We’re teaming up with Love & Luxe, a beautiful jewelry store by the site of our Valencia Street space, to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Join us next Saturday night, February 11, for A Love Supreme from 5 – 10 PM at Love & Luxe, 1169 Valencia Street. Admission to the event is free and you’ll find unique Valentine’s Day gift ideas all around. We’ll be there with our chocolate and Blue Angel Vodka will offer samples of their own. Even better, 5% of Love & Luxe jewelry sales and proceeds from the sale of work from the Visual Aid Pillow Project will go towards Visual Aid. It should be a blast and I hope you can come by.
We’ve all just returned from a much needed post-holiday-rush break and are happy to be back in the factory. Looks like while we were away, one of our bars made it all the way to Antarctica! Here’s a photo Kristy Leissle (the doc of choc) sent us on our her recent trip down south. I love the penguins in the background!
Cam and I are back from our weekend in Seattle at the Northwest Chocolate Festival! Thanks so much to the organizers- the event drew thousands of excited chocolate fans.
We started the weekend by setting up our booth at the Seattle Center and taking a walk up to Chocolopolis, a clean and beautiful shop on Queen Anne that sells our chocolate. We met the owner, Lauren Adler, a few months ago in D.C. and we’re lucky to be featured in her store. She has our bars on display and in her craft-makers tasting kit!
From there, we went to the “Meet the Makers” reception on Friday night. We got to chat with other makers and friends. We sampled a bunch of bars, which got us excited for the weekend ahead. Then, at 10 AM on Saturday, there was a line of hundreds of chocolate lovers waiting at the door, all clamoring to come taste bars and confections. While each of our bars has its adamant supporters, the Madagascar was our biggest seller this weekend. In a room full of people who know and eat great chocolate, it’s easy to see why so many people are drawn to a bar with bright, bold flavor. Also, apparently Kristy Leissle, the Doc of Choc, has been talking us up! A number of people came up to our booth saying, “I’ve heard I have to try your bars.” It was a great feeling. Thanks, Kristy.
We came home at the end of the night pretty tired. It was all I could do to stay up later than Cam’s 3-year-old nephew. Fortunately, we were able to enlist his help with our accounting, and get our work done quickly for the night!
We’re home now, with lots more work to do. We’re looking ahead to November, getting ready for the holidays and the Fall Chocolate Salon. It’s time to get back to making chocolate!
A few Fridays ago, Kristy Leissle, a.k.a. Dr. Chocolate, stopped by to interview us for a book she’s writing about great chocolate. She’d been working at a writers’ retreat near Palo Alto and decided to come down to the city for a day to find a little inspiration. We had a blast talking to her. We gave the full tour, showing her the process we use to make a test batch from start to finish. She got us talking excitedly about making chocolate and working together. I’m pretty sure Cam gave her plenty of highly-quotable comments to use in her book. In the meantime, she put up a fantastic blog post about us.
She took a picture of one of my favorite parts of the chocolate making process. We test the microns of each batch before we take it out of the melanger. This ensures that the chocolate has a perfect, silky texture, not gritty or too fine. I love this test because it requires eating a spoonful of molten chocolate. There are parts of the process that Todd, Cam, and I will each try to avoid, but this isn’t one of them. Kristy also snuck a spoonful of the Madagascar batch in the melanger that day, and went back for a second before she left. It’s that good.
We’re excited to see Kristy again soon at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, on October 22nd and 23rd. We’ll put more information about the festival up soon. For now, it’s up on our locations page.
A friend of ours, Nico Vera, writes a blog about Peruvian food called the Pisco Trail. I met him a few months ago at an event at 18 Reasons. Now, he’s using our chocolate as an ingredient in one of his recipes. Last week he created the Piscolate, a Pisco infusion made with our cocoa nibs. I haven’t had a chance to try making my own yet, but his looks delicious. You can find his recipe and description here. We’re also really excited to have a first recipe made with our chocolate. Someday, we hope to wholesale our chocolate as an ingredient to chocolatiers, chefs, and anyone else with an idea for a delicious chocolate creation!
We’re pleased to announce that you can now find a selection of our bars outside of California. Lauren Adler and her team of chocolate lovers have been on a mission to track down the best chocolate from around the world and bring them to her store in Seattle, Chocolopolis. We’re proud to be considered in such great company.
You can find Chocolopolis at 1527 Queen Anne Ave North in Seattle. Lauren will also be hosting a chocolate happy hour with some of our samples this Thursday, October 6th, from 5-9pm. You can find out more info about the chocolate happy hours here.
