Chocolate Purveyors 17- Lauren Blanco
Chocolate Purveyors is a blog series where we connect and discuss everything chocolate with both makers and enthusiasts. This discussion is with Lauren Blanco co-founder and CEO of Markham & Fitz.
Markham & Fitz started in 2014 when two University of Arkansas alumni Lauren Blanco & Preston Stewart pulled their savings together to buy chocolate making equipment. Markham & Fitz's mission is to celebrate people and the cacao bean. They practice sustainability like zero-waste initiatives, compostable and recyclable packaging, transparency in supply chain and sourcing high-quality cacao beans.
Do you remember your first experience with real chocolate? What was it?
I grew up eating my mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies and making fudge and treats at Christmas. But I specifically remember my first experience as an adult enjoying dark chocolate on its own for more or less the first time. I was traveling in Malta with my now husband. I remember eating a Lindt 70% dark chocolate bar, realizing how much I actually enjoyed dark chocolate.
Before starting Markham & Fitz, what did you do?
I worked for a nonprofit organization called ForgottenSong where we helped facilitate small business development/grassroots economic empowerment in wartorn countries including Uganda, Burundi & the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I liaised with international partners, developed contracts, and ultimately learned the value of financial self-sustainability. I wanted to learn business for myself so that I could do that kind of work more effectively.
What made you dive into the world of craft chocolate?
My friend had started making chocolate in his home kitchen, and tasting his chocolate was my first craft chocolate experience. It blew my mind. I merged my passion for making an impact in the world through business with my blossoming love for product development, branding, and craft chocolate. My business partner Preston had the passion for food science and the technical side of chocolate making. So we started making chocolate to see what we could make of it.
How do you celebrate people & cacao? How can we all celebrate?
We believe that celebrating people comes down to each human interaction. We believe in caring for our employees first, knowing that care will spread from them directly to the customer. We strive to maintain a very positive company culture. At the end of the day, we make chocolate, and that’s one of the best means of celebrating life, just simply with any moment, we can be grateful for.
With cacao, we celebrate the bean by honoring it as our main ingredient in our bars, striving to let all the beautiful flavors in the unique cacao beans stand out in all of our products. This is why we distinguish most of our products by origin, even our desserts.
The simplest way to celebrate is by sharing chocolate with a friend. There’s a simple beauty in enjoying a treat with someone you love. We do our best to create products that are worth savoring, that make your mind do little flips of joy. Savor life’s little moments with a little piece of chocolate!
What is a typical day for you in the chocolate shop?
I’m actually all over the place usually. I don’t work from the shop much anymore because I focus on things like growth, strategy, personnel management, sales, and finance. I stop in the shop frequently throughout the week to touch base with our team, find new problems to solve :), and connect with our staff and their brilliant minds on aspects of retail operations and production.
Do you prefer hot chocolate or coffee in the morning?
I am actually a big tea drinker! Jasmine green is my morning ritual.
Do you have a personal favourite terroir?
Funny enough, some of my favorites right now are from Peru. It’s not an origin we use, though. It seems like I always fall into the camp of liking what’s on someone else’s plate. I think that craving for what’s beyond our own creations always keeps me on my toes!
What is your favourite pairing with chocolate? (Coffee, Beer, Cheese, etc.)
My go to would be our Brain Food bar with a cup of hot green tea. Low sugar, high energy, a regular staple for me. For a more indulgent treat, I like to eat our chocolate in dessert form via tart, mousse, or spiked drinking chocolate. Because let’s be honest: a little heavy cream goes a long way.
For someone trying Markham & Fitz for the first time, what chocolate bar would you give them to try?
I always start by asking the preference of a customer or friend! Do you like something darker or sweeter - plain or with inclusions? This gives me a great starting place to help find a chocolate that’s best for the person’s palate. If I don’t get to ask the question, I like to recommend our Ooh La Lavender bar as I think it’s one of our most distinguished and unique.
What does the future hold for Markham & Fitz Chocolate?
We are excited about continued company growth in a sustainable way. We are having fun in our current journey, and don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves. That being said, we have big plans to continue to enrich our community and beyond with a creative chocolate experience.
We want to thank Lauren for taking the time to answer our questions, we hope you learned more about Markam & Fitz and Lauren!
From rich dark Peruvian chocolate bars to new start-up chocolate bars on the come up, you never know what you get inside the box!
Each month we will curate 4 to 5 premium specialty crafted chocolate bars.
Have someone who you appreciate? It also makes as a great gift!
If you want to just try a couple of bars, check out our online chocolate shop, it's a selection of what we have curated in our past boxes.
Too much chocolate? You can pause at any time!
If you have any questions regarding this blog, our Kekao Box or premium specialty crafted chocolate bars, feel free to contact us! Keep up with us by subscribing to our newsletter or following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.