Interview with Travis Ashing
Co-Owner of Cacao Chemistry
109 N. Tejon Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Cacao Chemistry opened in 2014 as a premier chocolate shop combining ethically sourced ingredients with colorful design. We sat down with Co-Owner Travis Ashing to find out how this one-of-a-kind sweet shop nestled on Tejon Street in downtown Colorado Springs came to be. While Travis is more of the engineer type, his Co-Owner, Sam Lang, brings the creativity of a chef. Together, they’re producing some of the best edible art in Colorado Springs.
How did you get started?
Sam has a culinary degree from Johnson and Wales, one of the best culinary schools in the country. We’re both fans of chocolate and would go to as many chocolate festivals as we could. When discussing what kind of business to start, we thought we could really add something to Colorado Springs by bringing finely crafted, nuanced chocolate to the area.
Both of you are from very different career paths, how do you feel these paths compliment one another in your shared interest?
I have an analytical mind and am pretty good with schedules. I make sure we have the appropriate product made at the appropriate time. Sam’s the creative one and is good at innovative recipes. She also has a varied background beyond the kitchen, including several years of customer service.
Of the chocolates and sweet treats you make, which is your favorite?
I think my favorite product is probably the Iberico Ham Caramel. It uses crisped Iberico Ham folded into a chewy caramel and is available in either milk or dark chocolate. It starts out sweet then becomes savory as you chew.
Sam’s favorite is our Salted Caramel bar, which uses salt that has been smoked in Chardonnay barrels and is finished with rich European style butter.
Are there any fun facts or secrets about the products you sell and/or how they were created?
Our Firework Bark was created late one night just before a large event. Sam called me up at about 2 AM and said that we didn’t have enough raw materials or time to make both samples and something special for the VIPs. I asked her what we would have left after making the samples. She said, “Just milk chocolate, popping candy, and maybe some Chipotle chili powder.” So I told her, “Let’s do some bark.” Not knowing how it would taste, we knew that we needed to take the risk. It turned out really fun and interesting, and it is my favorite bark to this day!
What are some of your values as a business owner?
For me, it comes down to the people. If you take care of your employees, everything else falls into place. For Sam, it’s to chase quality, not money. If you do something well enough, the money will find you.
Favorite chocolate pairing?
I like to pair dark chocolate with stout. For a food pairing I would probably choose a creamy bleu cheese and a medium dark chocolate, probably around 60% or 70%.
When experimenting with recipes for your chocolates, what was the biggest fail? Or most surprising success?
Our very first day of business was at the Holiday Chocolate Festival in 2014. We didn’t really know how those sorts of events are organized or where to go. So I parked my car in what seemed like a logical parking spot and took out the bag containing our signs, credit card readers, and business cards. Basically, this bag contained everything important that wasn’t chocolate. At that point, a parking attendant informed me I had to move my car to the vendor parking area. So I got back in my car and started to leave. Notice at no point did I say I picked back up the bag! As I backed out, I heard a CRUNCH. My blood ran cold. My first thought was total disaster with no time to fix anything. With a sense of cold dread, I peeled back the top of the bag to reveal a mass of splinters. Almost all our signage was crushed. With shaking hands I rummaged through until I found the credit card readers, which were thankfully unscathed. We were still able to make the event, but I’ll never forget that feeling immediately after I backed over everything.
For Sam, she would say our most surprising success has been our shop downtown. The community really seems to want to rally around us to see us achieve our goals.
From what areas around the world is your chocolate sourced?
Our milk chocolate is a blend from Ecuador. Our 66% dark chocolate is a blend from the Caribbean, and our 85% dark chocolate is from Africa. We also currently have a small amount of candy bars and bark using chocolate from Madagascar.
And finally, our favorite question! If you were stranded on a desert island and could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what food would that be?
Obviously, it would be chocolate! The question is what kind. You can’t live on chocolate alone, so I’d probably pick one of our chocolate with fruit and nut combinations. Maybe our Dark Chocolate Blueberry Bark? If I eat enough of it, I’ll get my recommended number of servings of fruit.
Before we sign off, we have to add that we love Whiskey Cherry Cordial made with Axe and the Oak Whiskey along with their Pistachio and Cranberry chocolate bar.
Thanks, Travis for the interview – you’ve sure got us hungry for some chocolate!
Cheers, Your Rocky Mountain Food Tours Team