In 2013, I had the good fortune to taste an extraordinary piece of dark chocolate. The flavor was unique-unlike I had experienced before. It was rich and complex, with a depth of flavor that I had not tasted before. I was given this chocolate as a pairing to an extraordinary cup of coffee at Barefoot Coffee in San Jose. I was photographing and interviewing them for a blog article on the fine art of coffee roasting and brewing. I asked the barista about this amazing chocolate and he told me that their friends at Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco lovingly crafted the chocolate. Along with some amazing coffee beans, I purchased some Dandelion chocolate bars that day and savored them over the following weeks. It was very special chocolate and I needed to learn more about this amazing product.
Earlier this month of December, I finally had the opportunity to visit Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco. How perfect to visit a chocolate factory at Christmas! I knew I wanted to sample their hot chocolates. I was pleasantly surprised to walk into a charming brick building that had been transformed into a delightful workshop of delectable treats. The environment was warm and inviting, like a high-end café. Behind the counter was workers busily working and creating their chocolate. I stood there mesmerized as I watched the process of machine and man/woman harmoniously creating. Finally, I watched a woman pour out the tempered chocolate into a mold, hand tapped it down, then carefully placed it in the refrigerator. The chocolate is truly handcrafted with love.
When I was ready to order, a woman guided me through their menu where I learned that they prepare three types of hot chocolate: House Hot Chocolate, inspired by an American style, Mission Hot Chocolate, which is foamy, rich and spicy with a hint of almond, and their European Drinking Chocolate, which is Italian inspired and very rich and thick. She gave me a taste of the European Drinking Chocolate, which was delicious. Curious though, I ordered the Mission Hot Chocolate. WOW…nothing I had ever had leading up to this moment was similar to this spicy almond chocolate elixir! Delicious. I was delighted to find homemade marshmallows were provided and a cookie came with my drink!
But Dandelion Chocolate makes a lot more that hot chocolate! Check out the desserts!
Who owns this company I inquired. Old friends Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring are the co-founders of this company. And their tale of the birth of their company is as delightful as their chocolate shop!
Their tale began while the two friends were attending Stanford University. Todd and Cameron loved chocolate and tasted chocolate from all over the world. As a hobby, they decided to roast some beans in their oven at home. They ground the beans, added sugar, and created their own chocolate bars. They were having fun with the project and continued to fine-tune their technique.
“Our friends often said that given enough time, it seemed inevitable that one of us would open a chocolate factory.They watched as we experimented with growing small cacao plants in our apartments, pan roasted beans in the oven, and ate our way through many of the chocolate shops of the world.” Todd and Cameron from the Dandelion Chocolate website
In 2010, Todd and Cameron shared their chocolate with their family and friends who were so amazed by the quality of the chocolate that they encouraged them to open a chocolate making business.
Today Dandelion Chocolate is a unique chocolate making business model. They specialize in high quality artisan bean-to-bar chocolate making. They source their beans directly from the farms and farmers in Madagascar, Belize, Dominican Republic, Liberia, and Ecuador. By working directly with the farmers, they are able to source high quality beans. Once the beans arrive in San Francisco, they are tested for flavor and then lightly roasted under lower temperatures to bring out the intrinsic quality of that shipment of beans. This unique process allows the distinct characteristics of the chocolate to come out in the final chocolate bar. Their chocolate bar recipe is consistently the same: 70% beans to 30% sugar. Nothing else.
For those of you that understand the terroir concept with wine grapes, chocolate pods are viewed the same way. Each geographical location and plant variety partakes unique flavor profiles from the soil, water, and weather from that year. This culinary phenomenon, with direct sourcing and individual batch roasting, transpired in the coffee industry about thirty years ago. And now, artisan chocolate making is having its culinary “day in the sun.”
If you are visiting San Francisco please stop by Dandelion Chocolate for a chocolaty experience. They are located in the Mission District. See address below. You may order their products online from their website or purchase them from a long list of retail shops, markets, and cafes, also listed on their website. Please visit their website to learn more about them. They also teach chocolate making workshops for chocolate enthusiasts. How fun would that be!
Merry Christmas everyone! Thank you for reading my blog and joining me on my culinary adventure through California!
740 Valencia Street (at 18th)
San Francisco, CA 94110