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BROOKLYN, NY -- Earlier in the year news broke that the world’s cacao supply was running low and all chocolate-lovers were devastated at the thought their sweet treat could run out.
One New York-based chocolate maker, Maribel Lieberman, says she is not worried about it, and she believes the world will always provide cocoa beans for those to indulge in the rich and silky taste.
Lieberman is the owner and creator of Cacao Market: a cafe, shop and factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The New York City borough has become synonymous with a burgeoning food and cultural scene. But before that, the enterprising Latina opened a Cacao Market in Kyoto, Japan.
The chocolatier moved to New York from Honduras to study at Parson’s School of Design at the age of 17. She later was in the fashion industry for five years until she decided to take a career turn and discovered her love of food.
Even though her professional chocolate career began in 2000 when she opened her first shop called Lunettes et Chocolat (Eyeglasses and Chocolate) and later Mariebelle in New York, she recalls her love for making candy started when she was eight years old.
“I was the youngest of eight children. And, if you’re familiar with large families, the kids become very independent,” said Lieberman. “A nanny helped me make caramel candies and I started to sell them at school, and that was my first business.”
She was raised in the Honduran countryside, which she credits for her love of nature and natural products. All of the cocoa beans for Cacao Market are sourced from farms in Honduras and some from other countries in Central and South America.
“When I decided I was going to start making chocolate, I began doing some research on its beginnings,” she said. “I thought chocolate came from Europe but discovered it actually started in Latin America. I thought, ‘I’m destined to bring back the credit to Latin America.’”
Many of her creations are a mixture of Latin American chocolate and ingredients from other countries. One of her White Hot Chocolates contains Tahitian Vanilla. Other products contain ingredients such as Rum and Tequila.
Lieberman says her Japanese clientele has always been very attracted to her design and color more than the chocolate flavor. She has fused Japanese flavors like Matcha Green Tea with her chocolates.
One of her famous creations, Aztec Hot Chocolate, was featured on the list of Oprah’s Favorite Things. Her sales boomed soon after Oprah featured the hot chocolate on her show in 2002.
The inspiration for this fiery mix of chocolate and chipotle came from the Aztecs and Mayas. Lieberman wanted to take her hot chocolate back to its roots and found that the ancient civilizations used water instead of milk and used hot spices and vanillas instead of sugar, which is commonly used today for hot chocolates.
“I decided to make a drink that is not too spicy and not too much vanilla,” she said. “I also use water instead of milk because I want people to really taste the chocolate when they drink it.”
As for the future, the chocolatier hopes to expand Cacao Market to more places and continue showing people the roots of the cocoa bean.
“I want to show people that it’s a candy that wasn’t born in a store, but it was born in a farm,” she said.