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Want to make your valentine melt?
Buy that special someone an artisan chocolate bar made in Utah.
The Wasatch Front has several companies that follow the “bean-to-bar” chocolate-making process. That means they ship cacao beans from some of the world’s best-growing regions — think Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela — then roast, grind and infuse their own flavors into the mostly dark-chocolate bars.
The process leaves out the refined sugars, artificial ingredients and preservatives often found in drugstore brands.
Utah producers earned national attention a few years ago when Saveur magazine called the Wasatch Front the “country’s epicenter of chocolate innovation.” Editors compared the midsize region to larger, more well-known chocolate epicenters like Seattle, San Francisco and Portland.
Eating artisan chocolate bars requires a different tactic than what is used with chocolate-dipped candies and truffles that contain fruit, caramel, nuts or creamy fondant centers.
First, break off a square and — just like you might with a glass of wine — raise it to your nose. What fruit, nuts and spices can you smell?
Once you’ve identified the aromas, place a small piece on your tongue and let it melt. This slow process allows various flavors to emerge.
Here’s a sampling of the Utah companies that make bean-to-bar chocolate. Their products are available online, at their production facilities as well as specialty shops and grocery stores around the state.
Amano Artisan Chocolate • Since he launched his Orem company in February 2007, Art Pollard’s single-bean chocolate bars have earned numerous international awards. He was the first U.S. maker to use the rare Venezuelan Chuao bean, a coup that elevated him to the upper echelon of international chocolate makers.
The Chocolate Conspiracy • A.J. Wentworth aims for the healthiest chocolate possible, using organically grown cacao beans sweetened with raw, unfiltered Utah honey, at his Salt Lake City business. The bars are made with other natural ingredients and come in flavors such as wild spice and blackberry ginger.
Millcreek Cacao Roasters • For its signature chocolate, this Salt Lake City producer uses Arriba Nacional cacao beans from Ecuador, harvested from mature, wild trees at high elevation. The deep roots draw in minerals from rich volcanic soil.
Ritual Chocolate • These dark chocolate bars contain just two ingredients: roasted cacao beans and cane sugar. The Park City company won a 2016 Good Food award for its Mid Mountain bar, a blend of cacao beans from Africa and South America and named for Park City’s Mid Mountain trail near Deer Valley.
Solstice • Scott Querry, a Salt Lake City air traffic controller, and DeAnn Wallin had been chocolate connoisseurs for many years before selling their small-batch organic offerings at gourmet food shops and farmers markets. Today, the Salt Lake City company makes several chocolate varieties with beans imported from Bolivia, Ecuador, Madagascar, Tanzania and Uganda.