Bitte Chocolate!

As most of these stories go, I met Mike Hoffman in college through friends of friends. Mike ended up graduating a couple years before me and moved to South Carolina to pursue his dreams. After working for a few years, he turned one of his hobbies of making his own chocolate into a budding business, Bitte Chocolate!

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I’m always looking for things to fulfill my life; finding my passions and making them prevalent in my day to day life. I think it’s really brave that Mike has taken this leap of faith to follow his passion. Check out the interview with him below!

Tell me about Bitte Chocolate! Where did the name come from?

Bitte Chocolate started my senior year of college. My friend Sarah and I started messing around with making chocolate. Well… it was more like she was watching while I made it but nevertheless she was there. I I started out by using different kind of beans and  a small food chopper to chop up beans and sugar. I had a hard time with texture/grittiness because I was using a mortar and pestal. Professionally, this process (called conching) takes about two days. My chocolate was very gritty, almost like Modica Chocolate  where they do not conch and the sugar is still big and gritty. 

After graduation I moved down to Charleston, SC and didn’t  make much chocolate at the time. I worked for a French Chocolatier for 6 months but became bored doing the same things over and over again. In the beginning of 2014, I bought equipment to really make chocolate. At first, I  was just playing around when my boss encouraged me to turn it into a business. I was skeptical; I didn’t want to ruin my love for making chocolate by turning it into a business and having to do it all the time. So I took it slow and never let it overwhelm me. It has slowly formed into what you see today after a year of formula testing and packaging design.


The name was the hardest part of the entire process. I wanted something  strong, classy, and not cheesy. I came up with a hundred different names but couldn’t decide on one. I always pictured something  that was short, sweet and too the point but could never quite put my finger on it.  I would dream about it, wake up and write the word but nothing seemed to fit. After about 3 months of brainstorming, I was bouncing ideas off of my roommate and she recommended something like bittersweet. It was too cute and nice; it wasn’t me. Then a light bulb went off! Bitte (bit-tah) is the German word for ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘please’. After researching, testing the word on friends and chatting with a german exchange student from high school, I settled on the official name Bitte Chocolate.I find that the word Bitte is a perfect fit for my chocolate as I produce chocolate with strong flavors uninhibited by vanilla or other flavorings. 

What inspired you to start your own company? How have you broken into the market?

Ever since taking a chocolate class in college, I fell in love and  knew I wanted to be a chocolatier. I feel like most great pastry chefs are great at chocolates. Chocolatiers are always seem very confident. I think I started this company because I saw a void in the market here. Charleston has such a great food scene- it’s impossible to come across a bad meal.  I figured that if there was any time to do it, it was now! It was perfect- I love to make it and market needs it. I have had a very soft opening for the most part, and I am just starting to sell to local businesses.

Explain the chocolate making process. How long does the entire process take?

Once I receive the beans, I roast them. I make sure to test the beans by eating a couple to double check they are up to my standard. I then winnow/ grind them. Winnowing is the process of separating the bean from the skin.  After grinding them, I add cocoa butter, sugar and sometimes milk depending on the kind of chocolate I am making. After, I put the mixture in a melanger which are stone rollers that crush the sugar small enough so it creates a smooth mouth-feel. This part of the process takes about two days. Once the chocolate is ready, I temper** and mold them. I let them sit, wrapped in foil for about 3 weeks to mellow out a hard acidic flavor from the beans. Once they age, I package and sell them! So the entire process takes a little over three weeks.

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(**Side note: tempering is the process of creating a balance in the chocolate so it hardens quickly, can resist slight changes in temperature and moisture, and keeps fat from rising to the surface on chocolate)

Where do you source your ingredients? Any particular reason you pick that location to source from?

I get my beans from Peru. I’ve tried dozens of different beans but prefer the ones from Peru called Criollo beans. Criollo beans make up 1% of  cocoa beans in the world, but have the best flavor! I also get beans called Tumbes.They have a malty fruity flavor that really helps bring out the chocolate flavor!

How did you get started in the industry? What keeps you passionate?

I don’t know exactly how I got into the industry but I think I can speculate. As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a chef besides the usual pipe dream of astronaut or baseball player. Being a chef was the first real job I wanted to do. I hear from my friends that they got into the industry because they loved making things with the mom/grandmother or something cheesy like that but I just had the love of food in me.. In high school, I had figured out that I liked baking more than cooking which eventually lead me to pick the four year pastry program at Johnson & Wales University.

