Atlanta’s only bean-to-bar chocolate maker realizes her vision by combining both passion and pluck.

Even at a very early age, Kristen Hard already was interested in making candies and sweets in the kitchen. She doesn’t recall whether it was her natural inclination toward sweets or just the science that fascinated her. 

“I think in retrospect it was a combination of the two,” says chocolate maker Hard, owner of Cacao Atlanta.  “As I grew older the realization that food was a passion set in and then, specifically, my obsession with chocolate.  

Her love for chocolate took on another dimension once she discovered its natural form and origin. 

“As a student headed for, I thought, law school, I spent more time unwinding from studying while making chocolate and researching the industry than I did preparing for this future,” she recalls.  

Eventually Hard realized that she could focus all her efforts on making a dream come true, that is working with chocolate. 

Early on Hard decided to focus on working with dark chocolate, because she saw it as “the purest and healthiest.”   

“Now, being a chocolate maker, I feel that I am still a bit ahead of the curve for the general population, and it is exciting to teach consumers about the world of chocolate,” Hard says.  

She points out that the definitions and information regarding cacao such as origin, fermentation, harvest and variation of bean still are unknown to the consumer.  

“This information is imperative for someone who wants to really understand what they are eating,” Hard says. “The chocolate industry is much like the wine industry and similar presently to the micro beer crafting movement. I find it exciting to be a part of this movement.” 

Today, Hard operates a 3000-sq-ft. “laboratoire and boutique” in Atlanta’s Inman Park neighborhood, producing bean-to-bar products that accent her Southern roots and artisan chocolate-making.

What did you think you would be when you grew up? 
I was never really sure what I would be when I grew up, but I did dream of being a scientist or an inventor.  

Name a favorite movie.
I love the movie “Baraka” because it is only images and music and takes you on a necessary and reminding journey every time you watch it. 

Describe your perfect dream vacation. 
First, I love sailing, so I would imagine myself sailing around Greece and enjoying the food, beaches, people and the water. Second, I would love to be guided through the Amazon, searching for cacao and learning the Indian culture. 

What book are you currently reading? 
I am reading the Patagonia book called “Let the People Go Surfing,” because I love the business vision and strategy of this company. 

Aside from a family member, whom would you most want to be stranded with on a deserted island?
I would choose my business partner and friend, Caline.  We would not only survive, but would laugh and cry and enjoy the circumstances for what they were.

What’s your pet peeve?
I have a pet peeve with poorly tied ribbons.

I’d give anything to meet:
I would give anything to meet Oprah. She embodies strength, femininity, independence, vision and grace.  

The best piece of advice I’ve gotten:
That would be from a dear friend and artist, Todd Murphy, and he said, “stay true to your vision, you’ve got it, and keep making it happen.”

What excites you most about your job?
The most exciting thing about my job is that I get to transfer love in edible form from the farmer to the consumer.