If memory serves me correctly, I recently stated that nobody in America made better chocolate than Guittard. At the end of my statement I added, "at least not at this point in time."
There is a reason I made that addendum. There is a chocolate factory opening up in Orem, called Amano Artisan Chocolate. The Deseret News recently ran an article about them that I would like to share with you.
Now despite having met with one of the owners (Art) on a number of occassions, I have not yet had the chance to sample this chocolate. He has given me a number of updates in past months about which pieces of equipment have shipped in, which beans he has at the moment and where, but as he is still waiting on additional equipment, his factory is not yet in operation.
There are a couple of interesting facts to note. First of all, there are only about a dozen factories in the United States that actually make chocolate straight from the bean. This small handful of factories then sell their chocolate to larger, better known companies, which I suppose gives us the illusion that there are more chocolate factories. Art's factory will be one of these elite few chocolate companies that creates chocolate from the source.
Guittard is another one of these companies. There's also Ghirardelli and ScharffenBerger. I believe all of these are based in San Francisco, but I could be wrong. I have however, had many a flavor of chocolate from each of these companies. Guittard is easily my favorite. Ghirardelli is good, but somehow pales grossly in comparison. Still, I do have about 8 lbs of a 10 lbs brick of Ghirardelli sitting in my pantry, so I can't say that I don't like it. It really is quite good. Scharffen Berger is also quite good, if a little bitter for my taste, and I tend to prefer bitter chocolate. Of course, this is all subject to personal taste. I also don't much care for Valrhona, which is apparently the favorite brand of famed food journalist Jeffrey Steingarten. My favorite variety to date is a "single bean origin" chocolate from Ecuador that I tried at a chocolate tasting directed by a rep at E. Guittard (the high-end version of Guittard).
I am looking forward to the opening of Art's chocolate factory. I already have an informal order in for a couple of pounds, so I'll let you know when I get it. I do have high expectations, because in my limited experience, Art seems to be a bit of a perfectionist. I imagine this will be reflected in any product he sells.