SFU grad’s business venture is a delightful culmination of chocolate and friendship

Kasama Chocolate offers bean-to-bar goodness for a variety of situations

The bean-to-bar process is what makes Kasama Chocolate so unique. Courtesy of Kasama Chocolate.

By: Sara Wong, Peak Associate

Whether your online classes are stressing you out, your family is starting to irritate you, or your lack of seeing friends has got you in your feelings, there’s one guaranteed cure-all: chocolate. Science has shown that it helps improve our mood, and Kasama Chocolate is the best when it comes to doing just that!

OK, so the second part of my statement hasn’t been scientifically proven (yet), but Kasama’s chocolates are delicious. Kasama is a local small business that makes their chocolate from bean-to-bar, meaning they go through a long series of actions to produce chocolate straight from cacao beans. Comparatively, many chocolatiers skip the labour-intensive process in favour of couverture (pre-made chocolate).

Last year, BC Business published an article which showed that only a handful of chocolate companies in the province make bean-to-bar chocolate, making Kasama quite unique. The bean-to-bar technique allows for more control over the chocolate’s flavour and consistency, which is well worth the extra time it takes to produce. Trust me when I say you can taste the difference.

Kasama Chocolate was created in 2016, after Vincent Garcia, one of the four founders, discovered cacao trees on his family’s property in the Philippines the year before. Garcia and his friends/co-founders, Stefan Klopp, Dominik Voser, and Oliver Koth-Kappus⁠, continue to operate Kasama to this day. The name of their brand, as reported by Andrea Marván in Edible Vancouver, is a “Tagalog word that means collaboration, friendship, and camaraderie.” Kasama relates to Garcia, Klopp, Voser, and Koth-Kappus’ joint venture into entrepreneurship and embodies the community of East Vancouver artisans that they support and are a part of.  

For Garcia, a 2004 SFU School of Communication alum, starting a chocolate company with his best friends was a rather spontaneous decision. “Originally I wanted to pursue a career in advertising and hopefully land a gig at Strawberry Frog, CP&B, Wieden Kennedy, DDB, or Rethink — my favourite creative agencies at the time,” he told me via email. In other words, entrepreneurship was not something that Garcia considered.

However, life had different plans. “Things didn’t quite pan out as I had hoped. I was also a little too naïve and I had a limited network,” he admitted. “Luckily, I was able to do some creative freelance work for a couple of years that took me from Vancouver to Singapore and back. And it was during those years that I [ . . . ]  realized I could create my own opportunities.”

While studying at SFU, Garcia’s focus was on social communication and new media, something he believes has translated well into what he does at Kasama. “As a CMNS [sic] student you learn about big ideas like Marshall McLuhan’s ‘the medium is the message’ and study subjects like Semiotics — how meaning is created through the use of signs and symbols,” Garcia explained. “Little did I know, at the time, that I would be putting these concepts into practice 11 years later with chocolate acting as the medium and the Kasama brand acting as the sign and symbol,” he continued.

Although Kasama Chocolate can be found at select retailers, the majority of their business came from craft fairs, which have been cancelled and postponed indefinitely since COVID-19 hit. Yet, Garcia reported that “[they] were able to shapeshift and business online has been brisk.” 

Additionally, after a brief hiatus, Kasama has returned to various Vancouver Farmers Markets locations. “Our customers and wholesalers have [ . . . ] been supportive throughout the pandemic and we’re very grateful for that. We’re lucky that Vancouver has a very tight-knit food community and we hope that Kasama Chocolate will continue to be part of it for many years to come!” Garcia concluded.

I’ve also seen a major increase in show of support for local brands from Vancouver’s large community of foodies and consumers — something I hope will continue even after this pandemic is behind us. So in the interest of supporting small business, go ahead and grab yourself a delectable Kasama bar.

Below are my recommendations:

When school becomes overwhelming — 65% Agro Espresso will give you the strength to carry on.

When your family is driving you wild — 55% Goat’s Milk will channel your energy into tangy goodness.

When you miss your friends — 57% Earl Grey Tea will keep you in a sweet, reminiscent bubble.

Check out the Where to Buy tab on their website for more information.


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