By Gregory Daurer | Dec 02, 2022
Taylor describes his chocolate manufacturing company's method as "an old-style, highly-processed way of chocolate-making."
Now, when Taylor says "highly-processed," he doesn't mean that in the sense of "making American cheese or some funky food." Rather, Taylor explains, it consists of adding a few additional steps not taken by most other craft chocolate makers in order "to process that chocolate in the most efficient way to make that cocoa bean really shine through." For instance, he'll regale a listener with insider technical details about how the company is one of the few "creating dry flake," which ultimately leads to "better flow properties."
Those steps definitely result in what Taylor describes as a "very creamy, smooth texture." Melt-in-your-mouth chocolate, in fact, which brings out -- as described on the bars' respective packaging -- flavor notes of molasses, orange, raisins, and toast in the company's Madagascar Sambirano dark chocolate, as well as dried plum, tart cherry, and jasmine within the Belize Toledo dark chocolate. Those are made solely with cacao and sugar -- no cocoa butter added. Additionally, the company makes one bar that includes California black mission figs, another with peanut butter powder, and one with ginger snaps and milk chocolate.
When Taylor and business partner Adam Dick began their company, they were, by Taylor's reckoning, among the first dozen or so craft chocolate makers in the country. But what differentiated them from other players was their backgrounds: they weren't coming at chocolate-making after having started as chefs or after having traveled to exotic locales which exposed them to cacao at the source. Rather, both had worked as carpenters, and their hands-on love of woodworking and boatbuilding meant they were extremely comfortable with machinery. They decided not to reinvent the wheel when it came to craft chocolate-making for a new age, but rather to do things by-the-book: Beckett's Industrial Chocolate Manufacture and Use, that is.
This year, the company will wind up processing over 35 metric tons of cacao into chocolate. Presently, it's all made within the company's 7,000-square-foot facility in Eureka. But Taylor hopes to be working out of the company's new building -- 15,000 square feet of space on Eureka's waterfront -- by early 2023. That building will also contain a retail area doubling as a community gathering space. "The whole town is just so excited for this move," says Taylor, who describes "a very robust food culture" in Eureka, as well as several nearby distilleries and breweries. Taylor hopes to do chocolate pairings, once again, with those kinds of businesses.
Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate has received robust praise from the national press, such as the New York Times singling out its Belize chocolate bar in 2015 and drinking chocolate in 2020. And the company has also won scores of awards, including from the Good Food Foundation, the Specialty Food Association, the Academy of Chocolate, and at the Northwest Chocolate Festival (at which the partners have networked with cacao suppliers and other manufacturers). Distribution occurs throughout the United States as well as Canada and Asia. "It's made its way around to different stores around the world," says Taylor about his company's chocolate. One store carrying the company's bars, Caputo's in Salt Lake City, has gone as far as saying in a complimentary fashion "Dick Taylor is chocolate's Led Zeppelin."
But if there are those who consider Led Zeppelin dinosaur rock, these days, Taylor acknowledges there are some in the chocolate world who perceive Dick Taylor similarly -- that the company is perhaps overly-corporate, and that the owners are far removed from the dirty work. Taylor wants to disabuse people of that notion.
"We could do a better job telling the story of just how really hands-on both Adam and I are in the chocolate-making process," admits Taylor. "And how craft and small-time this process still is, even though we're considered one of the larger of the craft chocolate makers. We really value craftsmanship." (That was in evidence from the company's beginnings, in terms of even its packaging, utilizing the company's own letterpress printer, and the ornate imprinting left by the molds on its chocolate bars.)
Taylor says his partner sources all the cacao, takes charge of flavor development, does roasting and grinding, and tastes every batch of chocolate, while, likewise, Taylor seeks improvements to the processes he undertakes within the chocolate-making process, does his part to restore machinery, and has even been building furniture for the company's new space.
"We're not sitting back in an office," Taylor concludes about their continued passion. "We're actually dirty and our backs hurt -- and we're making chocolate."
Challenges: Relocating to its new facility. "This move has been on the horizon for four years now. We knew we were gonna have to move out of our current facility, there's no room to grow," says Taylor. The move will allow them to invest more capital into "efficient manufacturing processes."
Opportunities: Providing a community gathering place at its upcoming new facility. Taylor says, "All of a sudden, we'll get back into doing tours and doing tastings and pairing events, and all that kind of stuff that we've had to put on pause because of COVID."
Needs: "More efficient means of making chocolate," says Taylor, who mentions eventually adding conveyor belts to move cacao beans within the facility.