Mama Ganache: Melting Chocolate with Ethics

The door jingles. A friendly face smiles at you from behind the counter. The rich aroma of chocolate fills the air.

The atmosphere in Mama Ganache is sweet, bright and inviting, but this downtown San Luis Obispo chocolate shop has more to it than its aesthetic appeal.

Mama Ganache has simple, modern decor, including a cocoa tree that was once just a seed from abroad given to the original shop owner by his Cal Poly student.

Mama Ganache is strongly built upon ideals of ethics.

The products at this artisan chocolate shop are fair trade, organic or directly sourced; plus, vegan options are abundant. Across the board, Mama Ganache has accomplished the path of ethical chocolate making.

There is a passion for cocoa and ethics that runs deep through the line of ownership at Mama Ganache. Once under possession of retired Cal Poly professor and food scientist Tom Neuhaus, the shop is now in the hands of culinary-trained business man Ben Taylor.

The shop offers several directly sourced products made with cocoa from several African cocoa farmers, including chocolate bars (left), chocolate pieces (middle) and an array of cocoa mixes (right).

Taylor, who has traveled with his predecessor to visit West African cocoa farmers, sees importance in a global understanding and ethical approach to chocolate making.


“When you go to Africa and see these villages… it changes your perspective on more than one thing,” Taylor explained, while showing me photos of the village they visited.

He continued on to tell about a fundraiser Neuhaus is planning for Project Hope and Fairness, a public benefit corporation the food scientist founded to help African cocoa farmers. Taylor is the treasurer of PH&F and, as the new owner of Mama Ganache, “will continue Tom’s work to establish commercial links with West African village factories as part of the mission of Mama Ganache Artisan Chocolates, Inc.” according to the organization’s website.

During their recent trip to West Africa, Neuhaus demonstrated chocolate tempering (left), the farmers showed them colorful cocoa pods (middle), and Taylor and Neuhaus met with villagers and the chief. (Photos via Tom Neuhaus)

Mama Ganache accomplishes this by using the farmers’ cocoa, such as in its Seven Villages Chocolate line. To help these farmers, who Taylor said often make the equivalent of $400 USD annually, Neuhaus began efforts to donate money and equipment to them.

Taylor even aims for local means of philanthropy as well.

The Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center held its annual Chocolate de Vine fundraising event in April; he made sure Mama Ganache attended to  help raise money and partake in the chocolate competition.

It ended with a sweet outcome for the shop’s vegan treats.

“I took two vegan truffles on purpose to see how people would perceive them,” Taylor said, with a smile, about the Earl Grey and Cardamom Ginger truffles. “We won the people’s choice.”

Speaking of the vegan truffles…

The vegan truffles can be found on the right side of Mama Ganache’s display. Flavors (other than pictured) include Passion Fruit Caramel, Coconut, Dark Salt Caramel, Raspberry and more.

They are made with simple, down-to-earth and organic ingredients, many of which are even sourced from SLO Natural Foods Co-op.

The dark chocolate is free of soy and sunflower lecithin to keep the products more natural, and the sugar is raw and organic in order for their vegan products to be truly vegan. Plus, dark chocolate has several benefits on its own, such as high flavanols and minerals.

Vegan products also include barks, seasonal treats and milkshakes made with Coconut Bliss Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert.

“I like the ingredients that we buy and I feel good about the product that I sell. I’m confident in it and I love the fact that we’re basically organic and fair trade,” said Taylor.

Here, Taylor grabs the soon-to-be finished peanut butter cups from the fridge (left), tops them off with the bottom layer of chocolate (middle) and pops them out of the mold (right).

Sounds like Mama Ganache makes a pretty good case for anyone seeking an ethical vegan treat to grab a milkshake and truffles during their next trip downtown.


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