Just in time for the holiday of hearts, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science is debuting an exhibit all about — you guessed it — chocolate. But that's not the only way to get local sweets; turns out a handful of purveyors specialize in superior confections made right in Colorado. Including the museum opening, here are six ways to get your Valentine's Day chocolate fix and learn about the product in the process.
1. Chocolate: The Exhibition at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science
2001 Colorado Boulevard
This Friday, February 12, the new display about the history of chocolate opens up. From the ancient Mayans to Aztecs teaching Europeans about cacao to the sweet treat we covet today, this interactive show covers everything you ever wanted to know about the ingredient. Some features include a life-sized cacao tree that you can explore, replicas of the vessels from which Mayans drank chocolate, a live-action Aztec market and tons of information about how chocolate became a common dessert food.
2. Cholaca Pure Liquid Cacao
You might have noticed the pure liquid chocolate called Cholaca popping up at coffee shops and in your grocery store. But even though this product seems new, Ira Leibtag founded the sustainable chocolate company in Boulder more than three years ago. His goal is to source beans straight from sustainable farms in Ecuador and Peru, a practice that not only results in superior cacao, but helps the people who grow the beans, as well. Cholaca offers three types of liquid chocolate: sweet, original and unsweetened. The first two contain only three ingredients each: processed cacao, water and coconut sugar; the sugar-free version has only the first two components. Plus, it's vegan and gluten-free — not that you can't add mixers, milk or liquor to give the already tasty treat another layer.
3. Dead Dog Chocolate
Okay, the name of Damaris Graves and Katelyn Fox's bean-to-bar company in Denver might not make you crave chocolate, but the variety and quality of the products will make you sit up and take notice. The two process cacao by hand-sorting, cracking, roasting, winnowing and stone-grinding the beans before tempering the end product for the perfect texture. But that's not all: They use every part of the bean, even the shells, which are utilized in their line of cacao-infused teas. Dead Dog Chocolate doesn't have a brick-and-mortar store, but you can find the company's goods at specialty shops around the city or on the Dead Dog website.
As for the name, it's a playful jab at how much their friend's dog loved trying to lick the chocolate off of them after work. Chocolate, while a treat for humans, is toxic to dogs. So while we recommend eating all the truffles, bars and nibs these ladies make, don't give your canine friends any handouts.
4. Fortuna Chocolate
Fortuna is the newest in Colorado's bean-to-bar craze and well worth a trip to Boulder to check out. Opened by Aldo Ramirez Carrasco, his wife, Sienna Trapp-Bowie, and her brother Spencer Bowie at the end of 2015, the team sells, creates and works out of an old mobile library truck they converted into a kitchen and tasting lab. Right now all of Fortuna's chocolate comes from three specific estates in Mexico. You can try a trio of the various beans, or go for a taste of a single bean done in three different roasts. So far, the company hasn't ventured outside of Boulder, but check Fortuna's website to find out where the truck will park next or at which event you will find the chocolate team.
5. Nova Chocolate
From jars of ganache to fresh truffles to solid bars of single-origin chocolate, Nova Chocolate in Layette sells quite a few great products for the bean-to-bar connoisseur. Andrew Starr has run the company since 2011 and sources beans from Nicaragua and Ecuador. Two of the bars showcase the terroir of those countries while a third blends the two regions. Starr recently rebranded, changing the name from Nova Monda to simply Nova. You can head to the production facility at 1455 Coal Creek Drive in Lafayette, order online or look for a specialty shop that carries the goods by using Nova's handy online map.
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6. Nuance Chocolate
In 2014, Toby and Alix Gadd opened Nuance after visiting a chocolate museum in Costa Rica. The joy of sampling, dissecting and picking out flavors inspired the couple to start their own project in Fort Collins, and now they produce small batches of single-origin bars, brewing chocolate and hand-rolled truffles. Beans are sourced from sustainable farms all around the world, with the names of the countries prominently displayed on the single-origin bars. Visit the quaint cafe at 214 Pine Street in Old Town Fort Collins for your chocolate fix; the company is also working on an online ordering system, but for now you can call the shop to place mail orders.