Zak’s Chocolate: Best in Arizona

I had the pleasure of meeting Maureen and Jim Elitzak at their chocolate shop in Scottsdale, Arizona, a short while ago, and was blown away by the chocolate knowledge, talent, and finesse this couple has achieved in the three short years since opening their shop in 2015.

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Maureen and Jim Elitzak have been married for 36 years and are the creative force behind Zak’s Chocolate.

zaks chocolate of scottsdale, arizona, produces taste-tempting ethically sourced organic chocolate

Both Jim and Maureen have degrees in accounting, and a background in corporate finance. But after retiring from corporate life, the Elitzaks decided to turn Maureen’s hobby of chocolate making into a small business. She began using Valrhona couverture to make her chocolate, but was looking for organic chocolate to work with, and soon learned that working directly with cocoa beans was the way for them to go.

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At Zak’s Chocolate, you are encouraged to taste each of the single origin bars so that you can find the one(s) that best please your palate.

The couple left their home in the Northeast US and moved to Scottsdale in 2011. They took some chocolate making courses through Ecole Chocolat, and purchased some small commercial chocolate making equipment from Chocolate Alchemy and slowly increased their chocolate knowledge and chocolate making abilities. In April, 2015, they opened their lovely little chocolate shop on East Shea Blvd., and not three years later, have won awards from the International Chocolate Awards and been named the best chocolate maker in Arizona by USA Today–an honour I most heartily endorse.

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Jim at Zak’s Chocolate sources out organic, sustainable beans from various suppliers.

Adjacent to the chocolate shop is a small events space where Jim and Maureen hold chocolate events. They also have an outdoor patio where you can sit and enjoy a coffee and brownie.

“The name Zak’s Chocolate is just a play on our own name,” says Jim, who says that using the last half of their surname sounded right in giving the feel they were trying to create; a friendly place where quality chocolate is king, and chocolate knowledge is freely shared.

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All of Zak’s small batch artisan bars made of 70% cocoa are wrapped in this beautiful packaging.

All of the dark chocolate bars at Zak’s feature 70% cocoa. “We do that so that the true flavour profiles of the beans are clear and their differences shine through,” says Jim. The beans are slow-roasted in small batches. Jim pays special attention to custom roast according to each origin, and each batch from that origin, as there can be variances dependent on the climate of that particular growing season just as with wine, where you will sometimes see the vintner naming the specific harvest and vineyard of the grapes on the bottle.

I tasted the various origins Zak’s is currently offering and enjoyed them all. I found the Madagascar bar to be less acidic than is the case with some chocolate makers, but the fruitiness still shone through. I loved the smokiness of the Papau New Guineau bar. We also tasted chocolate from Belize and Nicaragua, each with its own flavour profile.

I loved the Lachua bar made from Guatemalan beans. This award-winning bar features citrus, dried cherry, and raisin notes that reveal themselves as you let the chocolate slowly melt in your mouth. Zak’s also makes a Guatemalan bar from the Monte Grande farm that tastes quite different from the Lachua bar. The 70% Haiti bar has a full, rich flavour. But I didn’t like it nearly as much as the 55% dark milk Haiti bar. For my taste buds, that bar is true perfection.

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Maureen Elitzak creates fabulous chocolate bonbons, truffles, and novelties in her chocolate kitchen at Zak’s.

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I really loved the chocolate turtles at Zak’s.

Maureen is a skilled chocolatier, and makes fabulous chocolate bonbons and novelties such as her own version of ‘turtles.” I loved them, as each chocolate turtle contains a whole pecan. And the Tropical Blackberry bonbon features an exotic blend of blackberries, lychee, and passionfruit that I’m still swooning over.

If you find yourself in Phoenix, Scottsdale, or any of the surrounding communities, be sure to take a detour to Zak’s Chocolate. Your taste buds will thank you for it.

Zak’s Chocolate partners with various venues and events including the Chilies and Chocolate Festival at the Desert Botanical Garden and the Chocolate Tour of Scottsdale.

 

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Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

71 Responses

  1. Phoenicia
    Twitter:
    says:

    Thank you for taking us on a tour in yet another chocolate store in Scottsdale. The chocolate turtles are highly creative. The tropical bonbons sound tasty. Interesting that the shop owners completly changed their careers and are now doing a job they have a passion for.

  2. Carol Colborn
    Twitter:
    says:

    Oh, I love dark chocolate bars! We are just 30 minutes from them. We gotta taste the lachua bar!!! Thanks for discovering them for us!

  3. Donna Janke
    Twitter:
    says:

    Zak’s chocolate sound worth a taste! it’s impressive that they’ve won international awards within 3 years of opening the shop.

  4. We love chocolate, and enjoy visiting local chocolatiers whenever we travel. This place looks like it would be right up our alley. I am already craving a turtle. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Gwendolyn says:

    Another delicious article! I am proud to have tried all of the current chocolates at Zak’s and my palate could not be happier! Thank you for doing such a great piece on two amazing human beings. They are so passionate about their craft and happy to share their knowledge with all of their customers. A definite must-see for tourists and residents alike.

  6. michele h peterson
    Twitter:
    says:

    That Lachua bar made from Guatemalan beans sounds delicious ( as Guatemala is close to my heart) but honestly there is much to explore at Zaks chocolate. Kudos to them for such success in such a short time! c

  7. I was JUST in Scottsdale a couple of weeks ago. How did I miss this???! As a chocolate lover, I think I should check with you before I head anywhere. This sounds amazing, and I would definitely have paid them a visit!

  8. Beverly says:

    I love the look of those chocolate turtles! The idea of coffee and brownies sounds very satisfying as well.

