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Bean to Bar: Nicole Trutanich of BAR AU CHOCOLAT

a partially unwrapped bar of chocolate next to a latte with rosetta latte art

This Valentine’s Day, Caffe Luxxe is proud to partner with BAR AU CHOCOLAT, a local bean-to-bar chocolatemaker based in Manhattan Beach. Look for special edition chocolate hearts, honey caramels, and dark chocolate bars wrapped in decorative papers, available for a limited time only in our caffes!

nicole trutanich of bar au chocolatBoutique chocolatemaker and Caffe Luxxe friend Nicole Trutanich imports cocoa directly from small equatorial farms. Much like our focus on farm-to-cup sustainability, BAR AU CHOCOLAT is driven by a deep reverence for farmers who work the land in a sustainable way and practice traditional techniques. Once quality regional cacao is sourced and imported, BAR AU CHOCOLAT strives to capture its distinctive flavors and characteristics. As a boutique chocolatemaker, Nicole takes a minimalist approach to chocolatemaking, where cacao's inherent bitter taste is balanced by the sweetness of cane sugar, and processing techniques draw out its evocative flavors and sensations. We recently chatted with Nicole to learn more about her process, and what inspires her every day.

What inspired you to start making chocolate?

Katherine Hepburn said, “What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.” That goes for me too. My work in restaurants, catering and marketing together with my travel experiences, childhood dream of having my own business and love of chocolate led me to create BAR AU CHOCOLAT. After I made my first batch of chocolate, I knew I had finally found my passion—it was like love at first sight.

How did you begin working with Caffe Luxxe?

My friend, Alexia Haidos Itzigsohn, introduced me to Gary and Mark. Alexia thought my chocolate would be a nice addition to the Caffe Luxxe offerings.

What we love so much about BAR AU CHOCOLAT is the bean-to-bar philosophy, so closely tied to the way we apply an artisanal approach to our coffee. Can you talk about your process for sourcing and roasting cacao?

Sourcing quality cacao is key to making delicious chocolate. I do this by seeking out the best producers, those who encourage sustainable growth plans, understand the importance of proper harvesting, fermentation and drying techniques, and are aware of the potential connection to unique flavor profiles.

The roasting of cacao is one of the most critical steps in flavor development. Roasting involves all the senses—fragrant smoke, popping, intoxicating cacao aroma and texture are sexy-sounding cues. Add to this an understanding of the properties of different beans and their perfect roasting temperature and time. In my baby drum roaster, a matter of seconds can make a difference, so I need to be steadfast and vigil.

cacao powder in a bowl with cacao nuts and chocolate bars

© Dave Richards Photography

Any exciting plans we can look forward to in the coming year?

My new studio, BAR AU CHOCOLAT Atelier, is opening in Manhattan Beach this summer. It will be a beautiful place to enjoy chocolate, and ultimately, deepen our pleasure, understanding and appreciation of this ancient, beloved food.


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