Brand Spotlight highlights local businesses that LIABOX partners with, and a light hearted insight into their story, products and people. Subscribe to our emails at the bottom of our main website home page or follow us on Instagram to be notified of new blog posts on the LB Journal.
COO & Co-Founder of Siamaya Chocolate, Kristian Levinsen, answers some of our questions about Siamaya and craft chocolate. Keep reading to see why we chose to work with this admired business from Chiang Mai (you can also see why we partnered with them after tasting their chocolate).
What prompted you to start making craft chocolate?
Being both foodies with a particular passion for the Asian cuisine, as well as being also life-long chocolate lovers, we were inspired to infuse the amazing flavors, aromas, and natural products of Thailand into handcrafted chocolate. It started out as a fun hobby project but for both of us this is now our full-time jobs, and we're still as passionate as we were back then about the idea, and keep experimenting and coming up with new chocolate products!
Who came up with the name 'Siamaya' and how?
It was our CEO Neil's idea, and was one of many both good and terrible ideas we had for the name of our chocolate brand! It's a mix of the two words 'Siam', the old name for Thailand, and 'Maya', the Mayans being the first to make hot chocolate drinks out of cacao. They called it the "drink of Gods" and we absolutely agree with them.
For those that may not know, what is 'Bean to Bar' Chocolate?
'Bean to Bar' means that we buy the raw cacao beans from local farmers, and turn them into delicious chocolate bars.
Do you remember when you first heard about Bean to Bar Chocolate? What were your thoughts?
We had just started making chocolate, when we were researching the many different types of chocolate makers. For us, working directly with the cacao producers was very intriguing, since we don't like the idea of middle-men making money on the farmer's efforts. Instead we pay farmers directly, and make sure to pay them a very fair price for the cacao. Therefore, it felt natural for us to be "Bean to Bar" chocolate makers and have the full control of the chocolate making process.
What would you say are some staple 'flavours of Thailand'?
Thailand is abundant with amazing fruits, nuts, spices and herbs. We enjoy working with all from durian to coconuts, chilies, mangoes, to infusing Thai dishes like Tom Kha and Masaman curry into chocolate!
Which is your best selling flavour? Does it remain the same or vary?
The best selling flavours are our 85% dark chocolate, and 65% coconut milk chocolate. But we often have seasonal flavors, like our Mango & Chili chocolate, and they will be best sellers for as long as we have them in stock.
Like us, we understand it's important to Siamaya to give back to our community and support local. How is Siamaya involved in the Chiang Mai community?
We're always open to work with local organizations and are directly connected with a number of schools in Chiangmai, having groups of students visit us to learn both the business model behind running a company and how to make craft chocolate. Also, we have worked with an organization called Zoe that's bringing street children out of poverty and giving them a better future.
We love the bold, bright colours and designs of your packaging. It really portrays Thai culture and is one of the things that stood out to us personally when searching for a chocolate product to go inside our gift boxes. Where do you draw inspiration from?
For us, it was always important to distinguish ourselves from imported European chocolate, which is usually white, black and gold. We are so much more than that, and it just had to show in our branding. So we were inspired by the local Lanna fabrics, that can be found all over northern Thailand - and are bright, fun and bold to look at, while also being amazing quality. Just like our chocolate :)
Is it true, that like grapes and coffee beans, cacao beans pick up different flavours from the different environments it's grown in?
That is absolutely true; natural environmental factors have a huge impact on the finished chocolate product. Most industrial chocolate have no distinct features since the cacao has been chemically processed, but because we treat the fine cacao with such care, we will make sure to bring the features of the soil, climate, elevation and other factors out in the chocolate to allow our consumers to explore a plethora of flavors in the chocolate!
Does Thailand have good conditions for growing and harvesting cacao beans? Are there any challenges farmers face from this?
Cacao ideally grows in pantropical regions, and love growing where it's warm and there's a lot of shade and rain. Thai cacao is actually a fairly new industry, but is growing fast and the flavors of the cacao is super interesting and exciting to work with as a craft chocolate maker.
We appreciate brands that make an effort to run sustainably, which we understand is important to Siamaya. Can you explain what Siamaya does to contribute to sustainable living?
Our packaging is made out of recycled paper, and we don't use any plastic in packaging our products. We also pay the farmers we work with a fair price for the cacao, and work with them to make sure they use no pesticides and other chemicals growing the cacao. This is a very important part of our values, since one of the reasons we wanted to do this, was to be a counterweight to European chocolate makers, who often will use slave and child labor.
We have to ask - which Siamaya product do you personally find yourself reaching for the most to snack on?
I play a lot of sports, and find that an 85% dark chocolate bar before sports gives me that little extra boost! I also can't keep my fingers off the Mango & Chili chocolate bar.
It seems that Thai craft chocolate is still young but growing quickly. What's next for Siamaya Chocolate?
It's been quite the development for Thai chocolate since we started about 4 years ago. For us, it's been important that our chocolate was fair priced and available in many shops so anyone can try it! Our chocolate has now been recognized outside of Thailand and we will start exporting to a number of countries where the idea of tropical and exciting Thai chocolate is very popular.
Lastly, other than LIABOX where can our readers find your products?
You can always find our chocolate on our website on www.siamayachocolate.com or on Shopee on https://shp.ee/fpiags7. In Chiangmai we have our shop near Tha Pae gate, and our chocolate can be found in Rimping. In Bangkok our chocolate is sold in Gourmet Markets, Central Foodhall and Baimiang, as well as in Dear Tummy in Icon Siam.
Thanks to Kristian for taking the time to chat to LIABOX! Find Siamaya Chocolate in our Pre Made LIABOX's Home Comforts, Rest & Relax, Easy Like Sunday, Man Box, Tropicana as well as our Create A LIABOX option.