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Cacao 70’s Award-Winning Head Chocolatier Talks Chocolate-Based Inspiration

Gaiia Kim is building up Montreal’s bean-to-bar scene

Gaiia Kim at Cacao 70
Xavier Girard Lachaine

The bean-to-bar chocolate movement is flourishing, and one of Montreal’s key players isn’t necessarily who you’d expect. Cacao 70 started life as a dessert chain specializing in everything chocolate, and recently underwent a major rebranding, opening the Cacao 70 factory last May. Located in Pointe-St-Charles’ Nordelec building, the emphasis has shifted from chocolate fondues and other decadent desserts towards the chocolate bars themselves, and where (and whom) they come from.

Head chocolatier Gaiia Kim, (who owned now-closed café-pastry store Le Petit Trianon in NDG), has been experimenting with chocolate since the factory’s inception, and has gained an incredible amount of insight and experience in her short time with the company. Her background is strong — she graduated from Vancouver’s École Chocolat and did a stint in pastry at Toqué. But she continues to grow after just a few months at Cacao 70, getting three awards under her belt from the renowned International Chocolate Awards, after entering six infused chocolate bars into the competition.

“We participated without any expectations. It’s our first year doing bean-to-bar so it is still only the beginning for us.”

Gaiia Kim (right) at work
Xavier Girard Lachaine/Official

The winners included their dark chocolate and coffee bar, as well as their milk chocolate bars infused with both chai and Earl Gray tea. Kim describes the infusion process as similar to “infusing tea into water”, but with cacao butter. Only these naturally infused flavours are used — not essential oils.

Infused bars aren’t the factory’s only specialty. They currently offer single origin bars from the Dominican Republic, and are looking to expand the number of origins (that is, the countries and locations from which they source cacao beans) as the factory grows.

“We’re thinking of adding maybe Ecuador and Peru. We want to have different origins to make premium bars with premium beans. Depending on the flavour profiles of the beans, we can also create different infusions tailored to each origin. Dark milk bars -[dark chocolate that has been mixed with milk solids] are also my next challenge.”

Cacao 70’s machinery
Xavier Girard Lachaine

Kim’s talents as a chocolatier come from her ability to derive inspiration from anything she encounters. She was recently invited to visit the Hotel Chocolat’s Boucan resort in Saint Lucia, where she was exposed to cacao in innovative ways.

“They do what they are calling ‘cacao cuisine.’ I didn’t actually eat a single chocolate bar the entire time I was there because it’s too hot for them to store the chocolate. But instead every meal was made using cacao in some form, from the pulp to the nibs. Cacao nibs were used to crust and marinate meats, and they made this incredible cacao pulp sorbet for dessert.”

Back in Montreal, Kim is already applying this chocolate-centric mentality at the factory. All sweets are made in-house, from scones laced with cacao nibs, to brownies made with their own bean-to-bar chocolate.

“I even did a savoury chocolate menu for an event recently. We made an olive oil infused with cacao nibs that turned out really well.”

Gaiia Kim
Xavier Girard Lachaine

With Kim, the wheels are always spinning. As Christmas approaches, her mind has turned to limited edition infused bars like peppermint and eggnog, and possibly chocolate bonbons with a variety of flavourings infused into the ganache.

“Some days I’m making chocolate bars, some days I’m batch baking sweets. It’s not just about making bars, but having customers enjoy different experiences in our factory.”

Said experiences may just include chocolate drinks created from Kim’s handmade bars, in flavours like matcha white chocolate. Whatever the outcome is, it’s drawing in chocolate lovers — and helping to put Montreal’s bean-to-bar scene on the map in a very positive way.

CACAO 70 Factory

1751 Rue Richardson, Le Sud-Ouest, QC H3K 1G6 (514) 935-8868 Visit Website