We must get this question 100 times a week.
We make or craft chocolate, starting with cacao beans from 12 countries, and follow a 12 step process converting beans to various forms of chocolate. We are FDA approved food manufacturer. We make 104 unique bars, each with subtle nuances and variations you will only find in hand crafted chocolate manufacturing. Each step builds on the previous, and with minimal automation, most are done by hand including the molding and packaging.
Why artisan you might ask? Because the big chocolate companies have equipment that is cost prohibitive and doesn't make financial sense until you get to a bigger operation.
How do you compete with the larger companies? We can't and don't. We have to find other ways to provide unique offerings apart from the herd. One way is diverse offerings, unique beans, unique flavor combinations and lots of innovation, similar to what you would expect out of a small cheese, beer or wine manufacturer. And we sample lots of chocolate - at last count we have given out over 50,000 samples in 2017 and still have most of December to hand out more.
How is Kyya Different? We spent 18 years in Tech and our family has been in the food business for decades. We take the approach that innovation is the only path to stand out from the crowd. We have introduced at least one new product every month since inception. We believe in trying new things and failing forward (meaning you learn from your mistakes). We were geeks before we started this journey and have become certified Chocolate Geeks over the past 5 years. We also knew that there are thousands of chocolate companies around the world, so we better be innovators or we will end up looking like a copycat. We even invested in our own digital printing press because the "art" doesn't stop at the chocolate, the package has to be world class because that is what initially catches your eye.
What's the best part of your day? This one is easy. We love meeting a new customer at an event, farmer's market or at the factory and sharing our passion for chocolate. Sharing the tasting notes of one of our chocolates and watching the look on their face as we describe the flavors and textures to a "T". We are not snobs around here, we love to educate and share what we learn through the monthly challenges of making 1.5 metric tons of chocolate.
Why Elm Springs? Our founders spent 20+ years in Tech (General Electric, Microsoft, Dell, VMware) and 10 years in pharmaceuticals (Baxter, Boehringer Ingelheim). They traveled extensively and wanted to create one of those places that would be unique find on a lesser traveled back road. We found an old gas station in Elm Springs that we renovated into Arkansas' first chocolate factory. It's not pretty, but it was cheap and we spent the money on the best raw materials in the world, equipment, high quality process rather than some glass enclosed stainless steel fancy places where it was about the perception rather than the chocolate.
What about the Chocolate? Kyya produces chocolate in small batches, taking 72 hours (3 days) to make each batch using traditional methods. Most mass produced chocolate is made in 4 hours and no one touches the chocolate at any step in the process. We source our beans directly where possible, improving the farmer's wage and leverage our skills running logistics at XBox. Close to starting our sixth year, we still don't have any automated molding or packaging....yet. Our chocolate makers still hand infuse each bar (like our Sea Salt and Almond Bar and our wildly popular new offering Sweet Caramel and Sea Salt. Something is working, because we now can say "award" winning chocolates!
What about the name? Kyya comes from the original Greek name KAIA, and means simple or pure. We'll talk in a separate blog about our mission, but our chocolate is simple and pure and we continue to learn more every day here in Elm Springs.
Who is Mama Kyya? She is our leader and visionary. Mama loves chocolate, has four amazing daughters, is a great friend and guides the team, but one of the hardest servant leaders we have ever met.
What else? Stop by - there is nothing like experiencing the vast collection of Kyya chocolates and make sure to ask what's new - we're always creating something new..