"Dustin and I have always been fascinated with hand crafting things," says Adam Dick. Adam and Dustin Taylor own and operate Dick Taylor chocolate in Arcata, a small city in northern California.
The first thing that will strike you about Dick Taylor is the packaging. Each wrapper is printed, two at a time with an AB Dick 350 duplicator offset press for the front image and an old Chandler and Price 10x15 that letterpresses the logo and bar origin. "We are real suckers for old machinery (all of our woodworking machines are also vintage) so it was almost an excuse to buy some cool old iron." The picture on the front of each bar, a lovely sketch of a boat skeleton in a shipyard, was done by Dustin's brother. And the bars themselves are so intricately molded that you'll almost feel bad eating them. Almost.
Adam and Dustin began working together in an area that sounds completely foreign to chocolate making: boat building. "There is something primal about working with cacao, which is not unlike working with wood," explains Adam. "I guess for us it was a natural progression."
"We do see chocolate making in a similar light. Boats in my mind elevate woodworking to a level of functional sculpture. While a boat is utilitarian, it also has an artistic element to it. Many early boats were built using the builders eye alone to determine the shape of the hull. As a chocolate maker we take raw beans and transform them into silky smooth chocolate bars, relying for the most part on our personal taste. I want our chocolate bars to have our fingerprint on them, though hopefully not literally. I want them to be distinctly ours, respecting our taste and style. Our style of chocolate making is equally as hands-on as working wood into a boat hull. We constantly shape, mold and coax our raw material. The transition for us between the two couldn't have been more natural in our eyes."
Dick Taylor produces bars with beans from around the world. "We try select beans that are unique and varied," says Adam. "If we get a sample that is similar to something we already use, we may pass or if it is better we can modify our product line. We tend toward chocolates with a present bitterness. Some very mild cacao does not do it for us. We also tend toward beans with an almost candy like quality to them. We also use organic cane sugar which lends toward an almost caramel flavor/aroma in our chocolate."
Dick Taylor is part of a quiet revolution in American chocolate making that has taken hold in the past decade. "One thing that is great about the American renaissance in chocolate making is you have so many makers with their own tastes," said Adam. "The chocolate they make is an extension of who they are and that flavors they like. Olive and Sinclair, Potomac Chocolate, Dandelion Chocolate, Mast Brothers, and Rogue Chocolatier, to name a few. I really like the idea of making chocolate to respect a regional flair like Olive and Sinclair does."
Like many of the other new American chocolate makers, Dick Taylor eschews adding vanilla or other flavorings to their single-origin dark chocolates, made with only cocoa and sugar. When additional flavors are used, it's a last-minute addition instead of a critical element to the chocolate flavor. Dick Taylor makes three flavored bars – Black Fig, Maple Coconut, and Feur de Sel.
"We are constantly faced with the challenge of scaling production without sacrificing quality. We also seem to have some type of mechanical problem with at least one of the machines at any given time. And tempering bars to our satisfaction is always a challenge. Despite all this, I think it is the challenges that make the work fun. To overcome some new hurdle makes the work interesting and rewarding."