Chocolate memories

Taste, like smell, holds incredible memory power, so naturally, chocolate memories are clearly etched in my mind. Three moments in particular stand out for me, for their flavor and their impact on my chocolate journey.

The first took place when I was twelve years old. My family had moved from California to Georgia a few years earlier, causing my best friend and I to be separated by over 2,000 miles. When her Bat Mitzvah approached, my mom agreed to take me out to California for a mother-daughter trip, including attending the big event. I had never been to a Bat Mitzvah before, and Stephanie’s was impressive for its glittery decorations, for the incredible number of guests, and for all that I learned about Judaism that day. Also on that trip, my mom and I visited Ghirardelli Square, watched chefs making chocolate behind the glass windows, and ate massive chocolate sundaes together. The trip made me feel grown up and close to my mom in a new way. It was also my first memorable moment with chocolate!

1998-11 giradelli

The next experience took place about six years later. I was studying abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico, doing an internship with Adelante Abroad and immersing myself in Spanish. One of my favorite things to do in a new place is walk the streets, observing the people and the culture in action. So, I spent many days walking around the main square or Zocalo. A large part of it was under construction, so I often had to weave through scaffolding to visit the smaller alleys and walkways. One day, I came across the Mayordomo main storefront. The walls are lined with chocolate products, stacked all the way to the ceiling! I had never seen anything like it, and it smelled amazing. I bought a few grainy rounds of the thick drinking chocolate as souvenirs for my friends and family. The unique flavors of this chocolate were different from any chocolate I had ever experienced. I was by no means an expert then (nor do I claim to be now), but I could tell it was something special.

Recently, I visited some old friends. One of them is pregnant and due in January. I asked her if she ever has any cravings now. She shook her head, saying that she just eats more than usual. Then she paused and remembered out loud, she actually did crave something – that crazy chocolate I had brought her from Mexico back in high school! I couldn’t believe she remembered the chocolate I brought her almost 10 years ago and went online to see if I could order some to give her as a baby present. Unfortunately Mayordomo only has online sales for Mexican addresses. If anyone knows where I can buy Mayordomo in the US, particularly in the Bay Area in California, I’d really appreciate it!

The third memory I’ll mention for now happened earlier this year. In April, Richard led a backpacking trip for a group of our friends to the Lost Coast in the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, which is a beautiful and remote area of California. We packed light but needed to carry in (and out) all of our food. I had been unsatisfied with trail mixes recently, so I made my own, including some Hershey’s milk chocolate chips I found in the back of the pantry. Later, when we reached the beach where we’d camp for the night, we pulled out the trail mix to re-energize. (Side note – this part was absolutely stunning and I highly recommend this hike for the adventurous trekker!) Yum, it tasted delicious!

lost coast

Recently, when I re-tasted the trail mix, I almost spit out the chocolate chips, a reaction Richard had when he first tasted the mix back in April. Our chocolate tastes have clearly evolved this year. In fact, I think we’re becoming chocolate snobs!

What are your more memorable chocolate moments? Share in the comments below!

Where do cacao farmers fit in?

Most chocolate consumers don’t consider where their chocolate is coming from. Those of you reading this blog are already ahead of your peers, because you’re educating yourself about the process, about what it takes to bring those tasty bars of chocolate to your tongue.

Even then, the majority of what I’ve covered so far involves the processing end of chocolate, once it’s considered cocoa. However, there’s a whole world of chocolate that occurs before the beans are hard and dry. That’s the world of the cacao farmers. I’ve discussed the importance of knowing the supply chain of your food, and the concept of slow food. It’s also important to consider the individuals who plant the cacao trees, cut down the cacao pods, and open them up to ferment and dry the cacao beans.

Recently, a video of a cacao farmer tasting chocolate for the first time went viral. The video was produced by Dutch news outlet, Metropolis. NPR covers the story focusing on the divide between producers and consumers. Metropolis also covered the other end of the story: what Dutch chocolate consumers feel and know about the plant their chocolate came from.

A few chocolate-makers are already paying close attention to the farmers, incorporating them into their decision-making process, and ensuring that their voices are included at the table of the chocolate industry. For example, SPAGnVOLA in Gaithersburg, Maryland, is a vertically integrated chocolate business. They own their own farm in the Dominican Republic and control every part of chocolate production, from branch to bar. I highly recommend taking a look at their single estate system and impressive impact strategy. Eric Reid, CEO and Founder, explains his strategy on a visit to Nigeria here.

Additionally, Askinosie Chocolate in Springfield, Missouri, provides one of my favorite models for a chocolate company. They practice direct trade (something we’d love to do here at Root Chocolate). They also incorporate the farmers they work with in their financial decisions with a strategy they call “a stake in the outcome,” and provide community development support through “a product of change.” Shawn Askinosie also operates Chocolate University, teaching local kids the ins and outs of chocolate and leads trips to Tanzania to share the chocolate journey with those who produce the chocolate in the first place. Shawn gave a commencement address to Missouri State University in December 2011 that still gives me chills.

