One of my goals for 2019 was to incorporate my other interests, like history and architecture, into my travel blog in new and interesting ways. So many places around the world are embracing their historic roots in such fun ways and I want to share them with you, even if you aren’t a history aficionado. Most of the places I feature will be local to my area, but I’ll share other places globally when I do travel.
When I started researching places in Cincinnati/NKY to feature on the blog, I focused on businesses that either were in interesting historic buildings, practice historic methods, or sell unique historic objects. One of the first shops I discovered, Maverick Chocolate Shop, fit the bill in numerous ways! It’s original location is in the historic Findley Market area, they practice semi-historic methods of making chocolate, and their labeling features vintage flying machines. What more could a history-loving, chocolate-obsessed flight attendant ask for!
Maverick Chocolate Shop, family owned and operated, takes great pride in providing quality chocolate, and they don’t disappoint. Paul Picton, an engineer who traveled the world for work, always returned home with delicious chocolates for his family to try. Chocolate developed into a passion for his family, and they became interested in knowing the growing and production processes for high-quality chocolate. In early 2013, Paul and his wife Marlene decided to try their hand at chocolate-making, and set up shop in their kitchen. Friends and family enjoyed numerous chocolate tastings and the demand for their chocolate grew.
They now own two shops, one in Findley Market and another brand new location in Rookwood Commons. They are Ohio’s first “bean to bar” company, currently a rare practice in the United States, in which a retailer makes their own chocolate directly from the cocoa bean. With most companies just buying chocolate already made in chip or block form, and then melted and molded into their products, I really appreciate the effort Maverick makes in making their own chocolate.
The practice of making the chocolate is just as important to them as the presentation, “using only ethically sourced cacao beans, we hand craft our chocolate in small batches from bean to finished bar.” Beans sourced from Belize, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Peru, Maverick selects the best. With a variety of decadent products and flavors, there is something for everyone to love…ranging from single origin dark chocolate bars, chocolate infused with rich flavors like orange, espresso, or truffles filled with luscious caramel.
I had the opportunity to visit the location in Rookwood Commons, the new home to their chocolate factory. Before starting a tour with Ben, a son of the Pictons in charge of marketing, my friends and I taste-tested selections from the shop. My favorites were the Fahrenheit 513 (dark chocolate with toasted chillies) and Dark Milk Chocolate with Cocoa Nibs (creamy chocolate, hints of vanilla, and crunchy bits of cocoa nibs), both of which I purchased. Ben informed me the best-selling were the Prohibition Milk Chocolate (made with Kentucky Bourbon and a dash of sea salt) and the Big Island Hawaii 70% Dark Chocolate.
Walking around the shop, I enjoyed their sleek design that perfectly infused old-world charm with modern style. With the first location in the historic Findley Market area, the family was thoughtful in it’s design, mimicking vintage details indicative of the building’s era. Details like the Victorian tin siding on the display cabinets, glass apothecary jars, and vintage-esque aviation packaging. They carried these vintage details to their new location, but with a brighter, more updated design, fitting for the modern location.
The families emphasis on aviation on their packaging is what really drew me in. When asked about the chosen theme, Ben mentioned his dad’s past career as a jet-engine engineer and pilot. He also said the word “Maverick” really resonated with the family. Maverick: a person who takes a stand independent of others in a group. Adj. unorthodox, unconventional, nonconformist. The Pictons are taking the unconventional route from big chocolate corporations, who sometimes have bad labor practices and poor quality products. By displaying the mavericks of past eras, who boldly discovered flight, they found a perfect representation of their aviation roots and unconventional chocolate-making methods.
After our taste-testing, Ben brought us through the factory for a tour of the chocolate-making process. Brought through the glass factory doors, you are hit with the intense aroma of chocolate, a warm and comforting smell amongst the cold steel of the machinery. While the roasting equipment wasn’t quite set up (freshly relocated from the original shop, they are currently finishing set-up for the factory) we did view the next steps of chocolate-making in action. Glossy cocoa-butter swirling in the mixer after being liquified…tempered chocolate aging on the cooling racks to develop their flavors…truffles being dusted with colored cocoa powder.
A feast for the senses, but also very technical. Ben explained in depth the process in which their chocolate is made. The cocoa nibs are stone-ground for days until liquified, and then sugar and other ingredients are added. Then it’s sent to the tempering machine, since temperature is vital for shiny, quality chocolate. It is then poured into the molds and aged for about a month, so the acidic volatiles are released. Packaged in their vintage style wrappings, they are ready to eat!
This was all explained to us in the tour, along with so much more, so I feel it’s best if you get the in-house experience yourself! Reading about the process is not nearly as intriguing as viewing it in person!
I highly recommend those in the Cincinnati/NKY area to stop by their shop for a tour (once it’s up and running again) and taste-testing, it really makes you appreciate the process for well-made chocolate. However, if you are not in the area, Maverick has a multitude of retailers across the country that sell their delicious chocolate, and their online store is easy to shop as well. Give it a try and let me know your favorite!
Outside sources for photos and information: