I’m not a big fan of the Las Vegas Strip. Too many people, chaos, and bright lights for me. I prefer downtown Vegas, with its odd wedding chapels, old motels, and new art installations. But one thing enticed me to take the slooooow bus from downtown Vegas to the Strip: the promise of visiting Nevada’s only bean to bar chocolate maker.
Hexx Chocolates is located within the Paris casino complex. Beneath the sparkling faux Eiffel Tower, committed chocolatiers practice the ancient craft of processing raw cacao beans into smooth, delicious chocolate.
Since visiting chocolate makers is one of my travel writing interests, I’d looked into it long before arriving. I’d gone on the Hexx website to book my free tour of the factory. Preplanning turned out to be wholly unnecessary. When I arrived on a weekday night, the people on the Strip were more interested in gambling, drinking, shows, and buffets than chocolate. A few folks were shopping in Hexx’s big, brightly lit store. But nobody else had signed up for the eight o’clock tour.
I was a little embarrassed to be the only person in Vegas more interested in chocolate than gambling. So I recruited a few other chocolate shoppers to join me.
The chocolate-making goes on in a kitchen adjacent to the shop. Alejandro Rojas guided our group of five through the equipment. The beans are cracked, then the chocolatiers use a pan with a hole to manually separate shells from nibs. Next comes winnowing, the addition of palm sugar and a 21-day rest before the chocolate is molded into bars. The whole process takes about 30 to 35 days.
But why is it called Hexx? “Obviously, it casts a chocolate spell,” says Rojas, a culinary school graduate and former cook. But he was messing with me – there’s more to it than that. Chocolate can only be grown within 20 degrees of the equator. XX is the Roman numeral for 20. Hence the double x in the name.
Rojas’ family hails from Mexico, the land where high-society Aztecs developed drinking chocolate. Unlike modern Americans, the tough Aztecs took their chocolate straight, without sugar. Rojas is fascinated by the history of chocolate. “It’s crazy how one tree can make so many people happy in a healthy way,” he says.
Hexx sources its beans from Peru, Tanzania, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Madagascar. Like wine, the differences in soil give each bean its own distinct terroir. For example, the Tanzanian bar has hints of cherry, coffee, and lemon, while the Ecuadorian bar tastes of almond, sweet marzipan, and floral flavors. Or at least that’s what the experts say. My palate has been tainted by excessive quantities of hot sauce, so I miss the nuances. But they all tasted good to me.
Hexx started by making dark chocolate with only two ingredients, cacao and palm sugar. Now they’ve added a line of milk chocolate bars. The milk bars are 47% chocolate, while the dark bars range from 70 to 74%.
You can buy Hexx at the Vegas store, online, or at limited retailers, including Texas’ upscale Central Market chain. If you find yourself in Vegas and you want a break from gambling and drinking, get your delicious antioxidant fix at Hexx. And even if you didn’t make a reservation, I suspect they’ll still be happy to let you tour the chocolate kitchen.