This profile was written by Bjorn Bergman and originally appeared on the Viroqua Food Co-op website.
Lynn Kronschnabel got the itch to make chocolate in late 2011. After learning about the rich history of cacao in the world, as well as its amazing nutritional characteristics, she decided to learn how to make the “Food of the Gods” from cacao bean to chocolate bar. It seemed like a perfect fusion of her love for traveling, food, wellness, and human connection.
Upon researching at length about education opportunities for prospective chocolate makers, she realized that there were few places to learn the trade, especially places that weren’t overseas. Shortly thereafter, on a serendipitous evening walk in Viroqua, she ran into a friend. Their conversation quickly turned to chocolate. Kronschnabel’s friend told her about Michael Sacco of ChocoSol, who was making bean-to-bar chocolate in Toronto, Canada. “You should contact him,” the friend urged.
After a couple days ruminating on the idea of contacting this relative stranger, she sent Sacco an email. He proved to be right person to get in touch with. After a number of conversations, he invited Kronschnabel to volunteer at his chocolate workshop for a week to learn about the trade.
It seemed a little crazy to drive all the way to Toronto to learn about chocolate making, but she dove into the opportunity and went. Over the course of her week in Toronto in March 2012, she learned the ins and outs of the artisan chocolate making at ChocoSol. Michael Sacco is a sharer, in the truest sense of the word.
In a week’s time volunteering, Sacco shared with Kronschnabel his passion for making chocolate, including how to source cacao responsibly, chocolate making recipes, techniques and resources, and business tips on how he made his bean-to-bar chocolate venture successful. She left Toronto with a great deal of gratitude for her mentor, a mind full of chocolate dreams, and a stone mill for grinding cacao.
After lots of experimenting and taste testing, in December 2013, Kronschnabel delivered her firstchocolate bars to the Viroqua Food Co-op under the Del Sol Chocolate brand. Today, she continues to craft delicious artisan bars from cacao bean to chocolate bar in her commercial kitchen that is attached to her home. She distributes her hand made delicacies to nine different retail locations in Viroqua, La Crosse, and Madison.
Del Sol Chocolate is set apart from other chocolate in our Co-op in many ways. First off, Kronschnabel is extremely committed to sourcing responsibly grown and traded cacao to make her chocolates. In today’s world, that is a tall order for small bean-to-bar chocolate makers. As far as Kronschnabel knows, there are no importing co-ops organized in the United States that help small cacao farmers get their harvest to artisan chocolate makers. Since beginning her business, she has pieced together a network of cacao producers that she purchases from, which include:
- Cacao Bisiesto in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Learn more here.
- Maya Mountain Cacao, Toledo District, Belize. Learn more here
- ChocoSol based producers in Lacondon Jungle of Chiapas, Mexico and the Oaxacan Mountains of Southern Mexico.Learn more here:
Kronschnabel is committed to using only pure ingredients in her chocolate. She only uses certified organic sweeteners (cane sugar and locally made maple sugar) and vanilla. She also locally sources many of the additions to her bars, which include hickory nuts, hazelnuts, herbs, and spices.
Lastly, Kronschnabel is the epitome of a chocolate maker. In today’s era of mass produced chocolate, most chocolates are produced by chocolatiers who purchase processed chocolate liquor and make chocolate. Kronschnabel imports whole raw cacao beans and transforms them into a finished chocolate bar in her chocolate workshop. As a result, she is able to pay the utmost attention to ethically sourcing her cacao and making sure it is super high quality right at the start of chocolate making.
If you’d like to try Del Sol Chocolates and meet the maker, Lynn Kronschnabel, make sure you come to VFC’s Holiday Open House on Friday, December 12, from 3-7pm. Lynn will be there sharing samples and stories about her delicious chocolates! More information here.