We love taking our tour guests to Jeni’s Ice Creams, and I’m sure that our enthusiasm both for the ice creams and the business is apparent. We’re constantly inspired by their involvement in the community, their energy, the support they give to other small businesses and the partnerships they form with like-minded, socially responsible endeavors.
One of the great examples of this kind of partnership is their collaboration with Askinosie Chocolate. Jeni has used Shawn Askinosie’s chocolate in her Askinosie Dark Chocolate ice cream since 2010, and in 2011 they collaborated on the Dark Chocolate + Malted Milk CollaBARation bar. Jeni’s also use Askinosie cocoa powder to make hot chocolate in the scoop shops.
We were honored to be invited to a chocolate tasting and presentation by Shawn Askinosie at Jeni’s to learn more about his business and products. The tasting was primarily designed for Jeni’s staff so that they can learn more about their ingredients. It is really notable how well versed the Jeni’s scoop shop staff are in their products and a credit to the time invested in training and educational experiences.
Prior to getting into the chocolate business, Shawn Askinosie was a criminal lawyer who was looking for a new direction in life. When he fell into chocolate in 2005 he knew he’d found his passion. The Missouri-based business now employs 14 people and sources cocoa beans directly from four countries. Shawn’s overarching goals have been to try to shorten the supply and distribution chains and to produce the best and simplest chocolate. The chocolate is minimally processed and the single origin chocolate bars contain only two ingredients – cocoa beans and organic sugar. At the tasting we learned a lot about the chocolate making process and the efforts that Askinosie make to ensure environmentally friendly practices, to educate the farmers about processing the beans and about the end product. It was amazing to hear that many of the farmers who grow cocoa beans had never actually tasted a chocolate bar. To that end Shawn takes the finished product back to the farmers so that they can taste the chocolate and appreciate the end result of their efforts.
Askinosie chocolate is truly a bean-to-bar chocolate, they even press their own cocoa butter and were the first producer in the United States to press small batches of cocoa butter. Each single origin bar comes from a specific farm or co-operative and the farmers are pictured on the packaging. Askinosie pay the farmers well above Fair Trade prices and also profit share with the farmers. Not only do they feel that the farmers have earned this, but they want to help them understand the link between quality and profit. We tasted four different single origin chocolate bars all ranging from 70-77% cocoa solids. It was amazing how much they differed in taste. We were also able to taste chocolate from various stages of production and Askinosie’s dark milk and white chocolate bars. The white chocolate at 34% cocoa solids was unlike any white chocolate I have ever tasted. Askinosie also have four other collaborations bars, in addition to the Jeni’s collaboration bar, with Lakritsfabriken (Swedish licorice producer), Intelligentsia Coffee, Zingerman’s and Pasqual’s Cafe (Santa Fe). My favorites from the tasting were the dark milk chocolate (62%) and the surprising dark milk chocolate + salty licorice collaboration bar.
Jeni believes that business can be a force for good and hearing about Chocolate University and all of the programs that Askinosie have introduced, not only in their community, but in the communities of their producers, you can really see that. Sean Askinosie is genuinely committed to improving the lives of the families who grow his chocolate, far beyond paying them fair prices for their cacao.
If you haven’t tried Askinosie chocolate we can’t recommend it highly enough. Not only will you be eating an award winning artisan product but you will be supporting farmers, small businesses and communities across the world. As a board member of Slow Food Columbus I appreciate food that is good, clean and fair. Askinosie chocolate not only tastes good but it’s good for the farmers, the environment and for you.
Askinosie chocolate is sold nationally in over 500 specialty food stores. In Columbus you can find Askinosie chocolate at The Hills Market, Katzinger’s and at Jeni’s scoop shops. You can also order chocolate online from the Askinosie website where you will also find some other products (tableya and rice) that directly benefit rural school children in the Philippines and Tanzania.