Dandelion Chocolate: The Return of Bean-to-Bar in SF

Categories: SFoodie

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​Bean-to-bar chocolate is tough to do authentically, and other than TCHO, S.F. hasn't had a local B2B producer of note since Scharffen Berger shut down their facility, but here's some good news: Dandelion is a weed worth watching. Since their start in an East Palo Alto garage, these chocolatiers have moved to the Dogpatch and are prepping to open to the world in the Mission this summer. In the meantime, you can buy their "Small Batch" bars in stores.

They "roast, crack, sort, winnow, grind, conch, and temper" the beans they buy from around the world, then wrap them up in classic golden wrappers,number them by batch, initial them by hand, and send them out to eat.

As with any small-batch product, there are huge variations between batches, so here are our takes on three:

Batch No.1: 70 percent Colombia 2011 Harvest
Nice snap to the break, no air bubbles in the darkness. The initial flavor is tannic with a real roasted note, rustic and rich. Flavors soften in assertiveness at the mid- to late- palate. There's a creaminess and a touch of vanilla, and I do get the "ending like an Oreo cookie" promised in the label notes: a mix of chocolate and cream. The chocolate closes with a lasting dusty tannic finish, without being overpowering. Rich and comforting. A warm chocolate robe to wrap yourself up in. Like exceptional hot chocolate made in a double boiler with heavy cream -- Angelinas in Paris comes to mind. OUR FAVORITE.

Batch No. 4: 70 percent Sambirano, Madagascar
Modestly paler color. Nice break, but a few pinholes this time. Rustic start with a note of prune in liqueur moves rapidly to red fruit; dark cherry, boysenberry, even cassis, with a hint of tamarind. Soft finish, almost velvety, but not as lasting as the last. Tiny tips of cherry continue to spring in the mouth even after the chocolate is gone.

Batch No. 5: 70 percent Upala, Costa Rica
Back to darkness. Fewer pinholes here than the last but not pristine (small-batch variance). First notes are of heavy cream, then tannin, then a lightly burnt component of roasted beans, moving to coffee, to a light menthol/eucalyptus component hanging at the back. A bit drying. Our least favorite, but La Tache has a lot of the eucalyptus/menthol/mint thing that puts me off, and it's one of the top three wines in the world, so who's to say?

Contact Ben Narisin at sfoodieben@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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Albert
Albert

I can't wait to try Dandelion. I would also like to add that Bittersweetcafe in Oakland does bean to bar. At this time there is a 72% Ghana and a 45% milk.

Sam
Sam

Even if you don't consider TCHO bean-to-bar because they use chocolate liquor, it is silly to leave them out of this discussion.  I can't understand why TCHO isn't better regarded here in SF. 

Joe
Joe

"SF hasn't had a local B2B producer of note since Scharffen Berger.com" ... Umm, did you forget about TCHO?  Their chocolate is simply amazing and deserves recognition!

Sfoodieben
Sfoodieben

TCHO makes grest chocolate. I did not realize they brought in beans and did their own roasting though. I will look into that, and perphaps we should re visit the rand regardelss.

A discussion of one brand doesn't intend to indicate there aren't others tht are also very good.

Sfoodieben
Sfoodieben

They do fit the bean-to-bar model, and the post has been updated to reflect that.  The post was on Dandelion, and the comment was not primary, but I'm glad to have the detail corrected.

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