We’d love to meet these exemplary leaders in the chocolate industry some day! Both Eric Reid and Shawn Askinosie consider the well-being of the cacao farmers just as important as the rest of the chocolate-making process. And frankly, chocolate wouldn’t happen without them, so we agree!

In a recent conversation with Yellow Seed about importing cocoa beans as a network of chocolate makers, an interesting idea came up. What if, just like we chocolate-makers choose which farmers or co-ops to source our beans from, the farmers themselves have the chance to decide which chocolate-makers to sell their beans to? In other words, why not provide some agency to the farmers in the process?

In this world of international trade, inequality, and scarcity, I’m still working out how to best incorporate the interests and voices of the cacao farmers into the chocolate we produce. Thankfully, there are leaders in the industry like SPANgVOLA and Askinosie. If you have additional ideas, please feel free to comment below!

Advice from Experts

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with two true chocolate experts. The first was Chloe Doutre-Roussel, author of The Chocolate Connoisseur. We sat at Dandelion in San Francisco, where she was doing a book signing on her way up to the Northwest Chocolate Festival last weekend.

I felt honored to spend some time talking to Chloe about her vast experience with chocolate. I sat down with a Mission hot chocolate from Dandelion and when the chocolate-making staff at Dandelion joined us, I felt totally surrounded by experts. I had the opportunity to show them my bean to bar activities at home, and we discussed roasting and winnowing issues.

Landen and Chloe Doutre-Roussel

The second expert was Tad Van Leer. I’ll go into detail about my conversation with Mr. Van Leer – I learned a lot! Mr. Van Leer grew up and worked in his family’s chocolate manufacturing company, Van Leer Chocolate, until selling to Barry Callebaut in 1999, and more recently worked as General Manager of J. Emanuel Chocolatier, in Chester, NJ. His Van Leer chocolate was named the top chocolate in the world in a blind taste test at Chez Panisse in 1995 by Cook’s Illustrated also our cocoa powder was the top choice by Cook’s in 1999, and was the chocolate provider for the White House from Carter to Clinton’s presidency.

I also happened to go to high school with Mr. Van Leer’s daughter, Liz. So, it was an honor to be able to reconnect and discuss his background and recommendations in the world of chocolate. And some of what we discussed melded well with some of the lessons I’ve previously learned and other parts were entirely new and different! There is a wide range of advice out there as far as how to make chocolate, and we’re open to learning it all!

Let’s go through the chocolate-making process and I’ll highlight the new and different bits from my conversation with Mr. Van Leer.


Mr. Van Leer recommends getting cocoa beans from Ghana. He loves the Accra beans; they have “the cleanest flavor” and ferment better than anywhere else. Ghana beans also have the best yield, have more cocoa butter, and have the truest “chocolate flavor”. They are also the beans that went into the chocolate that won Van Leer Chocolate all its awards. Previously we had heard that most of the best bean genetics (Criollo) are in Latin America. Now we’re looking forward to expanding our bean sourcing horizon! He suggests that everyone develop their own taste rather than taking the advice of others.


Using screens to filter the nibs and husks could improve the speed and quality of the winnowing process. Using screens after cracking allows the nibs to go through the screen while keeping the shell above. One can then easily “blow” the shells away. Using a series of smaller screens mimics a true winnower, and will give you the cleanest nibs.


Rather than our intensive kill step at 400 degrees, then dropping to 250 degrees, Mr. Van Leer recommends a completely new way of roasting (two step process): one to pop the shells, and again after winnowing and cracking the beans, never taking the temperature above 212 F. This allows for a more even roast with more of a consistent sized nib. Cocoa beans are of varied size- roasting them as whole beans over roasts small beans and under roasts larger ones. He suggests roasting with steam in a drum, something we haven’t heard before and are curious to try. Some of the roasting devices used by other bean-to-bar makers look like engineering feats out of Star Wars, particularly Art Pollard’s creation at Amano Artisan Chocolate. I encourage anyone interested in this to check out the documentary, Bean to Bar, which can be viewed on IndieFlix. If you roast in an oven ensure that the nibs are even on the pan. Coffee drum roasters also work well.


Mr. Van Leer’s refining recommendations were the most different from our previous advice. He suggests using a mill only to make the chocolate liquor. From there, the best refiner for uniform particle size is the three roll refiner. We’ve seen these before – Ritual Chocolate uses one, and goes into more detail on it here. Mr. Van Leer recommends a particle size of less than 25 microns, and encourages us to refine sugar to small particle size as well! He suggests refining the chocolate liquor and the sugar together. This makes for more uniform mass and also improves the conching flavor. Using a three roll refiner allows more fat release from the bean which makes the mass flow better, reducing the viscosity.


