Dick Taylor’s Romance with Chocolate
Take two carpenters with a ken for craft, add the finest cacao and cane sugar available and a laundry room in which to experiment, and you have the beginning of Dick Taylor Chocolate.
But how did two woodworking artisans go from making cabinetry and restoring boats to making chocolate?
“We really loved carpentry, but like a lot of young carpenters, we were working predominantly under the table while working in residential construction by day,” says chocolate maker Adam Dick. “Once we started having families and looking long term, we realized we didn’t want to be contractors with broken bodies; we wanted to
Seeing an opportunity to transfer skills, Dick and partner Dustin Taylor began researching what American chocolate makers were doing after a friend made the suggestion.
“We were love struck by the romance of it all—working with the raw and earthy cocoa beans and the machinery to turn the beans into chocolate,” says Dick. “Some saw it as a leap, but in our minds it’s not unlike carpentry, where you take a raw ingredient (wood) and turn it into something finely crafted in the end.“
Located in Arcata, Dick Taylor Chocolate is one of fewer than 50 craft chocolate makers in the United States. “This is not your assembly-line chocolate,” says Dick. “We’re producing largely by hand in a small batch style rather than a continuous process style.”
Bean quality is key for chocolates using only cacao and cane sugar. “Because we only have those two ingredients, there’s nothing to mask a poor flavor in the bean,” says Dick. “To produce a chocolate that is unique and delicious with a lot of character and flavor nuances, we are required to use the finest flavor-grade beans we can find.”
The company has put Belizean cacao beans on the map. Last year it won a bronze award at the Northwest Chocolate Festival for its 72 percent Belize, Toledo bar.
“It’s the first time a bean from Belize has won an international chocolate competition,” says Dick. “Just prior to Thanksgiving, that same bar was announced as a Finalist in the 2014 Good Food Awards.”
Dick and Taylor use a precise methodology to create their chocolate. Before roasting, they hand-sort the beans and assign a unique roast profile to each bean type, which Dick says is a first critical step in flavor development. Unlike coffee beans, cacao beans are roasted at lower temperatures for longer periods of time.
The outside husk is winnowed away using an air flow process that preserves the heavier nib (containing cacao butter), which is ground into a smooth chocolate paste called liquor.
The chocolate makers weigh the sugar and liquor to determine the final ratio for a particular bar. “We mill the chocolate to reduce the sugar crystals so when eating there’s no residual ‘gritty’ feeling in the mouth,” says Dick.
Once the chocolate is smooth, a final flavor development stage referred to as conching moderates acidity and any tannic or astringent flavors.
“This involves aggressive kneading of the chocolate,” says Dick.
“The process helps to take off the peaks and fill in the valleys for a smooth and uniform flavor.”
Finally, the chocolate is tempered and molded before being packaged and distributed to specialty locations around the world, including Amsterdam, Belgium and the United Kingdom.
Although Dick Taylor Chocolate manufactures mostly single-origin dark specialty chocolate bars, coconut, figs and sea salt are added to some. Valentine’s Day specialty items include truffles, bourbon-infused chocolate figs, honey-vanilla caramels and single-origin drinking chocolate.
The two craftsmen have immortalized their love of shipbuilding and its history in Northern California onto the wrapper enfolding every bar.
“Many of the ships that sailed the coast—particularly the lumber schooners—were built on Humboldt Bay,” says Dick. “The wrapper speaks to our early love of carpentry. To build a three-dimensional boat is a pinnacle of craftsmanship and skill.”
Many would say the same about making an exquisite bar of chocolate.
Enjoy The Store carries a selection from Dick Taylor Chocolate.