TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. — She likes to call herself the Wilma Wonka of Tarpon Springs. What started off as a hobby has turned into internationally recognized, award-winning chocolate bars.
Sara Ratza receives a 120-pound bag of beans straight from Belize every month. Ratza Chocolate is one of only a few bean-to-bar chocolate factories in the state.
“I’m actually self-taught. I’ve never been taught how to do any of this,” said Ratza. “Bought my first batch of beans and started roasting from home, and I started by hand grinding my own chocolate with an old vintage meat grinder.”
Ratza started selling her chocolate at farmer's markets before moving into her own brick-and-mortar location in 2020.
“My husband had lost his job during the beginning of COVID, and we both were kind of like, ‘what are we going to do,’ and I was like, ‘I guess we’ll just go forward and make chocolate,’” said Ratza.
Ratza even decided to make a trip to Costa Rica to learn the origins of her product.
“I worked with the tribe that was there and just really absorbed myself into the culture,” said Ratza.
This year all the research and hard work were recognized by the International Chocolate Salon. Out of more than 100 entries, Ratza Chocolate won the top two prizes for best dark chocolate and the gold medal for best-flavored chocolate.
“I was ready for it. I know that I’m making really amazing chocolate, and I put a lot of love and a lot of heart into what I do,” said Ratza.
Next for Ratza is writing a book on drinking chocolate, and remember, she runs the entire operation by herself.
“I would love some umpa lumpas,” said Ratza. “ I think that my favorite part is when people try my chocolate because there is always the same expression on their face.”