Take a look back on your life. Can you point to one moment, one accident that changed it all? For Dan and Jael Rattigan, it all traces back to a single plane ticket.
Said plane ticket was originally purchased by Jael for a business school environmental seminar in Costa Rica. But after she wound up dropping out of the program, she decided to fly down anyway, and Dan came along. They romped through the jungles of Costa Rica in a school bus-turned-RV, and loved it so much they took a huge leap and decided to settle down in the small village of Puerto Viejo.
Another accident: stumbling upon a FOR RENT sign on a cafe space with an apartment perched just above. For the next two years, they ran a restaurant together and also bought a piece of land that would later become their very own cacao farm.
Not another accident: a son, but raising him in Costa Rica this turned out to be too difficult, too far away from the rest of their family. So they packed it all up and settled in Asheville, NC, a town with a great food scene and a strong, intimate community. A successful year-long stint selling handmade truffles and caramels at farmers markets led them to open the French Broad Chocolate Lounge in downtown Asheville.
Owning that first cacao farm definitely had an impact on how they source beans. The farm they purchased was abandoned after Costa Rica's cacao industry collapsed in the 1970's. While simultaneously getting it back on its feet, French Broad imports directly from other farmers in Peru, Nicaragua, Panama, and Costa Rica. They even work directly with the fermentaries to make sure that there are fewer middlemen in between them and the cacao.
The beans are shipped straight to their factory and tasting room. Sorted by hand, defective ones removed, the beans are roasted in 10-20 kilo batches then processed in machines hand-built by Dan. The chocolate bars are hand-foiled and hand-wrapped in beautifully-designed, 100% post consumer recycled paper wrappers. Every step of the process must meet the couple's super high standards.
Nothing accidental about that.
Does North Carolina feel very far from the farm?
Well, if you draw a line on a map due north from our cacao farm in Puerto Viejo, you'd run right into Asheville. It's on the same meridian!
What's most interesting to you about running French Broad Chocolates?
What's NOT interesting? Adventure travel to far-off lands, being part of a new artisan food industry, creating a happy work environment for over 40 people, making an impact on our local community, playing with our food...