Heard it Here

Wake Forest Students Cover Downtown Winston-Salem

From Bean to Bar in Downtown Winston

The smell of sweet leaf tobacco used to flow from the Big Winston Tobacco Warehouse at the corner of Eighth and Trade Streets. Now, a new chocolate factory has replaced that sweet smell of tobacco with the sweet smell of roasting cocoa beans.

Black Mountain Chocolate Company’s Winston-Salem factory opened its doors September 19. Dawn Peters is the owner and her husband, Brent, is the factory’s artisan chocolate maker.

Brent Peters, artisan chocolate maker at Black Mountain Chocolate Company, explains the process of cleaning cacao beans.

Brent Peters, artisan chocolate maker at Black Mountain Chocolate Company, explains the process of cleaning cacao beans.

On roasting days, visitors may smell the cocoa beans spinning in the roaster, hear the grinding of the beans, see the liquid chocolate drip from the tempering machine, or taste a sample in the retail room.

When the Peters, both 52, purchased the company from David Mason in September 2013, the factory was in Swannanoa, N.C. Brent Peters said that he enjoyed making chocolate, but the setup of the Swannanoa location did not allow him to share the process of chocolate making with his customers. That, coupled with the fact that the Peters have lived in Winston-Salem for the past 22 years, prompted the move to Trade Street.

“We knew we wanted to be downtown – this building is within walking distance of where we live,” Brent Peters said. “And we wanted a building that we could re-purpose … We wanted to give it new life.”

He said that the factory produces three batches per week. That’s more than 1,500 chocolate bars from about 225 lbs. of cacao beans.

Brent Peters said that they pay a fair trade price for their Hispanola cacao beans from the Dominican Republic. Buying fair trade goods ensures that farmers in developing countries are paid a fair price for their products. Although the price is higher, Brent Peters said that supporting the Dominican farmers is important to his business model.

“I want to pay enough so that the growers I use can afford to remain in the business,” Brent Peters said.

He said the beans have a rich acidity with a dried fruit aftertaste.

“It’s the kind of chocolate I like, so it’s the kind of chocolate I make,” Brent Peters said.

Every bean is cleaned by hand before roasting. The beans move through five different machines before being chilled at 62 degrees and wrapped by hand.

“Some things are better when they’re made by hand,” Brent Peters said. “I like to be able to supervise from start to finish.”

The Peters consider the chocolate company the “second act” in their lives. Before purchasing the company, Dawn Peters had been an elementary school teacher. Brent Peters paid his way through college working as a chocolatier in Kansas City, Mo. Although he loved the chocolate-making process, he said that at the time he thought he wanted to do something “more serious” with his life. He went on to get a law degree and then worked as an attorney for BB&T.

“We joke and say it was a mid-life crisis,” Dawn Peters said. “But I knew Brent wanted to own his own business and do something with food.”

Dawn Peters said that they introduced the Black Mountain Chocolate brand through their shop in Reynolda Village last year. Now, Black Mountain Chocolate products are available at nine stores throughout Winston-Salem.

Kris Dziki worked at the company’s Reynolda retail shop before moving to the downtown store. She said she enjoys interacting with the people who come in to tour the factory.

“Chocolate makes people happy, so I never have to deal with grumpy people,” Dziki said.

Currently, Black Mountain Chocolate produces five types of chocolate bars, all of which are 70 percent cacao: Cocoa Nib, Dominican Single-Origin, Espresso, Mountain Milk and Sea-Salt. Brent Peters said the next goal is to add products to their inventory, including an extra-dark chocolate and a spicy chocolate bar.

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