By Riya Chinni
Among the newest additions to Carmel’s Arts & Design District is Xchocol’Art, a chocolate shop that provides an outlet for owner Joann Hofer to express her artistic talents through a mural on the wall and intricate designs on the chocolate itself.
Hofer, a Carmel resident, uses cocoa paints to create “chocolate tiles,” which she places on the confections as decorations.
“The name of the company is Xchocol’Art (meaning), ‘the art of chocolate.’ Not in just the making of it, but also in the colors that I use,” Hofer said. “I used to paint in porcelain, in oil and in acrylic and now my medium is chocolate.”
Hofer began learning how to make chocolate in 2011, traveling to Austria to understand European chocolate-making and flavor combinations. Although Hofer worked as a distributor for an Austrian chocolate manufacturer, she decided to start making chocolate herself. Eventually, she began selling her products at the Carmel Farmer’s Market.
“That really helped create a customer base that was interested in handmade products, not your regular supermarket chocolate,” she said.
Although Hofer launched her small business almost seven years ago, it was only two or three years ago that she started planning for a storefront.
“(Having a store) is something that I’ve dreamt of for many years, but of course it takes time to build something, and it’s worth it to take the time and wait a little bit and not rush things,” Hofer said. “(The store) is a little boutique. It’s a jewelry box for chocolate. It’s a little cushion-y box where you can enter and you can pick your favorite flavors.”
The Arts & Design District is a perfect fit for her store, Hofer said.
“I am an artist myself, and that’s the reason that I wanted to be here, in the center,” Hofer said. “My mind is always turning on flavor combinations, what kind of art I can make on the chocolate. Those are little art pieces that you see in the case.”
Darby Casaday, a Zionsville resident and close friend of Hofer’s, agrees.
“Joann is a very creative person with a strong sense of style,” Casaday said. “Her chocolates are works of art, in both taste and presentation.”
In addition to being edible pieces of artwork, Xchocol’Art’s items are unique in that they are created with an Austrian influence. Hofer said her products are similar to those found in Europe.
“European chocolate is very detailed, and the flavors are very natural. You will not find any preservatives or additives in the chocolate,” Hofer said. “I love when people taste fresh truffles because the flavor is fresh and the flavor is alive, and that’s what makes it special.”
Hofer said as she continues to operate her new storefront, she is most excited to keep experimenting with flavors and expanding on her chocolate art.
“(My favorite part of making chocolate) is the quietness that it brings me,” she said. “I get really in the zone when I’m making chocolate because it’s very detail-oriented. Just getting in the zone of the artistry of making it makes me calm.”
Hofer said she chose to make chocolate because she wanted to create something that would create happiness.
“I think that chocolate is something that makes people happy,” she said. “It’s something that brings a lot of joy to life, and I just want to go in the route of joyfulness.”
MEET JOANN HOFER
- Birthplace: Boston
- Favorite hobby: Biking on the Monon Trail
- Favorite local restaurant: “I have a few favorites but, at the moment a drink after work at 3UP across the street”
- Favorite dessert: “My own truffles”
- Favorite dish to cook: Pasta
- Favorite artist: Klimt
- Favorite art medium: Chocolate
- Favorite truffle in the store: Whiskey honey
- Favorite vacation destination: Austria /Italy/ Cartagena, Colombia
- Favorite TV show: “Chefs Table”
- Favorite quote: “Everything that is made beautiful and fair and lovely is made for the eye of one who sees.” Rumi
- Life motto: It too shall pass…
- Early riser or night owl? Early riser