Another idea is to remove the chocolate from the Premier Wonder Grinder for further conching in a Kitchen Aid mixer, placed on a heating pad at about 145 F for 12 hours. At the moment, we’re conching directly in the grinder, so this could provide an alternative method! We learned that “cheap” chocolate is conched in a grinder- you usually get a less consistent flavor and the particle sizes are not uniform. He suggests tasting a cheap Easter Bunny from CVS or Walmart as an example.


Tempering seems to be a point of agreement (besides the exact temperatures) among chocolate-makers. Mr. Van Leer recommends starting the chocolate liquor at 105, then cooling rapidly to 85 degrees, then heating it back to 90-92 F. He suggests a microwave at power level 3 (for about a pound of chocolate) and stirring often. His recommended test is not paper or a knife, but rather to pour it into a small flat mold and see if it shrinks with no discoloration. If that works, then the chocolate has been tempered appropriately.


Finally, Mr. Van Leer suggests using polycarbonate molds, found online at many sites including TomricMicelli, and Chef Rubber among others. At the moment, we’re using some polypropelene and some silicone molds – neither are amazing, so we’re definitely open to alternatives.

This was quite an educational conversation and we’re excited to stay in touch as we build out our recipes and process further! Let us know if there are additional chocolate experts you’d like to hear from, and we’ll try to get in touch to share their knowledge as well!

roaster and new winnower

Madagascar batch

This week we made chocolate again and this time, it was delicious, fun, and scientifically documented. Who am I kidding – that’s always what our chocolate-making process looks like!

(Side note – we wish we could be in two places at once, but we will not be able to attend the Northwest Chocolate Festival this weekend. Instead, we’ll be celebrating our wedding anniversary and attending a good friend’s wedding in Kansas City. For all you chocolate-makers out there, let us know how it goes, and we’ll see you there next year!)

We started this batch on Friday the 26th with the roast. Using the Madagascar 2012 harvest that our friends, David and Leslie at Arete generously donated to our “research and development” fund, we put 932 grams of beans on our two new trays into the oven.

roasting Madagascar beans

We roasted them for 5 minutes at 400, then 15 minutes at 250, then finally 10 minutes with the oven off. Then we removed them from the oven and placed them to quickly cool on our new homemade (!) quartz table. (Richard re-designed our entire apartment to include a chocolate factory in our former dining room a couple weeks ago while I was away at a wedding, including building our new tempering table from a beautiful chunk of quartz and some Ikea table legs – wow!)

quartz tempering table

On Monday night, we had our next chance to work on chocolate. It was time to test the winnower that Richard built out of our vacuum cleaner, a bucket, some serious tubes, duct tape, and the champion juicer. Check it out! This is mock 1 and we definitely have some ways to go on improving this, but I’m super impressed with the speed and ease of winnowing with this! Our first batch had a 65% yield of 607 grams, which we intend to improve with some adjustments to the engineering.

roaster and new winnower

We sent the nibs through our trusty Nutribullet to make them into a powder, then put the grinder, rollers, and resulting cocoa powder in the oven to heat. We set the oven to 200 F then turned it off before putting the items in. We’ve learned that the refining process is a lot smoother (and less noisy) if we heat our tools and ingredients first!

I then spooned in the cocoa powder slowly over 45 minutes, using a heat gun to warm the powder and the grinder as the cocoa mass began to liquify. By 10:35pm, all the powder was in the wonder grinder and we were off to bed!

The next morning at 8am, the liquid looked beautiful (and tasted like chocolatey mud)! Richard added 236 grams of sugar, which he had previously ground in a coffee grinder, making 72% chocolate.

Tuesday night, we finished it off with an hour and a half of conching with the spring-loaded grinder unlatched, so the wheels turned freely in the cocoa liquor without the pressure of refining as well. At 9pm, we turned off the wonder grinder and started tempering! We tried some new tempering scrapers and abandoned them halfway through for our trusty Home Depot plastic paint scrapers. Sometimes fancier doesn’t equate to more functional. That said, the quartz table worked perfectly!

tempering table

To temper, we raised the temperature to 112 in the microwave, then poured the liquid out onto the table. We agitated it and spread it around, reducing the temperature to 81 F with very few chunks. In previous batches, when we hit the low 80s, the chocolate tends to chunk off, which makes it difficult to later reintegrate as a liquid. This time, we encountered much less of that for some reason.

We tried a knife test to check the temper, which was inconclusive. Maybe we don’t wait long enough to see if it hardens with a shiny, hard coat. Maybe we eat it off the end of the knife too quickly. We’ll never know!

