Ypsi coffee shop to host local chocolate makers for inaugural Michigan Chocolate Festival

What do Grand Rapids, Honduras, and Ypsilanti have in common? The first-ever Michigan Chocolate Festival, sponsored by Atucún, an artisanal chocolate startup with teams in Comayagua, Honduras, and Grand Rapids, will start at 11 a.m. Sept. 23 at Hyperion Coffee, 306 N. River St. in Ypsilanti. Promotional materials say the event will offer an opportunity to "meet, greet, and eat" with a variety of Michigan-based chocolate producers.

Atucún grew out of a friendship between Efren Elvir Maradíaga, the founder of Atucún's
chocolatería in Honduras, and Chad Morton of Roast Umber coffee company in Grand Rapids. In turn, they helped create a coalition to help promote craft chocolate and cacao products with weekly online gatherings of Michigan chocolate companies.

AJ Paschka, head of marketing for Atucún, says Hyperion has been "partnering in business for a while now" with Umber, a coffee company offering Michigan-made direct-trade beans. Hyperion offers coffee drinks made with Umber's beans and sells their beans for home coffee brewing.

"Hyperion has been one of Atucún's best supporters from the very beginning," Paschka says. "It's like our home base on the east side of the state."

That, plus Hyperion's proximity to award-winning Ann Arbor-based chocolate company Mindo, made the Ypsi coffee shop a logical choice. Other participants in the festival will include Grocer's Daughter, Chocolate Thunder, Yellowbird Chocolate, Dwaar Chocolate, Artisanne Chocolatier, and Harvest Chocolate.

Paschka says chocolate and coffee have a lot in common, including the fact that coffee roasters and purveyors are more interested in ethical sourcing than ever before. He says chocolate is having a moment now, the way craft beer, coffee, and wine have had in the past.

"If you want better food, you need better ingredients, and that means better relationships with the people who grow it," Paschka says. "The craft food and beverage culture of the state is something we need to really support and develop. I think we can make an impact nationally."

Paschka says he hopes attendees are "blown away by the education and history of where chocolate comes from."

More information about the festival is available through the Facebook event page.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of Atucún.
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