If you've had a chocolate-based ice cream from us in the last year, then you've tasted the genius of Austin-based SRSLY Chocolate. We can't get enough of their stone-ground chocolate, and have some serious respect for their bean-to-bar operation.
Started in 2012, SRSLY's beginnings go back to when Bob Williamson and his wife, Robin Simoneaux-Williamson, lived in Tallahassee, Florida. Always interested in food processes, Bob's love for the fairly arduous task of chocolate-making started when he decided to make his own for chocolate croissants. Desiring a supportive group and community for craft chocolate-making, the couple moved to Robin's previous home of Austin, TX in 2014.
Since their move to Austin, SRSLY has continued evolving into the delectable business it is today. Although their products were once fair-trade certified, Bob has learned through research and farm visits that the standards of Fair Trade Certification are not as stringent as he likes and has opted instead to create direct-trade partnerships with farms in the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, and Guatemala
"We have a much deeper selection of chocolate," Bob said. "We get transparency reports, so they're either organic, going toward organic, or they're wild-harvested from the forest."
SRSLY has expanded its offerings from four single-origin varieties to 15 flavors, including sweet and salty Sal De Ray made with salt harvested by Bob himself from the Texas Rio Grande Valley. Buck's Milk Chocolate, a nibbler made of just cacao, cane sugar, and milk, is named after the couple's beloved dog, with proceeds forever going to Buck's original rescuers, the Austin Humane Society.
We've also had a lot of fun collaborating on flavors, such as the Lick-exclusive white chocolate nibbler with salted Texas peanuts and a dark chocolate nibbler with cardamom, cinnamon, and Texas pecans. SRSLY's chocolate flavors has expanded to become of mix of playful and, well, serious. SRSLY.
SRSLY Chocolate has been Lick's exclusive chocolate supplier for over a year now, and it's been a wonderful partnership both as a business and a product. If you're wondering how SRSLY Chocolate doesn't get waxy when incorporated into Lick's ice cream, Bob says it's easy: it's a matter of the simplicity of the chocolate, the quality of the ice cream, and the craft that goes into combining the two.
"Lick uses a 72% dark chocolate from us. It's cacao and cane sugar and that's it. So it melts and blends really well," Bob said.
Although their operation is still contained within a 600-square-foot factory just north of Leander, they've doubled in size from the husband and wife duo to having two employees! As their biggest account, we're happy to be helping another business grow and flourish.
"It shows [Lick's] commitment to using really amazing ingredients and really sticking with local," Bob said. "I feel like some people will pay lip service to that and put a lot of marketing into that but not following through. It's great to work with, and it dovetails well with our vision."
When you talk to someone about a passion in their life, you generally don't need to have a shred of knowledge about the subject to find what they have to say interesting. Now imagine having a conversation about something as widely beloved as chocolate with a chocolate-maker -- someone who lives and breathes the confection we all crave. For Bob, having his community's ears is just as important to his business as having its mouths watering for his artisanal chocolates.
"It's a little challenging because bean-to-bar is still educational, a teaching opportunity," Bob said. "It's getting people to understand that we make the chocolate from the cacao beans themselves."
Eventually, SRSLY would love to open a brick and mortar store in Austin and continue furthering the education on craft chocolate-making. For now, they teach monthly chocolate-making classes at CRAFT, as well as lead workshops at schools and nonprofits like Fresh Chefs, an organization that teaches business and cooking skills to youths transitioning out of foster care.
"It's important for me to involve myself in the community in some way, and one way I can is to teach job skills and educate people through chocolate," Bob said.
The reason it's so important to Bob is because a lot more effort goes into making chocolate than most people realize -- much like coffee. And although he feels like the quality, certifications and general acceptance of craft chocolate are lightyears behind the coffee industry, he sees the interest growing.
"When we started in 2012, there were maybe 50 makers and untold amounts of hobbyists, but now there are hundreds of bean to bar makers," Bob said. "How that shakes out in the long-term, I don't know. But there's a lot more press and I feel like there's a lot more traction."
You can currently find bars of SRSLY Chocolate at several grocery stores around town, the Texas Farmers Market at Lakeline on Saturdays, and at Mueller on Sundays. Or, come on by a Lick shop to try an ice cream flavor with SRSLY and grab a few nibblers to go!