We decided to go for it – we poured the chocolate into our molds and for the first time, it oozed into them easily without clumping at all. We tried vibrating the molds by hand, to ease the chocolate into every nook and cranny, and in the process were able to successfully remove bubbles as well!

Madagascar bars

Overall, I’m pretty pumped about this batch. We simplified some of the steps and were more successful at most of them as well. Here’s what the final products look like – much less bloom than previously, beautifully shiny (especially that big one on the right), and delicious. We still have lots to learn, but we’re definitely improving!

Madagascar chocolate

Cottage Food Operations (CFO) and Chocolate

You may be wondering when we’re going to get on with making this delicious hobby into a business. Well, we’re not quite there yet, but I’ll share one option we’re considering: the CFO or Cottage Food Operation.

First of all, to operate a food business is no easy task, particularly in this litigious society of ours where McDonalds needs to label coffee as hot and Nytol has to label sleeping tablets with “may cause drowsiness.” There are quite a few licenses and permits and certifications required before one is legally able to sell food in the United States, and in our case, in San Mateo County, California. Specifically, the ability to make and sell food from a home kitchen raised enough interest that California passed a law that went into effect January 1, 2013, called the California Homemade Food Act.

The bill allows individuals to prepare and/or package certain non-potentially hazardous foods in private-home kitchens referred to as “cottage food operations” (CFOs).

All cottage food operators will have to meet specified requirements pursuant to the California Health and Safety Code related to preparing foods that are on the approved food list, completing a food processor training course within three months of registering, implementing sanitary operations, establishing state and federal compliant labels, and operating within established gross annual sales limits.

There are many benefits of this law. The biggest is that it is now possible to sell food made in your home! The law provides clear requirements in order to legally set up a business that sells non-perishable food made in a home kitchen.

There are also a few limitations. The one that is most challenging, in my opinion, is that cottage food operations are not allowed to sell products online or outside of the state of California. They may only be sold for pickup or delivery, or in the case of Class B permit, through a third party like a bakery or a chocolate shop. Additionally, there are annual income ceilings, specific food lists, and incredible labeling requirements. Finally, every county has a slightly different process, so a lot of detailed research is required before starting the steps required to legally sell as a CFO.

Our friends at Letterpress Chocolate have successfully obtained their permits and are on their way to successful sales as a CFO, so we know it’s possible.

There are a few useful guidelines out there as to how to get started with filing the appropriate paperwork in order to start a CFO. Here are our favorites:

We’ve also discovered a few outlets for sales, if/when we get this going:

I hope these resources are useful to others considering this option. We’ll keep you updated on our process as well, particularly if we decide to take the CFO route! Leave us your thoughts below – are you considering a CFO? Where do you produce your bean-to-bar chocolate?

Importing Cocoa Beans

My first ever post on The Chocolate Life was a naive call for small-scale farmers to send me their beans. Little did I know that one of the biggest hurdles to starting a “from the bean” chocolate business is obtaining high quality, well-fermented cocoa beans! And collaboration is the best way to a successful importation process.

The difficulty of obtaining high quality beans can actually be considered both good and bad.

Why is it good?

There is a definite shortage of good cocoa beans in the world. Chloe Doutre-Roussel writes in her book, The Chocolate Connoisseur, the following:

An estimated 15% of world production:

Good beans (e.g. Crillo/Trinitario hybrid of Trinitario) + good fermentation = good chocolate

Good beans + bad fermentation = bad chocolate

An estimated 85% of world production:

Poor beans (e.g. Forastero) + good fermentation = poor chocolate

Poor beans + bad fermentation = terrible chocolate!

Our friends at Arete reminded us that while we are joining a very welcoming community, not everyone can! Cocoa beans are a scarcity and it’s actually a benefit to the industry that it’s difficult to obtain them.

Why is it bad?

Well, we want to be using good beans, so of course, we’d prefer this process was easier. Plus, in the spirit of Slow Food, we’d love it if delicious chocolate were accessible to everyone. That said, we’re always up for a challenge!

So, how do “from the bean” makers obtain cocoa beans?

There are two options. We can obtain them directly from the source or indirectly.

Obtaining beans indirectly

Obtaining beans indirectly is much easier. This would mean buying beans that someone else has already imported. We’ve done that by stopping by the Grand Central Market in LA, a few small markets in San Francisco, purchasing a bag of beans from Dandelion, and samplers from Chocolate Alchemy. Even our purchase from Piper of Siriana Cacao was an indirect buy, since we did not work directly with the farmers/co-ops/international producers in country.

Another way of purchasing beans indirectly is through one of the many members of the Cocoa Merchants’ Association of America, among other suppliers.

