Chocolate Maker Interview: Cailo Chocolate

For our next interview, we’re delighted to catch up with Cailo Chocolate in Perth, Western Australia.

Cailo was established late in 2016 by Mark & Simona. And their new Ransiki 70% bar was featured in our May subscription boxes(& it’s stocked in our shop). We love this bar so much we had to know more about it and how it came to be. So…. we had a chat to learn why they got into bean-to-bar chocolate making & how Cailo was born…

1. Can you tell us about your background before chocolate and why you started making chocolate from bean-to-bar?

When we lived in Los Angeles around ten years ago, we enjoyed spending weekends in Santa Barbara. With its white-washed facades and terra cotta roofs it was a welcome change to the monster that is LA. We also enjoyed the fact that Santa Barbara had some coffee shops serving espresso that was on par with what we are accustomed to in Australia.

At one of these coffee shops, we noticed some small chocolate bars for sale. On the back, we read the text “Made from bean to bar right here in Santa Barbara”. We were intrigued. We’d never actually considered how chocolate is made. Our knowledge of the chocolate making process was based on what we’d seen in the Willy Wonka movies and – having Swiss heritage – the assumption that whatever happens in the big Lindt factory near Zurich is the best way to do it.

When we tasted this little chocolate bar we were blown away by the flavour. This tasted so different to the dark chocolate we’d eaten to date. We emailed the address on the back and Mike from twenty-four blackbirds kindly responded back the next day.

We learned a lot about the craft chocolate revolution that was underway in the USA. Makers were sourcing high quality cocoa beans (and paying farmers a fair price) to make chocolate that was order of magnitude better than the industrial chocolate we’d been eating all of our lives. The term bean-to-bar meant that the entire process from the unroasted bean all the way to the bar is completed in-house.

We decided that we should make our own bean-to-bar chocolate when we moved back to Perth.

Back in Perth, we realised that the key ingredient for craft chocolate – fine flavour cocoa beans – was not readily available. So we put our plans on hold and moved on to other things.

Several years later, Mark was sitting next to the beach volleyball court and enjoying a post-game beer with his Panamanian team-mate Jose. Jose had just started his own direct trade coffee roasting company. He mentioned in passing that the next shipment from Panama would also include a few bags of cocoa beans. This chance discussion was the start of Cailo Chocolate.


Ransiki cocoa bean harvesting

2. What’s the story behind/inspiration for your unique graphic brand name and packaging?

Cailo is a combination of the founding family names of Cailo chocolate: Castillo and Carniello. Our current packaging has two main themes:

  • The old school inner wrapper with the simple sleeve on the outside reflects the fact that we make our chocolate using traditional methods.
  • The outer wrappers were also designed to be printed in house. This gave us flexibility in the early years of the business when we were unsure how long each individual bar would last. We were able to change the wrappers on the fly without committing to printing thousands of units.

One thing we’ve never been happy with are the aluminum-backed inner wrappers. These cannot be recycled. We are currently working on new packaging that is entirely paper based, making it much more sustainable.

cailio chocolate maker interview ransiki

3. What are some of the benefits of making chocolate from scratch on a small scale?

When you are small scale, you can be agile and quickly adapt to lessons you learn on your journey. Things that don’t work well can be retired quickly and new ideas can be on the shelves of our retailers within a few weeks. We also love the fact that we know many of our retailers (and even some of our end-customers) personally.

4. What origins do you work with and where do you source your cocoa from?

We currently use beans from the Solomon Islands and from West Papua. There is so much great cocoa grown in our region.

Showcasing cocoa from our region makes more sense to us than making yet another bar with Madagascar beans.

Ransiki cocoa bean harvesting

5. How would you describe the chocolate scene in Perth & how has it evolved over the years?

When we first started there was very little awareness of bean to bar chocolate in Perth. Most consumers were unaware that the major local chocolate companies just melt industrial chocolate that has been made overseas and put it in fancy packaging. Over the years awareness has increased significantly but we still have a long way to go.


6. How do you convey high-quality chocolate(compared to remelting) to potential customers, and is there anything in particular that helps people understand it?

Honestly, most people that had never heard of craft chocolate immediately understand the difference once they understand that we start with quality beans.

The analogy to craft beer, quality coffee and wine always resonates. Of course a Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley is going to taste different to a Margaret River Chardonnay, so why would dark chocolate from different origins not also taste distinctively different?

Birdsnake Colombia Ralito 70 percent

7. We featured your new, Ransiki 70% bar in our May subscription boxes. How did you source those beans and why did you decide to use them?

Our church has been running an outreach program in West Papua for many years. As part of this program, young West Papuan students come to Perth to study English. Whenever we asked the West Papuans what they needed most back home one of the most frequent answers was “Local jobs”.

When we had the opportunity to source beans from West Papua through Dejan at Biji Kakao we were of course very excited. We’ve now found a way to support the West Papuans by purchasing beans from them. As an added bonus, the chocolate that we make using the Ransiki beans tastes delicious and is a real crowd pleaser. A true win – win in our opinion!


white stuff on your chocolate bar

8. What’s your favourite chocolate bars that you’ve tasted recently (other than your own)?

Here in Australia: we generally love everything that Michelle from Zokoko in Sydney makes, we’re huge fans.

Further afield: we loved Luisa Abram’s bar with Cupuaçu (which is a close relative of cacao). Also, Dandeloin’s Madagascar bar from the 2017 harvest is the bomb in our opinion.

9. Throughout your chocolate making journey, you must have so many experiences; what have been your best, worst and funniest moments so far?

One of the best moments would have been meeting Mike Orlando at 24 Blackbirds and getting a personal tour of his little chocolate factory in Santa Barbara. His chocolate started our journey, so it was nice to meet him in person.

In the very early days, while we were still figuring out how to temper and mould chocolate, I’d stayed up very late in our kitchen to finish a batch of test bars. I was too tired to take the bars out of the moulds so I’d left them carefully balanced on two pieces of timber supported by two chairs in our lounge room. Around 6 am the next morning I was woken by loud banging originating from the lounge room and I immediately realised our kids had inadvertently knocked all of the bars off the carefully balanced structure.

On a positive note, the broken pieces of bars did have a nice shine and snap to them.


Cailo Chocolate

10. Where do you see the chocolate industry in the next 10 years? Do you have any hopes predictions for the future?

There is a lot of pressure on the large multinational companies to clean up their act regarding the often terrible working conditions on cocoa plantations in West Africa.

We hope this pressure leads to real change on the ground.
On the other end of the spectrum, craft chocolate will continue to grow as more and more consumers learn to appreciate quality chocolate.

11. If you had to sum up the craft chocolate industry in one word, what would it be?


A big thank you to Mark & Simona for taking the time for this interview. Be sure to check out the Cailo bars & hot chocolate in our online shop.

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