An interview with Fjåk Chocolate, Norway’s first bean-to-bar chocolatier
CHRISTY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American
“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
—Charles M. Schulz
Fjåk Chocolate first came on my radar last year when I was perusing the list of finalists at last year’s Det Norske Måltid, an annual competition of Norway’s top food and drink producers. I have been inspired by their innovative flavors ever since!
Agur Concellon is the proprietor of Fjåk Chocolate, Norway’s first bean-to-bar chocolatier. Fjåk is headquartered in Eidfjord along the Hardangerfjord in Norway, and it offers a collection of Nordic-inspired flavors, from brunost (brown cheese) to blueberry, licorice root, lingonberry, and more.
Fjåk is gaining international attention for its quality chocolates and racking up awards along the way. Most recently, Fjåk won eight medals (including three golds!) at the Academy of Chocolate awards in December 2020.
I recently spoke with Fjåk Chocolate’s founder Agur Concellon to learn more about their approach to chocolate and uniquely Nordic flavors.
Christy Olsen Field: Can you tell me a bit about how did you get interested in making chocolate? What is your background?
Agur Concellon: I am originally a photographer and have worked in the photography field for the last 20 years. But I have always been curious about and fascinated by food. I grew up visiting my grandparents in the Basque Country in Spain. They had a farm where they made tomato preserves and other deliciousness coming from their harvest. I use to hang around when they where bottling tomatoes and preserving grilled paprika [pepper].
In 2015, my boyfriend and I wanted to do something different than our daily jobs. My passion was gin: I really wanted to distill gin with Nordic botanicals, but in Norway the laws to produce alcohol are really strict, and it is almost impossible to get a license …. So after some research I found the famous video of the Mast brothers, two cool guys making chocolate in Brooklyn, N.Y., and this was love at first sight for chocolate. I spent days of research on the internet, and watched all videos available about the bean-to-bar process.
Then while visiting family in the United Kingdom, I ordered a small stone grinder and a few kilos of cocoa beans and took them back to Norway in my hand luggage (it was not possible to find any chocolate equipment in Norway at that time). I started to make chocolate in the kitchen. The noise of the grinder was so intense day and night, but the love for the chocolate kept me trying and trying. That was the birth of Fjåk.
COF: When did you launch Fjåk Chocolate? How many people do you have on your team?
AC: Fjåk was created in 2015 as a concept brand. Back then, I was only giving away the chocolate in a temporary packaging, and got so much good feedback about the chocolate that I started to think about the potential.
At the time, nobody in Norway was making bean-to-bar. After two years of making chocolate at home, I was offered a little space in my neighbor’s garage: a 215-square-foot room with a sink. I managed to convince my very good friend Siv to join the project, because it was too big for me alone. In 2017, we registered Fjåk as an SA (samvirkeforetak, or cooperative) and invested some money in one CocoaTown grinder to make 30kg of chocolate in each batch.
We have been growing very fast, doubling production every year since 2017. We are still a small team; during low season we have three people at the factory, and during the holiday season, we run pop-up shops, so our team is getting bigger. We are going through a process of growth this year and will hopefully add more people to our team.
COF: What does Fjåk mean?
AC: Fjåk is a word from the Hardanger dialect that means “loveble” or “honest.” This word is not in use anymore but older generations know it. The Hardangerfjord is the place where our project started and where we have our factory today. Fjåk is a perfect name to describe what chocolate is, loveable, and as we focus on a sustainable and traceable production of our chocolates, honest.
COF: I love the specialty flavors you offer, from brunost to solbær smuldrepai and even reindeer moss and lingonberry. Where do you draw inspiration for flavors?
AC: I wanted to create something different than what had been made in chocolate, and our Nordic environment was perfect for bringing new flavor combinations. This is the part that I love the most, playing with all kinds of ingredients to create new flavors. The inspiration comes from the beautiful nature that we have around the factory. I love to forage all kinds of things, from pine spruces to mushrooms, and of course all kinds of berries that grow here, so it was very easy to mix them in chocolate.
The brunost (brown cheese) bar, which is our top seller everywhere in the world, was a crazy thought about trying to use one of the most emblematic foods in Norway. It was a risky choice but is delicious!
COF: Where do you source your ingredients?
AC: When it comes to ingredients, we source all organic and always the best quality ingredients we can find. Our philosophy is to source cocoa beans ethically, from small plantations and making sure that the farmers are paid fairly. So we source our beans either directly from the farmers or via one of our partners who are in contact with the farmers.
The Nordic ingredients are not easy to source, as we need the ingredients to be dried and there are no Norwegian producers for many of the ingredients we use. So we forage some of the natural ingredients, like the mushrooms, and we dry them ourselves.
COF: Where can we find Fjåk Chocolate?
AC: We sell our chocolates in around 150 shops in Norway and in seven different countries around the world. In the United States., we have some shops in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and an online-based shop called Bar and Cocoa. Hopefully we will be at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle in October this year. We participated in 2019, and we loved it, so we are coming back. The most important thing for us is to share the love for chocolate. We make every single bar with all the care we can, and we love to give people an experience through Nordic flavors.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 12, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.