The pros are that this is faster, easier, and often cheaper than buying directly from a cocoa producer. Additionally, it is possible to buy in small quantities (less than 100 lbs at a time).

The cons, on the other hand, are that this way does not build a relationship with the producers and can hide many of the issues related to supply chain that are important to me and many other small-scale chocolate makers. Additionally, this limits the selection of beans to those that someone else is already working with.

Obtaining beans directly

Obtaining beans directly from the source is considerably more difficult, as it requires international trade, minimum orders, and often a direct relationship with the cocoa producers. At the moment, as far as I’m aware, there are two ways to obtain directly: hire a broker to facilitate the sale and shipping process, or take care of that process ourselves. According to our friend Dan at Tabal, hiring a broker is a good idea if the total sale comes out to more than $2,000. (Wow, the most we’ve spent on beans so far was about $25 for 2 kilos from Dandelion!) You can find a list of brokers here.

Alternatively, there are two ways to follow through on the process without a broker: ship beans by a mail carrier like DHL or FedEx, or ship the beans in a shipping container by boat. A colleague on The Chocolate Life, Juan Pablo Buchert of Nahua Chocolate, helped explain to us what a cost structure of shipping beans with a mail carrier would look like:

You can receive the beans at you home, or shop, at an extra cost that is charged by the freight forwarder (FedEx, DHL). They can deal with the customs clearance as well. For example this is the cost structure for a 250 kg (550lb) shipment that we recently sent from Costa Rica to Chicago and delivered to a chocolate shop there:

Air Shipment……………………  $437,50

Charges at origin………………  $386,50 (Customs, pallets confection, pick up)

Charges at destination………… $  297,50  (Doc Handover & Delivery)

Total Shipping…………………….  $1.121,50    ($4.49/kg or  $2.04/lb)

The incoterm selected was DAP – Delivered at Place-  (Not FOB or CIF). Some clients decide to deal with customs clearance themselves and save the Charges at Destination, in this example $297.50. Obviously, this is an example of a large shipment for a home based chocolatier.

Smaller quantities (up to 50 lbs at a time) come in at 2.5 lbs for $22, including shipping, charges at origin, and charges at destination, then it goes up from there.

This also required an FDA-certified facility, USDA registration for the import, a copy of the invoice, and a phyto-sanitary certificate issued at origin.

What should we do about it?

Good question. The difficulty of importing beans prevents many small batch makers from establishing a relationship with the cocoa producers and controlling our supply chain. Facilitating the process involves many moving pieces: international law, trading regulations, and an incredible amount of support both for the farmers (to get their beans from the farm to a shipping port) and for the chocolate-makers (to organize a payment agreement for a shared shipping container).

For that reason, we’ve begun conversations with organizations like Yellow Seed, which seeks to fill the gap between chocolate-makers and cocoa producers. We’ve talked with chocolate-makers like David at Letterpress Chocolate, Eli and Tracey at Bisou, and David and Leslie at Arete, among others about sharing costs to charter a container to California.

This is a service that could revolutionize the small batch industry, so we’re looking forward to continuing the conversation and learning about available options. If you have ideas or suggestions, please leave your thoughts below in the comments. We’re certainly open to learning more!

Chocolate Texture

Let’s take a step back for a moment and talk about texture. Whenever texture and food are discussed in tandem, opinions seem to go to extremes. Either the texture is absolutely amazing or incredibly disgusting. I, for one, am appalled by the texture of rice pudding. Besides the fact that cinnamon isn’t my favorite flavor, the mushiness of the rice completely turns me off. And I don’t have much of a poker face, so you’ll know if I think something is gross.

That said, I don’t seem to have quite as drastic a reaction to differing textures in chocolate. Our first few chocolate batches were made in a coffee grinder and with a molcajete, as you can see from our original post on how to make chocolate at home. The resulting texture was slightly grainy, giving it a rustic and some may even say “homemade” feel on the tongue. The Chocolate Alchemist is not a fan of this version of chocolate and doesn’t consider it “modern chocolate.” In fact, he has called out the definitions and process used in the video that originally inspired us to try our hand at homemade chocolate. He makes a lot of great points, particularly about conching, refining and equipment.

We now realize that we were not conching our chocolate by rolling it around a molcajete. Conching is a somewhat mysterious process that could mean covering sugar particles with cocoa butter or eliminating the bitter flavors of the cocoa beans. Either way, it does not have to do with reducing the particle size of the chocolate; rather it relates to movement over time… a very long time. That is, more than a few minutes on a molcajete.

