With Valentine’s Day around the corner, why not celebrate with chocolate made using fair trade practices?

Thanks to Avanaa Chocolat in Villeray, Montrealers can do just that.

Owner Catherine Goulet was a geologist. While on a work trip to Peru, she tasted the local chocolate and was amazed.

“It was really flavourful and intense,” she said. “When I came back to Montreal, I couldn’t find anything similar.”

Soon after, she embarked on a new chapter.

“I started making chocolate just for myself,” she said. “I was studying on the internet, buying beans online, stuff like that.”

Goulet’s friends were impressed with her chocolate and told her to make more. She then took a trip to Mexico to see how they make chocolate.

“I saw all those little factories, little workshops, really craft chocolate,” she said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is cool. We should really have this in Montreal.’”

Her shop makes the delicious treat from scratch. 

“Bean-to-bar is really basically starting from raw beans and making all the steps through chocolate,” she said. 

It’s a meticulous process with several steps. 

Goulet starts by sorting the beans by hands, taking out any that look bad or broken.

The beans are then roasted in her shop. A small machine cracks and removes the shells, leaving her with fragnant cocoa nibs. 

That’s followed by 'conching,' where rolling stones grind the nibs into a liqueur.

It takes two to three days to complete the entire process - then, the chocolate is cooled for several months.

The last step is tempering the chocolate and pouring it into moulds. 

Many of Goulet’s patrons are surprised by the complexities of creating a bar of chocolate. 

“People don’t know much about chocolate, so when they come here, they’re like, ‘What are you doing,’ and it just opens the conversation,” she said. 

At the heart of Avanaa Chocolat is an emphasis on fair trade. 

She works with small co-ops in Central and South America, paying a premium for her beans.

“[For] 15 years, the cacao has been a lot more higher in prices,” she said. “But then when you look at the producer, they’re still at the same level. They’re not richer at all. They’re really poor.”

She feels that this way, everyone benefits. 

“When you eat it, you feel really good,” she said. “That’s for real, so I like everything about it.”