You may know what it tastes like when ‘biting into a chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven’, but do you know what it tastes like when ‘pulling on your favourite sweater on the first cool morning of fall’ or ‘gathering with friends around a warm campfire to tell stories’?
The answer lies in the quaint storefront of DWN Craft Chocolatier, nestled in the heart of Downtown Orillia’s Peter Street Arts District, where owner and operator Dawn Nita invites visitors to experience chocolate in a whole new way.
After spending most of the last decade as lead chocolatier and manager for two of Toronto’s most celebrated and sought-after independent chocolate brands, Dawn relocated to Orillia to be closer to her family during the pandemic and launched DWN Craft Chocolatier.
DWN is the only chocolatier in Simcoe County that incorporates the fundamentals of bean-to-bar chocolate making with the whimsical colour and flavour combinations of fine chocolate bonbons with a focus on using natural and local ingredients, making chocolate that gets turned into chocolate bars and tumbled items (eg., chocolate-covered nuts, malt balls, dried fruits).
“I believe that a lot of people are surprised to find out that there is someone in Simcoe County that makes chocolate from scratch,” says Dawn, “and that a lot of people don’t know how chocolate is made, so we are happy to educate customers.”
By crafting chocolate directly from cocoa nibs, DWN can create chocolate flavours that incorporate the flavours of Canada, including the use of ingredients that grow in Simcoe County.
In 2022, DWN won bronze at the 2021-2022 International Chocolate Awards Americas Bean-to-Bar and Craft Chocolatier Competition for the Old Fashioned dark chocolate bar in the category of dark chocolate bars with an infusion or flavouring.
Inspiration in Memory
When exploring the shop, each chocolate flavour has an evocative name that elicits profound sensory connections. “A lot of people ask where I get my ideas and it is usually one of two inspirations; ingredients or memory,” says Dawn, who worked for several years as a pastry chef for one of Canada’s farm-to-table pioneers, strengthening her determination to work with local ingredients.
This is a value that Dawn brings to the chocolate she makes, whether it is a fresh ingredient from the farmer’s market (rhubarb vanilla bar) or a uniquely Canadian flavour combination (strawberry and sumac bar).
“The other inspiration comes from flavours that I like or foods that evoke a memory. The mocha almond crunch bar is based on my mother’s go-to celebration cake from Baskin-Robbins. The triple nut and grape malt balls are a nostalgic call back to the pb&j sandwiches packed in elementary school lunches.”
But the feelings don’t stop with the chocolate. The final piece is the saying on the label that is meant to evoke an emotion or put you in a mood. Some great examples of this creativity include the Earl Grey lavender bar labeled ‘Slipping into a warm bubble bath after a long day’ and the Neapolitan malt balls appropriately named ‘hearing the ice cream truck on a summer day’.
Before heading out with a treasure-trove of treats, we asked Dawn about some of her top-sellers that visitors should definitely check out. “Our best-selling chocolate bar is the sesame chocolate chip bar and our best-selling tumble is the Neapolitan malt balls. The chocolate bar that best represents being in Muskoka is the forest bar.”
Where to Buy
You can find Dawn, not only at her retail store on Peter St. in Orillia, but also at a variety of markets throughout Simcoe County. Keep an eye on DWN Chocolate’s social media for the latest events!
Needless to say, DWN Craft Chocolatier is a must-stop location when visiting Orillia & Lake Country to pick up a treat for yourself or a loved one.
Whether it is the label that makes you giggle or provides a moment of peace, or a bite of chocolate that transports you to a happy memory, we hope you enjoy the journey.
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