Two years ago, Carolina Quijano left her well-paying finance job in New York City to move back home to South Florida and pursue gourmet chocolate-making.
Without any culinary experience, Quijano created Exquisito Chocolates, where she uses ethically sourced cocoa beans to produce chocolate and marshmallow treats. Her company became a favorite among some of Miami's most popular spots — including Edge Steak & Bar, the Salty Donut, Azucar Ice Cream Company, Threefold Café, and Pasion del Cielo — which use her chocolates in their ice creams, cakes, cookies, and doughnuts.
Now Quijano is gearing up to open a chocolate factory, retail store, and café of her own, in Little Havana this fall.
The 1,200-square-foot space, located on SW Eighth Street and 27th Avenue, will include a production facility, allowing customers to experience the inner workings of bean-to-bar chocolate-making, as well as shopping, cooking demos, and sit-down components. Once production is up and running, tours and tastings will begin.
With the factory, Quijano says she will expand Exquisito's current product line and also incorporate a unique coffee menu. Expect truffle, chocolate bar, s'mores, cookie, and brownie varieties, along with chocolate flights, presented with four to five confections, each made with cacao from a different farm.
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"Since the entire production process is controlled in-house, we will be able to produce more inventive flavors like our Who the Hell Is Earl bar, which is a dark milk chocolate made with Hispaniola beans and steeped for 48 hours in Earl Grey and lavender," she explains.
Because Quijano imports cocoa beans Guatemala, Bolivia, Haiti, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic, she thinks Little Havana's Latin and Caribbean roots pair well with Exquisito's mission.
"There's an authenticity still present in the neighborhood that I really enjoy, and there's a big sense of community," she says. "I've spent the last year looking at locations, and as I spent more time in the neighborhood, I knew this is where I want to be."
Exquisito Chocolates. The factory will be located at SW Eighth Street and 27th Avenue, Miami; 305-424-8314; exquisitochocolates.com.