by Tracy Brown | Photos by Matt Druin
This Atlanta family’s stint in Costa Rica brings ethically crafted chocolate to our doorstep.
Tucked amid the exposed brick walls and industrial awnings of Inman Park’s Krog Street Market is Xocolatl, a semi-secret chocolate oasis with a story just as tempting to devour as the handcrafted chocolate within.
Husband-and-wife founders Matt Weyandt and Elaine Read didn’t always know they would be chocolatiers,but they did know their lives would be anything but conventional. “Before we met, Matt and I had both traveled a lot, living all over the globe,” shares Elaine. “Two days after we got engaged, we packed up and went backpacking through Central America for six months.” Under reed roofs in rain-drenched shacks, Matt and Elaine stayed up at night spinning a future soaked with inspiration and adventure.
The couple eventually moved back to Atlanta. Careers were launched, a son was born … and their big, adventurous dreams became just that: dreams.
Then, when they were pregnant with their second child in 2012, they found themselves “aching for adventure,” says Elaine. So, when Matt came home one day and announced that they should move to Costa Rica, Elaine resonated with the idea. They waited until their daughter was born, and then sublet their loft, gave away their car and transplanted to a seaside Costa Rican village, their 4-year-old and 3-month-old in tow.
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
In a 500-square-foot wooden bungalow set against a backdrop of lush foliage, they built the life dreams are made of. Freedom, authenticity and exploration led the way to new perspectives and paradigms. It was the cacao trees filling the rainforest around them that ultimately brought their vision into focus.
Matt and Elaine first discovered the local beanto- bar chocolate at a farmer’s market. Intrigued by the intense, two-ingredient (cacao and cane sugar) chocolate, they toured a nearby chocolate company. “We discovered how it was made and what real chocolate was,” says Elaine. “We realized we wanted to bring the beauty of what we’d learned back to America, where the commercialized chocolate process is far different.”
Of course, the couple knew there would be risks to transplanting the craft from the rainforest to the urban jungle, but they returned to Atlanta in January 2014 with 50 pounds of beans and a business plan nonetheless. “Travel and living in unfamiliar environments has this amazing way of making you more open to new ideas and possibilities– things you never would think of when you stay inside your everyday routine,” Elaine muses.
FROM COSTA RICA TO KROG STREET
In the fall of 2014, Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate Factory opened in Krog Street Market, offering a variety of house-made chocolate bars, all from sustainably and ethically sourced beans. “We want to make sure that we’re sourcing our cacao beans and raw ingredients from people who are benefiting from us,” asserts Elaine. “We are committed to avoiding the labor and environmental exploitation that are sad parts of the huge industrial chocolate brands.”
The couple’s other commitment is to live life with authenticity. This includes charting continued adventures – now to source cacao beans – and also soaking up family time right under their own roof. Even on a long workday, Elaine says they’re grateful to be doing what they do. “I know I regret most deeply the things I never did, rather than the things I have done, even when they were mistakes,” she says. “It is not always easy to find your courage, but it is harder to live with the regrets of a dream passed by.”
It takes a week to make 350 chocolate bars at Xocolatl (pronounced Choc-oh-la-tul). “It’s definitely a labor of love, but we are proud of our chocolate and stand by the craftsmanship we put into it,” says co-founder Elaine Read.
SOURCE | Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate Micro-Factory. 99 Krog Street, Atlanta. 404-604-9642.
For tours, tastings + online shop: xocolatlchocolate.com