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For some, chocolate is more than just candy.
One sip of hot cocoa and you can be taken back to memories of your childhood. A slurp of a milkshake and you feel like you’ve traveled back in time to a ‘50s diner. Add a hint of sea salt and suddenly you’re on a desert island.
For the people behind Montréal-based company Cacao 70, chocolate is an experience.
From fondues to ice cream to drinking chocolate and more, Cacao 70 brings a variety of decadent desserts and treats to chocolate lovers across the country through its shops and restaurants. The company currently has 20 franchises across Canada, with the addition of a new factory in Montréal for customers to see how some of the chocolates are made.
In light of opening its new factory, we caught up with one of Cacao 70’s co-founders, Yingzhi ‘Easy’ Wang, to talk about how the company’s shops offer unique chocolate experiences for Canadians.
As an entrepreneur, Wang could have chosen anything to build a business from, but it was chocolate that stood out to him.
“After a few years working in a café, I realized that there are so many people working on coffee, and to compete with the big guys like Starbucks, we had to think of something new but similar. There were three things that came to mind: coffee, tea and chocolate,” said Wang. “Each has existed individually for over a thousand years, but rarely together. We didn’t want to just open another chocolate candy store.”
Since first opening as a chocolate drinking bar in 2009, Cacao 70 has expanded to focus on three different chocolate experiences. The Sweet House, where chocolate is presented in all its retail forms, The Eatery, with chocolate dishes, brunches and lunches, and lastly, The Dippery, where ice cream cones are coated in gourmet dips.
“Everyone knows chocolate as bars and bonbons, but it’s more than that. Especially in Canada with a colder climate, chocolate—whether a fondue or drink or candy—offers a sense of warmness and happiness that we can bring to people,” he said.
It’s this concept of catering chocolate to Canadians in new and surprising ways that keeps Cacao 70’s chocolatiers busy year round. The company’s new 8,000-square foot factory now provides them with a space to test chocolate flavour combinations and dream up delicious new products.
“What makes Cacao 70 unique from its competitors is that the directors of the factory day in and day out find, invent and imagine new ways of making chocolates,” said Wang. “Our talented, local chocolatiers make all the recipes up from scratch.”
But the factory isn’t just for the chocolatiers. With glass paneling and an open concept style, the factory is an opportunity for the company to establish a connection with its customers and ensure the quality of its products while also making high-quality chocolate accessible to everyone.
“We wanted to respect the culture of chocolate and create something new but not simply manufacture it; we wanted to use our hands,” said Wang. “The factory has given us the ability to allow the customers to see the chocolate and taste the chocolate in its early stages.”
Despite chocolate’s South American origins and European history, Wang wants to show Canadians that delicious treats can be found right here in their home and native land. The Cacao 70 experience can “offer Canadians an escape” from their daily grind through sweet, gooey chocolate.
“European countries are really good at producing chocolate but they aren’t fresh when they get here. So we wanted to [bring] their processes to Canada to make the chocolate as fresh and flavourful as possible,” he said. “From day one we were trying to create a place for Canadians to enjoy and share the experience of chocolate with their friends. We’re using chocolate as another way for people to enjoy their lives.”
For Wang and the rest of the team behind Cacao 70, that’s what the Canadian chocolate experience is all about.