The best way to taste chocolate is to let it melt in your mouth.
That way, Jenny Risner-Wade says, you can pick up on the flavor notes -- and chocolate by itself has 300.
This symphony of flavor can be found in Yellow Bird Chocolate Shop. “Yellow Bird” was Jenny’s childhood nickname.
“I’ve always loved chocolate,” Jenny said. “The last few years I’ve really gotten interested in how to make chocolate from scratch. Dialing it all the way back to zero.”
It starts with a bean. Yellow Bird currently features four different kinds of beans from Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Columbia and Ghana.
The ingredients are obtained through companies with proven ethical practices, which means beans that weren’t harvested through forced child labor. Jenny said it’s important to show that business can be done in ways that improve people’s lives.
A chocolate bar from Yellow Bird is going to have fewer ingredients than anything you buy in the grocery aisle. Jenny roasts the beans, grounds them up, adds cane sugar and then tempers with cocoa butter. No preservatives, wax or corn syrup.
Then she goes a little bit mad scientist, experimenting with tea, spices and botanicals.
There’s a milk chocolate bar with rose, coconut and lime. A lapsang souchong tea bar, flavored with chamomile and nutmeg. The Ghana bar has marigold, basil, rooibos tea and fennel. Spring Blossom is white chocolate with hibiscus.
When challenged to try making a garlic chocolate bar, Jenny launched her sweet-savory creation during a pop-up sale at Malleable Brewing Co. Customers there found that it goes well with beer.
Pop-ups were how she started, but Jenny is now ready for a bricks and mortar store. The walls of the shop are painted a cheerful yellow. A glass case is full of Jenny’s hand-crafted chocolate bars and truffles. Along the top of the case, find bars that have been curated from all over the world, each inspired by that country’s crops and customs.
Take time to smell samples of the spices and teas that Jenny uses in her bars. Vietnamese cinnamon is so fragrant that you don’t need to take off your mask. If you like what you smell, you can buy a bag. Like her beans, the spices are single origin, supporting small farms.
Yellow Bird is also doing business online, although it’s so new that Jenny hasn’t had time to set up an online store. If you see a chocolate bar you’d like on Facebook, send a message to Yellow Bird and a mail package can be arranged.
It’s worth it to go to the store in person, if you can. Yellow Bird is part of a handful of creative entrepreneurs who have popped up in downtown Albion. You can easily spend an afternoon shopping, eating and enjoying the parks.