One man’s passion for chocolate on display at 5150 Chocolate Factory in Delray Beach

The real Willy Wonder

Artisan chocolate maker Tyler Levitetz makes his organic treats from scratch

The  5150 factory on Federal Highway

With his tattooed arms, brown apron, brown stocking cap and beard, you’ll never mistake 30-year-old Tyler Levitetz for Willy Wonker as portrayed on the big screen by Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp.

But Levitetz, whose social media handle is “therealwillywonka,” shares the Roald Dahl fictional character’s passion for chocolate. Levitetz, a scion of the family that owns Boca Raton-based Purity Wholesale Grocers, is indeed a real chocolate maker, plying his trade on a lonely stretch of Federal Highway in east Delray Beach. At his 5150 Chocolate Factory, Levitetz turns bags of raw cacao beans imported from small farms in the tropics of Latin America and Africa into finished artisan chocolate treats.

His business, named for the police code for a crazy person on the loose — people told him he was crazy when he first broached his idea for a bean-to-bar chocolate business — is now a year old. It came to fruition as the result of a decade of experimenting and learning by Levitetz, who worked in restaurants as a line cook, and later studied to be a pastry chef at the French Pastry School in Chicago.  He says it was the study of chocolate at the school that ignited his passion. He later went on to work at chocolatier Norman Love in Fort Myers.

Bags of cacao beans await processing

Fermenting beans

Unlike chocolatiers such as Godiva, who make their creations from melted, pre-made chocolate, Levitetz starts from scratch, fermenting, roasting, grinding and smoothing cacao beans before melting and molding them into edible treats using $10,000 worth of machinery that includes a magnet to snare stray pieces of metal. “I just like taking things back as far as possible,” he says of his passion.

Levitetz began experimenting in his apartment using such tools as juicers and lentil grinders as he learned to process cacao into chocolate. He soon realized that cacao’s subtle nuances, seen as defects by the big chocolate makers, are integral to his finished products. His 5150 products are labeled with their countries of origin.

To be sure, the rare beans 5150 uses come at a cost. The firm often pays farmers up to four times the current market price for their finest quality organic cacao, usually passed over by candy giants Hershey’s and Mars. By doing so, Levitetz believes he’s preserving these cacao farms.  In his factory, Levitetz’s crew takes two weeks to process a batch of chocolate, including two days to sort through bags of beans. Beans in his roaster are sampled every 30 seconds to achieve optimal flavor, and particles are crushed to 12 micros thick  (a human hair by comparison is 56 microns). Guided tours of the facility are available at Noon on Saturdays and Sundays.

Chcolates on display

The end products, on display and sold from showcases in a retail space at the entrance to the plant and at a separate store in Miami (where CBD-laced varieties also are sold), cover all the bases, though most varieties are dark with cacao levels of up to 76 percent. These can be sampled in the salesroom. I, for one, find them a bit too bitter for my taste. There also is a 36 percent semi-sweet variety from Nicaragua as well as milk chocolate, white chocolate and wasabi flavored confections. There’s also a sugar-free dark version, sweetened with monk fruit. It also was too bitter to my untrained chocolate palate. Bars sell for $9-$10 each, about three times what you’d pay for a luxe Godiva chocolate bar.   “Unfortunately, artisan ain’t cheap,” Levitetz said.

5150 Craft Chocolate LLC

1010 N. Federal Highway

Delray Beach, FL 33483



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