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I’ve started a new page on Time To Eat Chocolate with a focus on local chocolate makers, chocolatiers and shops in the metro Washington, D.C. area. I want to bring attention to what this small part of the United States has to offer, whether you are visiting or you live here and don’t know where to get your chocolate fix. I’ve tried Salazon a few times before, but this time I wanted to re-sample their chocolate with the intention of getting to know them a little more.

Salazon is based out of Maryland, and the company was born out of an idea during a hiking trip. Salazon is known for and specializes in dark chocolate with sea salt bars, but within the past year I’ve been noticing more of their bars featuring products from local businesses, such as Green Hat Gin, Michele’s Granola and Flying Dog Brewery. Because I wanted to learn more about the story behind Salazon, I reached out to them to ask a few questions about the company. (A very big thanks to Tom Barnes for answering these questions!)

 

Who started the idea of Salazon?

Pete Truby was inspired to start the company in 2009 during an extended backpacking trip in Utah. Chocolate is a staple food among hikers and salty and sweet go together. In addition, lots of exercise calls for salty snacks. That’s why Gatorade has sodium in it, why a lot of energy bars have salt. So Pete saw a simple idea here. Why isn’t there just a dark chocolate bar with sea salt? It seemed simple. So he looked and looked, but didn’t find it. Then the wheels started really turning…

Did the founder(s) of Salazon have any experience with making chocolate beforehand? What challenges were faced when they first started making the signature sea salt bars?

Pete did not have any prior experience with chocolate before founding the company. However, he did have substantial experience in the food industry, having worked for a number of notable natural food startups, including Honest Tea. Pete thought he knew the food industry well, but it turned out he really didn’t. He knew parts of it, but when you start something from scratch, you have to know all of it. He was familiar with sales and distribution but didn’t know anywhere near what he needed to about manufacturing: how much to make, how to get it labeled, how to get a UPC, figuring out what needs to be on the nutrition label. All those little things were hurdles he had to figure out on my own. For the chocolate part, he had tons to learn. He didn’t know anything about the beans. Pete knew what he wanted but didn’t know how to get there. He visited cocoa farms in the Dominican Republic and talked to a lot of people there. He worked in their laboratory. It was only a three-day trip, but that is really what launched the company. Ever since then, Pete’s thrown himself headlong into the study of all things chocolate.

I really like that Salazon has a deep connection with nature. I see pictures on Instagram about going hiking or camping and bringing some Salazon chocolate along. The website simplifies the story of how Salazon came about during a hiking trip, but how did the name Salazon come about?

Salazon Chocolate Co. is the original salted chocolate and Salazon means salting/salted in Spanish. The origin of our cacao is the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic. So the name Salazon pays tribute to both the single-origin sourcing of the cacao and the fact that every bar is salted.

Was there a reason why Salazon chose Dominican Republic as the source of their cocoa beans?

Quality, distinctiveness, proximity, and Fair Trade/Organic status. Our Dominican Republic supplier (CONACADO) is meticulous about the fermentation process, and that’s where all the magic happens. Also, Hispaniola chocolate is immediately recognizable with a very unique flavor profile: “fruit-forward with notes of stone fruit, fig, subtle tobacco, and deep red wine. Balanced sweetness with low bitterness and a long, creamy finish.” (that description is meant to be specific to our chocolate, not all Dominican chocolate)

Where does the solar-evaporated salt used for the bars come from?

The coast of Brazil. Starting in Nov 2016, we will also begin using sea salt locally harvested in West Virginia from J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works: “A 7th generation salt-making family harvests an all-natural salt by hand, from an ancient ocean trapped below the Appalachian Mountains of the Kanawha Valley in West Virginia.”

I am very excited to try the new pumpkin beer bar that Salazon made with Flying Dog! I’ve tried the Green Hat Gin sugar infused bar as well. Does Salazon plan on working in the future with other local breweries or farms to produce new flavor combinations?

Yes! Our focus is local partnerships and we have many more planned for 2017. We plan to launch a new partner-bar for every season of the year, including more beer bars!

Are there any other news or upcoming events that Salazon might want to share about?

