Trendsetter: Art Pollard, Amano Artisan Chocolate
The Wasatch Range may not have Oompa Loompas, but crisp air makes the region suited to manufacturing small batches of single-origin dark chocolate. That's the specialty of Utah-based Amano Artisan Chocolate, which former physics lab machinist Art Pollard founded in 2006. Inspired by Belgian chocolate he tasted during his honeymoon, Pollard began studying the delicacy a decade ago, tracking down small-scale plantations with world-class cocoa beans and retooling lab equipment to make his own bars. Today Amano uses mostly vintage processors and is one of fewer than 25 artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate companies in the United States.
Q: What's so special about single-origin chocolate bars?
A: Every area creates its own flavors as a result of microclimates, soil conditions, and genetics. If you pick apples from nearby valleys, they taste pretty much the same. But cocoa grown two valleys apart--it's vastly different. It's a more sensitive crop, and there has been little effort to settle on distinct varieties as we have with other fruit.
Q: How can small chocolate makers influence a $13 billion industry?
A: Large cocoa companies don't encourage distinct native varieties, which have emerged from growing in a particular area for thousands of years and may have better flavor. Instead, preference goes to crops that have disease resistance and high productivity. Historically, it's been hard to separate one or two tons that are really special. We're helping farmers produce better beans and paying premium prices for them. Without that, we could lose the genetic heritage of cocoa.