Valentine's Day is upon us and whether you're looking for a gift for a sweetheart or something to treat yourself, there's no confection quite like chocolate. And Utah happens to be home to some unique, award-winning, artisan chocolate makers.
What sets these local chocolate makers apart from the more common commercial candy makers is the care and involvement they have every step of the way from sourcing the raw beans to crafting the final bars. This is where the phrase "bean to bar" comes from.
Bean-to-bar chocolates often showcase the flavors of the cocoa bean from a particular region of the world—think of this as something similar to when people talk about terroir with wine making.
These chocolates are truly something special. Mariah Christensen, specialty cheese buyer and resident chocolate expert at Harmons grocery, highlights some of her favorite Utah-made chocolates.
Art Pollard and Clark Goble started Amano Chocolate in 2007 in Orem pioneering craft bean-to-bar chocolate in Utah. They’ve since become the most award-winning chocolate maker in the U.S. “You have to try the Amano Dos Rios bar,” Christensen says. “With hints of blueberry, lavender, and bergamot, there is no other chocolate bar like it.”
Millcreek Cacao Roasters:
Millcreek Cacao Roasters in Salt Lake City is owned and operated by Dana Brewster and Mark DelVecchio. They only use Heirloom Cacao Preservation cacao. The purpose of the Heirloom Cacao Preservation is to preserve and protect the fine flavor cacao plants in the world. “Not all cacao makes great chocolate,” Christensen says. “Millcreek Cacao Roasters’ Arriba Himalayan Sea Salt Bar is the top selling bar at Harmons of all the fine chocolate for five years running. It’s a perfect combination of sweet and salty with excellent Ecuadorian chocolate.”
In 2010, Robbie Stout and Anna Davies started Ritual Chocolate. Located in Park City, Ritual has refurbished some old chocolate making equipment to make sure their chocolate has the classic European style fine chocolate. “The Ritual Balao Ecuador 75 percent bar is close to my heart (through my taste buds, of course) with its tasting notes of graham cracker, honey, and fudge.” Christensen says. “You also have to try their four new bars launched in 2017: Bourbon Barrel Aged 75 percent, Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla 70 percent, Mexico Soconusco 75 percent, and One Hundred Percent Pure Cacao bar.”
DeAnn Wallin is the owner and chocolate maker at Solstice Chocolate in Salt Lake City. Cacao is like wine and coffee, and flavors can change depending on the soil and climate in which it’s grown. This is the terroir or taste of place of the cacao. Solstice chocolate has six single-origin bars, meaning that all cacao in that chocolate bar is from one place. “The India Anamalai Chocolate 70 percent bar is the newest addition to the single-origin bars, with hints of raspberry, passion fruit and peanuts, this bar will keep you interested to the last morsel,” Christensen says.
AJ Wentworth is the founder of Chocolate Conspiracy and developed a love of raw cacao while he was studying at Tree of Life Rejuvination Center. AJ partnered with Steve Ohlson to create Chocolate Conspiracy in Salt Lake City. “Chocolate Conspiracy makes all of their chocolate using organic raw cacao and sweetening the chocolate with raw honey,” Christensen says. “The Blackberry Ginger 73 percent bar is an amazing burst of flavor with the addition of 18-year-aged blackberry balsamic vinegar to the bar.”