DYBERRY TOWNSHIP—Local “Bean-to-Bar” chocolate maker and specialty coffee roaster Moka Origins was announced as a $15,000 awardee, Monday, through the FedEx Small Business Grant contest.

Moka Origins was one of ten businesses in a pool of over 13,000 to be awarded grant funding.

“It feels really good,” said Jeff Abella, Moka Origins co-founder and CEO. “We've been working really hard the last couple of years and it's paid off.”

The cocoa/coffee producer is utilizing the funds to construct an additional 3,000 square feet of production space to house professional Italian chocolate equipment.

Abella explained this equipment includes a commercial roaster, a grinder, and machines to pour and cool the chocolate into bars.

“We want to open up our entire production facility for complete transparency as well as to showcase how chocolate is made; starting from a cacao bean all the way to finished chocolate bar,” Abella stated in a press release.

Funding will also go towards purchasing of eco-friendly packaging and decomposable coffee bags.

Moka Origins will unveil its new production facilities at an open house celebration scheduled on June 1, starting at 10 a.m.

Attendees will get the chance to experience Moka Origins' signature chocolate fountain, complete with a buffet of organic fruits and other treats to dip into the chocolate.

The open house will also feature a tour the factory and a chance to win a year's worth of Moka Origins coffee and chocolate.

The factory operates out of the Himalayan Institute in Dyberry Township, producing chocolate and coffee which is sold through partnerships with local retailers in Wayne County and those in the United Kingdom, the Cayman Islands and Japan.

The Mocha's Origin

Moka Origins founders Jeff Abella and Ishan Tigunait formed the company with an eye for sustainable business practices at all levels of the economic chain.

Growing the business out of a farm in Cameroon, West Africa, Moka Origins shipped 48,000 products in its two years' as a business, according to information from the FedEx Small Business Grant webpage.

While doing so, the company planted 32,000 trees and created 12,400 days of employment through the farm.

Abella noted harvesting cocoa and coffee as food crops are “...some of the least valuable crops for farmers in Africa. We find that unacceptable.”

Looking to change that, Abella and Tigunait built their farm and later chocolate production company out of the farming community they'd brought aid to for over ten years, making sure profitability reaches all levels of the production chain.

“Cacao and coffee are often crops associated with extreme poverty for farmers,” said Abella in a press release. “We intend to help change this in our lifetime. As a social enterprise, our goal is to use chocolate and coffee as a vehicle to uplift farming communities worldwide.”

Transparency in business

Showcasing these sustainability measures, Moka Origins offers annual trips to the farms from where it harvests and purchases its cocoa and coffee beans.

This year's “Chocolate Rainforest Trip,” scheduled for later in June, will take participants to the Dominican Republic where Moka Origins sources some of its cocoa beans.

Those interested can also tour the Moka Origins facility within the Himalayan Institute for free on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

More information about Moka Origins is available online at www.mokaorigins.com, and at the open house celebration scheduled for June 1.

--Information from a release was used in this story.