Business Spotlight: Ritual Chocolate

Ritual chocolate

A bar of Ritual Chocolate in its element (Photo Credit: Ritual Chocolate)

Where do I go to satisfy a chocolate craving? How about to pick up a little gift for a friend? Or to linger over a late morning latte? Ritual Chocolate in Park City.

One of the highest altitude chocolatiers in the country, Ritual got its start in Denver in 2010. But in 2015, owners Anna Davies and Robbie Stout moved their bean-to-bar business to Park City, where Robbie grew up. “We wanted to be somewhere where we could work hard and then hop on a trail,” Anna says. They love skiing, biking, and being outside, and Park City seemed the perfect place to run a business.

Ritual has swept awards from arbiters like the International Chocolate Awards, Academy of Chocolate Awards, and Good Food Awards. In addition to producing top-tier bars, the local Park City business also runs a café on Iron Horse Drive, which serves coffee drinks, rotating pastries, and an array of must-try sipping chocolates.

Recently, Ritual has been making headlines. They’ve rebranded, released new bars, and opened a satellite location inside the new Whole Foods. I chatted with co-owner Anna to learn more about the past, present, and future of Park City’s Ritual Chocolate.

Ritual Chocolate

Anna searching for the best cacao in Peru last winter (Photo Credit: Ritual Chocolate)

What led you and Robbie to start making chocolate and establish Ritual?

Robbie and I had just met and were interested in starting a business together. He was a journalist for a cycling magazine and I worked for a trademark lawyer and taught yoga. We’d work all day and come home and be like, “What are we going to do with our lives?” as we were eating bars of chocolate.

As we were throwing different ideas around, the idea of chocolate came up and we got really excited about it. There are really some fun elements to it. We loved that we could connect with farmers. The process is fascinating and there’s such a great history to it.

We started really small. We had a little studio apartment, bought a chocolate grinder, started roasting cacao beans in our oven—we were doing it all wrong but having a lot of fun with it. We started playing around in 2008, and started our business in September 2010 when we were living in Boulder.

Ritual Chocolate cacao

Anna and Robbie in Peru last winter (Photo Credit: Ritual Chocolate)

What certifications or conditions do you look for when sourcing cacao?

The interesting thing with chocolate—and maybe it’s similar in other industries—is that, unfortunately, it’s not always about the certification. An origin can be Fair Trade, but it can still not be one we want to work with. What we’re looking for is really unique cacao genetics. We want to show that chocolate can have a full flavor profile like wine or coffee.

We’re looking to develop a relationship with the farm and to really believe in their practices—that it’s sustainable for the community, but also the environment. The first farm we worked with was in Costa Rica and it was Rainforest Alliance certified. There were sloths all over!

A lot of the farms we work with aren’t actually certified organic, but they have organic practices. None of the farms we work with are Fair Trade certified, but we’re paying them five times more than Fair Trade price. But we can’t put a label on it. Chocolate is a younger industry—youngish compared to wine and coffee.

Chocolate production

Chocolate bars in the making (Photo Credit: Ritual Chocolate)

Does the altitude affect production?

Altitude doesn’t affect production. It would be nice to say that it makes the chocolate taste better, but I don’t know about that! The nice thing is because the climate is so dry, it’s much easier to store cacao beans. When you’re working with chocolate, you don’t want to be in a high moisture area. We might be one of the highest altitude makers in the country.

For the uninitiated, what’s your most quintessential product to try or gift?

I’d say pick a single origin. That’s been our focus from the beginning. Most of our bars are just cacao beans, sugar, and some have just a little bit of cocoa butter. The Madagascar bar is really juicy. A dark chocolate that’s bright and fruity is kind of eye opening.

We also just released a High West Bourbon Barrel-Aged bar—it’s a fun one for a gift. We aged cacao nibs in a High West bourbon barrel for a couple months. It takes in all those flavors from the oak and a little bit of bourbon. It’s not hit-you-over-the-head bourbon, but it has really nice subtle notes.

And our bestseller is our Fleur de Sel—chocolate and sea salt.

For many, chocolate can be an emotionally evocative or nostalgic experience. Do you have an earliest chocolate memory?

I grew up in England with Cadbury. Chocolate was definitely always a part of my life. When I was little, every Friday, my mom would let my brother and sister and I go to this sweet shop in town and pick out sweets. That was the big treat for the week. Part of what’s so fun about making chocolate is that, like you said, everyone has a childhood memory. It’s really nostalgic. It’s ageless.

Is there a beverage you’d recommend pairing Ritual Chocolate with?

Of course, you should definitely have the Bourbon Barrel Aged chocolate with whiskey. We tried it with the Rendezvous rye and then also the High West bourbon. I really like our Novo Coffee bar with coffee. And I actually like chocolate with tea. I think it has a nice balanced flavor. Green tea, jasmine tea—try it with any of the origins.

Ritual Chocolate cafe

The original Ritual Chocolate site in Park City (Photo Credit: Ritual Chocolate)

You just opened a new café out of the new Whole Foods. How does this location differ, if at all, from your original HQ?

Something that’s been really fun at the Whole Foods space is we have a chocolatier that makes truffles, which are great for the holidays and gifts. She has a campfire whiskey and maple one and a London fog one. By Thanksgiving, the truffle should be available at both locations.

If you subscribe to my newsletter, then you can take advantage of a special promo that I partnered with Ritual to offer during December. Not a subscriber? Contact me and I’ll be happy to send you the promo code.

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