It's been three years since Carolina Quijano left her six-figure salary in finance to pursue chocolate-making. But it didn't take long for her company, Exquisito, to become a favorite among some of Miami's most popular spots. Edge Steak & Bar, the Salty Donut, Azucar Ice Cream Company, Threefold Café, and Pasion del Cielo are some of the establishments that use her chocolates in their ice creams, cakes, cookies, and doughnuts.
Beginning this weekend, try them yourself when Quijano's 1,200-square-foot chocolate factory and retail store open to the public at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 19, in Little Havana.
"It's definitely surreal," she says. "Now I'm focused on growing our production and making even more and even better chocolate."
This Saturday, the first 100 people to swing by will snack on complimentary samples of café con leche truffles and cacao cold brew, made by steeping the shell of a cacao seed for 24 hours in cold water.
The factory will also offer its award-winning Monte Grande farm chocolate, which will be made throughout the day, as well as pieces of its 73 percent Ecuadorian chocolate, which is used in Azucar's chocolate-based ice-cream flavors.
Visit Exquisito's retail shop for a lineup of the brand's most popular chocolates. Sink your teeth into 14 kinds of chocolate bar, including ones from each of the six countries where the shop sources its cacao beans: Guatemala, Bolivia, Haiti, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. Other bars include cookies and cream, cereal-flavored, and Maldon sea salt.
The shop will also be stocked with 12 varieties of truffles, including some infused with alcohol such as Guatemalan rum, Grand Marnier, champagne, and Hennessy. Prices range from $2 to $12.
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The best part: No matter what time you visit the factory during operating hours, you can watch a live show. Quijano and her team are constantly in production, which means you can observe the bean-to-bar process firsthand.
"The factory is separated behind a huge glass wall," she says. "There's always something going on at any given point, so customers can check out different steps of the process depending on when they come by."
Within the next few months, Quijano will launch guided factory tours, as well as a condensed version of a chocolate-making class. She'll also offer chocolate flights of four to five confections, each made with cacao from a different farm. In the next year, she plans to open a coffee bar inside the shop too.
Exquisito Fine Chocolates. 2606 SW Eighth St., Miami; exquisitochocolates.com. Thursday and Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.