Ritual Chocolate in RiNo Adds Factory Showroom and Retail Shop
There's something a little different (and more mouth-watering) amidst the aromas of craft beer and pricey espresso wafting through RiNo these days; it's coming from Ritual Chocolate. Anna Davies and Robbie Stout, the pair behind Colorado craft chocolate company Ritual, have been making their chocolate bars since 2011, but have now opened their upper Larimer Street factory to the public for retail sales and a little chocolate education. Now, while you're buying one of their single-origin, hand-made chocolate bars, you can also watch Ritual's chocolate-making process in the newly-built, glass-walled showroom attached to the retail space. It's all part of the unique chocolate "experience" that Davies and Stout want to put back into the much-mistreated sweet.
Ritual's current line-up of chocolate bars.
See also: Photos: Colorado Chocolate Festival hits the sweet spot at Denver Mart
Citing Willy Wonka-like companies who put cocoa in one end and spit out their products at the other, keeping the process largely secretive, Davies says Ritual wants to be the exact opposite. The new showroom allows customers to watch as the beans are ground and liquid chocolate purified in small batches as molds are hand-washed and prepped next door. Ritual's chocolate is certainly labor intensive, but Davies and Stout say the difference in taste is noticeable, highlighting the cocoa beans -- the true star of the chocolate -- and not the additives or emulsifiers that go into most other chocolate on the shelves these days. The pair pride themselves on going back to the origins of the candy and making their chocolate the way it should be made: carefully, slowly and with just two ingredients: the cocoa beans themselves and sugar. It's a process that takes time, but Stout says that once they decided to start a chocolate business, and after tasting the competitors, they knew they couldn't do it any other way.
"We saw a huge discrepancy between quality [of chocolate] sold and the potential," he says. "You know, the potential is infinite."
In a revelation that will be surprising to most, Davies revealed that most producers on shelves today don't actually make their own chocolate; they melt down huge bars from suppliers and then add their own flavoring. All the Belgian chocolate on the shelves in America, they say, comes from one supplier, leaving no possibility for the "craftsman's touch," as Stout says.
The pair knew they wanted to be something unique: a bean-to-bar product, which means sourcing their own beans directly from farmers in the five regions they buy from and refusing any beans put in front of them that don't meet their extremely high standard, something they say happens constantly. They think that it's time for chocolate to get the same revival that coffee and beer are experiencing. Fine chocolate should have a complex flavor profile of different notes, depending on the bean's origin -- just like an espresso or a carefully made craft brew. It's part of the reason behind their name: Ritual Chocolate wants to make a product that harks back to the times when the cocoa bean was revered, traded and used in rituals across the globe. For Ritual, it's all about the bean.
Keep reading to find out more about Ritual's chocolate-making process...