Noticing Neighbors Tyler Shane
Over on Westport Road, there is a café opening it’s bright colored doors to community collaborations. Café Corazón offers a variety of coffee, Yerba Mate tea, and menu items featuring flavors unique to Latin culture. Their newest release is a pair of artisanal chocolate bars created by local chocolatier Tyler Shane.
From the crafting of the chocolate, to the package design, to the vendor where they are sold — this team of makers have created an experience to “let your chocolate connect you to the divine.”
Tyler Shane is the savvy chocolatier behind the curated flavors, and she shares the story behind the collaboration.
Photo credit: Itzel Sanchez Hayley:
I’m so curious, how did this project get started?
So Café Corazón had actually reached out to me through Instagram. They posted that they were looking for a Latin chocolatier, and then messaged me about creating a chocolate collection because of cacao's original roots tracing to Latin America. I was like, I can do that! I have made chocolate through Christopher Elbow, which is where I have been working for the past seven years. So it was just an awesome fit.
Really admire them for making sure that they're supporting their vision. Tyler: Yes.
Hayley: I’ve got to ask — looking at the ingredients, were there any that you were specifically excited to use?
Oh my gosh, yes. That was my favorite part, I was doing a lot of research for creating the Latin flavors. It was kind of surprising to me how little they are used in chocolate.
Spice in chocolate is very common, but not necessarily as an ode to Latin America. So the Mole Rojo bar uses a lot of spices, and mole has a little bit of chocolate in it, usually. It was an obvious connection to use.
Then I loved using the corn nuts in the Maíz bar — it's an unusual ingredient, but it works so well.
I wanted to have one that's a bit more familiar with the mole flavor, and one that's a little bit more eccentric, but still really powerful as far as it's homage to Latin America. Hayley: So the maíz one is a little more eccentric. Why did you choose that ingredient?
Maíz is corn, and it is a Mexican crop, so it originated there. When I was first testing the recipe, I just used corn nuts from a gas station. Which I do love, but then we went and got Peruvian corn nuts, and I like that better. They're blended up with some spices and a lot of lime. The lime adds a brightness to it, and there's a lot of salt in that one, too. It's a really crunchy texture with bright flavors. That one's my personal favorite, just because it's so unassuming, I think.
Hayley: It almost sounds like you really have to try them both just to taste the differences.
Yes, definitely. They're very different flavors, despite having a lot of common ingredients.
Hayley: You mentioned earlier that your dad's side is Latin, right? Tyler: Yes. Hayley: Was there anyone specific that inspired you in the kitchen?
Yes. I think that there were a lot of elements that developed my love of food as a child, but certainly one of them was my Hispanic side. We always had tamales, enchiladas, and traditional Mexican food at all of our gatherings. I always got to see my grandma and my aunts carry those traditions throughout the kitchen. As I've gotten older, I really want to carry that with me and then be able to pass it on to my kids. My grandma used to make mole, so the mole is definitely a tribute to her. Food is just such a bonding thing, especially on my Hispanic side. All of our family gatherings are about food, pretty much! And that's where we gather and laugh. So it was a pretty beautiful connection that I felt that I was making in this pairing.
When you're making the chocolate, and you're doing that in the kitchen, what are you thinking about?
I think I had a little bit of insecurities, considering this was my first time making chocolate on my own. I did not have any of the usual equipment that we have in the chocolate shop and so I was nervous to tackle this and have my name on it. But I would think, “I have seven years of experience, I can do this.” And I did! And I loved being able to work with such amazing and encouraging people, like the owners Miel and Curtis. They were just so supportive of me, and they really encouraged me to connect with my roots. It all just lined up and felt right. Hayley: Then with Rico and Isaac doing the graphic design, how did you feel? Because it's beautiful! Tyler: Yes!
Hayley: How did it feel to hold it?
We originally wanted to do this grand box packaging, but we had such little time and everything's backed up, so we pretty much settled for the style of cellophane wrap and the sticker.
Seeing it for the first time, I was not let down whatsoever. It was really wild. The first day that they went on sale, I took my mom and my grandma to Café Corazón to see the bars laying there and it was pretty emotional. Just seeing my name on something, and then in collaboration with such great people and watching it all come together — it looks so good!
Hayley: It does! It really does. And then this is my last question: This is such a unique, amazing thing where you've gotten out of your comfort zone and really went for it. What goodness have you seen that surprised you in this process?
That's a really good question. Well, to be totally honest, I am going to start making chocolate on my own. So I'm going to continue this. Hayley: That’s amazing! Tyler: It was this process that led me to making the decision. I recently wrote an article for Made in KC Explore. I got to talk about how in the origin of chocolate, Mesoamericans thought it could connect you to the divine. And I love that aspect of it. Chocolate is so much more than the Hershey's that you down without thinking. It can be this really beautiful, almost sensual experience, and seeing this process made me want to elaborate more on the importance of chocolate and how beautiful it is and how great of an experience that it can create for its consumers. So, yeah, that was a little bit more than you thought!
I love that! That's going to change the way I want to eat chocolate.
You know, just because I've done it as a job for so long, I think this reignited my own passion in working with chocolate.
All media originally published by Tyler Shane and Café Corazón via their online platforms.