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In conversation with Tania Lincoln of Flint Chocolate

Photography by Tracey Creed
Words by Tania Lincoln

Published August 12 2022

Flint Chocolate’s gorgeous single-origin bars are small-batch, crafted in Tāmaki Makaurau from certified organic and ethically sourced ingredients. Woman-owned, woman-made, founded by Tania Lincoln, Flint is chocolate that celebrates ritual, loaded with life-force minerals that stimulate the soul and nourish the body. We spoke with Tania about running a business alongside a part-time position in finance while being a mama (also now, expecting) and got her thoughts on everything from inspiration to rituals and balancing work with being present. And, of course, chocolate. If you are yet to discover Flint Chocolate, take a look around her new site and blindly take our lead and purchase a few bars for yourself.

Tell us about your career journey to date. Tell us about your venture into the world of chocolate. Where did it all begin?

From the moment I tried my first craft chocolate bar! It was a bar of Madecasse (made with Heirloom cacao from Madagascar) from a little grocer on Broadway Market in London. I still remember standing on the busy pavement and taking my first bite—I was blown away. It tasted so crazy good, unlike any commercial or ‘raw’ chocolate I’d eaten.

The bar was intensely chocolatey with fruit notes and a flavour that lingered, and I felt so satisfied after just a few pieces. I wanted to learn more and understand why this bar tasted so much better than anything I had before. That kicked off a lifelong hobby for me, learning how heirloom cacao was grown, the different varieties and how each origin has its distinct characteristics. I started experimenting with a small Indian stone-grinder (used initially for making dhal), and I sold my first bar at the Chocolate and Coffee show in 2017.

What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt since you started your business?

There have been so many! I feel owning your own business is one never-ending lesson. You learn a lot about yourself—your strengths, your weaknesses, and what drives your Ego! I’d admit, I’m a people pleaser, so understanding I can’t please everyone and to fully be okay with that, learning to listen and trust my intuition instead have been a big part. And something I’m continuously working on.

How do you balance it all? You are still working your day job and are a mum. Do you have any daily practices that anchor you and keep you balanced?

It certainly doesn’t come easy, and I feel like achieving balance is a constant state of juggling, effort and reassessment. I have one scheduled Flint work day during the week, which I try to make as productive as possible—this will often flow into the weekend. I’m fortunate to have such a supportive partner. I love slow Sunday mornings and try to keep the day free for my family and friends.

In terms of daily practices, my big one is getting on the mat every day. Sometimes this is just 5 minutes of belly breathing in Child’s Pose. If time allows, I’ll play one of Sala’s online yoga classes (they have a vast library of classes to fit every mood!), and sometimes I’ll light incense or a candle to make an occasion. Currently, my favourite incense is Le Soleil by Maison Balzac – perhaps it’s a bit of escapism—but I am transported to a warm sunny place, and it makes me feel so happy! There is such power in scent. It can mark a change in your day and lift your mood. Also, I rarely miss my afternoon brew and dark chocolate (another excellent mood lifter!).

What inspires your flavours? Is there a rhythm to your creative process?

I’m always dreaming of new flavours and have a long list of combinations I want to try! Quite often, this is influenced by the season. But ultimately, I think about how I want the chocolate to taste and satisfy —do I want something bright and fruity, smooth and creamy, or bold and rich?

My focus is always to produce a chocolate that is both delicious and nourishing—so I always select ingredients that are as close to nature as possible, with added nutritional benefits where possible. I don’t want to take away from the natural flavour of the cacao bean, so I keep the inclusions subtle and not overly sweet!

There is a lot of conversation about the health benefits of dark chocolate. What do you believe the biggest ones are?

Dark chocolate is well known for its high quantity of antioxidants and flavonoids—particularly beneficial for blood flow and vascular function. But perhaps less known is that cacao is one of the highest plant-based sources of iron and magnesium.

Also, cacao is an excellent source of four scientifically proven bliss chemicals - serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylethylamine. These neurotransmitters are associated with feelings of wellness and happiness and are responsible for elevating mood! It’s important to note that excessive processing, heat and chemical treatment of cacao can significantly reduce the levels of antioxidants and essential minerals in chocolate.

It seems like there is so much information about the ethics of cacao lately. Child and slave labour are problematic within the industry. What advice can you give for purchasing responsibly sourced and produced chocolate?

The chocolate industry is a mind-field, and there are so many layers and complications. My advice would be to support Bean-to-Bar makers and read the label. Most chocolate is made using an imported chocolate mass, which may claim to be ‘ethical’, but has little to no transparency in what is an extensive supply chain. Bean-to-bar makers know precisely where their cacao beans have come from (a short supply chain with full transparency and often price disclosures).

Usually, the maker will state the farm or co-op on the label or information regarding origin can be found on their website. Some of the chocolate companies in Aotearoa leading the way in ethically made chocolate include Foundry, Wellington Chocolate Factory, Ocho, and Raglan Chocolate—support these makers for a better and more sustainable chocolate future.

You recently re-launched your website, congratulations. What is up next on the agenda for you? Any projects coming up you want to talk about?

Where has the year gone?! It seems everything is taking a little longer these days. Those plans and goal posts keep moving! But I’ve learnt to accept the curveballs and be content with where the business (and I am) right now.

I’ve been completely obsessed with drinking chocolate this winter – made with whole cocoa beans. We have been working on a medicinal drinking cacao, experimenting with mushroom blends, maca and herbs – it’s been so fun. I’m also looking forward to welcoming baby number two this Christmas! So lots of planning for that. My sister Dani has moved back from London and joined me in the business, which has been a game-changer!

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