A Costa Rican encounter inspires a sweet new Eastern Panhandle venture.
Jack Meyer has done a little bit of everything. He’s traveled the world, lived in Saudi Arabia for a while and worked back in the states as an investment broker. He has experience in county government, got involved in real estate for a spell, and even owned a portable restroom and septic tank pumping company for two decades.
But now, chocolate is his thing. Meyer, who lives in Shepherdstown, is the owner of Appalachian Chocolate Company, a company he started in 2015. Like many of his other adventures, the idea started on a whim.
Meyer and his wife have traveled to Costa Rica a few times, and during one trip they took a tour of a coffee plantation. There, he tried a chocolate-covered coffee bean. “I looked at my wife and said, ‘When we get home, I want to make those,’” he says.
When they returned to Shepherdstown, Meyer got to work. But with no experience and no equipment, he had to do some experimenting. He bought a chicken rotisserie from a former restaurant owner to roast his coffee. But he couldn’t find any chocolates he liked. He tried chocolates from all over the world, but none measured up. “I thought the only way to do this is to make my own.”
Thus began his yearlong journey of teaching himself how to make chocolate. He spent a year importing beans from around the world, roasting them, grinding them, and mixing them with other ingredients to create chocolate. He finally landed on fair trade beans from Ecuador. Meyer liked this recipe so much, he started making chocolate bars, ditching the original chocolate-covered coffee bean idea. Others liked the chocolate, too. The owners of Black Dog Coffee Company in Shepherdstown asked to sell the bars in their shop. From there, business has spread across the region, mostly through word of mouth.
Appalachian Chocolate Company doesn’t have a storefront. Instead, Meyer sells his bars wholesale to restaurants and businesses. He and his wife travel the state for square dancing events, and he usually takes some bars along to see if local business owners are interested. You’ll find his bars in shops in Lewisburg, Davis, Thomas, and throughout the Eastern Panhandle. They’re also sold in Kanawha County at J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works—Meyer partnered with the company to make a sea salt chocolate bar. You can also find Meyer hawking his own wares at farmers’ markets in Shepherdstown and Charles Town. appalachianchocolate.com
written by Carlee Lammers
photographed by Carla Witt Ford