Mike Condo's singular focus leads to award-winning chocolate.

When Mike Condo found himself hospitalized in 2013 and suffering from Crohn's disease, the International Chocolate Awards weren't even on his radar. But after a restrictive diet led Condo to realize that there were few chocolate offerings that didn't include soy, he took it upon himself to fill the void, starting a “hobby business”—Ohiyo Chocolate—from his basement in 2014.

“Ohiyo” refers to the Iroquois name for “great river,” a word Condo came across while researching the history of Ohio and chocolate, which was originally a Native American food. Further research into the cacao industry led him to shift focus to directly sourced, single-origin beans, which allow the terroir to shine through in the finished product.

Noting that it's “amazing how single-origin chocolates taste different from each other,” Condo leverages a Peruvian Marañón bean in his 75 percent dark chocolate bar that almost tastes like milk chocolate. It won him a bronze medal at the 2017 International Chocolate Awards this past October. Another award winner (and his bestseller) is the Coffee & Bolivian Dark Chocolate bar, which earned an ICA silver medal.

This recognition gave Condo the motivation to invest in new equipment, allowing him to expand production and experimentation. While Condo still prefers to let the chocolate speak for itself, he's played around a bit with flavors for seasonal offerings, such as the Dirty Chai or Lemon and Matcha White Chocolate bars. For each, Condo uses 37 percent cocoa butter, almost double the 20 percent typically found in white chocolate, along with milk powder, sugar and the namesake ingredients.

No matter white, milk or dark chocolate, Condo believes that as long as you “invest in the farms, you come out with an amazing product.” Ohiyo products can be found around town at shops like Wholly Craft and Little Eater Produce & Provisions, or online ordering is available (in Ohio only) at ohiyochocolate.com.