Similarly, we did not refine our nibs to the point that is traditionally acceptable for “modern chocolate.” Our first batch of chocolate certainly did not feel like the kind of chocolate you could buy in a store or even the smooth bars of most small batch chocolate-makers. There is some debate as to the appropriate micron size of chocolate, though most people seem to agree that it’s somewhere between 14 and 20. This can be measured by your handy dandy micrometer (much cheaper and more accessible than you’d expect). That size is the best fit for the human tongue’s taste buds, in order to access maximum flavor from the chocolate. Our first batch was no where near 14-20 microns. The average size was probably closer to 50-70 microns, which the tongue can certainly still feel. Check out this useful comparison chart for reference.

He also makes three very convenient lists of equipment for the dedicated at-home chocolate chef. I’m including them here for your reference. You can also buy all of these products directly from Chocolate Alchemy (I get no commission from this, but my experience buying from him has been stellar, so this is unbiased promotion):

  1. At minimum: buy nibs, roast them in your oven, and buy a Premier Wonder Grinder for $195.
  2. To go from bean to bar, you’ll need the following:
    1. Your oven $0.00
    2. Champion : $265
    3. Winnowing: Bowl and blow dryier.
    4. Refining: Melanger. $195
    5. Total minimum: $460
  3. For the easiest process and the most money, you’ll need the following:
    1. Champion: $265
    2. Behmor: $299
    3. Sylph: $195
    4. Melanger: $195
    5. Total Deluxe minimum: $954

Given all that, I still believe strongly that it is possible to make a small batch of tasty homemade chocolate, though admittedly not “modern,” with the following equipment and ingredients. Consider it the Root Chocolate variation, to be made at home in your own kitchen.


  1. Toaster oven
  2. Coffee grinder (Kitchen Aid)
  3. Spatula
  4. Marble slab
  5. Paint scrapers


  1. 115 grams of fermented cocoa beans
  2. 40 grams of cane sugar

Your texture will definitely be a little gritty, but if you’re ok with that, then this is your simple homemade chocolate recipe. Let us know what you think by commenting below!

List of “From the Bean” Chocolate Makers

You may have noticed by now that we at Root Chocolate are not the only ones making chocolate “from the bean,” as Clay Gordon likes to call it. In fact, we are among many small- and micro-batch makers dedicated to the craft (part art, part science) of making chocolate.

I wanted to do a brief post about the many other bean-to-bar companies out there to pass along the advice we’ve been given time and again: eat more chocolate. Refine your palate. Taste all those other delicious bars in order to understand what you really like. First, please note the many sites that review chocolate bars and share their wealth of tasting knowledge with the world:

And now, without further ado, I give you the list of all the “from the bar” chocolate makers I’m aware of. Please feel free to comment to add or correct anything on this list, so I can build out this list even more thoroughly!

