What’s Up Yukon’s weekly recipe developer, Sydney Oland, has a passion for food and creating new recipes. In addition to her weekly column, she is a PhD candidate at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom and her thesis has a working title of “Foodways of Yukon Territory and the edible intangible cultural heritage of Northern Canada.”
Oland found that busy schedule wasn’t enough for her, so she’s undertaken a new venture, the Yukon Chocolate Company. The new business leverages her eight years of experience in the chocolate-making industry to bring an all-new product to the Yukon: chocolate made fresh from cacao beans.
When she first moved to the Yukon, Oland realized that there were chocolatiers, but no chocolate-makers. For those who don’t know, these are two professions, with two separate skill sets.
“Chocolatiers take chocolate and develop beautiful products,” Oland explained. ‘Chocolate makers take the beans and make chocolate. To my knowledge, I’m the only chocolate maker.”
Oland got her start making chocolate in Massachusetts while working for Taza Chocolate, a company that makes chocolate in a traditional Mexican stone ground method, using molinos. That experience provided her with the skills to launch her own company here in the Yukon and navigate the challenges facing her – like sourcing high-quality cacao beans.
“I’m really pumped about my beans,” Oland said. “They’re from Alberta, from a Venezuelan guy, all from one farm in Venezuela.
“We’ve finished the first bag. Whitehorse has consumed a whole bag of cacao beans.”
That appetite for Oland’s Yukon-made chocolate has developed through her marketing and sales work. The Yukon Chocolate Company has set up Instagram and Facebook accounts to share images of their creations and engage fans. To reach the marketplace, Oland identified a couple of preferred vendors, but has focused on pop-ups at selected events and shops.
“I’m really enjoying the pop-ups,” Oland said. “I find a business (or event) who is open to it and show up.”
Yukoners may have seen the Yukon Chocolate pop ups around at events like Simapalooza and Thaw-di-gras or at local businesses like Midnight Sun Coffee. The next one will take place prior to Mother’s Day, so gift seekers can get Mom some Yukon-made chocolate. The location has not yet been determined, but will be announced on their social media accounts.
“The pop ups allow me to be face-to-face with customers and talk about bean to bar,” Oland said. “I have a cacao pod and beans. It’s cool to see people taste a cacao bean for the first time. There is a real difference in the flavour of fresh chocolate, compared to chocolate that has sat on the shelf.”
It hasn’t been all smooth getting the business running. Oland has been leasing the commercial kitchen at Farmer Robert’s and their recent closure had the potential to upset operations. However, the lease will stay in place and she will continue to produce chocolate at that location. However, the store had been the sole regular storefront carrying her chocolate, so Oland spent this month exploring potential preferred vendors. That work has borne fruit and her chocolate will be on the shelves of Riverside Grocery and Culture Cheese.
Oland has had help launching the business and she’s been leveraging her connections. Her branding, a ram’s head logo, was designed by Leanne McNally, and Kirsty Wells and Dan Bushnell of Molotov and Bricks Tattoo are helping out with shirts. The ram’s head logo captures the Yukon identity she wants to embrace for her chocolate.
“I would love to work with local chefs and see what some of the great culinary talent can do with my chocolate,” Oland said. “What I’m hoping for this company is people being super pumped about chocolate and super pumped about the Yukon.”
For more information about the Yukon Chocolate Company’s products, or where you can find some, contact them by email at [email protected] or visit their website www.YukonChocolate.ca. They can also be found on Facebook and Instagram as Yukon Chocolate Company.