Megan & Isabella Alexander, a mother daughter chocolatier team living Cozumel Mexico, joined us at Grenada Chocolate Fest 2016. Their delicious artisan chocolate truffles and bonbons (which we had the good fortune of tasting) are a fusion of dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate (all made from Mexican Cocoa Beans) and decadent tropical fillings like lime and coconut.
Megan, the mama, was born in Berkley California and Isabella, the daughter, is a born Mexican from Isla Mujeres. Together they own Chocolateria Isla Bella in Cozumel, Mexico.
We caught up with them late in 2016 after noticing on their instagram that they had ventured into creating bean to bar chocolate. We were curious as to whether our bean to bar chocolate making workshops at last year’s festival had any role to play in this new chapter of their Chocolate Story.
Here is what they shared with us:
What type of chocolate do you make?
We make artisan chocolate truffle bonbons with emphasis on utilizing and showcasing local indredients. We also make traditional Mexican drinking chocolate (from mexican cacao beans) & mexican-origin bean to bar chocolate.
How long have you been making chocolate?
We have been in operation as a business since February 2012, but chocolate had been passion from many years before.
How did you get started making chocolate?
Chocolate had been a hobby and passion of ours for many years. We would often spend Saturday and Sunday afternoons making chocolates together. We had recently moved to Cozumel when our home was burglarised and a book that Megan had been working on for some time on Mexican cuisine was taken along with all of our belongings. Having been on the chocolate chapter, we decided to embark on the journey of opening our own little chocolate shop on the island.
Has there been a tradition of chocolate making in your family or did it start with the two of you?
We can trace our love of chocolate back to Thomas Alexander. Megan’s dad, Isabella’s grandad, who absolutely adored a good piece of chocolate. The tradition of actually making chocolate, though, has started with us. We think just as important as the chocolate maker or chocolatier, is a person that will truly appreciate a piece of honest, tasty chocolate made by someone who cares.
How has the tradition and rich history of cacao use in Mexico influenced your chocolate creations?
It influences them immensely. We have traveled the country and seen the way cacao is grown and consumed in different regions. We have a really high regard for the ancient recipes and local traditions. We love to incorporate them into our daily chocolate making and love to share this different concept of chocolate with others. Traditional Mexican recipes dating back thousands of years are still tasty now. We think it’s amazing to offer someone the opportunity to taste something that people were enjoying such a long time ago and to see their reactions as they try a completely different type of chocolate. The ancient cacao culture in Mexico is pretty amazing. We also love to take inspiration from some of these traditional rustic chocolate concepts and create new and creative flavors. Mexico is a truly rich, flavorful and authentic place and that’s the flavor we strive for our chocolate to have.
How did you find out about the Grenada Chocolate Fest?
We had heard about the Grenada Chocolate Company and Mott Green’s mission as a chocolate maker. We were a few years into our chocolate business when the news of his death came and we were touched and upset by his passing. Fast forward to February or March 2016. We were at a neighbours house who was packing up to spend a few months back in the U.S. He had a stack of Islands Magazines on the coffee table which we started browsing through. On the corner in a small column was a blurb on the Grenada Chocolate Festival in May which sparked both of our interest and thus began our journey to Grenada.
What did you hope to get out of the experience?
We hoped to have a chocolate adventure. Our interest was in gaining knowledge on how to make bean to bar chocolate. We are both also really interested in the agricultural, botanical and scientific end of chocolate-making.
What did you actually get out of the experience?
We got a chocolate family for life.
What was your favourite activity or experience during Grenada Chocolate Fest 2016 and why?
Visiting Belmont Estate was an amazing experience. Seeing the operation and being guided by an absolute chocolate professional from Trinidad (Dr. Darin Sukha from the University of the West Indian, St. Augustine Campus Cocoa Institute) was a treat. The time spent on the ride to and from the estate bonding with other chocolate-minded individuals was also great.
Dom Ramsey and Hazel Lee’s bean to bar workshop was the most educational, fun and creative. We both loved it!
Has attending the Grenada Chocolate Fest inspired you to experiment more with your chocolate making?
Yes! On our flight back from Grenada via Miami we picked up melangers and a tempering machine to begin making bean to bar chocolate as soon as we got home. We are now back in Cozumel, with low funds, ready with all of our equipment, for the high season to come!
Tell us about that experience
Sometimes we want to throw the melangers out the door. Chocolate is really hard to keep (let alone GET) in temper in this humidity and extreme heat. We are still working on the perfect roasting. We winnow by hand with a blow drier like Hazel and Dom taught us. Sometimes the chocolate tastes good after ageing and tempering and sometimes it doesn’t. We are staying true to our commitment and love the amazing chocolate making process. We look forward to continuing but at the moment it is a lot of trial and error.
What have been your challenges and victories with bean to bar chocolate making?
Some amazing batches due to the incredible criollo Mexican beans.
Our biggest challenge is the climate
Any funny stories you want to share about making bean to bar chocolate?
We have had to stop and take a lot of deep breaths since starting bean to bar. It’s something we really want to do right. We have a lot of fun in our chocolate shop but we also take it seriously. We don’t want to put anything on our shelves unless we feel it tastes excellent, so it has been a lot of batches with a lot of frustrations and minor tweaking. Ultimately we know that as long as we continue to get the best possible beans, are precise with the roasts we like, and keep at it without taking anything too seriously, we will get a chocolate that we adore.
Was attending Grenada Chocolate Fest a good opportunity to network with other chocolatiers from around the world and share experiences, techniques and inspiration?
Yes! We now have a chocolate gang. We communicate regularly to share our individual chocolate endeavours, seek help and support each other.
Final thoughts on your Grenada Chocolate Fest experience
We both feel this was one of the best trips of our lives. We paid a small fortune to get to Grenada from our little island on the other side of the Caribbean and would not have it any other way. The people we met, the knowledge we gained & shared, the chocolate we tasted, all was remarkable. We are really thankful to have been part of such an amazing edition of this festival. We highly recommend it to anyone looking to have an authentic cacao adventure.
Follow their chocolate adventures on instagram