The Austin Chocolate Artisans Making Ethical, Delicious Treats
Cure your confectionary cravings with sustainable sweets from creative locals
The consumption of chocolate can be traced to the Olmec people of southern Mexico when they began eating the fruit off cacao trees more than 3,000 years ago.
Soon after, the Mayans and Aztecs also began revering and using cacao. Cacao arrived in Spain in the 1500s and quickly became a sought-after indulgence enjoyed by royalty. The chocolate craze quickly spread overseas throughout Europe, resulting in a global chocolate phenomenon. Meanwhile, Europeans created their own versions of chocolate drinks, typically reserved for the upper class. Later in the 19th century, companies like Nestle and Lindt started bringing varieties of chocolate bars to the mass market.
Nowadays, most chocolate is highly processed and mass-produced, and much of it still comes at a cost with cocoa farmers relying on unethically sourced labor to make ends meet. Fortunately, if you do want to enjoy chocolate, there are many local Austin brands that are doing right by the environment and communities who make chocolate production possible.
3rd Eye Cacao
3rd Eye Cacao was started by Neil Dumra and Ash Sumida. Both have backgrounds in integrative and metaphysical healing arts, as well as business and product development. Their mutual passions for cacao and community, however, is what led them to opening 3rd Eye Meditation Lounge & Elixir Bar. Their physical location off South Lamar is a meditation lounge and elixir bar that offers house-made treats that incorporate their cacao and ceremonial cacao drinks.
The cacao is sourced exclusively from biodynamic and permaculture farms, and then cold crumbled into a powder without removing the fat. They are able to retain all of the properties of cacao through the use of a homogenizer, invented by Neil himself. It uses sound and vibration to make the cacao liposomal, which means it’s much easier for the body to absorb all of its nutrients and benefits.
“I hope to show that you can find yourself, your heart, and your community with the power of cacao and connection,” says Neil.
You can also find 3rd Eye’s cacao on their website and other like-minded Austin hubs including Kuya, Lizard Yoga and Flow Yoga on
Joaihú is named after a word meaning “to love and be loved,” taken from an extinct language spoken by the Tupi aboriginal people of Brazil. Austin-based CEO and co-founder Kate Robberson fell in love with the Bahia coastal forests of Brazil while traveling in her 20s and then, by fate, was reconnected to this region with her current leadership position at Joaihú.
“I never thought, ‘Oh, I’m gonna grow up and run a chocolate company,’” she says. “But it was really more of everything falling under the umbrella of how I’ve decided to live my life, which is living in harmony with the earth and putting the quality of life and nourishment of both people and our planet first.”
The cacao fruit they use is not grown on a traditional farm but rather on a rainforest preserve amid dense biodiversity. By buying Joaihú chocolate, available at Central Market and on their website, not only are you getting to experience the magic of this beautiful region in Brazil, you are also supporting its restoration as well as the surrounding communities.
Harshit Gupta and Elliott Curelop began making chocolate in their Austin kitchen after returning from a trip to India, inspired by all of the wonderful Indian desserts, so full of flavor powered by flowers and spices.
“I remember asking why these flavors aren’t mainstream in the U.S.,” recalls Elliott. “We thought maybe if it was something like a flavored chocolate they could be more open to new tastes.”
Madhu began in 2018 when the duo began selling their homemade bars at the Mueller Farmers Market. With unforeseen demand and support from the local community, they have experienced amazing growth over the past five years.
In 2022, their Idukki Black Pepper bar won the Good Food Award, which recognizes food crafters who are making exceptional products that also meet their high environmental and social responsibility standards. Madhu chocolate is currently sold in 150 stores throughout the country. In the Austin area, you can find Madhu at Whole Foods Market, Central Market, Salt & Time, Fresh Plus, Thom’s Market, Tiny Grocer and more.
SRSLY makes bean-to-bar chocolate in South Austin in the same facility as Third Coast Coffee Roasting Company. Joe Lozano, owner of both Third Coast and SRSLY, has been in the coffee industry for decades so he already knew how to roast coffee and source fair trade, organic beans.
“A lot of the cooperatives we buy coffee from are also trying to sell cacao,” he says “It’s a really hard market because there aren’t that many people that are willing to pay a price for a fair- trade product. Fair Trade is how they sustain themselves. So for me, it’s a win-win.”
He gets to buy ethical, quality coffee and chocolate while the farmers get a premium for following better practices. You have to roast cacao beans at lower temperatures than coffee beans because they will melt at higher temperatures. And then, after the shells are removed, the nibs are churned for about a week until they become a smooth paste. The result is an exquisite chocolate that can be found in retailers throughout Austin, including Central Market and Whole Foods, as well as online.
Krystal Craig, co-owner and chocolatier at Austin’s Intero, is a true artist. When I met her at Intero one morning, prepping amid a busy
week for South by Southwest, she seemed so comfortable and authentic as she boxed up chocolates and chatted with other restaurant employees getting ready for the big day ahead.
Krystal, who grew up in Austin, had parents who first sparked her interest in chocolate. Her mom took her to visit Ghirardelli’s Chocolate Factory when they’d visit San Francisco and her dad baked with her every Sunday. However, it was during a trip to Italy when she was 19 that she discovered the artistry and depth that chocolate could contain.
“I still had plenty of personal palate development to go, but I left with the feeling my tastebuds had woken up to better discern the difference between candy chocolate and couverture chocolate.”
Soon after, she began working exclusively with chocolate in a whole new way. At that time, she was managing a small cafe whose owner shared a love for craft chocolate. They both realized Austin didn’t have options for quality artisan chocolate products and made it a goal to offer some in the cafe. It took Krystal a while to develop the skills and confidence around filling this need but she kept at it and now, nearly 20 years later, has mastered the craft of working with chocolate, making truffles, barks, and more.
“My focus has always been to create chocolate products in small batches with simple ingredient combinations derived from organic, sustainable sources,” says Krystal. Austin is lucky o have her as our local chocolatier.