Inventive flavors, ingenious presentation, and an absolute dedication to quality make these locally crafted chocolates a national star.
SPONSORED CONTENT WITH M CACAO
When presenters and performers at this year’s 65th GRAMMY Awards® attend rehearsals this week, they will be invited to take a stroll through the GRAMMY® Gift Lounge and choose thank you gifts from some of the world’s best companies. There will be high-fashion faux-fur bags crafted in Europe, acclaimed wines from Chile, artful jewelry from Japan… and chocolates from the North Shore of Massachusetts.
Amesbury chocolatier m cacao will be among the nine brands sharing their wares in the GRAMMY® Gift Lounge this year, offering the world’s hottest musical celebrities a chance to experience expressio, a custom-selected assortment of chocolates nestled in a box featuring a customized video message. You don’t have to be Lizzo or Harry Styles to experience this innovative presentation, however: expressio is available to anyone who wants to create a memorable – and delicious – personalized gift.
“We’re pretty excited about having these great musicians and artists create their own video messages for their loved ones,” says m cacao founder Michael Nichols. “We designed expressio for everyone who wants to express themselves, their love and appreciation for their friends and family, wherever they are.”
Expressio is just the latest in m cacao’s collection of inventive chocolate offerings, joining the lineup of creative flavors, bold designs, and intriguing ideas that define the company’s work.
M cacao began in 2018. Michael Nichols had left his previous work as a robotics engineer, and was looking for his next endeavor. On a family trip to Peru, he visited a chocolate museum and was immediately fascinated. He wondered if he could transfer his skills and sensibilities from engineering to chocolate.
When he returned home, he immediately sought out training in the art of chocolate, and ended up enrolling in a class taught by Master Pastry Chef Delphin Gomes, who began his own work in the pastry arts in his home country of France at the age of 14. The two began talking about their confectionary philosophies and aspirations, and Gomes decided to join Nichols in his new pursuit.
At the heart of the company they created is the desire to push the boundaries of what people understand chocolate to be, by using unexpected tastes, textures, and techniques. For Nichols and Gomes chocolate is not just candy, it is a culinarily complex food unto itself. Their flavor combinations use herbs, spices, fruits, and other ingredients that extend far beyond conventional chocolate fillings. They dry their own fruit, grind their own spices, and infuse their own flavorings.
“We’re doing things that nobody else is touching,” says Delphin Gomes, head of chocolate innovation and development. “We’re doing these flavors, these combinations that people just don’t think about.”
Their chocolate collections show off the results of this approach. The garden caramels highlight an assortment of botanically inspired flavors including lemon thyme, apricot basil, and fennel with olive oil. The fillings in the chef’s collection range from the indulgently simple – silky chocolate ganache – to the more daringly decadent – house made marzipan and confited oranges. The seriously‽ truffles line includes flavors like cassis mint, bourbon, and passionfruit.
Those who like a little heat, will want to explore m cacao’s chile caramels, which blend sweet and spice, featuring eight different chile peppers from the warmth of green hatch to the searing heat of the Carolina reaper. For even more serious spice, the tenth circle challenge delivers four dried chile peppers enrobed in dark chocolate. Recipients are encouraged to film themselves devouring the confections – and grappling with the burn.
The company’s recently released art bars combine culinary and visual artistry. Gomes created six new flavors of chocolate bars, then the company teamed up with an artist from Andover, Michele Bourgeau, to create images to complement each flavor. The designs were then screen printed onto the chocolate bars using colored cocoa butters.
“We wanted to create something that was really, really hard to eat because it was so beautiful, but it was so delicious that you had to eat it,” Nichols says, with a smile.
If you don’t happen to be a GRAMMY performer or presenter, m cacao’s chocolates are still available online. And if you happen to be in the Amesbury area on a Friday, you can pop into the chocolate studio for free chocolate tastings and to see the space where Nichols and Gomes will be dreaming up their next cutting-edge flavors and concepts.
“This is the very beginning – we don’t know where our brains are taking us yet,” Gomes says. “We are not done yet.”