Chocolate Purveyors 15- Domantas Uzpalis
Chocolate Purveyors is a blog series where we connect and discuss everything chocolate with both makers and enthusiasts. This discussion is with Domantas Uzpalis the founder of Chocolate Naive.
Chocolate Naive makes chocolate in a little town on the Eastern side of Lithuania, where they make their chocolate from bean to bar. Naive makes chocolate in ways that help to reveal the character of a particular cacao bean. For some time already their products have put Lithuania on the foodie map as a rising star of gourmet chocolate in the world.
Do you remember your first experience with real chocolate? What was it?
I remember my first encounter with “proper” chocolate and it was sometime in 2008. I had a chocolate muse who introduced me to high percent Lindt and we were sucking upon it at times. 80 / 90% - it was a big discovery to me, rheological surprise. I believe that was the time when something switched and my mind opened this opportunity to investigate this beautiful and mysterious product further.
Before starting Chocolate Naive, what did you do?
I was working in the IT industry for seven years but I am a city planner by education. My chocolate adventure started during the last credit crunch – financial disasters are great to begin something new as it just throws you out of something into something new!
What is a typical day for you in the chocolate shop?
Usually, my daily routine starts with grinders inspection, then small talk with colleagues about the daily plan and then I proceed to emails. I am much more involved with emails these days than production although I am the only guy who manages roasts (so it's not all boring). Since our office is in the same premises as production I am moving back and forth many times per day so actually it's not boring at all.
What has been your biggest challenge in building Chocolate Naive?
We had started when the industry was young and undeveloped. It brought all sources of challenges since the small scale machinery, knowledge and sales infrastructure was not available, especially for the guys coming from remote Lithuanian countryside. I cannot say we are already established and relaxed but the future looks promising. But our philosophy is to stay small – I want to keep the boutique production as scaling sometimes means compromising.
How much does packaging matter in craft chocolate? What is your process in creating the chocolate packaging?
It does matter. However, it would be sad to focus on packaging instead of the product. However, the packaging is the first thing you can evaluate so it better be good and innovative. The chocolate bar is a great platform for artistic expression, both in terms of taste and visually.
How has the craft chocolate scene in Lithuania changed since you started?
It’s still very small. We have made huge efforts to establish some chocolate knowledge locally but it cannot be compared to the U.S. or Japan. Long way to go but we are opening our chocolate experience farm sometime next year so it will definitely give some boost.
Do you have a personal favourite terroir?
Hard to say. I like Colombia for their clean and fruity beans but I also like Mexico or Venezuela for their heritage. Been discovering some new unorthodox origins like San Salvador too. There are plenty of opportunities now to find a great bean.
Your Ambrosia bar was featured in our January Box, how did combining honey and chocolate come about?
I want to believe we were one of the first if not the first to combine chocolate and honey as ingredients. The honey we use is coming from a beekeeper friend of mine who is a proud owner of a 100-year old apiary. We combine his forest honey with some organic bee pollen to make this best-selling mossy Ambrosia bar.
What is your favourite pairing with chocolate? (Coffee, Beer, Cheese, etc.)
Green tea! This is a combination to look for in 2020.
What does the future hold for Chocolate Naive?
The single biggest project for us is the opening of our chocolate experience farm in 2021. It’s going to be a one-of-a-kind place as we put all our hearts in it. Plan your trip!
From rich dark Peruvian chocolate bars to new start-up chocolate bars on the come up, you never know what you get inside the box!
Each month we will curate 3 to 5 premium specialty crafted chocolate bars.
Have someone who you appreciate? It also makes as a great gift!
If you want to just try a couple of bars, check out our online chocolate shop, it's a selection of what we have curated in our past boxes.
Too much chocolate? You can pause at any time!
If you have any questions regarding this blog, our Kekao Box or premium specialty crafted chocolate bars, feel free to contact us! Keep up with us by subscribing to our newsletter or following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.