Chokola Bean to Bar is a small-batch, organic, crafted, bean-to-bar chocolate maker in historic Taos, New Mexico.
(Where) at 7000ft the high desert meets the Sangre de Christo range of the Rocky Mountains.
So reads the promo material in print and on-line, that proprietors Javier and Deborah (Vincent) Abad Etxaniz have used to describe the incredible new shop (and bespoke chocolate maker) they recently opened on Juan Largo Lane.
Each hand-made bar of decadent deliciousness comes with this descriptive wording, along with an artist statement provided by the artist du jour whose work graces the packaging – currently (former Taos resident) Erin Currier. Deborah’s background in Art History has compelled the couple to support (New Mexico/Taos Artists) by featuring their work on their packaging.
The material goes on to inform us that “every morning, the pure Alpine air is laced with the rich aroma of our freshly roasted cacao beans, inviting Taosenos and visitors to our Chokola store (just off the plaza).” This is not an exaggeration. The heavenly smell greeted me as I turned the corner into Juan Largo Lane.
The day I visited, Javier was in the workspace at the back of this beautifully appointed shop, sorting and grinding cacao beans (Venezuelan) to make blocks of chocolate that would eventually be pressed into the bespoke bars sold in the store.
From San Sebastian – Basque country – in Spain, Javier and his wife Deborah (her father was from Taos, her mother is South American) are dedicated to educating people about the “Food of the Gods” and dispelling the notion that chocolate is mere candy.
Visiting Chokola is an education as well as a sensual delight. I was invited to taste various nibs (the bits of buttery raw cacao removed from their shells). The Venezuelan nibs taste like the chocolate we are most familiar with. Warm, deep and very chocolatey, while the beans from Peru have a complex fruity vibe and the Madagascar offering (my favourite) tastes faintly of apricots and honey.
Besides the house-made bars, Chokola makes delectable bon-bons, tiny pastries, mousse and hot chocolate (to go, or to sip/eat at the tables in or outside) from high-end, imported confectioners chocolate. The mousse (I tasted it too), is out of this world. Addictive even, so do be careful. Light as a feather on the tongue, but brings to mind the old dictum; a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.
That said, chocolate – especially chocolate of this quality – is loaded with antioxidants and magnesium and is very good for you. It’s the sugar that can be a problem and if so, go darker! Javier explained how sugar actually helps to bring out the flavour of the chocolate which is why they don’t go much darker than 72% Cacao. “It just becomes too bitter.” He says.
Mousse and bon bons aside, the emphasis at Chokola is definitely on the in-house production of the chocolate they make from the ethically sourced aforementioned beans. Run, don’t walk to this fabulous new addition to Taos’ artisanal community, and stock up on the hand-crafted bars. If you don’t eat them all yourself (not hard), they’ll make brilliant gifts to have on hand.
The store is located at 106b Juan Largo Lane, just off Taos Plaza.
Photographs by Bill Curry