We’re still a bit backlogged but with Maya on our side, that shouldn’t last too long!
We’re still a bit backlogged but with Maya on our side, that shouldn’t last too long!
Back in June, Alice and I led a workshop called “Chock-full O’ Chocolate” at our friendly neighborhood pirate supply store, also known as 826 Valencia. Founded ten years ago in San Francisco, 826 Valencia offers a variety of free programs for primary and secondary school students to support their writing skills, foster creativity and inspire confidence through writing and the literary arts.
We met a group of really great, talented students (all between the ages 12-15) who came to learn about chocolate, the chocolate-making process, and to further hone their creative writing skills. By the end of the four-week session, each student had produced numerous short stories, poems, and drawings inspired by chocolate. They personally selected their best pieces, which were published in a chapbook entitled If I Were A Wizard Chocolatier.
We’re thrilled to announce that this chapbook can now be found at our chocolate factory as well as 826 Valencia! To commemorate this super-special collaboration with our neighbors, If I Were A Wizard Chocolatier comes with its own limited-edition chocolate bar, developed especially for 826. It’s called the High Seas bar, complete with sea salt and an intriguing back-story. In honor of the partnership, we’ve made a total of 826 bars.
You can pick up both as a bundle at our space; alternatively, you can purchase the chapbook at 826 Valencia’s Pirate Supply Store, where you’ll also receive a golden ticket that can be redeemed for the accompanying High Seas bar at our location one block away.
María and Lauren, two of the fantastic designers at 826, are responsible for creating the look of the chapbook, as well as the packaging for the High Seas bar. They did an absolutely amazing job, and we can’t wait for you to dive right in and enjoy both!
A portion of the proceeds from If I Were A Wizard Chocolatier and the High Seas bar will go to 826 Valencia, so they can continue to fund free student programming for elementary-, middle- and high-schoolers. We had a great time working with everyone at 826, and especially with our workshop participants: Nathan, Miriam, Cecily, Janelle, Bryan, Troy, Anja, Zora, Anthony, Alexis and Myles.
Now that our factory and retail space on Valencia is open to the public, please feel free to stop by and thumb through the chapbook: maybe it’ll inspire you to pen a paean to chocolate as well!
As Todd mentioned earlier, we recently got a wrapping machine. We’ve been really happy with the paper and foil we use and we weren’t willing to compromise on them just to make wrapping easier. Finding a machine that would work in theory was challenging enough; actually getting it to work has been just as challenging. Fortunately, we were introduced to Jim Greenberg of Union Confectionery Machinery and I spent a bunch of time out there with Pablo and Osvaldo to get the machine set up for us. A week or two ago, the machine arrived and I couldn’t have been more excited:
Even after scrambling to find a forklift and forklift operator (Thanks, Juan!) and breaking the crate down, we were left with this:
It’s tough to tell from the picture, but the hallway to our space in the Dogpatch is huge but that doesn’t stop the machine from taking up almost the entire thing. Now that we could see the machine in all its glory, we realized that we had a small problem… the machine is 67 inches wide at its smallest point (with the safety covers off) and our door is only 47 inches wide. After a little bit of scrambling and enlisting the help our friend Snooky and his pal, we realized that we could make the machine small enough by removing one shaft from the machine. Luckily for us, the piece we needed to remove was easy to mark so we didn’t ruin any of the calibration:
Once the machine had the left piece removed and the “super pallet” had been cut to size, it was the moment of truth:
Fortunately, our measurements weren’t off and it just squeaked through the door. Everyone was pretty happy, including Snooky:
After moving a few tables, the machine was maneuvered into its new home:
The machine looks great in pictures but it’s even more fun to see it actually work so I’ll post a video soon.
Not too long ago, we dove into the project of designing paper to wrap our bars. We all pulled together our favorite inspiration images, and then Elaine and I set off to work designing patterns with the help of two incredibly talented graphic designers. I trekked to Austin to meet with one of our graphic designers and spent a number of days sketching repeated organic shapes at my desk. Elaine also excitedly poured hours into the project. About a month later, we have more fantastic patterns than we know what to do with.
Todd, Cam, Elaine, and I held the “pattern games” and let the patterns go head-to-head. We chose our favorites and are ready to place an order, hopefully before monsoon season strikes our printer in India. All told, I think we’re well on our way to having our own Dandelion-designed paper!
