Bay Area Bean-to-Bar — Scoping Out the Goods

Since our sweet (and challenging) journey started, it’s become my habit that wherever we travel, regardless of where we visit or our mode of transportation, that I seek out the region’s best bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers. Why? Because the best way to learn how to make better chocolate is to try all the chocolate. That, and we are a bit obsessed at this point.

On our most recent trip to visit family in the Bay Area, I did my best Googling to discover what gems I could find in the South Bay. I came across The Chocolate Garage and subsequently, Areté Fine Chocolate. The Chocolate Garage, a small room in a quaint shopping center in Palo Alto, carries chocolate from about a dozen bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers from across the globe. The bars — hand-picked by the Garage’s owner, Sunita De Tourreil — are what the founder refers to as “Happy Chocolate.” To Sunita, Happy Chocolate is the idea that each step in the process of creating quality chocolate “...creates opportunities and incentives to have communities flourish and to create healthier environments.”

That means from a chocolate maker’s decision to source ethically-farmed beans to a consumer’s choice in purchasing and supporting the small business of a craft chocolate maker, we all have a responsibility (whether large or small) in the bean-to-bar process.

We can relate to the idea of Happy Chocolate. Before Dalloway Chocolate had even been named, it was important to us that all of our processes, from where our beans come from to how our bars are produced, have not only the best intentions in mind for us but all involved.  

Part of being responsible chocolate makers that make Happy Chocolate is to learn as much as we can from those further along in the process. Enter Areté Chocolate. Only available on the West Coast (for now), we fell hard for their Dominican Republic Oko Caribe 70% and their Dominican Republic Finca Elvesia 70% bars we picked up at the Chocolate Garage. After all, we do love our DR beans.

One of our other favorites from The Chocolate Garage: Milk Old School from SOMA Chocolatemaker.

We heard the couple responsible for Areté — David and Leslie Senk — was not far from us, so we reached out to them and met with David. As much as the two of us had researched and read about cacao and chocolate making, we learned more from David in one hour than we could have in ten on our own. We were also blown away by how candid he was. You hear a lot about “recipes” and roasting times when you start making chocolate, so we’d learned to hold our process close to our chest. Actually, until we met David — who happened to be the first craft chocolate maker we had met — we had the impression of snooty professionally-trained craft chocolate makers. Boy did David prove us wrong; as did every chocolate maker we’ve met since.

David not only shared his process with us — lending advice on roasting, equipment and beans — but gave us some of the best advice we ever could have asked for, “Take your time and do it well.” Coming from entrepreneurial backgrounds, Kelechi and I have both heard a lot about not letting “perfection be the evil of the good,” or “paralysis by analysis.” Well, in the case of chocolate, this is not the case. Taking your time, developing the correct technique and nurturing your flavor to perfection is the ultimate goal of any chocolate maker. This advice we took to heart and is part of the reason why we are currently concentrating on only a single bar. Yes, we might already be playing around with additions and other flavors, but the majority of our time goes into perfecting our first bar made from beans from the Dominican Republic.  

As our journey continues, we will continue to eat all the chocolate we possibly can and meet as many chocolate makers as possible. Because we truly believe that to make amazing chocolate, you need to first eat your share.

Have a craft chocolate bar you think we should try? Or a chocolate maker we should meet? Email us at contact@dallowaychocolate.com. Until then, happy tasting!

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