2017 Colorado Rising Star Chocolate Makers Spencer Bowie, Sienna Trapp-Bowie, and Aldo Ramirez Carrasco of Fortuna Chocolate
4920 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80301
In 2008, Boulder native Sienna Trapp-Bowie was working in Mexico City for an L.A.-based fashion brand by day and continuing post-grad anthropological investigations by night. Her would-be husband Aldo Ramirez Carrasco was a recording engineer moonlighting as a bartender when they met through a mutual acquaintance. By 2009, the couple had moved to Tokyo, where Carrasco furthered a career behind the stick, Trapp-Bowie trained Japanese executives in the American-style of business, and they both dove deep into the food and beverage culture of Japan.
In 2012, Trapp-Bowie’s brother, Spencer Bowie, visited his sister in Tokyo and decided to stay, finding work as a singer and teacher. The three developed a fascination with an artisanal Danish beer called Bøgedal. By 2014, Trapp-Bowie and Carrasco were in Denmark working alongside the Bøgedal family, learning small-batch production methods and gaining inspiration. With a desire to start an artisan business that connected Mexico with America, the entrepreneurs decided on cacao. Within months, they were in Oaxaca and traveling with Botanist Nisao Ogata through communities of cacao farmers.
Committed to supporting the farmers and their products, the couple returned to Colorado, reunited with Bowie, and began experimenting and eating a lot of chocolate. By late 2015, they had built out a 26-foot truck for chocolate production, secured financing via the Colorado Enterprise Fund, and opened for business. Fortuna Chocolate has a retail and a wholesale arm, and a brick and mortar location is on the way in 2017.
Interview with Colorado Rising Star Sienna Trapp-Bowie of Fortuna Chocolate
Sean Kenniff: Tell us a little about your involvement with Slow Food?
Sienna Trapp-Bowie: We recently traveled to Turin, Italy, for the 20th anniversary of the Salone del Gusto and Slow Foods Festival. It was inspiring to connect with producers and artisans similarly committed to quality and sourcing. They’ve been working on a number of important initiatives—school garden programs, heritage seed saving programs, etc. We look forward to being artisan ambassadors at the very first U.S. Slow Food festival that’s being held in Denver.
SK: You also travel to Mexico a fair amount. How do those trips relate to Fortuna?
STB: For the past three years we’ve been involved in an innovative project led by Professor Nisao Ogata at the University of Veracruz in Oaxaca, Mexico. Several Mazateco families have been reforesting their land, establishing biodiverse cacao plantations. In the next several weeks we’ll receive cacao samples from their first viable harvest, and we’re very much looking forward seeing if the flavor profiles will be similar to the internationally acclaimed cacao produced at the estate which provided cuttings for the project.
SK: Your business modoel fucsing on selling wholesale to resturants. Who are some of your local customers?
STB: We have a good range of clients and what they offer. Mercantile Dining & Provision has our large slabs. Arcana uses Fortuna chocolate in ther desserts. Blackbelly Market has Furtuna on their catering and special events menus. Cured West has our drinking chocolate and cured, hand-dipped truffles. And Denver Botanic Gardens sells our specialty slabs.
SK: Whom would you like to count as a customer?
STB: We’d love to work with Frasca in Boulder. We haven't had a chance to get together with the team over there yet, and we really respect what they’re doing to elevate the Colorado culinary community. We'd love to help them do that when our paths cross at some point in the future.
SK: What are some of your favorite chocolate resources?
STB: Of course the internet is filled with resources, and there are a number of great books published on the subjects of both cacao and chocolate, but the source we’ve found to be most useful is direct communication with the growers and with Professor Ogata. Our time spent with them has provided the most inspiration for us to evolve as chocolate makers.
SK: Do you have a favorite chocolate that you’ve made so far?
STB: Our favorite Fortuna chocolate hasn’t been made yet... Inspired by the Mole Madre at Pujol, we’ve been saving a handful of cacao from each batch we roast in order to produce the ultimate blend, one that would act as a narrative for the flavors we worked with during the year and the variations in the two harvests at each estate.
SK: Are there other bean-to-bar chocolate makers you admire:
STB: Domori is an Italian chocolate company that we admire. The company was founded on chocolate made with cacao from one of the estates we work with. The chocolate they produce is of the highest quality and much of it is produced using cacao they now grow themselves at private estates.
At La Casa Tropical, Hector Galvan is working to produce chocolate using Mexican cacao and working with some of the same cacao estates we work with. He’s also one of the other few chocolate makers with a focus on making chocolate for culinary applications.
Oialla is a chocolate company out of Copenhagen that wild sources its cacao from the Bolivian rainforests. They work in collaboration with native peoples to harvest cacao that is growing wild. We were introduced to this company through Danish friends who brew an edition of their traditional beer using the Bolivian cacao.
SK: Lastly, your Fortuna uniforms are fabulous! Who makes them?
STB: Our shirts were embroidered by a collective called Mazateca, a group of women from the Mazateco cacao estate working with the Textile Museum in Oaxaca to continue traditional technique for dying thread and cloth using natural materials such as insects and plants endemic to their region.