Red Thalhammer is not your average chocolate maker. From her name, it sounds like she’s more of a viking — a shield-maiden — which isn’t too far from the truth.
Before Red founded Antidote Chocolate, and before she even thought of it, she was a designer working on the packaging and identity of other brands. She was successful at that for years, but longed to work on what was inside the package. She wanted to work on the product itself. But what product? And how?
The idea for Antidote came from an unlikely place: an apology Red sent via text message. “Sorry for my poisonous behavior.”
And the response: “Well maybe you should find the antidote.”
Red didn’t realize the weight of her reaction at the time, but it would change the course of things for her. She thought, “What if chocolate is the antidote?” And that was that.
Red had no experience making chocolate. But, as she says, “I’m an autodidact. I grew up in a restaurant. My mom is a chef and my father was in aquaculture. I’ve always been interested in health. I’ve always thought the way we approach food should be better.”
Red would “make chocolate in the morning, then read and study about it at night. It’s so much more rewarding working on your own packaging, but I was doing much more work on the chocolate itself.” Red was taking trips to Ecuador to see where her beans were sourced and making relationships with the people that pick them. The quality of the beans dictated the recipe for her chocolate. She’d use raw cacao and low extra butter so that the full flavor comes through, bean to bar. On a trip to Sri Lanka Red found herself floored by the spices there — their potency, their cultural importance. She vowed to bring some of that strength of flavor back, and put it in her chocolate.
Now, five years later, Antidote is being sold all over the United States and the world. From 100% raw cacao to 77% and 84% raw and roasted cacao, Red knows the chocolate “gives you a kick.” She’s hoping “more and more people can enjoy it; that they feel the potency of it.” With flavors like “ginger + panela,” “banana + cayenne,” “rose salt + lemon,” I don’t see how we couldn’t.
Red’s favorite flavor? “Mango and juniper. I like the spiciness of it.”