What keeps me passionate? What doesn’t keep me passionate is the real question. I love everything I do. Everything about chocolate is amazing. I love that I can be artistic as well as scientific. It’s hard to put into words the way I feel about my craft. I commit so many hours to my job and it can really wear on you but it’s still amazing to be able to produce these lovely works of art.I was sitting at a chef’s table, watching the wonderful ballet that is a kitchen and my heirloom tomato came out. Before I took a spoon and destroyed it, I stopped and took a step back and admired it’s beauty. I took a bite and savored every moment of that delicious tomato. I thought about everything that it had been from the farm to mouth. I feel like people need to see that food isn’t just a way to survive.

What’re your future goals for Bitte Chocolate or otherwise?

My future goals are just to grow. Right now, I am just doing it in the back of the bakery but would like to open up my own place when the right time comes. I have a couple of ideas brewing at the moment. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself or give away any of my secrets!

I have noticed in my time making chocolates, that some people are afraid to admit milk chocolate is there favorite. Milk chocolate shouldn’t just be related to Hershey products or other products loaded with sugar and vanilla. I’m confident I have a milk chocolate bar that people won’t be afraid to say they like! My milk chocolate uses high volume cocoa liquor and milk to give it a high end taste and a less sugary taste.

If you are in Charleston,  you will start to notice Bitte Chocolate popping up in local shops! We hope to start shipping this fall. You can go to our website at bittechocolate.com or follow us on instagram bittechocolate or on Facebook!

632I hope you guys enjoyed another inside view into the industry! I wish Mike the best of luck and I can’t wait to order chocolate bars from him! Check back on Tuesday for a new post!

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Myrtle Part 2: Southern Eats!

My vacation to Myrtle Beach was more focused on relaxing and enjoying the weather than it was about being a foodie adventure. My roommates and I had a plan to save some money by grocery shopping and eating at her family’s house for a handful of our meals. However, when we did go out to eat, I wanted to make sure to try some good southern eats!

We spent a night walking the boardwalk when we went to this place called Sharkey’s. We sat on the roof overlooking the boardwalk and the beach as the sun was setting giving us a really incredible view. Service here was slow as were most of the attitudes we came across. To me, everything felt slow as molasses down there- table service, people walking across the street, conversations slowed down- but apparently that’s just what life is like in the South.

I ordered the shrimp and grits! The grits were bacon infused as also came with sausage pieces as well. YUM! Once we finally got our food, the grits were nice a smooth, a little smoky and salty which was so delicious with the shrimp and sausage. The food was rich and filling so I ended up taking home half of my dinner for lunch the next day.
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Another night we visited a place called Duffy Street Seafood Shack. My roommate Allie ordered the king crab legs while I just got the bacon cheeseburger which came with slaw and old bay fries. We split an order of sweet cornbread which was the best I’ve ever had! It was almost like a cake- light and fluffy, sweet but still savory. I scarfed that down in just a few minutes and I keep dreaming about it- I need more! I was disappointed with my burger- I almost got the appetizer crab cake claiming to have been made with very little breading and lots of lumpy crab meat but I panicked when ordering and went with the burger instead. We also ordered one of their signature drinks- Orangeade and vodka! Surprisingly, the orangeade brought me back to elementary school Summer Playground where we would have a drink break and get either lemonade or orangeade. I forget it even existed!

My absolute favorite part of the trip however was when we went crabbing with Allie’s dad. We woke up and went to a deserted pier around 9 in the morning with all of our gear in hand- a handful of crab traps, a couple fishing lines, our bait and tackle box, a drink cooler and oodles of sunscreen. The traps work through tension. Sitting on the ground, all four sides of the box are open with the bait (raw chicken) wired inside. The crabs would then come to eat the bait and periodically you check the traps by pulling up tightly and quickly on the string. The four sides of the box close up trapping the crabs inside!

532 533We had to throw many of them back if they were too small as we were only allowed to take crabs that were 5 inches tip to tip. Over the course of four hours, we caught 11 crabs, one pregnant crab, and a hermit crab and a couple miscellaneous shells. We took our haul back to the house where we started boiling a pot of water. Once the water is boiling, you drop them in one by one and cook them for about 12 minutes before pulling them out. Their color is completely changed and once cool, they’re ready to be cleaned.

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536 To clean the crabs, you must first pull off the bottom part of their shell to reveal the insides. At this point you have to take out the crabs lungs and all the other colored parts (yellow, green and black mush) and rinse them clean. Then they’re ready for picking!

Although our crabs were small, the meat was well worth the reward!! So sweet and delicious, we melted butter to dip them in. We spent about an hour and a half each picking and eating only 3 crabs but it was WELL WORTH IT. It was so great to be able to say I was eating the fruits of my labor.

