Making authentic chocolate is not an easy task. Just ask owner and chocolatier Adam Krantz of the newly opened Monsoon Chocolate at the corner of East 22nd Street and South Fourth Ave. Taking dried-up beans and turning them into chocolate bars is a long and arduous process. It takes a certain point of patience, and it's that patience Krantz had to utilize in a very different manner: waiting to pass all reviews to be approved as a viable business.
Being the first hands-on chocolate-producing facility in the Old Pueblo had health inspectors scratching their heads and rechecking machines and equipment they'd never come across before. After months of hopeful and possible openings, Monsoon Chocolate finally, and legally, turned on the lights in early May to the delight of everyone involved.
"First of all, we are a chocolate factory," Krantz says in his newly opened yet historic space. "And what we are is the first real chocolate factory here in Tucson."
Krantz moved to Tucson with his family in 1992. While pursuing a career in music, he also began working in the food industry. It was during his stint as grocery manager of Time Market that changed his outlook on how chocolate could—and should—taste.
"It was this bar from a company out of San Francisco called Dandelion Chocolate," Krantz says. "When I bit into it there was just this lightbulb moment. I thought, wow, this is really different. That's when I started reaching out to chocolate makers and doing research."
Krantz moved to Portland, Oregon, for a few years to find a wider and differently diverse culinary scene. It was there he partnered with Meridian Cacao, a company that he remains in business with today. Over time, he became a bit of a chocolate expert and educator, even curating a chocolate library. But Krantz always knew he wanted to start his own business back in Tucson, even though his chocolate program in Portland was a huge success.
"My first batch of homemade chocolate was disgusting," Krantz says with a laugh. "Luckily, I had great mentors and made friends with bean to bar people to help me get to where I am today."
It takes about a month for Krantz to transform a huge bags of cacao beans imported from countries such as Ecuador, India and Peru into rich yet delicate chocolate confections. From a viewing window, you can watch Krantz utilize an antique Molino machine originally made in Oaxaca, Mexico, that transforms fermented nibs into a paste using volcanic stones rotated by use of an engine belt. From there, the paste gets put through a three-roll mill that refines the particles before being run through a melanger machine for 48 hours, which heats the early chocolate through friction, allowing it to aerate. Essentially, when you bite into a Monsoon Chocolate bonbon, truffle or bar, you are tasting the hard work of a talented chocolatier.
Chocolate isn't the only delectable bite that Monsoon has to offer. They have a light breakfast and lunch menu that features several options of toasts, such as smoked avocado ($8) or radish ($7). The salads feature Tucson-sourced produce, as do the few sandwiches, which are a perfect portion for a sophisticated afternoon replete. Although summer is upon us, I highly recommended to get one of the hot chocolate concoctions. Personally, I was completely blown away by the cacao fruit juice ($6). Going into it, I was a little hesitant because: cacao in a fruit juice? But it's near blissful take on a fresh spring lemonade.
A bit of advice: get here early if you want to be sure to secure a few polyhedral or starlight glimmer chocolate inspirations. They tend to go quick and currently, it is Krantz and an assistant or two back there cranking it all out.
"South Fourth Avenue is going through a huge transformation now, and our goal is to integrate into it and not change it," Krantz says. "We are proud of where we are and who we are. We just want to be a neighborhood joint."