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Chocolate Makers that Rock

Our 1:1 with an American Craftsman: Potomac

Every month we work with different craft chocolate makers. Along with tasting lots of their chocolate, we like to learn a little bit more about how they got started on their adventure. American craftsmanship is the future of our economy. This is a story about discovery and pursuit.

Ben Rasmussen, founder of Potomac Chocolate, began as a skeptic of dark chocolate.It wasn’t until family members introduced him to it that he quickly converted.

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Fresh chocolate being poured into molds

What inspired you to create Potomac Chocolate?

I guess it’s pretty obvious, but I was completely wrong. :) The first bar we tried was Manjari 64% from the French company Valrhona, and it was unlike any chocolate I had ever tasted before.

Incredibly smooth with these great citrus notes. Over the next hour or so, we tried about 10 different bars from different makers: Amano’s Dos Rios and Madagascar bars, Domori Java Blond and Arriba, Patric Rio Caribe, and Amedei’s Toscano Brown and Chuao bars, as well as a couple other Valrhonas if I remember correctly. I was blown away by the incredible differences in flavor as I tried each of these bars: spices, various fruits, earthy notes, tobacco, nuttiness, etc. I never knew chocolate could taste this way and that there so much variety was possible.

I just fell in love with it and started learning more, tasting lots of bars, and then started doing tastings for some friends. At one of these tastings, a friend said we should try making it. I thought it was basically a preposterous idea, but started looking around and decided it was worth trying. We got a used melangeur, some beans and started messing around with it in my kitchen. From that humble beginning, Potomac Chocolate was born.

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Ben in action with a chocolate melangeur aka chocolate grinder

What is your favorite part about creating craft chocolate?

I enjoy the whole process from bean to bar (except maybe sorting the beans). I love roasting the beans and watching (and smelling!) the nibs be transformed into chocolate liquor by the melangeur.

On a different note, I really, really enjoy figuring out how to improve my chocolate. I am constantly researching chocolate, reading (and re-reading) everything I can find on cacao, chocolate and the chocolate-making process, tweaking my process and trying new processes to try to improve my chocolate. Sometimes, this is through learning more about chocolate itself, and how I can change my process to take better advantage of the equipment I currently have. Sometimes, this is through acquiring or building a new piece of equipment.

One of my other favorite parts is sharing my chocolate with others—especially those who have never tried craft chocolate before. I love that moment when someone tries my chocolate and says something to the effect of “I never knew chocolate could taste like this,” and realizes that there’s a whole ‘nother world of chocolate out there that they’ve never experienced.

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Ben’s journey led him to create a wonderful line of chocolate bars

What makes your chocolate unique?

What flavor of Potomac represents you the most, and why?

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Standard Cocoa featured Potomac Chocolate during October, 2013

If you enjoyed this post and found Ben’s journey of building his chocolate brand interesting, it would mean a lot to us if you shared it via Twitter and recommended it here on Medium. @standardcocoa @PotomacChoco

Written by

Citizen of the world. Dreamer. Co-founder @standardcocoa. Chocolate is my passion.

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