Gourmet chocolate that's flying off the shelf.
Monsoon Chocolate’s visually stunning and divine-tasting bon bons are finally available again after having sold out of them several days prior to Valentine’s Day. As owner Adam Krantz said, it’s one of the “most intense times of the year.”
But get yours quick, because no doubt Monsoon will sell out for each holiday to come, and very likely less celebration-oriented times, too.
Business is bonkers, and while it currently flows in fits and deluges, Monsoon sometimes struggles to meet customers’ demand for confections.
Krantz and head chocolatier Athene Kline, who started as the pastry chef when Krantz opened Monsoon, are the only two employees who have the know-how to craft the international award-winning delicacies.
Monsoon opened with four employees and now there are 13, including artists Jamie Woodard and Anika Payton-Rodriguez, who exquisitely decorate the bon bons.
Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory-esque
“We have an amazing team, I mean I’m so grateful for the people that we have here. It’s especially hard [to find qualified employees] because what we do is so specialized,” Krantz said.
Monsoon’s quaint, calm, and well-appointed cafe area belies just how busy the chocolate makers are. It’s a relaxed place to work, and the aroma of hot chocolate, EXO Japanese cold brew, and the freshest confections evokes fantasies of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
It’s like you won the “Golden Ticket” (sans lickable wallpaper).
A mindful shift in focus
The cafe has had to stop offering savory foods altogether, though—in order to shift its focus to chocolate.
The result? Bon bons and bars that are tantalizing and gorgeous enough to tickle the fancy of everyone from local diehards to international retailers.
Popular choices include the Chile Mango Bon Bons, a mango couverture with mango purée and infused with cayenne—decorated all swirly like a Fourth Avenue street musician’s tie-dyed shirt—and the beautiful aqua blue, shiny Whiskey Del Bac Dorado Bon Bons. Each one is made with caramel, dark chocolate ganache, and the local James Beard Award-nominated distillery Whiskey Del Bac’s mesquite-smoked whiskey.
Business is booming
Krantz hired Carly Wilson to direct sales, and as a result, Monsoon did more wholesale business in January 2020 than all of 2019’s wholesale. Now, it’s becoming increasingly tough to keep up with what is now a global demand.
Monsoon is rapidly expanding its presence in venues across the country, with approximately 50 wholesale partners in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, New York, Colorado, and Montana, as well as throughout Arizona.
“We just got our first sale wholesale customer in Australia,” Krantz said.
They sell bon bons and bars online, as well—and the quasi-designated distribution department of the old tortilla factory they work in is 100 square feet at best.
Producing chocolate in a higher volume
They’re outgrowing the building Krantz loves in a number of ways. “A lot of the zones within this production space are used for multiple tasks,” Krantz said, stepping aside to let head chocolatier Kline pass by, “and that’s just not a very efficient way to operate.”
Monsoon has a waiting list of outlets that want to carry their bars, and around the beginning of 2020 Krantz decided to invest in a tempering machine that allows him to produce bars in a much higher volume.
This demand is largely due to the renowned quality of the confection that Krantz and his team produce.
In 2019 they won 16 international chocolate awards—an impressive feat for such a young endeavor in a luxury-item industry with a long-standing history. Krantz is a self-taught chocolate maker; although he’s had mentors and has gathered food industry experience all over the U.S., he’s only been crafting chocolate confections for four years.
Some of the awards Monsoon is taking are for innovative concoctions like the triple-layered Blueberry Oat Cardamom Bon Bons and the gorgeously packaged Blue Corn Atole White Chocolate Bar.
But what really shows Krantz’ prowess are the awards he’s earned for simpler flavors like peppermint, which stand out not for novelty, but for execution. It’s akin to a brand-new winemaker taking global first prizes for Cabernet from international vintners with generations of experience.
Keeping the sweetness local
“We’re competing against chocolatiers, not necessarily chocolate makers,” Krantz said. “We [at Monsoon Choclate] are partnering with farms. We’re importing cocoa beans and we’re manufacturing chocolate, and we transform it into all these other things, like drinking chocolate, and the bars. I would say probably 99 percent of the chocolatiers in America are buying chocolate from other people.”
“I think that’s one of the cool things that we’re doing, but it’s also one of the challenges for us. Not everyone really totally gets this—how labor-intensive it is,” Krantz said.
However, Krantz attributes some of Monsoon’s success to the suppliers of the ingredients he incorporates—many of which are local—and strives to work with socially and environmentally ethical producers. He has spent years establishing a supply chain, since well before he opened Monsoon.
“We don’t want to become like a huge national company,” Krantz said. “We want to stay rooted in Tucson, but we don’t want to have the supply and labor issues that we’re having. We don’t want to sell out of bon bons during Valentine’s Day. It’s easy to perceive that this business is just a runaway success. And [people think] we keep selling out so we must be making tons of money doing it. But the reality is we spend tons of money keeping it alive because we’re a small chocolate manufacturer.”
Backstage busy-ness aside, Monsoon is still an aesthetically pleasing site to melt away. You can read, relax, and savor what judges have deemed some of the world’s most exquisite chocolate.
Monsoon Chocolate, located at 234 E. 22nd St., is open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.
For more information, visit monsoonchocolate.com.