It’s impossible, that’s sure. So let’s start working.
Philippe Petit, Man on Wire (2008)
World-class craftsmanship in the midst of woods
Chocolate Naive have all the odds against them. Located in the middle of the woods in Lithuania (a country hardly known for its chocolate-making traditions), under a motto “Less and Slower” (when the world keeps buzzing with “More, Faster, Cheaper”), a small manufacture produces gourmet chocolate from cocoa beans, and nurtures big ambitions: to reach a world-class artistry in working with this type of exquisite production. Courageous or…?
“Naive is a too feeble word to describe our idea, perhaps foolish renders a better sense”, says Domantas Užpalis, founder and CEO of the manufacture. To better convey what they mean, Chocolate Naive have borrowed a nice quote from Robert E. Sherwood:
To be able to make chocolate a man must be sensitive, imaginative, naive, gullible, passionate; he must be something of an imbecile, something of a poet, something of a liar, something of a damn fool.
Today Naive feel ready to challenge any French or Italian chocolatier, and their ambitions do not end here:
Just give us time and you will hear from us yet again.
The “fools” from Giedraičiai have already established themselves as one of 150 such producers worldwide, with their products pleasing more and more palates – from amateurs to expert chocolate tasters.
You’re either born naive, or become one
The Naive story started in 2008: after a year in London where he earned an M.A. in City Planning, Domantas returned back home to Vilnius. Few months later, the Black Swan aka Financial Crisis swept its wing across the country, leaving half of the population crying over the burnt money, broken dreams and lost jobs. Domantas was no exception. But once hit the bottom, one is free to choose – to swear, despair or… buy a ton of cocoa beans. Our hero opted for the latter:
I just launched myself into it, not having the faintest idea of how and where I would make chocolate. And at the very moment I did it, things started moving, faster and faster. So here we are now, after a short incubatory period, making the food of the gods already in five.
It’s tough to produce best quality, how do they cope with the task? The founder of Naive provides me with a complete list of the steps to perfection:
Reading, continuously improving our skills, trying and failing, and then trying again.
“We’re not Juliette Binoche”
When it comes to artisanal chocolate, romantic folks think Juliette Binoche. But if you take a closer look at the acrobat riding a unicycle on the logo (the author of the overall brand style is Karolis Kosas), you will change your idea and perhaps embrace that of Domantas:
“I always highlight that we’re not Juliette Binoche, we’re Willy Wonka! Or Philippe Petit. Or Don Quixote. Our production is very manufactural and our language is stuffed with terms like “guild”, “machinery”, “kilowatts”, or “horsepower”. Our hands get blistered, our feet get wrenched and our backs ache. Doesn’t sound that chocolateish, does it?
Now, kilowatts and aches apart, the soft side of Chocolate Naive does exist, too. It is called Storytelling, and you can spot it everywhere from the logo to package to ingredients: think of the cocoa beans making their way to Giedraičiai from a farmer in Uganda, or vanilla, arriving from a biodynamic farm in Costa Rica. As for the goat milk (used for making ice-cream, another season’s must from Chocolate Naive), its story is less global but still fascinating as the goats are bred by Naive themselves.
The everyday aesthetics provides unlimited occasions for storytelling, and moments from work and life in the manufacture often feature the cover story printed on a chocolate wrapper (“a semantic Magritte or Zen koan”, as Chocolate Ratings labelled them). Each bar comes with signature – not valid if not signed!
When asked about the future, Domantas draws a square: Giedraičiai – Vilnius – London – Managua.
“I believe a good chocolatier can make great chocolate only if he grows the cacao beans himself”, explains. “That’s our next naive challenge”.
So honestly, Domantas, Chocolate Naive are closer to Philippe Petit or Don Quixote?
“To Don Quixote, I believe. Or, better again, to Dunno, a hero of that famous old book by Nosov, “Dunno on the Moon.”
Video by BONANUFor more information please visit Chocolate Naive official website.
Words by Jurga