Cacao ‘food of the gods’
June 8, 2012
Dana Brewster held out the cacao fruit as she pointed to the individual beans inside, explaining that inside each little bean was pure chocolate. She smiled, her personal love affair with chocolate bubbling to the surface as she walked through the technical steps of the chocolate-making business.
Brewster and her husband Mark DelBecchio started their gourmet chocolate business, Millcreek Cacao, using the little beans she’d pointed to, beans imported to their workshop in downtown Salt Lake City all the way from Ecuador.
The couple live and sell their high-end dark chocolates in Park City, but produce the chocolate next to Brewster’s coffee shop in Salt Lake City, a business she has run for two decades.
"It’s the food of the gods," Brewster said, all seriousness.
"I like how things work," she added, "how things go from one thing to another, how they evolve. It’s the same with coffee. I had to take what I knew about coffee and implement it with chocolate. I’ve compared our process to alchemy, and it’s really been about refining this process of turning one thing into another."
Millcreek Cacao has even become a staple in a number of Park City area restaurants, chefs selecting the locally-sourced ingredient to use in desserts.
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Self-promoted as a farm-to-bar production, the two owners may seem like a small business, but that’s part of why they believe the business is working.
"Everything is hand-wrapped, hand-boxed and hand-labeled," Brewster said.
" And hand-eaten," her husband, DelBecchio added.
The cacao, or cocoa as it is referred to in the United States, came from Brewster and DelBecchio’s travels. On a trip to find the perfect bean, they came across a farmer using the traditional cacao plant rather than the emerging genetically-altered version. Brewster and DelBecchio spent time with the Ecuadorian farmer, picking up techniques and tricks for their own recipes.
"When you come down to it, chocolate is a recipe," DelBecchio said. "And there are a lot of different recipes. How long do you roast? How big of a batch? How much do you use chocolate nib in comparison to sugar? We experimented. So much of it has been about experimentation."
The two work in tandem, prepping the roaster for another batch of beans or carefully pouring the final product into its mold. Like any other recipe in fact, similar to making coffee they follow the steps. First, roast the hand-selected beans. Then, crack and winnow, a process that removes the bean shell from the ‘nib,’ or pure cacao. Follow that by pulverizing the nib into a ground powder, and then mix together with the cocoa butter and sugar. After mixing for several hours, the chocolate mixture is then tempered and finally poured into a bar shape.
For every ounce of chocolate made, 35 beans are needed to create it, a total of 200 pounds of beans are used in a given day.
Despite the bars gaining some attention at the local level, Brewster and DelBecchio agreed, the business should keep its artisan roots.
"It’s a specialty product," Brewster said. "We’re not out to do huge volumes. I do see it growing. In fact, its growing pretty quickly, but we want to maintain that beauty of the product. It needs to be savored and enjoyed and made with love."
435-513-1769 651 South Main Street Salt Lake City, Utah
Millcreek Cacao can be purchased at:
Atticus Coffee, Books and Teahouse
738 Main Street Deer Valley Resort Grocery and Deli
2250 Deer Valley Dr. La Niche
401 Main Street The Market at Park City
1500 Snow Creek Drive