The sweet aroma of chocolate wafts through the air and welcomes visitors the moment they step into Ritual Chocolate on Iron Horse Drive in Park City, Utah. Originally started in Colorado in 2010 by Robbie Stout and Anna Davies, the boutique chocolatier has moved to the ski resort town to make small batch chocolate at 7,000 feet, a nod to the chocolate factories that historically were nestled in the Swiss Alps.
Ritual Chocolate’s quaint chocolate bar serves all things chocolate, from chocolate ganache cake to its signature hot chocolate and refreshing summertime version made with melted, grated chocolate and coconut milk topped with tufts of whipped cream. Over petit two- and four-ounce cups of piping hot sipping chocolate, chocoholics can peer into the chocolate factory to watch bars of single origin and the house blend (a mix of four chocolates) being made.
Ritual Chocolate took us behind the scenes to show The Daily Meal how they produce their award-winning chocolate, which is made with just two ingredients: cacao and cane sugar. The chocolatier’s Belize 75%, a fruity, earthy, and nutty chocolate made with cacao grown by a network of Mayan farmers in Belize’s Toledo district, has been awarded the Sofi Award, and its house blend, Mid Mountain Blend 70%, a blend of cacao from Belize, Ecuador, Madagascar, and Peru, has recently won the 2016 Good Food Awards and was a Gold Medalist at the 2016 Academy of Chocolate awards.
STEP ONE: It Starts With the Beans
Ritual Chocolate sources single-origin cacao beans from farmers in Belize, Ecuador, Madagascar, and Peru, paying particular attention to the genetics of the beans, the fermentation, and terroir — all factors that affect the flavor of the chocolate. The beans arrive in burlap sacks and are sorted on trays before being transferred to an oven, where they are roasted for one hour. Then the beans are cooled for one hour.
STEP TWO: Get Crackin’
The beans are poured into a winnower, a machine that cracks the shells of the beans and crushes the cacao into nibs. As the beans go through the winnower, they vibrate on screens, which helps separate the shells from the cacao nibs before the shells are sucked away.
STEP THREE: Daily Grind
The beans are transported to the grinding room where they are dumped into a machine that finely grinds the nibs into chocolate. Sugar is then added to the ground nibs.
STEP FOUR: So Smooth
The ground nibs are poured into a machine that was originally designed to grind and stir paint. Here the cacao nibs are made superfine and silky smooth. The chocolate is minimally processed, retaining much of its flavor.
STEP FIVE: Mix, Splash, and Roll
Approximately 250 pounds of chocolate is poured into a vintage longitudinal conche. The massive machine was built in 1915 and used by a chocolatier for more than eight decades before Ritual Chocolate acquired the machine, the only one of its kind in the U.S. During the conche stage, the chocolate is churned, stirred, and splashed back and forth over stainless steel rollers for three full days.
STEP SIX: Temper
The chocolate is taken from the conche and molded into 15-pound blocks. The blocks are then dumped into a cylindrical machine that takes one day to melt 200 pounds of the blocks into liquid chocolate. The tempered chocolate is poured into clear tray molds, and after 30 minutes, a trio of rectangular bars are tapped out of each tray and set on stainless steel to cool in specialized cooling cabinets.
STEP SEVEN: Wrap It Up
Each chocolate bar is tucked into a brown paper pouch and then placed in a tri-fold cardboard package in a quintet of Utah’s natural hues. Each package is accented with a Navajo-Deco motif that details the history of Ritual Chocolate, the farm where the cacao was grown, and the tasting notes.
STEP EIGHT: Taste test
Visitors can take their own tour of the chocolate factory on Thursdays and Fridays at 6:00 p.m. These one-hour tours are $14 per person and include an overview of Ritual Chocolate, a tutorial on how chocolate is made, a tour of the facilities, and bite-size sample pieces of each of Ritual’s single origin chocolates from Belize, Ecuador, Madagascar, and Peru, as well as Mid Mountain Blend, a mix of all four. From the fruity and nutty award-winning Madagascar, to the nutty and earthy Ecuador with a clean finish, to the floral and herbal notes of Peru, visitors are taken through the chocolate tasting much like a wine tasting. Can’t decide which variety you like best? We’d personally suggest the Mid Mountain Blend, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the options.