Nova Chocolate 7

A Bean to Bar Enterprise

Achieve romantic hero status with small-batch, artisanal chocolate. Lafayette’s Nova Chocolate has been churning out tasty, sustainably-sourced goodies since 2011. Originally known as Nova Monda, the company was recently purchased and rebranded by former employee Andrew Starr.

Part chef, part food chemist, Starr and his three employees spend long hours making sure the product is consistent despite the fickle nature of cocao harvesting. Nova’s “single origin” products are made with cocoa beans grown in Nicaragua and Ecuador using a direct trade process, which Starr describes as better than fair trade.

“We’re dealing directly with the source,” Starr says. “The idea is the farmers are getting a good price for their product and we also have them build the infrastructure to do some of the processing.”

Instead of a quick export cash crop, the farmers take time to ferment the beans as well as roast them and crack them into “nibs” before shipping to the U.S. In the case of the Ecuadorian chocolate, they also do the first grind of the beans and ship it as “liquor”, the term for pure cocoa in liquid form.

“I like the idea of them having more of an industry than just a plant,” Starr says. “We need to make sure that from the moment this is picked off the tree that everybody’s taken care of.”

Nova’s product line is still small, which allows for more exacting quality control. They currently produce five items: three Single Origin Chocolate Bars with cocao contents of 70%, 75% and 80% ($6); individually wrapped Sea Salt Almond Truffles ($2); and jarred Dark Chocolate Ganache ($10).

Large commercial chocolate makers often remove natural cocoa butter and add emulsifiers, flavorings, milk solids and hydrogenated oils, but Nova adds nothing but organic cane sugar.

“Nova’s idea is ultimate simplicity and focus,” Starr says. “We harvest something great and we don’t add anything to it except for that little bit of sugar.”

Using very traditional processes of churning and tempering, the chocolate ultimately achieves that perfect snap, shine and flavor. Starr has this process down to the micron and regularly checks the chocolate for the correct sweetness and thickness.

Much like coffee, beer and wine before it, the chocolate industry is experiencing an artisanal revolution where handcrafted precision is turning out superior varieties and flavors. Despite a nationwide interest, Starr says there are very few “Bean to Bar” chocolate enterprises in Colorado, making Nova very distinctive.

For a memorable treat, Starr recommends the truffles or ganache for “easy eating” but says the Dark Chocolate Bar Trio is a fun tasting experience. Even if you think you don’t like dark chocolate, he suggests expanding your palate and giving all three bars a try. “It’s like going to a great wine tasting to open your mind.”