Dandelion perfects "bean-to-bar" chocolate
BART Station:16th St. Mission (SF)
Walk Time:8 minutes
I’ll admit, my chocolate eating habits have traditionally followed the “put-as-much-of-it-in-your-mouth-as-possible” rather than the “sit-back-and-savor-it” philosophy, but I’ll blame that on the fact that not all chocolate deserves to be savored.
Dandelion Chocolate prides itself on being a chocolate you’ll want to really taste. They are a bean-to-bar, small batch kind of company, which means they are one of the unique chocolatiers that actually makes their own chocolate from start to finish, starting with sourcing and roasting their own cacao beans, and they do it all in an intimate space right on Valencia Street.
Beans are hand sorted and stored in a temperature-controlled room at Dandelion Chocolate Factory.
Dandelion Chocolate keeps their ingredient list incredibly simple – just cocoa beans and pure cane sugar, so the unique flavors of the chocolate really stand on their own. Their signature product is a variety of single origin bars – meaning the chocolate bars feature one variety of cacao harvested in one region. Especially when sampled back to back, the distinct flavors from each regional bean really shine. The Madagascar bar is delightfully fruity. The Guatemalan bar is nutty with hints of caramel. The Venezuelan bar will remind you a little of gingerbread. You get the idea.
Dandelion has an impressive spread of fun desserts and treats to nibble and sip in its cafe.
The company sources its cacao from locales such as Ecuador, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea and Madagascar, and works closely with farmers to make sure working conditions are good and bean quality is high. Every part of the chocolate making process is visible from the café, from the glass-walled temperature controlled back room where the beans are hand sorted and stored, to the various whirring machines where the beans are then roasted and ground – all in all, a multi day project from start to finish. After making its way through the various machines, the chocolate is carefully poured into bars, hand wrapped in foil, and finally packaged in a thick gold printed paper whose polished presentation hints at the decadence inside.
Dandelion also has an in-house pastry chef.
But Dandelion Chocolate doesn’t stop at just the total transparency in their methods. One thing that makes them more than just a chocolate shop is their focus on education. For the chance to don a hair net and get a closer look at the chocolate making process, Dandelion Chocolate does offer free 30 minute tours of their factory, though the tickets notoriously get snatched up months in advance. However, for anyone more than just mildly curious about chocolate making, Dandelion also offers in-depth classes in the shop. Their Chocolate 101 course is an intro to chocolate making and Chocolate 201 provides the opportunity to actually make your own small batch of chocolate from start to finish – both offer plenty of chances to taste chocolate in every phase of preparation. There is even a class for the young aspiring chocolatiers aged 7-12.
Every part of the chocolate-making process is visible from the café.
Tickets are available for purchase on their website. In addition to witnessing the magic of chocolate being made, you’ll want to peruse the impressive spread of fun desserts and treats to nibble and sip in the cafe. Sit on at one of the tables and enjoy something that their in-house pastry chef has prepared, like the giant Papua New Guinea S’more on a homemade graham or the Brownie Bite Flight that lets you taste the unique nuances of the different regions in three different distinctly flavored brownies.You can even drink your chocolate. The iced coffee is infused with chocolate nibs that give it a subtle chocolate undertone, and the house mocha is a crowd favorite. And if you get a hot chocolate, don’t skimp on the house made marshmellows. Then sit back and enjoy yourself. You’ll want to savor all of it.
Tip: Dandelion is always sourcing and testing new beans to produce new, unique flavors. Follow their Twitter or Facebook accounts to stay up to date on new bars, limited edition tastes and seasonal café items.
Dandelion Chocolate Factory sources its cacao from locales such as Ecuador, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea and Madagascar.