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Considering that cacao trees exclusively grow within 20 degrees of the equator, Colorado-sourced chocolate seems highly implausible. But attendees of tonight’s sold-out Denver Botanic Gardens anniversary party will receive just that: chocolate made with beans cultivated right here in Denver.
This one-off experience is a collaboration between the Botanic Gardens (the cacao trees grow in their greenhouses) and Boulder’s new mobile chocolatiers, Fortuna Chocolate (which operates out of a renovated library truck). The Fortuna crew—Sienna Trapp-Bowie, her brother Spencer Bowie, and her husband Aldo Ramirez-Carrasco—recently harvested all 21 of the Gardens’ cacao pods, or about a pound’s worth of chocolate. “The fact that they’re growing cacao in the Rocky Mountains shows great expertise from their horticulturists,” Trapp-Bowie says. “It’s really the new frontier of chocolate.”
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And although Boulder-based Fortuna doesn’t have plans to release an entirely Colorado-sourced chocolate bar any time soon, the trees, which were planted in 1998, do seem to be going strong. For the invite-only, VIP tasting event on February 19 (honoring the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory’s 50th anniversary), Fortuna will craft something very special using the Rocky Mountain pods. “We’re waiting to see the flavor of the cacao before deciding what to make,” Trapp-Bowie says.
If you didn’t snag tickets to the sold-out VIP event, you’ll have to track down Fortuna’s mobile chocolate lab, snag some sweets from their display at Cured Boulder, or order online to experience the artistry. Fortuna’s exemplary single-estate Mexican chocolate is worth seeking out: The company fostered relationships with small Mayan farmers dedicated to cultivating some of the more difficult to grow—yet tastiest—cacao varietals. Even the most dedicated chocoholics have never experienced chocolate like this before.
Presently, the trio’s main focus is on inspiring top regional chefs to create fresh, innovative dishes with Fortuna Chocolate’s rich, intense flavors. “That’s why we’re doing this. The collaboration makes for the best possible taste. We want the beans to be savored, and that’s hard to do in a bar. The flavors are best experienced in fresh form,” says Trapp-Bowie.
In addition to the collaboration with the Botanic Gardens, Fortuna’s restaurant partners are impressive: Mercantile Dining & Provision, Blackbelly Market, and Boulder’s new Arcana (the latter will feature Fortuna’s dark chocolate shaved over bison tartare). Not bad for a two-month old business that operates out of a tricked-out library truck.