With all of the events and orders we have coming our way, we’ve started making Friday a dedicated production day. I love seeing all of our hard work wrapped up in little bundles waiting for a new home. The next set of bars looks like it’s just about cooled so time to get back to work!
We’re out on Bartlett every Thursday night at the Mission Community Market. It’s been a fantastic way to meet customers in the factory’s neighborhood. We’re really looking forward to the day when we have our doors open in the Mission! Every Thursday night we get a few of the same questions. I thought I’d take a minute to give you all an update.
The most common question, and the one we’re most eager to answer ourselves: when will the factory be open? You may remember, we put our 312 notice up in the window of 740 Valencia Street a few months ago. Thankfully, that process is complete, and we’re working on the next series of permits we need to open our space. We found out a week or so ago that we’ve received the Change of Use permit for the building. Now our landlord’s waiting on some building permits before he can start the initial construction. A short time after that, we should be able to start our construction. Fingers crossed!
We also have exciting news about our packaging. A few months ago, we hired two incredibly talented graphic designers, and we’re working toward a new iteration of our packaging. We get a lot of compliments on our current version, but we think we can take it up a notch. There are things we love about what we have now, especially the overall aesthetic and the color scheme. But, the first designs we’ve seen from our graphic designers have blown us away. As soon as we have things ready, we’ll give you a peek.
Things are also busy on the wholesale front and we’re keeping extremely busy making chocolate. We always say that it’s a great problem to have, but we can’t seem to make bars fast enough these days. You can pick up or try a bar at Chocolate Covered, Fog City News, Mission Cheese, The Chocolate Garage, and Serendipity. We’ve heard that our Madagascar bars seem to be the most popular in lots of these shops.
Also, we’re making great headway on sourcing our next set of beans. As I write, I’m sitting in front of a roaster testing out some new Ecuadorian beans. It smells a little like chocolate poptarts in the room as the beans roast, and I’m excited to taste our first batch from this sample! In the next few months, we should have a few new bars to add to our lineup.
Finally, like most summers, we’ve all been busy traveling. Cam just got back from the muggy east coast. In a few days, Todd and Cam are both taking heading off to Vermont and then Hawaii for friends’ weddings, and I’ll be in Texas later this month. While Todd and Cam are in Hawaii they’re hoping to meet Seneca of Koka Chocolate. Seneca is one of the founders of Bittersweet Cafe in San Francisco and Oakland. Now he’s growing cacao and making chocolate on Oahu. While they’re gone, I get to take care of Cam’s very snuggly dog, Tatsu.
That’s all for now, back to making chocolate!
Earlier this winter, I went on a whirlwind trip to Germany to investigate the packaging options for our bars. I attended the Paperworld conference in Frankfurt and saw so many beautiful handmade papers form India and Nepal. We currently wrap our bars in handmade cotton paper from India. You can see an example in this picture. We love our packaging and hope to create something similar for the factory. Still, we needed to do a little more research, so I took off to Europe for a weekend of learning about paper.
The more I learned, the more I realized what we have to consider. I think we’ll continue to use paper from India because we love the texture and the imperfections that come from screen printing. The vendors I met gave me a much better picture of the paper making process. The paper is made from recycled cotton rags instead of wood pulp, which makes it eco-friendly. Since the work is done by hand, there are many variables in the production. For example, paper made during monsoon season can’t be easily dried outside. It takes much longer to create and will have subtle differences in color and texture. I actually love these slight variations- they reflect the energy put into each piece of paper. But, monsoon season is coming up quickly and it’s the busiest time of year for these factories. We need to place our first orders soon to avoid this rush. When we have everything together and see our first papers, it will be one of the first steps that makes Dandelion Chocolate feel like it’s coming to life!
At the end of the weekend, I came back with a heavy bag of paper samples and a lot of information that will help us create our packaging. We’re still choosing colors and developing patterns, but I met a few sources for really beautiful paper. It was a short trip, fighting jet lag the whole time, but well worth it.
And, as a fun anecdote, Paperworld runs alongside Creativeworld, Hair & Beautyworld, and Christmasworld in the largest conference center I’ve ever seen. There was a motley, and fairly hilarious, group of crafters from all over the world. The space itself overloaded all of my senses- take a look!