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Monday, July 7, 2014

Chocolate Made in Milwaukee

Tabal produces six varieties at West Side kitchen

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To self-professed lifelong chocolate lover Dan Bieser, chocolate making is more than a process; it’s a passion. Since founding Tabal Chocolate two years ago, Bieser has continued to develop recipes and hone his chocolate-making techniques from the commercial kitchen he rents from Amaranth Bakery & Café (3329 W. Lisbon Ave.), a similarly minded, community-focused artisan bakery and café located in the Washington Park neighborhood on Milwaukee’s West Side.

Rather than using purchased chocolate, which is common enough among other bakeries and confectioners, Bieser wanted to create the purest locally made chocolate possible, by procuring the best cacao beans possible. 

In addition to his Costa Rican and Dominican suppliers, Bieser also purchases cacao beans from farmers and farming cooperatives in Mexico, Peru and Bolivia. And since the environmental and social circumstances of the farmers must be taken into consideration, as well as the fact that cacao beans are only harvested twice a year, obtaining orders can take up to six to eight months. 

With multiple variables affecting the taste and texture of the beans, Bieser admits to experiencing a definite learning curve as he worked to develop his palate. “Each harvest may have different flavors, depending on the amount of rain, how the bean is fermented and how they’re dried,” he explained. “It’s a subtle difference, like the differences between wines—like how a California chardonnay tastes different than a New York chardonnay. It comes from the soil it is grown in, the climate and the way it is processed, and to be honest, I think I’ll keep learning these differences until the day I die.” 

But for Bieser, education and production have not been mutually exclusive, as he and his two part-time employees have continued to produce six varieties of three-ounce dark chocolate bars, including Costa Rica 70% Cacao, Costa Rica 70% Cacao Plus Sea Salt, Costa Rica 70% Cacao Plus Cranberries, Bolivia 70% Cacao, Peru 70% Cacao and Peru 70% Cacao Plus Cherries. Tabal Chocolate bars can be ordered online or purchased at a selection of local bakeries and stores, including Candy Bouquet, Beans & Barley and Outpost Natural Foods. 

Looking to the future, Bieser hopes to increase distribution and diversify production in the coming months, while maintaining strong relationships with both the international farmers he depends on and the Washington Park neighborhood in general. “As we grow, we’ll be able to employ more people in the area,” Bieser said. “And that’s really the goal—to branch out and expand our business while helping to stabilize the neighborhood.” 

To learn more about Tabal Chocolate visit tabalchocolate.com or call 414-828-0336.