Visitors to Key Largo are discovering that chocolate isn’t just a delicious treat found in pastries, cookies and more. They’re learning that creating chocolate confections is truly an art form, thanks to the passion and talents of Kristie Thomas.
Thomas is the culinary creator behind Key Largo Chocolates and, surprisingly, the only chocolatier in the Florida Keys.
Her passion for cocoa confections developed from her love of baking Key lime cakes. Though not a professional baker, she attended baking school for cake design and decorating, and dabbled in making her daughter’s Key lime wedding cake as well as decorative and delectable chocolate shells.
Thomas went from “dabbling” to training among researchers for Kellogg’s, Quaker Oats and candy companies to detect flavor notes and tastes. With the benefit of that training, she turned her original chocolate shells into yummy creations where — just as a painter blends pigments to achieve a nuanced color — she balances cocoa flavor with delicate hints of Key lime liqueur, bourbon, whiskey and secret spices.
Being a chocolatier in the subtropical climate of the Florida Keys is no easy feat. Thomas takes important steps including the use of dehumidifiers and air conditioning to keep her kitchen near a cool 68 degrees.
In those ideal conditions, she whips up seasonal treats that include a dizzying array of flavorful fudges, toffees and specialty barks made with peppermint, cream, pralines, hazelnuts and, of course, Key lime. Thomas uses fresh, locally-sourced Key limes in the latter confections, demonstrating her dedication to authenticity in the art of chocolate making.
“I want everyone who samples a morsel of my chocolate to feel the love and inspiration that goes into every piece,” said Thomas. “Chocolate is a treat but also a gift of love that can be shared between two people or between families — and I think of that every time I start creating.”
Her commitment to her art form is apparent to those entering Key Largo Chocolates at mile marker 100.5 bayside. Visitors to the enticing store are greeted by a tantalizing display of aromatic chocolates to choose from — each a sweet melt-in-your-mouth bite of heaven, just the way “chocolate artist” Kristie Thomas envisioned it.