Born to be Wild: chocolate, brazil & prisons with Marie from Wildness Chocolate

17 January 2018

Marie from Wildness Chocolate is a force of nature. In the past few years her achievements include introducing a new flavour to a nation, buying land in Brazil, starting a chocolate company and working with women at Arohata Women’s Prison. Have we mentioned she’s also mother to three small children?!

We sat down with Marie for a chat about her chocolate company and beyond. Be warned: this post may leave you both maddeningly inspired AND a little hungry…

Photo of Marie, sitting at a table, cutting up cupuacu with scissors

Marie cutting Cupuacu pulp with scissors

"You can’t travel the world with chocolate"

Marie knew what she wanted to do with her life when she was 14. She left school to start an apprenticeship as a chocolatier, and went on to work with two chocolate companies. “I loved it very much,” she says, but she also had a bad case of wanderlust. When a chef told her “you can’t travel the world with chocolate!” she left to train at cooking school, and then lived in many different countries while working at Intercontinental hotels.

Eventually, Marie ended up in Aotearoa, where she met her husband. After the birth of her first child she started La Patisserie,a Wellington-based French bakery. A few years later, a casual dinner party set into motion the train of events that would lead Marie to Brazil, to cupuacu, and back to her first love: chocolate.

 Photo of Marie with a baby on her back, looking through the food forest

Searching in the Garden of Eden 

A Brazilian Garden of Eden

When a new friend came over for dinner, Marie was fascinated by his stories of visiting Brazil. “It sounds like paradise,” she thought. A short time later, both Marie and her husband decided to fly over to visit Brazil, and, eventually, to buy land there.

Marie’s face lights up when she talks about their land. “I call it the Garden of Eden!” she says.  Part of a cooperative, their land is a lush tropical food forest of mangosteen, lychee, cacao, black peppercorn, cinnamon, nutmeg, cola, vanilla and the star of the Wildness show, cupuacu!  

A photo of four ripe tropical fruits on a wooden table

Fruits of the food forest 

A Brazilian Superfood: Cupuacu!

The abundance of fruit in Brazil was a delight. But what was this delicious white-fleshed ‘cupuacu’ that grew alongside cacao? Marie soon learnt that cupuacu was a superfood crop that was mostly sold to cosmetics companies. It's be traditionally used traditional uses include painkilling properties, antioxidant boosts and energy supplements. 

Marie was intrigued by this little-known fruit, and started experimenting with different ways to cook and prepare it. Eventually, she formed a business partnership with Carlos, a Brazilian lecturer-turned-farmer, who agreed to supply her with enough cupuacu to start a business. Wildness Chocolate was born!

A photo of melted chocolate being processed on a mechanical wheel

The chocolatier's burden: staring at this divine view day after day

A wild new chocolate business

Wildness Chocolate is a natural progression for Marie: combining her talents as a chocolatier with her passion for Brazil and cupuacu. Using organic cocoa, cupuacu and other ingredients like coconut and sesame, Marie creates lusciously rich and exciting chocolate bars.

Wildness Chocolate packaging is “made with recyclable things and it is recyclable itself.” Commonsense loves that it uses soya glue, sustainable wood and bags made from potato starch.

A photo of a person holding a tray filled with chocolate studded with cupuacu

     Cupuacu chocolate ready to go!

Bringing cupuacu to the world

Part of Marie and Carlos’ vision was to bring cupuacu to the world. To this end, Marie has been working with Wellington chefs – like those at Logan Brown -  to introduce this new flavour to the New Zealand palate.

“It’s not easy to introduce a new flavour,” Marie says, “it takes a different way to understand things.” Her work is now bearing fruit: if you haven’t yet eaten cupuacu, it’s likely you will soon! 

A photo of three bars of Wildness Chocolate: dark, coconut & sesame

The final product

Working with Arohata Women’s Prison

One day, Marie rang up the Department of Corrections.  “I want to work with you to pack up chocolate in the prison,” she said. Their response? They hung up on her, twice, thinking she was a prank caller. They congratulated her on her ‘fake’ French accent, saying, “you must be an actress!”

Luckily, Marie persevered. Wildness Chocolate is now packaged by women at Arohata Prison. Marie specifically requests workers who are on life sentences, and she pays above minimum wage. From Marie's perspective, her employees seem to enjoy their work. “They made me a fruit cake for Christmas!” she says.


Keen to try Cupuacu for yourself? You can purchase the divine Wildness Chocolate bars at our stores.