Just keep an eye out for our holiday bars, which will be released in Nov:
· 72% Organic Dark Chocolate w/ Sea Salt & Candy Canes (made with TruJoy Sweets Organic Crushed Candy Cane)
· 57% Organic Dark Chocolate w/ Sea Salt & Gingerbread (made with Shasha Bread Co. Organic Ginger Snaps)

 

I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the new holiday bars! I’m especially excited for gingerbread flavors in chocolate. It’s wonderful to hear about chocolate makers partnering with other local companies. I had never heard about Green Hat Gin before until I tried Salazon’s sugar infused bar, and I had heard of Flying Dog Brewery, but I never went out of my way to try them. Because of these partnerships, I’m more likely to check out other the companies Salazon has worked with.

Now it’s time to sample some chocolate! Normally I would have chosen Salazon’s coffee bar, as that has become a huge personal favorite, but this time I wanted to try other flavors I hadn’t had before.

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All of the bars have a picture of a map on them. It’s a very unique and detailed mold that I haven’t seen on any other bar.

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Why haven’t I tried Salazon’s original bar of dark chocolate and sea salt? I think I’ve gotten distracted by their other combination bars. The chocolate smells a little sweet and salty. With the salt side down on my tongue, I was able to taste the sea salt first, which seemed fine in texture and light in salt flavor. The chocolate itself was sweet and a little fruity. The fruity notes remained until the very end where there was a touch of astringency. I like dark chocolate that has fruity notes, and with the fine sea salt, I enjoyed this bar. I can see how Pete Truby sees this as being a great hiking snack.

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On the inclusion side of the bar I could clearly see large sugar crystals. The chocolate had an earthy-like sugar scent to it, as though I were smelling cane sugar. With the inclusion side down on my tongue, the salty flavor was stronger than in the original bar. Maybe the sweetness of the sugar is bringing out the salt’s flavor more. There was pleasant crunchy texture from the salt and sugar. The chocolate seemed sweeter due to the turbinado sugar as well. The sugary taste remained in my mouth until the very end. If someone doesn’t like dark chocolate but is venturing their taste buds into the world of dark chocolate, this might be a good sweeter option for them during the transition.

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This chocolate had a slightly nutty scent despite the fact that I couldn’t see any almonds on the inclusion side. The chocolate had an earthier and nutty flavor to it. The almonds were probably in much smaller pieces than I’m used to because there was a light crunchy texture to the bar, but otherwise if it weren’t the the background nutty flavor, I wouldn’t have really noticed them much. My boyfriend said he liked this bar the most out of other almond bars because he felt like large chunks of almonds make the bar harder to eat. I like it both ways 🙂 Salazon might be the first almond bar I’ve tried where the nut pieces are this small!

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I could smell both the coconut and salt in this bar. With the inclusion side down, I first tasted the salt soon followed by the tropical fruity flavor of the coconut. The coconut also lent a light crunchy texture to the bar, and its flavor grew in strength as my bite melted. It’s a good combination, and the salt lent another layer of flavor rather than if the coconut were alone in the chocolate. The chocolate turned a bit astringent at the end and my mouth was full of chewy coconut pieces, but the astringency wasn’t overwhelming.

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Of course, I’ve saved the seasonal bar for last! The pumpkin spice scent was very obvious with this bar. I first tasted a hint of sea salt immediately followed by pumpkin spice fand hops. I couldn’t taste the chocolate itself until the very end because the pumpkin spice and hops flavors were very strong, but as a lover of all things pumpkin, I didn’t mind. I’ve already had coworkers try this bar. At first they were skeptical of pumpkin beer in chocolate, but the majority of them were familiar with Flying Dog Brewery and ended up liking the bar!

When I think of Maryland-based chocolate companies, I immediately think of Salazon, probably because their coffee and sea salt bar remains as one of my favorites for grab-and-go chocolate. Though I enjoyed all of the bars here, I’m thinking I’ll grab more of their turbinado sugar bar next time I’m at Whole Foods because I really liked the texture. I also like that Salazon partners with local businesses to create unique combinations for their chocolate. I had never heard of Green Hat Gin and Michele’s Granola until I tried their products in Salazon’s bars. I’m looking forward to the upcoming holiday bars and seeing who else Salazon might parter with next!

Salazon: Made in Eldersburg, MD