Craft chocolate bars made in Hampden

Tempest Chocolate boasts bean-to-bar process
Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 5:18 PM EDT
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HAMPDEN, Maine (WABI) - Chocolate!

Chances are saying just that word has captured your attention.

A Hampden man is tempting taste buds with his craft chocolate bars.

“I told my wife, ‘Hey, I want to make chocolate in the basement.’ And she’s like, ‘What?’” said Justin Yarbrough.

Three years later, Yarbrough is doing exactly that as the sole owner of Tempest Chocolate. The name comes in part from Maine’s seasons.

“I have a sea salt, a dark milk chocolate, almond and just a regular dark chocolate,” explains Yarbrough.

The 26-year-old prides himself on producing bean to bar. That means just three base ingredients.

“Cocoa beans or cocoa nibs, sugar and cocoa butter,” says Yarbrough.

Yarbrough digs into a large, burlap bag or raw cocoa beans.

“So here it is,” he says, showing off a handful.

Yarbrough starts with organic cocoa beans from Guatemala. He hopes to eventually source from other places also. Yarbrough breaks a bean open on the stainless steel table in his workshop.

“So, these are the nibs inside,” he says, pointing out the insides.

“So I melt this,” he says pointing to the cocoa butter. And I put it in my machine here. It’s a bunch of stone rollers that they grind over and over and over again and they fracture each piece constantly.”

Combining the cocoa butter, chocolate nibs and sugar is a process takes days to complete.

“So once this is done, I strain it to get out any solids that didn’t grind and then it goes over here to my tempering machine,” says Yarbrough.

“If chocolate isn’t tempered correctly, it will melt in your hands. It won’t have that snap,” he explains.

And then there’s all the humidity this summer.

“Chocolate does not like water at all,” says Yarbrough, shaking his head and smiling. “It is very bad for it.”

That means Yarbrough’s dehumidifier and air conditioner are working overtime these days.

“The humidity in the air can also affect the tempering of it,” he said.

Yarbrough has plans to expand his flavors to include blueberry, cranberry and seasonal flavors.

You can find tempest chocolate bars online and in several specialty stores. Soon, they will be available at nine Hannaford stores as well.

“I love chocolate,” he says. “And then once I started doing craft chocolate, tasting where the beans come from, I think I love it even more.”

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