  9. Wow! Touring a chocolate factory with a chocolatier sounds so fascinating! Zak’s Chocolate surely sounds like it is worth trying out.

  10. Laverne says:

    Loved this post! Their shop and chocolate selection is amazing! It was interesting to see how different regions and different growing seasons make a difference in the taste. I agree with Doreen on the favorite bar! It was so interesting to meet people so passionate about their work.

  11. noel says:

    Wow those chocolate turtles look fantastic, they are called honu in Hawaii and would be an instant hit!

  12. What a great way for this couple to spend their post-corporate life. They certainly did everything right to make Zak’s Chocolate a premier product. Very interesting article!!

  13. What a great story of people leaving their professional life to follow their dream. It’s wonderful that they’ve made such a success of it.

  14. Rosalind
    Twitter:
    says:

    Oh my goodness those chocolate turtles look good. Very inspiring that they have transitioned from the corporate world to artisan choclatiers in such a short space of time.

  15. Sue Reddel
    Twitter:
    says:

    What a wonderful find Doreen. I love their story and would love to taste their chocolate myself. We get to Tucson to visit the family from time to time a quick swing over to Scottsdale may just be in order. You really taunted me with that Tropical Blackberry bonbon.

  16. Yasha
    Twitter:
    says:

    I love your chocolate stories. These guys are great – living their dream. I bet they are really happy people, because they do what they love and love what they do.

  17. I didn’t know that dark chocolate could be milk chocolate–I thought they were two different things & tastes. Something new to think about. I’m in Savannah, Georgia and there’s a shop around the corner I’m checking out in your name. Can’t wait to return to Scottsdale so I can find Zak’s.

    • Hi Rose. Yes, milk chocolate is very different than dark chocolate, as the milk is a key ingredient in milk chocolate. But with dark milk chocolate, the chocolate maker is making a dark chocolate, and just adds a bit of milk powder to that mixture at the end, creating the perfect taste and silkiness is an amazingly decadent way. πŸ™‚
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…Zak’s Chocolate: Best in ArizonaMy Profile

  18. Claire says:

    I love chocolate and thanks for sharing about Zak’s chocolate! Would love to try it some day! πŸ™‚

  19. Kemkem
    Twitter:
    says:

    Yummy goodness! Thanks for the tour of Zak’s. I would love it there. The 55% sounds like it would be my preferred one too. Definitely not a good idea to read this on an empty stomach as l am salivating. I hope l get a chance to try Zak’s chocolate at some point in time.

  20. Right here in my hometown and I didn’t know about Zak’s. I’ll definitely check it out. Even the description of their chocolate making sounds delicious. Love those chocolate turtles!

  21. Judy says:

    Even though I’ve just finished dinner, my mouth is watering for some of that dark chocolate, always my first choice in a treat. You’ve given me another reason to visit Scottsdale. Hope we can fit it into our busy schedule before we have to head home, but if not, next visit in the fall. Thanks, Doreen.

  22. I mean seriously, chocolate can get better, who knew!!! I am so so happy to know about Zak’s, I can honestly see this being my only source for my Chocolate addiction. The bars blew my mind, the flavors are all amazing, and you can have so much variety. I loved the truffles also, the earl grey lavender was my favorite.

  23. Denny George says:

    It takes a lot of gumption to do something very different to what you were doing for almost an entire lifetime. A ton of respect to both of them. The chocolates sound delicious and would love to try them if I ever get the chance.

  24. I will look for Zak’s Chocolate at Maureen and Jim Elitzak chocolate shop in Scottsdale, Arizona, since we are visiting the area right now, and expect to go to Scottsdale for 1st Friday events tonight. I will tell them I read your post.

  25. neha
    Twitter:
    says:

    Chocolates are anyways my all time favorites. And to get the organic version is a pure bliss. How I wish they shipped to India!! Thank you for introducing the delicacies, I would love to try them when I happen to go to Arizona

  26. I love the look of the Turtles, so pretty and appealing and I imagine the taste doesn’t disappoint. πŸ™‚ You do fabulous work and your love of what you do always comes through in your reviews.

  27. Ethically sourced organic chocolate just sounds so, well, healthy. Interesting that it is in Arizona. Great find, Doreen.

  28. You are my chocolate guru, Doreen. If you say Zak’s is the best chocolate in Arizona, I will be there during my next visit!

  29. Your advice is always spot on Doreen, and I know you do your tasting and research!What an amazing palate you have. It’s delicious to read the way you describe chocolate flavor profiles!

  30. Well, there is certainly more to chocolate than meets the eye….um, I mean mouth! I never knew there was such a thing as ethically sourced organic chocolate. What a lovely couple and why not with that job. I’m afraid I’d eat all my profits though!

  31. Sandy N Vyjay
    Twitter:
    says:

    I am really impressed by the way the couple have grown their business so rapidly. Their story is indeed inspirational. Starting from scratch and going on to win national and international recognition within 3 years is a tremendous achievement. The chocolates, needless to say, must be in a class of their own and the fact that they are organically sourced make them all the more attractive.

  32. This is such an interesting niche. As a travel agent I know how important it is to find a specialized niche to do, but never would I have ever thought about traveling for chocolate. This website is unique and quite refreshing.

  33. I am very impressed by the way a retired couple have built a small empire of chocolate after their retirement. It’s great to see folks working towards their passion after retirement and attaining great success in it. A truly inspiring story and could be one good example for everyone out there.

  34. Sahil Sharma says:

    Really……It was very surprising & inspiring that how this sweet couple passionate towards their business & growing it …..so rapidly. Thanks

    From: Sahil Sharma (A Die Hard Chocolate Lover)

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