Anne Farrens started making small batch healthy hot chocolate after she discovered it at a Hawaiian juice bar in 2018 on vacation. First, she started packing it on business trips to mix into coffee. Soon, her friends and family started to enjoy it too, so she started making more batches to share. The rest is history.
All Retreat Hot Cacao is still made in small batches by hand in Gig Harbor. Check out our interview with Anne where she shares her love for cacao and Washington!
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I travel often for my corporate job, and I would always search for juice shops that carried ‘healthy hot chocolate’ - something I was making at home frequently. To save time, I decided to make my own healthy hot chocolate mix to take with me - and our Hot Cacao was born!
WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST STEPS AND HOW DID IT EVOLVE FROM THERE?
I casually shared the mix with a friend who gave great feedback and encouraged me to try and make this a business, so my first step was to perfect the recipe in bulk vs the single servings I was used to making. Next came a mini launch at
another friend’s yoga retreat where she graciously let me sample it to all the attendees and get feedback. Meanwhile, I had researched and applied for cottage food (home kitchen) license from WA State so I could make the mix in my home kitchen to sell on our new website. One month after I launched Retreat Drinks online, we expanded to our local farmers market and sales really took off.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR NAME?
It was after the yoga retreat mentioned above - I loved the way I felt after a weekend of restoration and wanted to bring that feeling into this new business. The name was originally just “Retreat” and didn’t change to “Retreat Drinks” until we created an Instagram account - a split-second decision to add ‘Drinks’ at the end because the accounts ‘Retreat’ and ‘Drink Retreat’ were already taken!
TELL US ABOUT YOUR WORKSPACE!
My workspace consists of a laptop + outlet and ranges from my house,
a hotel room, a coffee shop, an airplane – anywhere I can plug in! I’m still working in my corporate position to fund the expansion of Retreat Drinks, embracing the “side hustle.” In 2020, my husband quit his corporate job to take over the expansion of the operations of Retreat Drinks, so his workspace is our warehouse where he leads a team to make our drinks in small batches and package and ship. We share our space with a local coffee roaster who sources their beans from Kona, Hawaii, so the warehouse has a very tropical/island-y vibe which is perfect for us!
WHAT MAKES YOUR PRODUCT SPECIAL OR DIFFERENT?
Our ingredients are what set us apart from other products, and the heart and soul we put into our packaging is what sets us apart on the retail shelf – our mix is the cleanest you can find: all organic and fair-trade, and our packaging is completely eco-friendly.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE REVIEW OR COMMENT ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTS?
No one has written this down and sent it to me, but I wish they would! I’ve only heard it in person at farmers markets or demos. After offering a sample to someone who is not interested in “healthy hot chocolate” they say something along the lines of, "Holy sh*t, this is actually GOOD! I love it." I’ve literally heard a version of that response from every type of person – especially the “anti-healthy” people! We’re trying to break the stigma that healthy means tasteless and boring. Our belief is that you can nourish your body and eat healthy by choosing the best nutrient dense foods and products available, and that tastes good!
WHAT'S YOUR PERSONAL FAVORITE PRODUCT YOU SELL?
Our sole product, Hot Cacao, is something I drink every day! When we launched, I planned to have a full line of drinks being available right away: Golden
Milk, Chai, etc., however, getting our Hot Cacao off the ground took a ton of resources and all our attention in terms of scaling. I would love to be able to offer different beverages in the future so stay tuned!
ARE THERE ANY GREAT LOCAL ARTISANS OR SMALL BUSINESSES THAT YOU'RE INTO RIGHT NOW?
We love The Harbor General Store and Metropolitan Market (all locations but especially Gig Harbor). Jahni Lynn photography is absolutely amazing, and I often gift Gig Harbor Candy Company to all Gig Harbor newbies. Those are just a few off the top of my head!
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE LOCAL RESTAURANT?
I am loving the Hy Iu Hee Hee right now. It’s a dive bar in Gig Harbor with great local and organic food, and it’s kid friendly so we can go on both date night and family night!
YOU LIVE AND WORK IN GIG HARBOR, WASHINGTON: DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE PLACES TO ENJOY THE BEAUTY IN YOUR AREA?
Bella Bella beach in Fox Island, the Gig Harbor downtown waterfront, anywhere that includes being with family and friends, and we have a small cabin about an hour away at Summit Lake in Olympia, Washington. Water and sun in nearly any combination is unbeatable in Washington state during the summer!
photo credit: gigharborlivinglocal.com
photo credit: wta.com
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT WASHINGTON?
The environment – mountains, water, and greenery. As much as I love the city, I NEED nature to recharge, and Washington state has so many options. Drive 15
minutes in nearly any direction from the city and you can “get away” to the beach, the forest, the trails, the river. I’ll never get bored with the natural beauty, and have yet to find a landscape that’s more inspiring. If you can get through the gray of Washington Winter, the Spring, Summer and Fall will never disappoint!
Thank you so much Anne for sharing your story with us!
More Behind the Brand
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