Augusta Eats Local @ Agape Chocolates
Augusta Eats Local @ Agape Chocolates
Augusta Locally Grown doesn’t just sell amazing produce, meats, and dairy. For a chocoholic, look no further! I knew that James Stefanakos, founder of Agape Chocolates, embodied the mission of his company the first day I met him. He was kind and thoughtful and it was only later that I found out that the goal of his company is to provide a delicious chocolate using locally sourced ingredients, and also to help feed local area children with every bar of chocolate sold. As James puts it “Agape Chocolates is all about handcrafted, chocolaty goodness with a conscience.”
For every bar sold, an at-risk child in the CSRA is fed a meal through Golden Harvest Food Bank’s BackPack program. The BackPack program provides meals to children at risk of hunger with a supply of easy-open, nutritious foods for the weekend. “In Georgia and South Carolina, one in four children live in families at or below the federal poverty level. These children often receive assistance from programs operating during the week, such as free or reduced-price lunches and after school programs. However, it is over the weekend that many of these children risk going hungry. These children come back to school on Mondays, famished and weak, thinking only of the free meal that will come at breakfast and/or lunch time. Each Agape bar purchased helps ensure that Golden Harvest will be able to get meals to these children in Georgia and South Carolina in the 30 counties the program serves,” James says.
James truly enjoys serving the community in other ways as well. His chocolates support local farmers and artisans. Approximately half of the chocolate bars use locally-sourced ingredients. The Coastal and Pecan Pie bars use caramel that James makes from scratch using heavy cream and butter from two regional dairy farms. The Midnight Oil and Rocket Fuel bars uses Sumatra coffee beans roasted by friends at Buona Caffé. The PheBe and H and Xanderrific bars use honey from a small honey bee farmer from Bamberg, SC. Finally, the Lavender Dreams bar uses organic culinary grade lavender flowers from White Hill Farms in Dearing, GA. Even the labels and business cards are printed by a local printing company. Finally, local artists create the distinctive wrappers that adorn each bar. These artists are James’ own children!
Agape Chocolates is a true family run business, from parents all the way down to the youngest 8-year-old child. Maian My Own Business was named after 12-year-old daughter Maia who James says “has always been a bit spicy because she is beautiful simply being herself and is not afraid to tell and show the world who she is.” Xanderrific is named after 9 year-old-son Xander “who can be very sweet boy when he wants to be.” Finally, the PheBe & H is named after 8-year-old daughter PheBe and it’s her favorite sandwich.
For those of you with a scientific interest, James is a Chemical Engineer who graduated from Georgia Tech. There is apparently quite a bit of science that goes into making the perfect chocolate bar. James handles his chocolate with science as well as art. “Tempered chocolate has to be melted, cooled, and handled in a manner that allows very specific fat crystals (called beta crystals) to form. The result is chocolate that’s shiny, will snap when broken, and isn’t tacky to the touch.”
Lucky for anyone with an interest in chocolate making, James offers private workshops where you get to come to the micro factory. You’ll learn about the history and science of chocolate and chocolate making and then everyone gets to be a chocolatier for a day by creating and making three of their very own chocolates bars. People can also contact James to set up a private workshop where, for every bar created or bought at the workshop, a meal is fed to a child. The workshops are great for team building, a girls-night-out, or birthday parties.
I asked James to tell a funny story about the family-run aspect of his business. He said that given that 3 of the bars are named after 3 of his children they have become very competitive when it comes to chocolate bar sales. The kids always ask who’s bar sold more for bragging rights. James also likes to joke around that at the ages of 12, 9, and 8 they are the most famous artists in the world because each one has sold over 12,000 pieces of artwork worldwide due to the fact that his bars have been sent to Japan, the Czech Republic, Guam, England, Italy, and Germany to name a few of the countries.
International fame aside, locally in November of 2018 Agape Chocolates was awarded the 2018 Taste of the State award from the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. This award was open to restaurant and food businesses statewide! Out of all the nominations, they were
chosen as one of the top three finalists and then won the award. How fortunate we are to have Agape Chocolates right here in the CSRA, the sublime chocolate bars that “take a bite out of childhood hunger one bar at a time.”