All along, it had used mild-mannered Kentucky Colonel mint from West Philadelphia's Drew Elementary School to flavor its lush ganache centers. (And raspberries from a Lancaster County farm, and local honey.)
But this year it added more schools to the roster, ending up with more Kentucky Colonel than it could swallow:Voila, the chocolate bars, subtly infused with 50 pounds of the stuff, its origins noted and saluted on the label.
"We're a storytelling business," said John Doyle, who founded the company (originally Jubilee Chocolate) in 2003 with his wife, Kira.
The couple had become early disciples of the gospel of local-sustainable-ethical business being preached by Judy Wicks of White Dog Cafe fame.
But there's a part of their story that didn't quite make it onto the label. And there's a touch of irony in how John & Kira's has found consolation - after a heady turn on the national stage - in the farm markets in its own backyard.
About 70 percent of the company's chocolates have been sold by mail order beyond the Philadelphia orbit. And locally, there were no dedicated retail outlets.
Partly, that's because the company started life under an almost impossibly bright star. With barely a few test batches to show, the couple's baby was anointed on the cover of Gourmet as the magazine staff's favorite chocolate.
But it had a bit of an Achilles' heel. Infused with delicate flavors and eschewing preservatives, the chocolates had an extremely limited shelf life, about two weeks.
That argued for a mail-order business, direct to the customer. And it was good. In little over five years, John & Kira's went from zero to $1.2 million in sales annually.
Besides the Gourmet boost, there were prominent mentions on Oprah, and on Martha Stewart. Sales for corporate gifts boomed even as, on the retail home front, John & Kira's remained invisible.
Then along came the recession. A West Coast investment banker canceled a standing $18,000 order. A commercial real estate broker in Boston quit a $10,000 order. Mail-order business dropped 8 percent.
At the same time, an influx of chocolatiers was opening retail shops in the city, leaving John & Kira's with a big untapped venue - the surging farmers market sector.
This spring, Doyle set up a table at the Headhouse Farmers Market in Society Hill. Now he staffs markets on Rittenhouse Square, in Phoenixville, Bryn Mawr (where some customers buy four boxes at a time), and Fairmount, selling 15-piece gift boxes for $25, and chocolate-dipped (and -stuffed) Spanish figs.
Doyle says sales have been robust, making up for the ground lost from corporate cutbacks. And he concedes that it may seem strange that a local company dedicated to local sourcing took so long to show its face on the local scene.
Less strange, of course, is the sound that Doyle is now hearing: the eager footfalls of his artisan rivals scrambling to secure their own space in the bullish farm-market market.
The Mint Patch chocolate bar will be on sale this weekend at the Rittenhouse Square and Bryn Mawr farmers markets (Saturday), and Headhouse Square market (Sunday). All profits go to the programs listed on the label: www.teens4good.orbius.com; villagearts.org.
Contact columnist Rick Nichols at 215-854-2715 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/ricknichols.