It originates from Central America and the northern part of South America (Venezuela and Ecuador) and was used as a currency thousands of years ago.” The pod is large with a sweet white pulp that wraps around the cocoa seed. The seed itself looks like a large coarse fibrous almond. In Latin culture, chocolate is actually a drink—the Europeans turned it into a bar with the first commercial chocolate bar making its debut in the 1830s.
“Chocolate-making is equal parts science and art. Both parts are demanding,” says Williamson. To make it, he roasts and cracks the beans (most of his beans are organic, fair-trade from the Dominican Republic), then puts them into an electric stone mill. They grind for 24 long hours. “The flavors marry over time,” he explains. This long grind also drives off undesirable aromas and compounds, changing these shaggy beans into a smooth cream (texture must be below 20 microns). As he tempers the chocolate, it solidifies into six different crystalline formations. Phase five of this process however, generates the only acceptable crystallization structure for producing good chocolate. “You must tease out the chocolate taste,” remarks Williamson.
Williamson is committed to using organic ingredients and as many locally-grown foods as possible. His chipotle peppers are grown in Thomasville, the organic strawberries are locally-grown, and of course, the pecans were picked just a few miles away.
Right now, SRSLY chocolate offers four unique chocolate bars:
- 70%: a smooth blend of cacao (70%) and cane sugar (30%)
- 84% : a richer chocolate with a kick (this one has a higher percentage of cacao)
- Oaxacan Express: a spicy bar with Mexican chipotle and notes of coffee
- Sea Salt and Almond: the most popular, this bar contains roasted crunchy almonds and sparkles of coarse salt
All SRSLY chocolate bars are available at New Leaf Market, Fermentation Lounge, Grassroots Coffee (Thomasville), Sweet Grass Dairy, Skyline Motor Lodge, Native Nurseries and online at www.SRSLYchocolate.com.
Williamson is currently devising a line of chocolate that rolls with the seasons: chocolate with kumquats for the winter; fresh strawberries for spring; chocolate with blueberries during summer; and persimmon chocolate in the fall.
To learn more about his production, visit www.SRSLYchocolate.com.