Gustavo Hilsdorf, 35, and Maiana Lasevicius, 29, moved to Santa Cruz from São Paulo, Brazil more than three years ago, and brought with them an exquisite taste for quality-sourced chocolate. They started their company Tiny House Chocolate a year after the move, drawing from their experiences and techniques back home (Lasevicius’s father makes chocolate in Brazil). Together the couple roasts and grinds multi-origin cacao beans to make about 225 bars each week—an intentionally very small amount, they say, compared to other companies.
What’s unique about your chocolate?
Maiana Lasevicius: We want to keep it simple with two ingredients—cacao and sugar—so that you can taste the cacao. We have two lines; one is the single-origin that’s just cacao and sugar, and then the other has some inclusions. We add sarsaparilla, lemongrass, Earl Grey tea, or coffee. It’s a lot of work, especially with just us two, but it’s totally worth it. It’s what makes us happy at the end of the day.
Gustavo Hilsdorf: The chocolate bar as we know it came from a big industry, Nestle or Hershey’s, and then between seven and 10 years ago there was a “bean to bar” chocolate movement in California, which sources the beans straight from farms with less processing. We are part of that, and we want to to educate people on how we make chocolate. There are a lot of people who don’t know the process. Some think that chocolate comes from cows—we don’t use milk at all.
Why do it in Santa Cruz?
Lasevicius: We wanted to change our lives, that’s why we came here. We love it here. We both work other jobs, too, and now we really want to focus on our chocolate.
Hilsdorf: We want to bring our own research about cacao to the Santa Cruz market. The same bean in a different company would taste different, so the research we do and processes we use make us unique.
What’s important about craft chocolate?
Hilsdorf: This new movement, bean to bar, is changing farmers’ lives. Years ago, they wanted volume, and to pay a little for a lot. Now we have co-ops across the world, and people are harvesting and picking and are treated much better. So we want to stay craft and local, not industrialized. The chocolate product is amazing, but behind it all it’s a community that is becoming better.
Lasevicius: Before this movement, there was a lot of slavery and child labor on cacao farms. Now they are starting to get better. You pay more but it’s for quality, there’s a choice behind it all.
Tiny House Chocolate is hosting a trunk sale at Home/Work form 2-6 p.m. on Saturday June 9. 1100 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Their chocolate is also available locally at Luma Yoga, 1010 Center St., Santa Cruz, and The Point Market, 23040 E Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. For more information, visit tinyhousechocolate.com.