Dandelion Chocolate manufacture and cafe in San Francisco
Dandelion Single Origin chocolates are made in San Francisco in small batches. Perhaps the highest quality chocolate in North America*, Dandelion Chocolate is a two ingredient real artisanal chocolate, no vanilla, soy lecithin, even cocoa butter and other conditioners of flavour potentially masking the cocoa’s own natural nuances are added. The only exception is using a pure organic cane sugar since it works best with chocolate as the world’s best chocolatiers endorse. The sugar is sustainably sourced from Brazil’s Native Green Cane Project. For the final tuning of the chocolate before tampering, the highly personal touch of the Dandelion’s roasters, whose name is imprinted on the packaging of each bar, offers all their chocolate lovers the utmost transparent information about their top notch, quality crafted natural product.
Immersed into the cocoa world at Dandelion Chocolate
Dandelion Chocolate is not selfishly guarding the chocolate making skills of its employees as hands-on classes and events take place regularly at the Mission boutique on Valencia street. If you don’t want to get your fingers too choco messy, then just sample the to-be-chocolates during one of the Factory Tours running from Wednesdays to Saturdays (6:10-6:50pm). More hands-on, is the two-hours lasting Chocolate 201 class, as well as plenty of special children’s classes are also in store. Sign up, and find more info here.
While sipping on a wholesome hot chocolate at the Cafe, you can watch the process as well since there is no backstage, you, the customer are part of the fragrant magic of the chocolate making. In a plain sight observe, smell, and above all savour the daily routine as the artisans “roast, crack, sort, winnow, grind, conch, and temper small batches of beans and then mold and package each bar by hand”. For a more intimate experience with chocolate go now, since expansion is in sight. A new Cafe has been already hatched in Japan!
Transparency in sourcing and production = fair trade
Each hand-printed India-made paper wrap of the Dandelion single origin dark chocolate provides the exact information about the entire process – which farm grew the beans, the harvest vintage, who roasted them, all accompanied by detailed tasting notes. After the farmer picks the beans, lets them naturally ferment and dries them in the origin’s location, the sacks of beans are send to San Francisco, where all of the skilled, and occasionally experimental crafting into the perfect chocolate bar happens. Light roasting is preferred, but some beans may require more pushing to achieve satisfying flavour. In a garage style crafting, a modified coffee roaster has been used for years now. Dandelion’s transparency policy goes as far as organising trips to the grower’s countries for anyone interested.
The beans have been sourced from Belize, Dominican Republic, Equador, Guatemala, Liberia, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, Trinidad and Venezuela. You can read in detail about each of the farms on Dandelion’s website.
I love the dense chocolatey Ecuadorian Camino Verde 100% as well as the more user friendly 85% version with cane sugar. The heirloom variety Ariba Nacional cocoa, was skilfully fermented by the farmer Vicente Norero who expertly inoculates the fermenting beans with indigenous mix of bacteria and yeast, achieving a unique balanced flavour. Almond butter, bread yeasty quality, fudge brownie with roasted oak undertones and a clean, sweet finish in both the 2014 and 2015 vintages that I tried. It is tough to guess whether Cynthia (working for the 100% cocoa) or Becky (85%) roasted the beans better, since the added cane sugar in the later changes the taste. My ever curious palate would like to taste the same chocolate roasted by different people, that would make a fair comparison. My idea of the Dandelion roasting challenge, could intrigue many of their regular customers.
Growing success with smart design
The main, larger scale Dandelion chocolate manufactory will be ready to operate next year (pictured bellow). Located just a couple blocks (Harrison Street & 16th) from the trendy store on Valencia where all the chocolate has made so far, this is also an upcoming part of the gentrified Mission district, where new Tartine Cafe as well as the locally made Hearth ceramics design store are both located.
The handmade paper was commissioned specially in India and it has a dense almost textile like feel, and honestly it tears my heart to throw it away after eating the bar of chocolate. The attractive yet simple design with rose or bright yellow gold patterns, fulfils the role of an honest messenger of what is inside – hand-crafted and simple, containing two ingredients maximum (100% bar contains only cocoa beans), chocolate.
A feminine energy in the Mantuano 70% bar from Venezuela explodes with bright kick of cinnamon, honey, floral and in the background espresso aromas. Sourced by Minda from a women’s cooperative assembling beans from local family farms, a project worth supporting and the customers of Dandelion have appreciated the flavours to elevate the bar to a best seller. Not always the same person who directly sources the beans also gets to decide on their roasting profile, in the 2015 vintage Trevor was the roaster of these cocoa beans.
Tempting chocolate pastry, all made in-house, is the perfect treat with a cup of espresso at the cafe. During winter sipping on the dense hot chocolate and other cocoa beverages to indulge in or take away is a must while browsing in the eclectic Mission district. The freshly baked sweet offer changes with the mood swings of the pastry chefs, but you must try the insanely indulgent brownies, that you can purchase in a tasting set of three, each made with different cocoa and all oozing the dense lava of chocolate inside. So good.
Dandelion has the latest opening hours from all the chocolate bars that I know of. On weekends you can swirl in just before 10pm for a sweet fix of their top notch chocolates. Now, also with a small boutique in Tokyo, Japan, that Dandelion continues to seduce the fine palates far East, opening a branch in Europe would be welcome by serious chocolate connoisseurs like myself.
Café & Manufactory at 740 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110