537I’ve never been a huge outdoorsy type, but I had a blast crabbing! Have any of you ever done this before? What should I try next? Hope you all have an incredible weekend planned in this gorgeous weather but don’t forget to check back on Tuesday! Until then!

What happens in Myrtle… Doesn’t stay in Myrtle

I spent a week taking a vacation from my crazy life and took a trip with my roommates down to Myrtle Beach! I had never been to South Carolina and I hadn’t taken a real vacation in probably 3 or 4 years so I was in desperate need of some R&R. My roommate’s parents live down there and they own a condo that they rent out throughout the year and after a little schmoozing, we had a free place to stay- right near the boardwalk too!

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The hotel where we were staying was called Long Bay Resort and it was literally right on the beach! I was surprised at how shallow the beaches were to reach the ocean but they were as wide as your eye could see. Miles and miles of beach with soft sand and bath-water warm waves- it was perfect. We visited the beach a few days and spent the morning hours tanning (and burning OUCH CHARLIE) and then taking a dip in the ocean to cool off. I had never been in an ocean where I didn’t cringe just getting used to how cold the water was. Maybe it’s because the week was so hot and humid or perhaps it’s like the all the time, but you could just waltz right on in and enjoy the 80 degree ocean water.

530The first night we were there, we wanted to get all wild and crazy so we went to a place called Broadway at the Beach. It’s a shopping center of sorts- lots of wacky gift shops, a couple normal retail stores and a ton of hokey restaurants. But the coolest part was a section called Celebrity Circle! I would equate this area to a very mini Bourbon Street like in New Orleans. Here, you were allowed to carry open bottles and cans of alcohol and bars and clubs alike ran on either side of the street. Throughout the week, these bars host a pub crawl and on the weekends, the clubs get craaaazy! And alcohol is SUPER cheap! A shot and a mixed drink only cost me $9.50- that’s as much as I would pay for one mixed drink in Boston!

523Our first night we began at a place called Fat Tuesdays which was a daiquiri bar! YUM. There were 8-10 different flavors of daiquiris and they came in different sizes. We all went with a small ($6.25) and then added a test tube shot for only an extra dollar. That was definitely enough to start off your night right! So before we had gone out, my roommates went on my Tinder (they’re both in relationships- EW) and were swiping on any guy they thought was cute to see if we could get anyone to come meet us. We also posted two “moments” so I feel like you definitely reel more messages in when you snap a picture! And so while we’re sitting at Fat Tuesdays, I was checking my messages- some of which were REALLY crass.

524MOM THIS IS WHERE YOU SHOULD STOP READING AND PRETEND LIKE I’M STILL A SWEET ANGEL AND NOTHING EVER HAPPENS TO ME AND NO ONE EVER BOTHERS ME! I’M WARNING YOU! THESE STORIES MAY CHANGE YOUR OPINION OF ME AND/OR THE DATING WORLD I’M FORCED TO BE IN!

I got messages that ranged from:

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Looking gorgeous tonight ladies, I’d definitely meet you if I were closer :P”

“Hope you brought your Costco card cuz you’re about to get this dick in bulk” <-really!?

“You can come kiss me if you want”

“Hey cutie how’s it going? 🙂 “

But the worst message I have to paraphrase because it was then deleted but it said something along the lines of:

“You should come over to my place and just sit on my face”

My roommate Emma was so grossed out by this and we were sitting across the table from a group of guys. Drunkenly, Emma throws the phone in his face and says, “IS THIS ANY WAY TO TALK TO A LADY!?” The guy then reads the message, laughs and then tells us he thinks it’s funny. Emma windmills her arm above her head, points to the guy after he’s said what he said and says, “SWIPE LEFT ON THIS GUY!!!” to the whole bar! It was HILARIOUS. He totally blew any chance he or his group of friends who were slowly inching forward had to talking to a group of girls in that bar.

And this is only the beginning, my friends. We ended up going to a bar called Senor Frogs right across from Fat Tuesdays where there was plenty of dancing. The music was more R&B and Hip-Hop than I really liked/I can only white girl dance to so many of those songs before I’m totally out of place. My roommate had invited another Tinder guy to meet me at Senor Frogs but I thought fat chance in hell I would actually find him there. Little do I know but I get a tap on my shoulder while I’m dancing and at first ignore it thinking it’s someone who wants to dance. I get tapped again and turn around to see whats-his-name and he says, “Are you Abby?” OH GOD GUYS IT WAS SO AWKWARD. I stumbled my way through a short conversation introducing him to my friends and us to his. And then we turned around the keep dancing and ignore them because we were never interested in the first place. IT WAS SO WEIRD. Despite that happening, we had a great girl’s night with even a couple free drinks thrown in!

