Location:
Eureka, California
Founded:
2010

Co-founder Dustin Taylor’s chocolate manufacturer combines industrial know-how and craftsmanship to make an exquisite product.

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.

Photos courtesy Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate

“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.

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