Wm. Chocolate began when my passion for making nutritious, ethically sourced, delicious whole food from scratch spilled over into chocolate. Simply put, I couldn’t find a chocolate on the market that met my standards, so I decided to make it myself--all the way from raw cacao bean to finished chocolate bar.
When I was getting started, chocolate made without emulsifiers, cacao butter substitutes, and other nutritionally questionable cost-cutting ingredients had become easier to find--but it was still sweetened with refined sugar. It didn't matter if the chocolate was high-end, low-end, or in between; organic or conventional; refined sugar was (and remains) in nearly all of it. A few bars sweetened with non-caloric sweeteners like stevia extracts were out there as well--but those sweeteners are ultra-processed in their own right.
I wanted something different: pure, smooth, delicious chocolate made with a whole-food, minimally processed, nutritionally complex, real sweetener. It seemed so obvious and simple, yet it proved to be all but impossible to find.
And so, I set out to make the chocolate I wanted to eat.
In my cooking and baking, I had long since made the switch to traditional unrefined sweeteners like whole cane sugar, honey, and maple syrup, and wondered if I could use one of them in chocolate as well. In particular, whole cane sugar is a perfect flavor companion to cacao and is completely dry--key because water and chocolate do not get along. To test my vision, I bought a small chocolate grinding machine and started experimenting with cacao and whole cane sugar.
The results were equal parts phenomenal and fascinating. For my first batches, I'd purchased small amounts of high-quality single-origin cacao beans. I expected that they would taste good, but in truth, I was skeptical that the origins would taste much different from one another.
Imagine my surprise when I began experiencing the huge range of flavors in chocolates made with cacao beans from different origins. The diversity was so unmistakable and enjoyable that my mission quickly expanded: in addition to using a better sweetener, I had to showcase the diverse natural flavors of cacao.
In those early test-batch days, I wanted to share the chocolate to see if other people enjoyed the different origins as much as I did, so I would mold my finished chocolate into huge bars and break off thick chunks to give away. The chocolate was a hit, but this was not the easiest way to share and eat it.
To solve the problem, I invested in a set of molds that allowed me to produce smaller bars, which I’d wrap in paper stamped with my initials, “WM.” The label on the wrappers stuck, the chocolate continued getting rave reviews, and I became increasingly convinced that “Wm. Chocolate” should take over my professional life.
My big opportunity came after nearly a year of making chocolate in private, when I was introduced to Jonny Hunter, culinary director for the Underground Food Collective in Madison. He quickly became a fan of my chocolate and helped me make it available to the public. Thanks to his help and the several local shops first selling my bars, Wm. Chocolate became official.
The important things haven't changed since the early days. I still obsess over finding incredible cacao and whole cane sugar, and gladly pay well above commodity prices to get it. I still use gentle processing techniques to preserve the natural character of the source ingredients, so that "single-origin" is actually meaningful. I still skip all the additives, refined sugars, and other tricks we'd be better off without.
Above all, I'm still completely in love with the results--and think you will be too.
-Will Marx, chocolate maker and founder
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