Carmel chocolate maker highlight of artisan event

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Carmel artisan Joann Hofer will sell her handmade chocolate at the Artisan Marketplace at the State Fairgrounds on March 29 and March 30. (Staff photo)

Carmel artisan Joann Hofer will sell her handmade chocolate at the Artisan Marketplace at the State Fairgrounds on March 29 and March 30. (Staff photo)

By Amanda Foust

This year’s annual Artisan Marketplace at the State Fairgrounds will highlight the unique talent of one of Carmel’s own.

Carmel resident Joann Hofer, the owner of Xchocol’Art Organic and Fair Trade Gourmet Chocolate, has always been fascinated by chocolate in both its flavor and formation.

“At one point I read an article about chocolate that also described the chemistry and artistry involved,” she said. “I thought it could be an outlet for my artistic personality. I could create something people would enjoy.”

Hofer learned the intricacies of chocolate-making through her enrollment in a Bean to Bar and Professional Chocolatier course during a time when she was living in Austria. Her travels also led her to her Austrian husband, and soon, work brought them to Carmel.

She soon joined a group called Indiana Artisan – a collective organization that embraces Indiana’s talented artisans’ unique art and food creations.

“(It) represents what is best of our state by showcasing incredible food artisans who are dedicated to a craft made by hand with fresh ingredients,” Hofer said.

In what she views as an artform, Hofer values organic and fair trade products. She also grows many of the ingredients in her garden like mint, rosemary, thyme and lavender. And local business partners like Traders Point Creamery supply her business with creams and cheeses to use in her truffle creations.

“It is really special to get a truffle that is handmade with local ingredients,” Hofer said. “Chocolate doesn’t grow in Indiana, it grows in the central/tropical regions of the world, but I know specifically where my chocolate comes from.”

In Austria, Hofer worked with Josef Zotter, who oversees a company in Europe that produces organic and fair trade chocolates solely from the cacao bean.

Zotter refuses to turn a blind eye to mistreatment and slavery that occurs during production on some cacao plantations. He takes responsibility to follow ethical guidelines, and Hofer has followed his lead and is now a U.S. distributor for Zotter Chocolates.

“I think it is really important to know where your food comes from,” Hofer said. “And in the aspect of chocolate it’s really like wine, where it is grown in different regions of the world and it tastes different according to its region.”

Hofer sells Zotter Chocolates and Xchocol’Art locally and online. Both methods, however, work well for different audiences and create a widespread reach that are starting to build a community.

“I like (local market sales) because I work a lot in my chocolate studio creating recipes and working with chocolate, and it requires a lot of concentration,” she said. “When I’m at the market I get to connect with people and make friendships.”

Indiana Artisan Marketplace ● 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 29; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 30 ● Exposition Hall at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis ● Xchocol’Art – booth 101 ● For more information visit www.xchocolart.com

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