Name Location Website
A. Morin France
Acalli Chocolate New Orleans, LA
Adi Chocolate Fiji
Agapey Chocolate Barbados
Akesson’s Sweden
Alain Ducasse France
Amadei New York, NY
Amano Chocolate Orem, UT
Ambrosia Pastry Canada
Amma Chocolate Brazil
Anahata Cacao New Jersey
Antidote Chocolate Brooklyn, NY
Ara Chocolate France
Arete Milpitas, CA
Askinosie Springfield, MO
Bahen & Co Australia
Bar Au Chocolat Manhattan Beach, CA
Baravelli’s Welsh Chocolate Ireland
Beanpod Chocolate Canada
Benoit Nihant Chocolate Belgium
Bernachon France
Beussent-Lachelle France
Bittersweet Chocolate Cafe Oakland, CA
Black Mountain Chocolate Black Mountain, NC
Blue Bandana Vermont
Bonnat France
Bright Chocolate Australia
Burnt Fork Bend Chocolate Stevensville, MT
Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Co. Atlanta, GA
Cacao Prieto Brooklyn
Cacaosuyo Peru
Cao Artisan Chocolates Lynchburg, VA
Captain Pembleton New Zealand
Caribeans Chocolate Costa Rica
Castronovo Florida
Cello Chocolate Nevada City, CA
Charley’s Chocolate Factory Australia
Chequessett Chocolate Cape Cod, MA
Chocolarder England
Chocolat Ferrier France
Chocolate Alchemy Eugene, OR
Chocolate Naive Lithuania
Chocolate Sandander Colombia
Chocolatemakers Netherlands
Chocolates El Rey Venezuela
ChocoSol Traders Canada
ChocoVic Spain
ChocoVivo Los Angeles, CA
Choklat Canada
Cicada Artisan Chocolate Australia
Cocanu Portland, OR
CocoaTown LLC Roswell, GA
Cotton Tree Chocolate Belize
Cravve Chocolate and Tea Australia
Csokolade Keszites Hungary
Daintree Estates Australia
Dandelion Chocolate San Francisco, CA
Danta Chocolate Guatemala
Davis Chocolate Mishawaka, IN
Dead Dog Chocolate Denver, CO
DeVries Chocolate Denver, CO
Dick Taylor Arcata, CA
Domori Italy
Duffy’s Chocolate England
DV Chocolate South Africa
Eastvan Roasters Canada
El Ceibo Bolivia
Erithaj Chocolate France
Escazu Raleigh, NC
Ethereal Confections Woodstock, IL
Fearless Chocolate Berkeley, CA
Finca Chocolate Logan, OH
Fine and Raw Chocolate South Africa
Firefly Chocolate Sebastopol, CA
Forever Cacao United Kingdom
Franceschi Chocolate Venezuela
Frederic Blondeel Belgium
French Broad Chocolates Asheville, NC
Fresco Chocolate Lynden, WA
Friis Holm Denmark
Frolic Chocolate Charlottesville, VA
Fruition New York
Gabriel Chocolate Australia
Gaillot Chocolate Bulgaria
Garden Island Chocolate/ Nanea Chocolate Kauaii, HI
Guido Castagna Italy
Guittard Burlingame, CA
Habitual Chocolate Roasters Canada
Hoja Verde Ecuador
Holy Cacao Israel
Hotel Chocolat England
Idilio Origins Switzerland
Indi Chocolate Seattle, WA
IQ Chocolate Scotland
ISIDRO Chocolate Austin, TX
It’s Chocolate! Winston-Salem, NC
IXCACAO Maya Belizean Chocolate Belize
Jacques Torres Chocolate New York, NY
Jordi’s Chocolate Czech Republic
Kakaw Belizean Chocolate Belize
Kallari Ecuador
KISKADEE Chocolates Austin, TX
KYYA Springdale, AR
Laia Chocolaterie France
Letterpress Chocolate Los Angeles, CA
Levy Chocolate Finland
Lillie Belle Farms Central Point, OR
Lonohana Hawaiian Estate Chocolate Honolulu, HI
Lulu’s Chocolate Sedona, AZ
Madecasse Madagascar
Madre Chocolate Honolulu, HI
Magdalena’s Cacao Bean Chocolates Philippines
Mahogany Chocolate Lubbock, TX
Malagos Chocolates Philippines
Malie Kai Chocolates Hawaii
Mana Chocolate Portland, OR
Manoa Chocolate Kailua, HI
Manufaktura Czekolady Poland
Marigold’s Finest Canada
Marou Vietnam
Marsatta Redondo Beach, CA
Marsatta Fancy Chocolates Redondo Beach, CA
Mast Brothers Brooklyn, NY
Maverick Chocolate Co. Cincinati, OH
Mayta Ecuador
Meadowlands Chocolate Company Meadowlands, MN
Menakao Madagascar
Meridian Cacao Portland, OR
Metiisto Artisan Chocolate Sweden
Michael Recchiuti San Francisco, CA
Michel Cluizel France
Middlebury Chocolate Middlebury, VT
Millcreek Cacao Roasters Salt Lake City, UT
Mindo Chocolate Makers Dexter, MI
Monsieur Truffle Australia
Nahua Chocolate Costa Rica
Nick’s Chocolate Australia
Night Owl Chocolate Greenville, SC
Nuance Chocolate Fort Collins, CO
Oialla Denmark
Olive and Sinclair Nashville, TN
Olivia Chocolat Canada
Omnom Chocolate Iceland
Organic Fair Canada
Original Beans Netherlands
Otago Chocolate Company (Ocho) New Zealand
Pacari Chocolate Ecuador
Palette De Bine Canada
Parliament Chocolate Redlands, CA
Patric Columbia, MO
Patrice Chapon France
Paul A. Young England
Pierre Marcolini France
Pipiltin Chocolate Indonesia
Potomac Woodbridge, VA
Pralus France
Pump Street Bakery England
Raaka Chocolate Brooklyn, NY
Rain Republic Chocolate Guatemala
Raw Cocoa Poland
Republica de Cacao Ecuador
Ritual Chocolate Denver, CO
Rogue Massachussets
Rozsavolgyi Csokolade Hungary
Sacred Chocolate Novato, CA
Salgado Chocolates Argentina
Sandpoint Chocolate Bear Sandpoint, ID
Santosha Chocolate Asheville, NC
Shark Mountain Chocolate Charlottesville, VA
Sibu Sura Chocolates Myersville, MD
Sirene Artisan Chocolate Canada
Sjölinds Chocolate House Mount Horeb, WI
Solkiki Chocolate England
Solstice Chocolate Salt Lake City, Utah
SOMA Chocolate Canada
Somerville Chocolate Somerville, MA
SPAGnVOLA Gaithersburg, MD
Spencer Cacao Australia
Spirited Artisan Chocolate Bisbee, AZ
SRSLY Chocolate Austin, TX
Stone Grindz Arizona
Sublime Chocolate Dallas, TX
Sun Eaters Organics Trinidad and Tobago
Tabal Milwaukee, MN
Talamanca Chocolates Costa Rica
Taza Massachussets
Tcho San Francisco, CA
Tejas Chocolate Houston, TX
Terroir Chocolate Fergus Falls, MN
The Chocolate Conspiracy Salt Lake City, UT
The Chocolate Tree Scotland
The Fudge Shoppe Flemington, NJ
The Grenada Chocolate Company Grenada
The Oakland Chocolate Company Oakland, CA
The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory Kailua-Kona, HI
Theo and Philo Philippines
Theo Chocolate Seattle, WA
Treehouse Chocolate Portland, OR
Twenty-four blackbirds Santa Barbara, CA
Valhrona Brooklyn, NY
Vicuña Chocolate Peterborough, NH
Videri Chocolate North Carolina
Vintage Plantations New Jersey
Wellington Chocolate New Zealand
White Rabbit Chocolate New Zealand
Wild Sweets Canada
Wilkie’s Organic Chocolate Ireland
Willie’s Cacao England
Woodblock Chocolate Portland, OR
Zokoko Australia
Zotter Austria

