“It’s time for some fucking ladies to get involved,” Beryl Fine declares from her basement chocolate kitchen in Fort Greene. “There are four big chocolate companies in Brooklyn, and all of them are run by white men with beards. They’re nice men, I have nothing bad to say about them, but I wanted to create something with a woman’s presence, with women in mind, specifically.”
Thus was born Haute Chocolate. Organic, vegan, Fair Trade, and made with maple and coconut sugar instead of traditional white, the HC lineup includes semi-sweet, rosemary, toasted almond, cinnamon chipotle, espresso, and the recently added Lady Grey, all of which hover around 72% cacao.
We first discovered Ms Fine’s chocolate finery at Maha Rose Healing Center in Greenpoint (she also sells in specialty grocery stores and at food events) and immediately wanted to trace them to their source. Which is how we find ourselves in the Haute Chocolate headquarters (that aforementioned basement), watching as she prepares a batch of Lady Grey, stopping to do arithmetic out loud, figuring out her ratio of ingredients for the batch at hand.
“People like the chocolate, and I think it has to be because I put so much energy into it,” she said, referencing Like Water for Chocolate, and the notion of a woman who cooks her emotions into food. It’s also clearly a very personal business for Fine. “There have been opportunities for me to work with larger companies and produce at a much higher volume, but I chose not to because I think it would lose its integrity,” she adds.
Fine, a 32-year-old art school dropout and self-described third-wave feminist who grew up in Santa Cruz, started making chocolate medicinally—THC laced-sweets low in white sugar and saturated butter fat—and is largely (other than one course at the Institute of Culinary Education to “round out her recipes) self-taught. Though she switched gears to artisanal chocolate making, her background in fashion photography background is apparent in HC’s packaging with its provocative photography (shot by Fine) in a pretty palette of lavender, peach, and sepia tones.
After the batch of Lady Grey samples were finished, we went back upstairs where her assistant, Jasmine, meticulously wrapped each bar with a sheer mint green paper. Though Fine is currently in talks with a business developer about expanding her kitchen outside of this Brooklyn basement, its start-up spirit isn’t going anywhere. REBECCA BRATBURD