You may have seen brothers Nicholas, Daniel and Dominic Maloney when they introduced their new line of chocolates, Sol Cacao, at NiLu during Lenox Sizzles over the summer. The brothers returned to the specialty shop this past weekend for another chocolate and wine tasting adventure, re-introducing three dark chocolate bar varieties, which they proudly hand-make in Harlem.

The brothers were born and spent their formative years in Trinidad, where they developed a close, lasting bond with nature. That relationship with the island’s flora and fauna led each of them to study the sciences as adults in the U.S. and, ultimately inspired the development of Sol Cacao – a delectable science experiment that spent seven years in the lab before perfecting its way to market.

The cacao tree was a prominent figure in the tropical lives of the young men. Dominic shared the little known fact that Trinidad had been, in the early 20th century, one of the largest exporters of cocoa – third only to Venezuela and Ecuador, who remain at the top of the list for fine flavor. It continues to be farmed in Trinidad, however, and Daniel contends that “They’re still the best.”

solcacao3The Maloneys – who love to talk chocolate – went on to elaborate on the many complexities of the bean, including its varied auxiliary flavors and heirloom qualities, depending on how and where it is farmed. They additionally addressed some of the culinary customs of their island, characterized by the combination of African, Caribbean, Indian, and Latin American flavors to produce uniquely prepared dishes such as roti and cocoa tea (a seasoned hot chocolate product they plan to later add to their food  line). They bring this wealth of history, flavors and influences into the thoughtful preparation of Sol Cacao.

Raw cacao nibs with pestleNicholas shared a lesson taught to them by their great-grandmother, “Let your food be your medicine,” she used to say, and this remains one of the driving sentiments behind their work. With only two ingredients in their product -  cacao beans and raw sugar – their process remains simple and as pure as possible: Source only the finest beans from around the world, from farmers using the most humane and ethical growing and harvesting means possible. In addition to creating a chocolate product that makes people happy, supporting the farmers and preserving the healing properties of the bean remain their top priorities.

Sol Cacao is crafted at the Union Food Lab in West Harlem -  a shared environment for the commercial production of fine, sustainable foods – and available at NiLu, Harlem Shambles, Sugar Hill Cafe, and three other locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Photos courtesy of and Union Food Lab