Since the beginning of Ritual in 2010, we’ve believed in the concept of creating a “food worth talking about”. What we mean by this is that each chocolate bar we make has a story behind it, whether it's the concept, the process or the ingredients.
Take our Belize Bar for example. Uncommon Cacao, the organization that founded Maya Mountain Cacao, has been working hard for more than a decade to create the infrastructure for a sustainable cacao source. When you open up our Belize bar, you’re tasting a decade-worth of effort just to create a sustainable, consistent and very tasty cacao. And in reality, the story doesn’t even start just a decade ago—the story of cacao in the Maya Mountain region goes back a millenia.
There’s over a thousand-year relationship between cacao and the indigenous Mayan people. Cacao was significant in spiritual celebrations surrounding the life cycle, seeds used in coming-of-age ceremonies, chocolate drinks made for fertility and cacao being a part of burial rites. Cacao was an intimate part of festivities and religious practices tying the Mayan people to the land. The long history of cacao ethnobotany (the relationship between people and plants) is the origin of current cacao traditions in Belize and the cacao grown there.
Before MMC was founded, the cocoa industry in Belize was pretty stagnant. It had it’s boom in the 1970s when Hershey decided to invest in planting trinitario cacao from Trinidad and attempting to increase production. The history of Belize’s relationship to cacao & the modern exploitative cacao industry got Emily Stone, the founder of MMC, interested in creating a cacao origin based on greater income for farmers and sustainable growing practices. This intricate narrative, the work done by Maya Mountain Cacao, and our work at Ritual to make chocolate crafted using old world European equipment all go into the flavors, nuances & stories surrounding the Ritual Belize Bar.
We want to eat food with a story. We love knowing where it comes from, hearing about the care in growing the produce and preparing the perfect meal. This narrative is often lacking in chocolate, and that’s a shame. Much like knowing that the vegetables used in your meal were grown locally, or the special slice of beef is sourced from a cattle ranch down the road, connecting a story with chocolate gives richness to the dining experience. Fine chocolate is a food to be savored & discussed, as you would do with a bottle of wine—the nuances of flavors, the variety of cacao, terroir, fermentation and drying techniques all give depth to the tasting experience.
Food is a bond, a way to strengthen friendships, tell stories, and appreciate the joy of connection to each other and the earth. The adventures surrounding it, the people you share it with, and the stories you talk about around the meal are what we like to celebrate. The ritual of savoring good food with good people.
For me, sharing food with friends in the dark winter months becomes an adventure in itself. My cabin above Park City is snowed in, so visiting friends have to either ski an hour in or be picked up via snowmobile. With boots piled near the door, the fire lit, and dinner served, my friends and I start recounting our latest excursions. Maybe it’s the day skiing a perfect section of untouched snow, a tense run-in with a moose, or seeing evidence of avalanche activity. Ideally I’ve got a wine I can talk about (like this riesling from Idaho that’s actually pretty good). I’ll share about the dinner itself, the recipe from a friend who’s a serious character and foodie—and who doesn’t love to hear about someone interesting? Finally we pass some chocolate around and inevitably there’s questions, like: Why is it fruity? What makes it taste this way? There’s always a story to tell about each bar.
Humans are storytellers by nature. It’s part of our makeup, our heritage. Being able to share about your food is a huge part of the enjoyment. Next time you’re shopping, think about what you’re buying—if there’s something special about it. I promise that knowing and appreciating the food you share makes for a much more interesting and fulfilling experience.