Chocolate Purveyors 12- Anna Davies
Chocolate Purveyors is a blog series where we connect and discuss everything chocolate with both makers and enthusiasts. This discussion is with Anna Davies the co-founder of Ritual Chocolate.
Ritual Chocolate produces small-batch, bean-to-bar chocolate using classic European methods and premium cacao from select sources. Founded in 2010 by Robbie Stout and Anna Davies, their mission is to produce exceptional quality chocolate while celebrating the complexity of the cacao bean.
Photo Credit Ritual Chocolate
Do you remember your first experience with real chocolate? What was it?
I remember my first experience tasting craft chocolate. I was visiting my brother back in 2009 in San Francisco. After dinner, he opened a drawer of chocolate bars he had. Most of them at that time were European companies as the US craft movement hadn’t really taken off, but I just remember being mesmerized that single-origin chocolate existed and the flavors you could get from plain dark chocolate. We went from wanting to find more craft chocolate, to figuring out how to make it and share it with everyone we knew.
Before starting Ritual Chocolate, you visited cacao farms. What was the main discovery of this trip?
In 2010 we did a trip to Costa Rica, where we visited several farms. The sheer amount of work and care it takes to grow, tend to the cacao trees, harvest, and then ferment and dry the beans was eye-opening for us. We felt that we had a responsibility to make the best chocolate possible with the beans we were using, so our customers could truly taste the flavor nuances of the bean and be taken back to the source.
We also discovered that cacao needs to be in a healthy forest which is biodiverse, with nutrient-rich soil, and a thriving insect population. Cacao farms are also biological corridors for larger predators such as big cats to roam and hunt. We felt that cacao was a product we could feel proud to source as it was good for the habitat and needs that rainforest ecosystem to thrive. This is why we started putting animals on our packaging. Our first bar was our Costa Rica 75% with a sloth drawing on the front. FINMAC was considered a sloth sanctuary with over 70 sloths residing on the farm. And this was in stark contrast to the neighbouring pineapple and banana plantations that had no wildlife to speak of.
How do you improve the quality of life through chocolate?
Our approach to chocolate is really how we approach life. Follow your passion, always work to improve and question things, and indulge in great tasting food, drink and what drives you every day. We are saying, life is too short to eat bad chocolate, so reach for the best and enjoy it...and that goes for everything in life.
What chocolate are you eating from other makers these days?
There are so many wonderful craft makers out there now. It’s so inspiring and I love how everyone has developed their own style and focus. For instance, I love how Pump St started as a bakery first and then incorporated that into their chocolate. I love their rye and sourdough bars. I love everything from Dick Taylor and I had an amazing Omnom the other day that had liquorice. I hate to admit that I don’t get out and try other makers bars enough, but I’m always so inspired when I do.
Do you have a personal favourite terroir?
That’s a hard one, as what really inspired me to start Ritual was the unique flavor profiles from beans around the world. There isn’t one area I prefer or flavor profile I prefer. I just love the diversity of heirloom, high-quality cacao and it’s that vast diversity of flavor that makes craft chocolate so special. I like to jump around and try different chocolate depending on my mood and what I’m pairing it with.
For someone trying Ritual Chocolate for the first time, what chocolate would you give them to try?
I often ask someone new to our chocolate if they’ve had craft chocolate before or even like dark chocolate. It’s important to see where that particular person is on their chocolate journey. If they are milk chocolate lovers, I’ll start them with our 70% Mid Mountain Blend or 70% Fleur de Sel bar as they are both balanced and approachable in flavor. For someone more seasoned on the stronger craft chocolate flavors, I’ll point them in the direction of our single-origin bars as they have a bolder flavor. If I can catch someone in our cafe at our sample shelves, I’ll walk them through our different origins so they can really taste the different chocolates side by side. It’s really one of my favorite things to do.
Do you prefer a hot cup of coffee or chocolate in the morning?
I have to say, I always start the day with a cup of coffee and move over to tea in the afternoon, but if it’s a weekend sometimes I’ll indulge in a mocha or hot chocolate, especially if I’m going on a bike ride or skiing. Nothing beats a hot chocolate made with our chocolate after a long day of skiing.
How do you think craft chocolate can become more popular like Craft Beer or Specialty Coffee. Or is it there already?
There are so many similarities to craft beer, coffee, and craft chocolate. And like these other industries, you are changing someone’s palate and opinion on what is good chocolate. It takes time and education to get people thinking of chocolate as a fine food and a tasting experience, not a cheap snack. What’s exciting is seeing people truly take on that chocolate knowledge, develop their chocolate palates and have a passion to share their knowledge with friends and family. Whether it can get as large as craft beer and specialty coffee, I’m really not sure. One thing that beer and coffee has that chocolate doesn’t is that you can enjoy it in a social setting like a pub or coffee shop. That is one of the reasons we really wanted to open our cafe, is so our customers could come in and have a space to sample chocolate, buy a drinking chocolate and also see the chocolate being made. It helps people to feel connected to the process.
What does the future hold for Ritual Chocolates?
We have been in business now for almost 10 years and yet there is still so much we want to do and achieve. We want to grow our production and release more products. We are always trying to find ways to reach more people and get them excited about craft chocolate. The larger we get, the more we feel we can do to give our employees a good quality of life, build our community and give back. We started so small and have built Ritual very slowly and we are just at that tipping point where we feel we can make more of an impact as a company.
Photo Credit Ritual Chocolate
We want to thank Anna for taking the time to participate in our interview.
You can shop their entire collection on our online store.
To get started with craft chocolate, start with our Kekao Box. We search the world for the finest chocolate bars and bring them right to your doorstep monthly. From rich dark Peruvian chocolate bars to new start-up chocolate bars on the come up, you never know what you'll get inside the box! Each month we will curate 4 to 5 premium specialty crafted chocolate bars.
If you want to just try a couple of bars, check out our online chocolate store.
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