Dandelion Chocolate–intensely-flavored, artisan bean-to-bar chocolate.
In San Francisco’s Mission District, a couple of chocolate lovers are creating intensely delicious chocolate bars that highlight the unique flavors and textures of cacao beans grown around the world.
Tom Masonis and Cameron Ring, owners of Dandelion Chocolate, are true artisan chocolate lovers. They’re so crazy about dark (70%) chocolate, they buy the highest quality cacao beans they can find and then they roast, crack, sort, winnow, grind, conch, and temper the beans in small batches and make them into bars. The bars bear the distinctive flavors of the different bean’s terroir (pronounced ter-waar, from the French word for “land”), the characteristics created by the geography, geology, climate, and each variety’s genetics.
These people aren’t just chocolate manufacturers, they are chocolate artists. Like skilled winemakers, they’re looking for flavor nuances. They recognize that even the same type of cacao bean grown on the same farm varies slightly from year to year (like wine grapes), so you’ll find the batch number and harvest year printed on the bar labels.
The 2-ounce chocolate bars are hand molded and hand wrapped in golden foil and, strangely, what appears to be thick pieces of gold-tinged wall paper (if it is, it’s a great re-use of a wonderful paper product). Each bar is labeled with the beans’ origin and a little story about the grower or roasting the beans, which makes it a very personal product.
We sampled three of Dandelion’s hand-crafted chocolate bars. All the 70% bars were nicely molded and well-tempered – shiny with just the right snap. And each featured distinctive, intense flavors. One of our tasters commented, “This isn’t your mother’s chocolate. It’s very intense. You can’t eat an entire bar. Instead, this chocolate would pair well with wine or as part of a dessert plate with fruit.”
Elvesia, Dominican Republic, 2011 Harvest. This chocolate has a fine, silky texture and robust chocolatey flavor with notes of wine and hints of vanilla and coffee. One of our reviewers, who isn’t fond of coffee, wasn’t impressed, but another, a serious java fan, said this was her favorite Dandelion flavor.
Rio Caribe, Venezuela, 2012 Harvest. This bar was much less intensely flavored and had a slightly less silky texture. One reviewer said, “This tastes like I’m eating great European drinking chocolate.”
Ambanja Madagascar, Feb. 2012 Harvest. A satisfyingly smooth bar, this bar had distinctive citrus notes with hints of lemon and orange. It was the favorite of one of our judges (who is also a big fruit fan).
Real Bottom Line: There are many chocolatiers, folks making chocolate candies or molded chocolates with someone else’s chocolate. There are far fewer people tackling the rigors of actually manufacturing chocolate from cacao beans. That’s exactly what the artisans at Dandelion Chocolate are doing and our hats are off to them for it.
Chocolate lovers who appreciate dark chocolate and the nuances of chocolate made with single-source beans will definitely enjoy Dandelion Chocolate. This is chocolate that would be fun to pair with different wines or to use in chocolate tastings with friends. — BH
Dandelion Chocolate’s factory is open to the public and they operate chocolate café where you can buy drinking chocolate and chocolate treats. (740 Valencia, San Francisco, CA) You can buy also Dandelion Chocolate at select shops in California’s Bay Area and Southern California, and in Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and West Virginia. You can find their bars internationally — in Victoria, Canada and in the Netherlands, the UK, and Japan (check their website for specific locations). If you can’t convince yourself to travel to one of these places, you can always order from their online store. www.dandelionchocolate.com/