Slow Food

A better, cleaner and fairer world begins with what we put on our plates – and our daily choices determine the future of the environment, economy and society. – Slow Food USA

It’s hard to disagree with that statement. The slow food movement also purports that “the future of food is the future of the planet.” Again, I couldn’t agree more.

The slow food movement originated in Italy in 1986 when Carlo Petrini led a protest against a McDonald’s opening in Rome. The philosophy is “good, clean, and fair food,” as defined by the slow food international website:

  • GOOD: quality, flavorsome and healthy food
  • CLEAN: production that does not harm the environment
  • FAIR: accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for producers

Boiled down to its roots, the slow food movement encourages us to connect more with our food, be more intentional about its origin and how it arrives at our lips through preserving tradition and providing a “taste education.”

The movement has remained mostly in the sphere of counterculture, though its popularity is growing. In 2008, Woddy Tasch published Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Food: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered and opened the nonprofit Slow Money to support the efforts of small-scale and local food enterprises. In 2014, Slow Money has grown to nearly 1000 participants in their annual event and the organization has invested over $35 million in more than 300 small food enterprises since 2010. Slow food movement as a whole now has over 80,000 members internationally, including food community  producers, cooks, and academics, according to the 2013 Slow Food Almanac.

What does this have to do with chocolate? I’d like to think of Root Chocolate as slow chocolate. Our chocolate is high quality, flavorsome, and contains only natural ingredients of cacao and sugar. Our chocolate is clean in that besides the ecological footprint of transporting the beans from where they grow near the equator to our apartment in the Bay Area, we try to reduce the environmental impact in all other ways, from the farm to the bar. And finally fair – we are highly sensitive to paying an appropriate price for the beans so that the cacao farmers earn a living wage. Granted, we’re not selling any chocolate at the moment, but when we do, feel free to remind me of this post, so we make sure it is accessible to those who want it!

Slow food has been integrating itself into my life for the past few years, and I’m enjoying its effect immensely. Richard and I received a dehydrator and a jarring kit for our wedding, both of which we’ve put to great use. Richard’s dehydrator has produced a variety of interesting jerkys and my jarring kit has resulted in cranberry sauce and apple sauce, which are wonderful gifts for friends and coworkers. What’s more thoughtful than homemade food, particularly something that hasn’t come from a kitchen since corporations decided they could take over that process for us. We’ve also successfully made cheese – both queso fresco (my personal favorite) and paneer, which went into the most delicious (and complicated) Indian dishes we’ve ever made from scratch. And finally, our favorite kitchen gadget, the Nutribullet, has provided us a variety of slow-cooked options, such as homemade hummus, juices, and nut butters like peanut and almond.

Jars of slow food - cranberry sauce, apple sauce

According to Michael Pollan’s Cooked, which I’m absolutely loving reading, “cooking from scratch” has recently been re-defined as anytime a person interacts with their food at all, which constitutes as little as spreading mayonnaise on bread or heating a can of soup. That’s substantially different from my grandma’s homemade sugo and gnocchi, which could take half a day to prepare. You may lament that half a day of cooking would prevent you from doing so many other things, but that’s part of the problem – cooking in community is an amazing experience that we’re starting to lose as a culture.

Making chocolate together with Matt and Malenca last month, and even when it’s just me and Richard, constitutes a challenge to be conquered together. And the pleasure of enjoying a meal or in our case, a bar of chocolate, after laboring over it as a group, is immeasurable.

I challenge my readers to cook something from scratch with a loved one (or many!) and share your experience in the comments below!