As a part of my What’s Around Washington, D.C.? page, I wanted to include Undone Chocolate since they are one of the few chocolate makers in my area. They’ve been around for a couple of years now. I’ve had all of their inclusion bars, I’ve tried their cocoa shell tea, and I’ve tried their bonbons that have only appeared so far at the D.C. Chocolate Festival (check out all of that here). I hadn’t tried any of their single origin bars yet, so this was the perfect time to do that!
A huge thanks to Adam for taking the time to chat with me for some Q&A! Since this was done over the phone, the answers are condensed. Other helpful articles for some background info about Undone are here and here.
When Adam and I first started chatting, he mentioned that Undone was preparing for the holiday season and that they were about to launch a single origin Belize bar and a Costa Rican bar.
A couple of weeks prior to our conversation, I had briefly met Emily (staff at Undone), who was running a table at the Mosaic District (Tysons Corner, VA) farmer’s market. Emily told me that only 10 jars of Undone’s spicy drinking chocolate were left in stock at the time. Thank goodness Adam informed me that they are making more of it! I have yet to try their drinking chocolate and since my boyfriend likes spicy, I’ll be grabbing that next time I get the chance.
Q: I understand you and your wife, Kristen, started Undone Chocolate. What fields of work were you in before you started Undone, and what was the inspiration behind the company?
Kristen is no longer a part of the company (she works full-time elsewhere), so Adam is in charge of Undone. He was a biochemist in New York City. During his studies, he learned about and became fascinated about the antioxidant levels in chocolate. Projecting chocolate as healthy food became a goal when advertising and selling Undone’s chocolate bars. While living in NYC, he and Kristen would make chocolate in their apartment. Friends would come over bringing cheese and wine for chocolate fondue parties.
Adam was originally making chocolate with his friend Nat, but Nat eventually moved to Hawaii and started Madre Chocolate.
The biggest learning curve for Adam has been the business side of running a company. Critical and analytical thinking from his scientific background has been a transferrable skill into making chocolate and troubleshooting issues he faces when making his bars.
Q: Why did you choose Washington, D.C., and specifically Union Kitchen as the base for Undone?
No one was making chocolate in Washington, D.C., two years ago. Adam is originally from Washington, D.C. (Chevy Chase), and his wife’s job brought them back to the area. At the time, the craft food business was starting to boom (the increase of craft breweries in our area supports this). He wanted to base Undone Chocolate out of Union Kitchen because they support and assist craft businesses. The combination of these factors helped Adam successfully base Undone out of D.C.
Q: I’ve tried all of the inclusion bars by Undone Chocolate. All of those bars list “72% Dark Chocolate” on them. Do you use a blend of beans to make the chocolate for those bars, or do you use a single origin bar?
A blend of Dominican Republic beans is used for the inclusion bars. The single origin Dominican bar uses beans from a co-op.
Q: Had the design on the packaging changed recently? (I’ve seen two designs on their packaging lately.)
The old design featured a heart to promote the health aspect of chocolate, but the packaging was changed last winter to look more “crafty”. A friend of the family who is an artist helped create the new design. The packaging reflects the ingredients (especially for the inclusion bars) that are in the chocolate since customers were asking questions about the contents. Sales have increased since the change in the packaging.
Packaging is a “tough game”, as consumers can judge a chocolate based off of how the outside of the bar looks rather than how the chocolate itself tastes. Because some chocolate companies don’t have much of a budget for packaging designs, some bars look very simple in appearance but taste delicious!
Q: I think it’s a neat idea to save the cocoa shells and using them as tea. What was the idea behind saving the cocoa shells?
The idea was inspired by a Peruvian tradition that Undone wanted to bring back. There’s theobromine in the shells, so it’s healthy for you. People have had concerns about salmonella being on the shells and other bacteria, but Undone has not experienced any problems. Breweries have recently been buying the cocoa shell tea for their own use. Reusing the cocoa shells as a tea contributes to a “no waste” concept.
Q: During the D.C. Chocolate Festival, you guys had bonbons that you mentioned were in an experimental phase. Will you be bringing bonbons back?
Bonbons will return, but they require a whole new production line apart from their bars, and since it will take a lot of time to set that up, it won’t be until maybe next year that bonbons will become a regular item sold by Undone. Maybe by Valentine’s Day they will come back?
Q: Are there any news or upcoming events for Undone that you’d like to share?
Undone will be appearing at holiday markets, such as Alexandria’s holiday market. There will be pairings/collaborations coming up. Even though wine and chocolate pairings are popular, according to Adam, chocolate and beer pairings are “superior”!
Q: Sadly I had to miss an event where Undone partnered with Port City brewing in Alexandria, VA, this past spring. Will Undone be having events/partnerships like that again?
Undone is hoping to work with 3 Star Brewing Company and Flying Dog Brewery at some point. Sign up for the Undone Chocolate newsletter to stay up to date on events and keep an eye out for future partnerships and collaborations!
I’ll be keeping an eye out for those bonbons by Undone, and hopefully I’ll run past one of their tables at a farmer’s market again! I always enjoy hearing how the skills from various career paths can be transferred to making chocolate. I’m more and more amazed about how scientific backgrounds can provide transferrable skills in other fields of work. As a fellow scientist, I’ve been pondering things…
But first, let’s try some chocolate!
The Bolivia bar smelled nutty and sharp. The flavor was first very subtle of nutty and caramel. From midway through the aftertaste, my bite I tasted mostly of nutty flavors. The texture was smooth and the chocolate melted easily in my mouth. The nuttiness reminded me of coffee I’ve had before, though I don’t know my coffee well enough to point out specifically which kind of coffee this bar reminded me of. Later on I finished the rest of the bar in one sitting!
Undone’s website lists the Nicaraguan bar as having “hints of buttercream with a nutty finish”. Yes, I’m cheating and looking up the flavor notes ahead of time. This bar smelled fruity and astringent to me. Flavor-wise, though, the chocolate DID taste like buttercream and a tad sweet. Not long after tasting those buttercream flavors, the nutty notes started to develop. They mingled together in even strength through the end of my bite, though I was left with a nutty aftertaste.
Undone’s website says that the Dominican bar has “robust flavor with bright citrus notes”, and indeed the chocolate did smell citrusy. My mouth was immediately filled with bright citrus flavors. I already knew that I’d like this bar since every chocolate I’ve tried with cacao originating from Dominican Republic I tend to like. Besides citrus, I seemed to taste something like caramel as well. The bright citrus notes became more bold midway through my bite and remained in the aftertaste.
I really enjoyed putting my taste buds on this single origin journey. I need to do this more often to learn and familiarize myself on how chocolate from various regions could taste. I will definitely grab up a Belize and Costa Rica single origin bar when Undone releases them! I also need to get some of that spicy drinking chocolate now that the weather is perfect for that…
Undone: Made in Washington, D.C.