America's Artisan Chocolate Capital Is Probably Not Where You're Thinking
On ancestral Puebloan sites in Southeastern Utah, Archeologists have found traces of cacao on objects dating back—way, way back—to the year 780 A.D., making this the first known appearance of the gorgeous bean in what we today loosely refer to as the United States.
Of course, the cacao was imported—climate shifts have occurred since then, but nothing that dramatic—but still, it was here, a super-early foreshadowing of a time, many years down the line, when the region would be populated with some of the continent's most passionate sweet tooths.
Seriously, if you didn't know—Utah's famous for its love of sugar. Many studies and surveys over the years have shown the state to be the highest per-capita consumer of ice cream in the country. As American chocolate continues to evolve, with new, small-batch makers setting up shop left and right, it makes sense that a fair number of them would crop up in The Beehive State. Couple that with the fact that it's much easier to get cacao beans to Utah now than it was at a time when you only needed three numbers to tell people what year it was, and you have yourself a boom on your hands. Your probably-sticky-from-chocolate hands.
These days, there are nine established, bean-to-bar makers in the state, each bringing their own technique (and their own sourcing skills) to create some incredible product. All added up, it's easily one of America's most compelling chocolate scenes, and it's one any chocolate lover should know more about. Looking to taste? We sampled from a wide variety of the offerings, and selected some of the most interesting makers for you to try. (All of them sell online, but you can also pick up Utah chocolate at Caputo's, which sells a range of delicious foods, both local and otherwise.)
Pioneer not only of Utah's chocolate scene, but also one of North America's most early adopters, Art Pollard's company was up, running, and winning big awards, back before growing a cool beard and charging $12 for a well-wrapped bar became a thing. Amano's single-origin bars are stunning stuff, to be sure, but so are their flavored bars—the aromatic Raspberry Rose dark chocolate is a hot seller for good reason.
Ritual Park City
Just fifteen minutes on foot from the nearest ski lifts, offering factory tours and a smart little café with a range of drinking chocolates, Ritual is easily one of Utah's more visible chocolatiers. Originally founded in Colorado and then relocated, co-founders Anna Davies and Robbie Stout produce a range of single-origin bars relying solely on cacao beans, organic cane sugar, and an assist from their century-old, Swiss-made conche.
DeAnn Wallin takes the light touch when roasting carefully-sourced beans, blending in organic cane sugar and cocoa butter for an extraordinarily smooth finish that makes this chocolate awfully hard to put down. A great one to give to your European friends, the ones who can't stop talking about how Americans can't make chocolate.
The Chocolate Conspiracy Salt Lake City
Raw cacao is the name of the game at this non-traditional outfit, where they forgo the roasting process, use raw Utah honey instead of sugar and aren't afraid to have fun with their flavors. (Mint chip, anyone?) At a small shopfront on the southern fringe of downtown Salt Lake, you can sample their drinking chocolate, as well as a range of truffles.