The shop may be on Gounod Street in Villeray but Avanaa’s story started when owner-operator Catherine was in Oaxaca, Mexico. She visited several small workshops making exceptional chocolate bars right from the cocoa beans (an artisanal process known as bean-to-bar) and one day she wondered: “Why not in Montreal?”
At that point, Catherine knew very little about chocolate other than the fact that to craft amazing chocolate, you need outstanding cocoa. So she left James Bay and her job as a geologist, packed a bag, and spent a year travelling in Indonesia, Honduras, Colombia, and Peru on a quest to find the world’s best cocoa plantations.
Catherine now knew where to start, but she still needed to hone her skills. She returned from Peru with some cocoa and started experimenting. She roasted, ground, conched, and tempered over and over again until everything in her apartment smelled of cocoa, and of course, until she got it right.
During her worldwide cocoa discovery trip, she also got to learn about all the challenges that small cocoa farmers face, especially to get a fair price for their beans. It was important for Catherine to offer Montrealers a locally-made, high quality and ethical chocolate. She didn’t just want to be a client of cocoa producers, she wanted to be a helping partner.
“Our goal is to honour the arduous labour performed on the cocoa plantations while making a great chocolate. We decided to import our cocoas from little farms and cooperatives in Central and South America. We work hard to promote direct trade with cocoa farmers and sustainable agriculture.”, says Catherine.
Avanaa works with a handful of small producers harvesting the most aromatic and most flavourful cocoa of the highest quality from specially-selected trees. Then, it’s up to her and her team to work wonders.
"Everything is made in our workshop in micro-batches. Making bean-to-bar chocolate is not easy. Every step of the process involves a crazy amount of time and passion.”
Avanaa’s chocolates and cocoa products are all stone-ground by hand and every single step to transform the cocoa happens at their Villeray workshop.
Wondering what Avanaa means? Catherine used to live in Nunavut and decided to pay homage to her years in the north. Avanaa means “coming from the North” in Inuktitut.
Catherine and the Avanaa team specialize in single origin dark chocolate bars and flavoured bars, but they also make a tasty cocoa husk infusion (not unlike a tea), all from certified organic cocoa beans.