A new artisanal chocolate factory in Westport offers unique flavors

WESTPORT – Laureen Haynes has always had a culinary creative side. It started with decorated sugar cookies and evolved into artisan chocolates. But it was only recently that she was able to make a career out of it.

Haynes recently opened the Chocolatière, an artisan chocolate shop, at 66 Church Lane. The name of the shop is a play on his nickname “Ree” and his new profession – master chocolatier. It’s also French for “chocolate lab,” a nod to her scientific background and the 25 years she spent in the healthcare industry working in molecular diagnostics.

She now hopes to share her chocolates and some positivity with the community.

“You just want to make people smile right now,” Haynes said. “I think it’s something we all really need.”

She tends to have six to 10 different types of chocolate in her case at a time, with a mix of milk, dark, and white chocolates. There are also usually dairy-free options, some with fruit incorporating seasonal flavors. There are also chocolate-dipped caramels and ganache-filled molded chocolates.

Haynes said she is particularly careful about where she sources her chocolate, opting for organic when possible.

Right now, she’s experimenting with how to get a pineapple, mango, jalapeno, and mezcal ganache. Some other flavors include Blueberry Lavender, Black Sesame Mizo, Sunflower Seed Butter, Rose Water, and Lavender Honey. She always has the sea salt caramel on hand, she says.

She also likes to incorporate different parties, with flavors of bourbon and Guinness in preparation for Father’s Day.

“I try to keep spinning the flavors and keep it interesting and try new things,” she said.

Each flavor can take several days to make, so the shop is only open Wednesday through Saturday, leaving Monday and Tuesday for production.

While Haynes always wanted to own her own business, the idea of ​​turning it into a chocolate factory didn’t materialize until she took two trips with her family. The seed was first planted during a visit to the Amazon in Ecuador in 2013. She got to taste the chocolate and see the fresh cacao pods.

“It just opened my eyes to the whole process and where it starts,” she said.

The following year she visited Paris, France with her daughter. The duo took a self-guided chocolate tour, consulting a map to stop at all the chocolate shops along the river. Haynes said everything was amazing and tasted delicious.

All these specialized chocolate shops showed him a possible avenue for the profession that aroused his interest. She started wondering if the United States could have craft breweries, craft wineries and craft cheeses, why not make chocolate?

This set her on a trajectory and she enrolled in a chocolate class to learn the science behind it. In 2015, she traveled to Belgium where she studied to become a master chocolatier and taste chocolate there, learning their ideas and approach.

Shortly after her return, Connecticut passed the Food Cottage Laws, opening the door for her to explore the possibility of making artisanal chocolates for cash. While it wasn’t enough to earn a living because of the ceiling, it was enough to let her get a foothold and validate her concept.

Then COVID hit.

Haynes spent the next two years at the forefront of the pandemic response, helping hospitals and labs obtain needed testing equipment, including his company’s COVID test kits. She was proud to help out during the pandemic, but it was also very busy.

“It really took its toll,” Haynes said.

She was looking to do something more fun and positive, to help spread some happiness, when she noticed a little shop for rent near her home downtown on a walk last year.

She said she had learned over the years not to let opportunities pass her by and called herself the agent. Haynes moved into the space in October, renovated and outfitted it with its special chocolate equipment and display case, and despite some supply chain delays, was able to open around Mother’s Day.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, so it’s amazing to have this opportunity and it’s all falling into place,” Haynes said, adding that it was also surreal.

She said looking at people’s faces when they try her chocolates was her favorite part.

“It’s been a great experience so far,” Haynes said. “The response from people has been so positive and encouraging.”

She said the business community and the city have also been very supportive.

Haynes said it was fantastic to join the growing chocolate community in the area. She said everyone offers their own take on craftsmanship, with stores complementing each other rather than duplicating businesses.

And who knows? Maybe soon people will be able to do their own chocolate tour in Westport like she did in Paris.

“Instead of the Seine, we have the shore of the Saugatuck,” she said.

The shop is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Friday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Orders can be placed online at www.chocolatiere.com or by calling 203-939-7339.

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