By Megan Michelson | Photograph Sandra Salvas
Robbie Stout spent his post-college years road racing and mountain biking at an elite level, while also writing for Boulder’s VeloNews. At one point in his reporting, he covered a new breed of boutique coffee roasters marketing themselves to cyclists. Shortly thereafter, a bike crash shattered his foot and left him sidelined for months. That’s when Stout and girlfriend Anna Davies started brainstorming. The pair initially envisioned Cocoa Velo, a cycling-branded chocolate bar. But they quickly ditched the biking slant. “We didn’t want to confuse customers by mixing it up with cycling,” says Stout. Eventually, they settled on the name Ritual Chocolate, a nod to the ancient role of cocoa in Mayan and Aztec culture.
“In the 1900s, food got dumbed down—it was all about mass market, mass quantity, low grade,” says Stout. “Ritual references a time when chocolate was this revered food—where you get high-quality beans, process it minimally, and retain its natural flavor.”
The pair traveled to Costa Rica to source cocoa beans and then settled in at an already-established chocolate factory in Denver. Slowly, stores throughout the country, including Whole Foods, bought in. At first it took some explaining: “We were trying to sell a two-ounce chocolate bar for $9 because of our ingredient costs,” says Stout, now 31. “People thought we were crazy.” Today, a slightly bigger bar of Ritual Chocolate—made of single-source cocoa beans from places like Madagascar, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela—costs between $8 and $11.
Last year, the couple relocated the business to Stout’s hometown of Park City, Utah. There, they built a custom chocolate-making facility, complete with 100-year-old cast iron equipment and an attached cafe that sells a rotating selection of chocolate-filled pastries, as well as luxurious hot chocolate that’s sweet, but not overly so.
“Every time you eat an inferior piece of chocolate, you miss the chance to eat a good one,” says Stout, who still rides his bike whenever he’s not working. “It’s important not to compromise your own enjoyment.” ritualchocolate.com
From our High Summer 2016 issue.