Where Can I Buy Locally Made Chocolate In a Post-Scharffen Berger World?

Categories: Ask the Critic
Who cares if Scharffen Berger left town when we have E. Guittard?
A question came in from D.F. this week:
I used to buy Scharffen Berger chocolate, but now that Hershey bought out the company and left Berkeley, I don't know where to buy local chocolate. I've been buying bags of Guittard chips at the supermarket, but I'd like something better.
Well, Dan, you're in luck. We live in one of the best American cities for locally produced chocolate.

Scharffen Berger's founders, John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg, were, indeed, the first artisanal chocolate company to start up production after decades of industry consolidation. However, their genius wasn't their chocolate-making skills ― which were considerable, don't get me wrong ― but their marketing.

Scharffen Berger revolutionized the way Americans think about chocolate by openly describing the production process ― where they sourced their beans, how chocolate is made, and the difference between companies who make chocolate "from bean to bar" and confectioners who make sweets out of that chocolate. (Self-pimp: If you have a couple of hours, you can read an article I wrote about Scharffen Berger and the bean-to-bar movement a bajillion years ago.)

In the wake of Scharffen Berger's sale to Hershey and departure from Berkeley, TCHO has followed the company's playbook, producing chocolate from beans, talking about the flavor profiles of specific varietals, and giving tours of its facility.

The Bay Area is also home to three major chocolate producers who have been around for much longer than Scharffen Berger. Of course, you know about Ghiardelli (of which I'm no big fan). Belgium-based Barry Callebaut ― one of the stalwarts in the confectionary world ― also has a production facility in American Canyon.

For my money, Guittard is the company you want to shift your allegiance to. Founded shortly after the Gold Rush, this San Francisco company, now based in Burlingame, introduced its premium E. Guittard line in 2001. Guittard CEO Gary Guittard, great-grandson of founder Emile, pored over his grandfather's journals and brought out the old equipment to make small batches of high-quality chocolate. E. Guittard bars, many of which are made from single-origin beans, can be found all over town.

Many of the Bay Area's best confectionery makers use E. Guittard. Kathy Wiley of Dogpatch-based Poco Dolce, for example, is happy to state that she primarily uses the chocolate. Charles Chocolates, Recchiuti Confections, and Coco-luxe also confirmed to me that they use E. Guittard, blended with chocolate from other producers to suit their tastes. "I think it's a great local brand," Coco-luxe's Stephanie Marcon says.

So don't hold back, D.F. Eat yourself sick, knowing that the cacao beans you're consuming were roasted, ground, conched, and tempered nearby. No need to resort to chocolate chips ever again.

Follow me on Twitter: @jonkauffman.
Or hit me up with a recommendation or question at jonathan.kauffman@sfweekly.com.

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