We’re headed to Fog City News tomorrow for a lunchtime chocolate tasting. We’ll be at the shop, at 455 Market Street, from 12-2 PM. We’re excited to share a few details about our process and samples from our new batches from Costa Rica and Madagascar. One of the toys we’re bringing is our magra. We’ll demonstrate a bean cut-test, and let everyone see what our beans look like on the inside. This is the easiest and most effective ways for us to examine our beans’ fermentation and ripeness. Come take a look!
We also made a limited edition of our Tanzanian chocolate for Adam at Fog City News a little bit ago, and we’re bringing the last few bars from this batch to him tomorrow. Hope to see you then!
Last week, I went home to Texas to visit my family. While I was there, I took off for the day to meet Bertil Akesson. He grows cacao in Madagascar and Brazil. His farm in Madagascar supplies most of the world’s best chocolate makers with ripe-tasting, fruity beans. He’s worked for years to refine his growing, harvesting, fermenting, and drying techniques.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet Bertil at his farms in either Madagascar or Brazil. Instead, we met, ate, and had a great conversation at an Indian restaurant in downtown Houston. We already know that sourcing great beans in quantities large enough to sustain our factory will be one of our biggest challenges, so it was exciting to talk directly to someone that has so much experience with cacao. The closer we can get to the trees, the better the chocolate we can make.
After preparing our palate by eating a bunch of Indian food, we tasted each other’s chocolate. In addition to exporting cacao, Bertil makes single plantation chocolate from criollo beans on his own farm. Whenever we taste different chocolate bars made from the same beans, we’re always struck by how different the final product is. Both our bars and Bertil’s bars, though, tasted remarkably similar, with both packing the same fruity punch. As we posted earlier, we just received 5 new bags of beans from Bertil’s farm in Madagascar and I think there are more in our future!
On Saturday we spent a really inspiring day in another chocolate garage in Palo Alto. We have our own garage, our lab, in East Palo Alto. But, The Chocolate Garage is just a few blocks away, founded by Sunita de Tourreil. We met Sunita a few months ago, and she’s been a wonderful neighbor. Her mission at The Chocolate Garage is to educate. She supports new makers, connecting them to other experts in the industry and introducing her customers to their bars. Her mission is to bring attention to “Happy Chocolate“- chocolate that tastes delicious, but also has integrity in its cacao sourcing and connection to the farmer. We really appreciate her approach. When our space is open in San Francisco, we also hope to have a large educational component of our factory operation. It’s rewarding and exciting to teach chocolate lovers about all the care and effort involved in making chocolate.
Because she’s our neighbor, it’s been very easy to drop by and visit Sunita. A few weeks ago, she came to our garage to try bars Todd brought back from the FCIA event in D.C. and to see our process for roasting test batches. Then on Saturday, Sunita hosted us during the Palo Alto Farmers’ Market. She holds open hours during the farmers’ market, and has many regulars that stop by after shopping for produce. It’s a nice space with comfortable chairs and couches, and it draws in people eager to taste new chocolate and learn about the process of making bars from the bean. Each Saturday she puts together a tasting, and I encourage you to drop by at some point. During the hours we were there, we met lots of her regulars and shared our bars. We chatted about our factory, but also got to talk about the delicious mulberries at the market and the way the market came about in the early 80′s. The Chocolate Garage has a great community.
After our morning with new customers, Alex Rast of Seventypercent.com dropped by to taste our bars as well. He was in town from England, and graciously offered to give us feedback and a lot of incredibly valuable information about process improvements and formal tastings. Alex works with Martin Christy and others at Seventypercent.com to give comprehensive reviews of chocolate bars. His palette is exceptional, but more impressive is his scientific knowledge of bringing out flavor from the bean. He had all kinds of insights, and we will undoubtedly use his feedback to improve our bars. Though, he did offer one piece of advice that we may ignore. He told us that the best way to cleanse your palette is with watery polenta, which he described as having the consistency of gruel. No doubt he’s right- maybe we should go ahead and give it a try! We look forward to keeping in touch with him. He’s a great resource, and we really appreciate the introduction from Sunita.
We’re keeping busy making lots of chocolate these days. We’ve increased production to fulfill a few new wholesale orders for shops in San Francisco. You can now find our bars at Chocolate Covered in Noe Valley and soon at Fog City News downtown. Both of these shops carry really well-curated collections of chocolate makers. We’ve gotten to know the owners of each shop, and both Jack and Adam are incredibly knowledgable and encouraging of new makers. If you go to check out our chocolate, be sure to ask for other favorites and recommendations.
Outside the city, you can also find us at Serendipity in San Carlos. It’s another wonderful shop dedicated to great chocolate. Fatima has a collection of local chocolatiers and makers. She also serves delicious coffee and chocolate drinks. I hope you can check it out!