Absinthe-infused chocolate. Yes, that exists and you want it. The Animas Chocolate Co., 2800 Main Ave., makes the wormwood delight, along with peanut butter fudge, lavender chocolates, spicy hot cocoa, chocolate-covered potato chips, Cowboy Coffee Truffles, and many other dark to milky-melty delicacies.
Animas Chocolate Co. is at the north end of Durango. When you walk in, there’s a counter to your left to sit and watch the on-site chocolate creation. You can peruse classic to adventurous chocolates in the main room, and to the right, there’s a cozy coffee and cocoa bar featuring even more confections.
DGO spoke to Carley Snider, co-owner and head chocolatier of Animas Chocolate Co., about the passion and complexity of running a chocolate biz.
How’d you get into the business of chocolate? I used to work up at Tall Timber Resort. Now, it’s known as Soaring Tree Top Adventures. It’s halfway between Durango and Silverton. You have to take the train to get there. I started working there out of college, a week after I graduated.
When I was working up there, I found this old, worn leather recipe book that had chocolate recipes in it. It was from the early 1900s. It was what inspired me to delve deeper into chocolate.
A few years later, I met my husband Marc, the other owner, and we decided to start a business with chocolate ... We started super small with four chocolate bars and four truffles and now we have over 50 products.
Where did the shop’s name come from?We named the shop Animas Chocolate Co. because I found that book near the Animas River up in Tall Timber.
When we made this place we thought, “What will be our tag line?” and the Animas River is the River of Lost Souls ... We loosely translate that into “Lose your soul to chocolate.”
What’s this I heard about rating the chocolates? We like to have a calm to adventurous chocolate section. We rate all of our chocolates by river rapid ratings.
Class one would be like a milk chocolate. Class three is more like a chili chocolate. Class five would be an absinthe-infused chocolate.
What’s your personal favorite chocolate treat in here? I would say the Bolivian Highline Bar. It’s our bean to bar chocolate. It’s earthy and deep and a little bite of it goes a long way.
How do you select your cocoa beans? We have two sections here. One is in-house where we do bean-to-bar chocolate with two styles of bars. One from Belizean beans and one from Bolivian beans.
The other section is couverture chocolate and that’s made with processed chocolate ... We use a Belgian chocolate for most of our truffles and other products.
As we get a bigger capacity, we’ll start doing more bean-to-bar chocolate. The equipment for that is quite large so we don’t quite have the space for that here.
We’ve actually been to the farm in Belize. It’s really cool. It’s called Maya Mountain Cacao. The farm in Bolivia is sourced from the same company that provides the beans from Belize. It’s a distributing company that goes and picks out the farmers and beans and most of it is organic, most of it is fair trade, and it’s all super small farms.
Ethics sound like they come into consideration fairly often with sourcing your business.We try to consider the ethics not just of our chocolate, but of all of our products. We source organic sugar and organic cream. You have to look at it as the whole picture of your business. We get all of our packaging local. It’s not just the chocolate.
If there was one place in the world you’d go for chocolate tourism, where would it be? This may sound a little weird, but I would do a chocolate maker tour of the U.S. because there’s this American craft chocolate movement. More and more craft chocolatiers are making a ton of great chocolate in the U.S., in very small companies. There’s a lot of new places popping up and it’d be fun to do a road trip and visit all these little shops to see what they’re doing and get ideas and brainstorm.
What would you tell people on their own chocolate tour to get them to come to Animas Chocolate Company?We carry a little bit different products than the average chocolate shop. We make all of our different confections in-house. We don’t bring in other people’s truffles or bars. We make them here.
You can come in, have a hot chocolate, and see what we’re doing, how we make the chocolate, and Marc and I are always around to chat about chocolate. It’s one of the things we love to do.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.Patty TempletonDGO Staff Writer