Chocolate Purveyors 26- Art Pollard
Chocolate Purveyors is a blog series where we connect and discuss everything chocolate with both makers and enthusiasts. This discussion is with Art Pollard, Founder/Chocolate Maker of Amano Chocolate.
Amano Artisan Chocolate is a small-batch craft chocolate maker based in Orem, Utah. Amano is an award-winning maker, they make all their chocolate on vintage equipment. Their small batch process allows Amano to control and observe flavour development, making each batch of chocolate not only delicious but unique.
Do you remember your first experience with chocolate? What was it?
The first time I really had really great quality chocolate was on my honeymoon in 1996. There was a store in the Hilton Hawai'ian Village in Honolulu and we went in and they had the most beautiful bon-bons. They all looked like gems in the display cases. Today, this is a lot more common. But in 1996, most confections were hand dipped, nut clusters, etc. You really didn't see things to eat that were that beautiful very frequently. We didn't have much money on my honeymoon (we had less than $500 at the time) and so buying several pieces was an investment.
I asked if there were any that were about to expire that I could get at a discount. The lady behind the counter explained to me that all their chocolate that expired was shipped back to Belgium in order for them to get credit. I was impressed. They were serious. I bought a few pieces and it was life changing.
I'm told by friends who knew that company that what we produce now far exceeds what I was tasting then in terms of quality. But at the time, it really opened my eyes as to what was possible with chocolate. Ever since, I've been chasing the highest level of perfection that I can in my own work. Sometimes I make it and everything comes together and it is my hope that what we produce will have a similar effect on others.
What is your favourite terroir to work with?
My two favorite beans to work with are Dominican and Venezuelan. I have an amazing relationship with the Dominican farmer's group that we work with so we are able to get beans that are extremely special. Some, we had to negotiate for as many as seven years for. The flavors of the Dominican beans are truly amazing. I also love Venezuelan beans. They have an amazing character that you find nowhere else in the world. Some (like Chuao) are very difficult to work with which is why there are some really bad Chuao's on the market. But, when you can get Chuao to sing, it really sings.
For someone trying an Amano chocolate bar for the first time, what chocolate bar would you give them to try?
You certainly can't try just one of our bars. I'd most definitely try our Macoris and Dos Rios. The cocoa that both are made from comes from the same farmers group in the Dominican Republic. However, they both taste immensely different despite the only differences being which farms they come from and how they are fermented, and roasted.
How did you get into making chocolate?
I was always a diehard foodie. But my background was the hard sciences. I made an off-hand comment that it would be great to make my own chocolate to my co-workers at the physics department at BYU where I was a student at the time. They all said it was too hard. Usually, when someone tells me it is too hard, that just tells me that it is interesting. I started pursuing it that same day.
How would you describe your chocolate making techniques, European, American, or a hybrid?
I've never really thought about it in those terms. I've always sought to make the world's best quality chocolate and one without compromise. After that, I make it how I enjoy it.
What chocolate are you eating from other makers these days?
To be honest, I really only eat my own unless I'm given treats from my friends. I make our chocolate to be how I like it. I also don't like the idea that by tasting other people's creations that it might tempt me into trying to create what they have created. When I taste a bean, I really want to look at it with a clean slate rather than through preconceived ideas.
Amano is known as the first recognized chocolate maker from the USA, how have you seen craft chocolate grow since your start.
It's been amazing seeing how much of the industry has popped up since we started. Quite a few of the other chocolate makers have told me that it was Amano's chocolate that started them on their chocolate journey. It has been a bit humbling to be put in that position. We just try to do the best that we can every day. Hopefully, through all our collective efforts the world of chocolate will transform to one of even greater artistry and creativity and where the farmers will receive even better recognition than they do today.
How can we all help promote craft chocolate?
You do have to be a bit careful as so many people have jumped into the Craft Chocolate movement that often they are starting their business before they have honed their craft which can hurt the Craft Chocolate movement (and their brand) significantly. The number one thing we can all do is to find the best chocolate makers and then to share their chocolate with our friends. Really good quality chocolate can be a life changing experience making it almost impossible to ever go back to the old stuff.
How has your physics background helped you in making chocolate?
Yes, my physics background has been an immense help. I grew up reading the top journals and working on nuclear reactors. (Literally, I was working on fusion nuclear reactors by the time I was a freshman in high school. You'd never get away with it now but the professors at two universities loved the additional assistance and that I knew enough that I could troubleshoot a lot of the problems. The grad students had better theoretical knowledge but I was lucky to have a very strong intuitive sense of what was happening and could picture in my head how things worked. I've been able to bring all this to bare with chocolate and a good part of my time is either fixing or designing machines.
What is the inspiration behind the packaging designs?
I try to tie all of our packing designs back to the farmers or place where the cocoa comes from. I do quite a bit of photography so many of the package designs are based on photographs of places that I've been and photographs that I've taken. Since they are paintings, this has allowed us to use several different ideas in the same image that would have been very difficult to do with photography. So hopefully, the images on the front of the packaging gives a real sense as to the origins of the cocoa. After all, we can make really great chocolate here but, we wouldn't be able to do what we do without the help of our farmers.
What does the future hold for Amano Chocolate?
World domination -- through fine chocolate. Seriously, we just want to grow the company in a smart ethical manner and to make the finest quality chocolate possible. A chocolate without compromise -- because we never compromised.
We want to thank Art for taking the time to answer our questions and the Amano team for organizing it. We hope you learned more about Art and Amano Chocolate.
You can purchase their other bars directly at 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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