DAR Chocolate is some of the absolute best chocolate in the world. We are biased- but with good reason. We take our commitment to small-batch, bean-to-bar chocolate seriously, and that results in a unique, delicious and high-quality product. Here's how we make our product from start to finish.
It's impossible to share our chocolate-making process without sharing a bit of our origin story. We discovered cacao as a superfood (read: major health benefits) in Costa Rica. Once we discovered cacao, we started to look at how to make chocolate, and we learned from some of the best Costa Rican artisans. From there, we migrated to Denver, Colorado (LINK) to make our own chocolate from scratch in the Mile High City.
From the outset of our chocolate-making journey, we bought imported cacao beans from Meridian Cacao- a fair-trade cacao importer known for having authentic and meaningful connections with farmers around the world. Since cacao only grows 20 degrees above and below the Equator, we obviously weren't going to source the beans from our backyard.
Meridian Cacao works with beans from all over: Peru, Tanzania, Vietnam, South America, etc. We chose them because we knew they had great trade practices and that they were getting really good beans from reputable farmers exporting high-quality cacao. That means we are getting the best flavor for our bars.
Selecting cacao beans is almost like trying fine red wine- not all cacao is created equally. Some cacao has vanilla added- so you automatically know the bean itself is not very flavorful.
There are also hybrid types of cacao- the hybrids are immune to fungus that grows on cacao trees and damages the harvest. Great for mass production and big harvest (think Dove dark chocolate or similar), but that’s not where the flavorful cacao is. We choose the best beans and have them sent to us here in Denver.
Gourmet Chocolate In Denver
We started the whole operation in our garage, with small stone grinders and a homemade winnowing machine (more on that in a minute.) We had the beans sent to us at home, and we worked there for four months before moving to a commercial kitchen with shared time. Now, we work out of our own commercial kitchen and have a team of people who help us.
Ok, so after we do a cutting test, we get the cacao (or cocoa) beans, which are fermented and dehydrated. They come in big jute sacks. Before we order a big quantity we receive a sample quantity and do a cutting test. A cutting test allows us to discern the quality of the fermentation, which is the primary factor for ensuring good flavor.
Next, we do a bit of roasting test to find the perfect timing at a specific temperature so that the final chocolate bars have warm notes, chocolatey notes, fruit or floral notes, or even notes of tobacco. We don't want any sort of artificial flavor in the final product. This is where making chocolate becomes more of an art than a science-as every chocolate maker has different taste buds and different preferences- which result in unique flavors.
When we like the batch, we order a larger quantity of beans, and the fun begins.
Making the Small Batch Chocolate
Once the beans are roasted they go to a winnowing machine (the one we built ourselves) which separates the husk of the bean from what's inside. The winnowing breaks up the beans and vacuums/suctions out the light husk and then we are left with the big nibs.
The cacao nibs go through a grinder, and that is the most similar to cacao liquor, a roughly ground cacao paste which then can go into the melanger. A melanger is a stone grinder and that will take between 48-72 hours of grinding in order to get the luscious texture of the chocolate.
At this phase we add the sugars and flavors- either organic golden cane sugar (similar to brown sugar but better)” or organic coconut sugar. We focus on locally sourced sugars, packaging, printers and more- part of our Colorado Proud mission.
While the melanger is working there is also the airing out of the acids allowing acids to evaporate. Acids get caught in the cacao beans as part of the fermentation process. They will be more acidic if not fermented so this is called conching. Some craft chocolatiers have conching machines which are usually very old because they just don’t make them today for big companies.
Once it’s done being ground in the stone grinder that’s when we will temper the chocolate so that it can next be poured into the chocolate molds.. Tempering of the chocolate is a very delicate play of lowering and raising the temperature of the chocolate,..So that once it gets hard, or solidifies, the chocolate becomes shiny and snappy. When chocolate is not tempered, bloom occurs - and that's where our Bloom Art comes into play.
Finally - we package it, put the bars in sustainable gift boxes, and send them to our clients or to one of the many larger grocers that carry DAR Chocolate right in store.
Today, we have a whole staff of people who help us make our dream come true- but up until about mid-2019, it was just us- Gila and Joel Dar making our chocolate.
Our Best Dark Chocolate
We have some of the best, most intensely dark chocolate around- and it's perfect for those with a sweet tooth because our chocolate is satisfying without causing huge sugar cravings.
We have a variety of chocolate gifts ranging from 70% cacao to as high as 90% cacao, dark chocolate truffles and even dark milk chocolate with sea salt, coffee chocolate, and CBD chocolate from our sister company Gataka. There is something for everyone from DAR. We even have eco-friendly branded gift boxes that your purchases arrive in.