Three Minnesota chocolatiers share how they fell in love with making chocolate

chocolates in a box
St. Croix Chocolate Company has been crafting small batches of fine chocolates just in time for Valentine's Day, which is the third busiest holiday season for chocolate sales.
Courtesy of St. Croix Chocolate Company

Updated: 6:15 p.m.

After Easter and Christmas, Valentine’s Day is the biggest holiday for chocolate sales.  

Maybe you’re a chocolate lover yourself. But do you know the difference between a bonbon and a truffle? Or where cacao beans are grown?   

MPR News host Angela Davis talks with three Minnesota chocolatiers about what goes into making their luscious treats and how they fell in love with making chocolate that the rest of can enjoy—on Valentine’s Day or any day.


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  • Mary Leonard is the founder and owner of Chocolat Celeste, which has been making chocolate for more than 20 years in St. Paul.  

  • Monica Jimenez is the founder and CEO of Chocolate San José-Minneapolis, which imports chocolate from her family’s cacao farm in Ecuador. She also sells a line of chocolate products made in Minnesota.   

  • Robyn Dochterman is the founder and co-owner of St. Croix Chocolate Company in Marine on St. Croix, which last fall won two awards at the International Chocolate Awards in Florence, Italy.

The following is a transcription of several questions asked during the show. Use the audio player above to listen to the full episode.

How do you become skilled in experimenting with different flavors?

Mary Leonard: It’s just a testing kind of thing. It starts with a basic recipe that is actually the same in all the flavors and it’s just the addition of a variety of different flavor notes. There’s the ones that everybody loves and there’s the ones that are more unusual. I’m not as much of a fan myself of the ones that everybody loves — champagne and raspberry, I always think to myself, “oh, let’s get more creative than that.”

How do you harvest the beans to get chocolate?

Monica Jimenez: The harvesting process starts by cutting the mature pod from the plant. Then we break the pod and extract the seeds and select the seeds by hands. I like to explain that the seeds come covered with a white, little sweet bulb that we use to ferment the seed. This way we can get all the nutrition that is in the plant. The seed has a lot of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, magnesium and all this nutrition.

Robyn Dochterman: When I first started, we were still explaining the percent of chocolate. So if you have a 70 percent dark chocolate, that 70 percent refers to the chocolate mass or what comes from the cacao tree. So what that tells you is that other 30 percent is probably sugar, vanilla, milk powder if it's a milk chocolate which it’s not going to be if it’s 70 percent, that’s going to be a dark chocolate. People have learned quite a bit about chocolate ... so we’re a lot more educated but at the same time, we’re getting more advanced. People also want to do more snacking.

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Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.