Julio Fernandez Amon, co-owner of Sibú Chocolate along with partner George Soriano, built the chocolate business from tiny to flourishing in a country where although cacao is plentiful, fine chocolate is rare.
Our Interview with George and Julio
What motivated you to open a chocolate business?
Central America is the cradle of chocolate yet it exports most of its cacao beans abroad where they are transformed into fine chocolates. We thought that it was time for our region to take the step from being a simple producer of beans to becoming a producer of fine chocolate. By doing that, we intend to create a model for other entrepreneurs who might want to do likewise with other commodities that originate in the rainforest.
Did you have any formal training in chocolate making?
None at all, until our first course with Ecole Chocolat. My background is in Central American History which I taught for many years. Later on I became a cultural and naturalist guide for visiting groups to my country. My partner in Sibú Chocolate is a journalist and marketing consultant.
We share a common interest in protecting the environment in our country and believe that the cacao crop is a way to work toward that goal. We began our studies in an informal way, reading all we could about the subject and traveling around the country to see what was going on with the cacao industry.
We also visited chocolate shops around the world, analyzing packaging and flavors and business models. In 2006-2007 we became Master Chocolatier through several courses with Ecole Chocolat and we continue learning each day from new programs and from colleagues.
Where do you get your inspiration for the different flavors and textures you include in your chocolates?
Mostly in the history of chocolate and the culinary tradition of our country and the Central American region. We also go to market looking to see what small organic farmers are producing and then start experimenting in our kitchen.
If you had to describe your product line in a couple of sentences, what would that be?
For that I defer to a line from our brochure: “Our innovative collection of bonbons and chocolate bars is inspired by Central America’s unique flavors and cultural heritage. We use organic, local and premium ingredients to offer an exquisite product lovingly made by Master Chocolatiers in adherence with sustainable practices. The fine flavor beans used in all our creations are sourced from a single organic plantation that is also certified by Rainforest Alliance.” I think that sums it up.
What is your personal favorite out of all the products you make and why?
The spice truffle. It is based on a 17th century recipe for drinking chocolate that we adapted as a truffle. It also shows true mastery in the way flavors register on the palate in a sequence which complements the fine taste of the chocolate without competing with it.
San Isidro, Heredia
Costa Rica, Central America
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