This Michigan bucket list item is brought to you by Mindo Chocolate Makers.
In Dexter, Michigan, Mindo Chocolate Makers makes some of the most delicious chocolate. Mindo was one of the first small-batch chocolate makers in the United States and the difference in flavor, texture, and experience is undeniable. And how could the chocolate not be different – it is one of the few chocolate makers in the world that own and controls the cocoa from the country of origin.
And this summer, you can get up close & personal with the chocolate-making process!
About Mindo Chocolate Makers
For Mindo Chocolate Makers, the story began when founders José and Barbara visited Mindo, Ecuador. They fell in love with the town and purchased a plot of land in 2008. To offset the cost of the internet to stay in contact with their Michigan-based business, they opened an internet cafe. They roasted and served locally grown coffee and homemade brownies, which were so good that a worldwide reputation quickly developed.
Since Barbara couldn’t find quality chocolate locally, she would pack pounds of it in her suitcase during trips to and from Michigan. After learning everything possible around the chocolate-making process, she got a 53-pound bag of cocoa beans and a tabletop juicer. The result was rustic-style chocolate, and from there, they set up facilities on their Mindo property for fermenting, dry roasting, and winnowing cocoa beans.
By 2009, Mindo Chocolate Makers was established in Dexter, creating a second bean-to-bar chocolate business. Barbara continues to find ways to improve her chocolate production, sticking to a sustainable, environmentally-friendly process. In fact, the company was a finalist in the 2011 and 2013 Good Food Awards, an annual competition that honors outstanding craft food producers and the farmers from whom they source ingredients. Their cocoa powder most recently won the International Chocolate Award for 2021.
Mindo Chocolate Makers stands out because it sources the finest Nacional Cacao from Ecuadorian organic family farms to make small batches of stone-ground chocolate.
Only Responsible, High-Quality Ingredients
The most important aspect of Mindo Chocolate Makers is that it strives to go above and beyond the fair trade standards for chocolate. They only use the finest cocoa beans — heirloom Arriba Nacional — never diseased or hybrid beans.
The chocolate-making process starts as soon as the beans are harvested from Ecuadorian trees. The beans are fermented and then dried in the sun for 10 to 20 days. Next, they’re roasted to caramelize the sugars and draw out the rich undertones. Then, the roasted beans are winnowed to separate the thin shells from the meaty part, which is called the nib — one of the healthiest foods with wholesome fats and a high amount of antioxidants.
Then the cocoa nibs are shipped to Mindo Chocolate Makers in Dexter to be made into batches of chocolate. That’s where the ingredients are put into a large stone grinder, which has two granite wheels. It can take 20 to 35 hours for the stone grinder to create the right flavor and consistency for the chocolate.
Mindo Chocolate Makers uses the same level of care when they choose the other ingredients in their chocolate bars. Some of these ingredients include organic cane juice, Michigan-grown fruits, local eggs, and butter.
Experiential Outdoor Tours, Tastings, and More
Mindo Chocolate Makers tours of its Dexter and Mindo facilities are available. You can see (and experience) the chocolate-making process from beginning to end. Best of all, there’s a lot of tasting involved!
La Leyenda de Chocolate Tour
This summer, we’re excited to try out the La Leyenda de Chocolate Tour at Mindo Chocolate Makers in Dexter Michigan! It’s a hands-on experience where participants get to pitch in as they learn how chocolate has been made, and consumed, for over five thousand years.
This fun group activity includes:
- hands-on roasting of cocoa beans on a comal over an open fire
- grinding the roasted beans by hand
- turning the cocoa paste into a liquid
- mixing the cocoa with natural flavors to create a decadent cocoa drink
Come and spend a couple of hours this summer experiencing chocolate-making with Mindo Chocolate Makers!
Other Things to Do Near Mindo Chocolate Makers
Along with learning the ins and outs of making chocolate at Mindo Chocolate Makers, there are tons of other things to do and see in Dexter and the surrounding area. You could watch a live show at The Encore Musical Theatre Company, which is an award-winning professional theatre. At the Dexter Area Museum, you can learn about the history of Washtenaw County. The museum is located in the former 1883 St. Andrew’s United Church of Christ.
There are certainly plenty of outdoor areas to explore throughout Dexter and Ann Arbor. The 1,549-acre Hudson Mills Metropark rests along the Huron River. It has athletic courts and fields, two 10-foot-wide biking paths, hiking trails, a large playscape, picnic areas with grills, two 24-hole disc golf courses, and a golf course. On the river, you can go canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. In fact, the park rests on part of the Huron River Water Trail, which stretches for 104 miles.
Following the river southeast, you’ll come across the 122-acre Dexter-Huron Metropark and then 81-acre Delhi Metropark. Both of these parks offer similar activities — biking, hiking, sports recreation, canoeing and kayaking, fishing, and picnicking.
Another place for great outdoor recreation is Miller-Smith Preserve. This 29-acre preserve is home to a variety of habitats and a 1-mile natural trail that winds through the forest, swamp, and wetlands. The 29-acre Burns-Stokes Preserve also features a 1-mile natural trail that winds through forest and uplands. It’s a great place for bird-watching and fly-fishing.
Restaurants Near Mindo Chocolate Makers
There are a variety of places to eat in Dexter and nearby Chelsea & Ann Arbor. So, no matter which attractions you decide to see, you can find fuel to continue your adventures.
- Joe and Rosie Coffee and Tea — This place serves the best of Michigan. The menu includes cold, frozen, and hot drinks; panini, sandwiches, and wraps; and muffins, scones, and other sweet treats. Gluten-free and vegan options are available.
- Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales + Kitchen — Known best for its artisan ales, the kitchen prepares snacks, burgers, sandwiches, and pizza. It has a kid’s menu as well.
- The Beer Grotto — This craft beer bar and cocktail lounge serves a range of craft beers, bourbon and spirits, and wine and cocktails. You can order appetizers, sandwiches, and ice cream too.
- Dexter’s Pub — Alongside pub grub, this restaurant has steakburgers, pizza, and more.
- Aubree’s Pizzeria and Grill — Legendary for its pizza, calzones, and pizza rolls, this full-service restaurant has a diverse grill menu with burgers, sandwiches, and entrees such as fish and chips, a chicken potpie, and pasta gone bayou.
- Chela’s Restaurant & Taqueria — You can get authentic Mexican food at this restaurant, which also has a location in Ann Arbor. The menu includes tacos, burritos, quesadillas, tortas, and more.
Chelsea & Ann Arbor Restaurants
- The Common Grill – Just seven minutes from Mindo Chocolate Makers, this modern American bistro in downtown Chelsea Michigan is where the locals go for lunch with friends or a date night on the town.
- Juicy Kitchen — Using organic and local ingredients, this restaurant serves a variety of chicken dishes alongside fresh vegetables and grains. The kitchen is happy to customize dishes for allergies and other dietary restrictions.
- Metzger’s — An iconic establishment in Ann Arbor, Metzger’s serves traditional German cuisine.
Best Lodging Options Near Dexter
If you’re not “local” to Dexter Michigan, you may want a place to call home when you visit this summer. Here are some of our top Dexter Michigan lodging suggestions!
- Baymont by Wyndham Chelsea
- Locally Owned Weber Hotel, West Side of Ann Arbor
- Eco-friendly Riverfront Home Close to Ann Arbor
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Ann Arbor West
If you’re looking for campgrounds near Dexter, the best place to go is just northwest of the city to the Pinckney Recreation Area. It has several campgrounds, a camper cabin, and two yurts.