Sea salt caramels from Kakao Chocolate line a tray.

St. Louis Confectioner Kakao Chocolate Racks Up Good Food Awards

Monday May 20, 2024

By Rachel Huffman

Kakao Chocolate specializes in sweet temptations.

At the brick-and-mortar location along the original Route 66 in Maplewood, you’ll find everything from dark chocolate truffles to sea salt caramels and peanut butter bark to marshmallow pies. As you shop, don’t overlook the sumptuous confections that have won Good Food Awards, including the jasmine green tea and Williams pear pâtes de fruits, which were recognized this year.

Sophisticated fruit jellies cut into squares and coated with sugar, pâtes de fruits are downright addictive. “People don’t expect to walk into a chocolate shop and leave with pâtes de fruits,” Brian Pelletier, owner and chief chocolatier of Kakao Chocolate, says, “but once they try them, they always crave more.”

If you’re in the market for chocolate, though, award-winning truffles include the lavender truffle, Turkish coffee truffle, Viennese truffle and a complex concoction with raspberry, balsamic vinegar and goat cheese.

Kakao Chocolate doesn’t make bean-to-bar chocolate, but it does combine three different chocolates, which is unique to the industry. “Nobody does that,” Pelletier says. “Our approach gives our chocolate a distinctive flavor that helps it stand out from the crowd. We’ve also perfected our craft, making our chocolate a worthy indulgence.”

“You won’t find any Lucille Ball machines here.”

– Brian Pelletier

Pelletier began Kakao Chocolate in 2008, and although some aspects of the business have changed since its inception, his methods and values have stayed the same.

“From the beginning, we’ve served all-natural products with no artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners or preservatives – that’s really important to us,” Pelletier says. “We also make everything by hand, pouring, dipping and molding every confection. You won’t find any Lucille Ball machines here.”

Kakao Chocolate works in small batches, which encourages creativity. At any given time, there are two or three items in the shop that customers have never tasted – even after 16 years!

Some of the newest and most exciting products are part of a line of sauces and condiments from Clean Plate Pantry, a separate division of Kakao Chocolate. “Three of our nine Good Food Awards are for Clean Plate Pantry products, including the Thai red curry sauce, Thai green curry sauce and mole paste,” Pelletier explains. “Right now, one of my favorite products is the Salsa Macha. Best described as Mexican chile crisp, it’s a wonderful condiment for eggs and sandwiches.”

For tried-and-true decadence, order the sea salt caramels. Covered in dark, milk or white chocolate, they’re pure magic.

“Choosing a favorite product is like choosing a favorite child,” Pelletier says. “I don’t have kids, but I know that it depends on the day. [Laughs.] So, I’ll defer to our most popular product – the sea salt caramels. We make more of those than anything else, and we use all the good stuff: real cream, real butter and real sugar, top-notch vanilla bean and local honey.

“We cook the caramel to a specific temperature, achieving the perfect consistency,” he continues. “It’s not too chewy, and it’s not too gooey.”

Kakao Chocolate will ship sea salt caramels and other desired treats to your doorstep, but you can only experience the full breadth of the brand in Maplewood. “There’s only one place in the world where our signature sweets are made,” Pelletier says, “and I invite everyone to come for a visit.”