Words: Emily Mullen
After being laid off during the pandemic, chef Lisa Kleiner had the time to work on one thing that had intrigued her throughout her career, chocolate. With a background in nutrition, Kleiner was keen to focus on a pure and unprocessed chocolate product. Tinkering around in her kitchen in Delgany co. Wicklow, Kleiner settled on an ingredient that was both healthy and tasty; cacao.
Joining forces with her niece Anna O’Sullivan, the pair created a bean to bar small-batch organic cacao producer which uses every scrap of the bean to create everything from tea to cacao nibs.
“Being laid off for so long forced me to look at my future and reflect on what I wanted to achieve and build,” Kleiner told us, “I started to research it further and look at its health benefits and from there the business evolved. Initially, it was the teas that I spent a lot of time developing and the rest of the products came about organically over the next few months as more and more ideas came along,” she added.
O’Sullivan who handles the brand’s branding, marketing and sales explained that she and her aunt are well suited to their individual aspects of the business. We’re a great team, I have to say,” O’Sullivan told us, “both our backgrounds and experience have come together nicely, allowing us to take on our suited roles.”
While Anna is based in Galway and Lisa in Wicklow there are a lot of “East-West trips” being taken, overall O’Sullivan said that “it’s great working with a family member too because you can just be honest,” she added, “when you need to say ‘no, that’s not working or ‘I don’t like that’ you can just come out and say it without worrying about hurting their feelings. We know at the end of the day, not to take things personally and to get the job done to the standards we’re aiming for.”
Starting during the Pandemic, with a notoriously challenging raw material like cacao had to have been difficult but Nibbed have managed to source sustainably grown, social enterprise and organic beans from the Dominican Republic. Working with an importer in the Netherlands the team “ensured we always have the quality and standards that we wanted and of course guaranteed supply going forward.”
Striving to use as little waste as possible has been a big goal for Nibbed. “There is practically zero waste from food as we use the whole bean and all the orange (except the very ends!)”, O’Sullivan told us, “we do recycle as much as possible and are striving to reduce waste across the business. It’s an area we are constantly working on, and hope to focus on a lot in the future.”
Given the Irish people’s love of chocolate, we should be susceptible to loving cacao. “I believe we are conditioned to eating chocolate that is highly processed and full of sugar and it will take a while before the Irish will appreciate the bitter taste of cacao but we’re on a mission to change that and educate the people of Ireland,” Kleiner told us.
Working from a state of the art production facility was important to Kleiner who previously worked as a food safety trainer, “l purchased a winnower which it just fabulous and really does a great job separating the husk from the nib but I have to say my favourite of all the machines is the councher/melangers, I just adore pouring the liquid gold (cacao) when its finished, its just so beautiful and the smell is always amazing! I wish I could bottle the smell! I’m most proud of my bark and spoons as they are tempered and I don’t have a tempering machine which most chocolatiers would have… so I temper by hand which can be very temperamental!”
You can find Nibbed in a lot of good zero waste stores, visit their website to buy online.
Elsewhere on District: Signature Dish, Chez Max’s Moules-Frites