Dealing with my hangover the next day, we went to the beach and ended up spending the night at my roommate’s parent’s house where we went out to a nice dinner and spent the night watching a movie. The next day, we went crabbing too! (Check back on Thursday for a more in-depth post about all the food I ate/made/caught with my own two hands!) It was a beautiful, breezy day on the water and I had so much fun catching crabs and lounging in the sun and collecting shells. We even saw these teeny tiny crabs, OODLES AND OODLES OF THEM, just scurrying through the sea grass. It was so neat to see in person. I even picked up a large crab from behind and threw it in the water just as it was about to pinch me! Right on the verge of chopping my finger off but hey, it was fun.

After crabbing, we treated the parents to a Pelican’s game which is a minor league team down in Myrtle right near Broadway at the Beach. They were playing the Salem Red Sox ironically so even though I was rooting against the home team, I felt an allegiance to Boston. Of course, in true Red Sox fashion, they got their asses handed to them by the Pelicans but it was a fun game none-the-less. After the game we were gearing up for another night at Broadway at the Beach…538

MOM NO REALLY- STOP READING NOW PLEASE. AND IF YOU ARE READING THIS, PRETEND YOU DIDN’T SO WE DON’T TALK ABOUT IT ON THE PHONE AND I FEEL ALL OF YOUR JUDGEMENT!

I may or may not have taken about 4 shots before we left the hotel. Then at the bar bought a shot and a mixed drink and was convinced I wasn’t going to drink another drop. We went to a place called Malibu’s where ladies were free (HOLLA) and it was the last stop of the bar crawl. There were just enough people there for it to feel crowded but pleeeeeeenty of room to dance. I went up to the bar to get just ooooone last shot and asked for a “water and a kamikaze”. The bartender and I exchanged some sort of conversation that I obviously couldn’t hear because he then made me a DOUBLE watermelon kamikaze and no water… So I drank it, duh.

We’re having a great time and I was definitely feeling the liquid courage coursing through my veins. This group of three guys asked us to dance but since my roommates are both in relationships, nothing ever came of it. So we go back to dancing and I was kind of bummed because it’s a billion times harder to meet/dance/connect with guys when your wing women aren’t totally wing women, ya know? Allie, my other roommate then says to me, “well it looks like that guy behind you wants to dance with you”. So I just kind of scooted backwards and VOILA, we were now dancing together. …And then eventually we were making out with each other. And then dancing some more. I was having a blast, no lie.

Eventually it was time to go and I got the guys phone number with whom I was dancing. It was typed in as “Hinter White” but I have a feeling that that may have been a typo. That or I was dancing with Hunter Hayes in disguise. Whatever makes a better story, right? I kissed him goodbye, spun around and drunkenly bee-lined it to the door thinking my roommates were far ahead of me. Finally once I got outside, they were only a couple feet behind me and we also saw “Hinter” walk out- perhaps he thought he was coming with me, poor guy. Oops.

While waiting for our cab, we saw these guys in a mini-van who looked just barely legal and one of them was peeing outside of the car. Allie then said jokingly, “Hey, it’s like a penis but smaller!” which I’m still unclear about whether they heard or not. But all of a sudden, they’re yelling at us to come over to the van and talk to them! Just wanting to mess around and kill some time before our Uber showed up, we refused to budge saying that we were “parked right here” and they could come talk to us. So the guys pulled up in front of a barrier and got out and threw it aside to try and pull up in front of us. A security officer was walking around so they got scared and pulled away in their Mom-van.

A few minutes later, they must have circled back around and two of them got out of the car and walked over to us. They were literal babies, 18 and probably borrowing their Mom’s van, drinking beers in the backseat. When we asked how old they were, they said “Old enough sweetheart.” EW BYE. No way were their activities legal at their age but their response was, “I’m local-whatchu mean” *insert southern accent here*. Finally our Uber shows up and we hop in and head back to the hotel. On our way, the boys pull up next to us and ask where we were headed. Our driver was awesome and told them that we would follow them; we let them get in front of us when we took a sharp left leaving them in the dust! For us being his first Uber customers, he was hilarious and totally knew how to handle the situation.

The next morning I was greeted with a bitchin’ hangover and I had to wear my sunglasses inside for the first two hours until my headache went away. The following days were much more relaxed spending time on the beach and at the pool making it one of the best and most relaxing vacations I’ve ever taken.

If you stuck around and read the whole post, I commend you! Thanks for reading; hopefully you could visualize my vacation shenanigans. On Thursday, I’ll be writing some more about my time at Myrtle focusing on all my good southern eats so check back soon!