The Dandelion Chocolate factory tour!

On Sunday, I fulfilled my longtime dream of taking the Dandelion Chocolate factory tour, with an an added twist to the proceedings. Since a (wonderful) Lemon Twigs concert was in my plans the night before, Dandelion’s Spanish-language tour was the only one that would fit my schedule. As regular blog readers know, my Spanish proficiency can be described as “can follow an episode of Plaza Sesamo or Sesame Amigos, even though I’d do better with subtitles.” Nevertheless, an e-mail to Dandelion’s (very helpful) Kandi convinced me that I would be okay as a non-native speaker. (I was, even though I still have the terrible habit of saying “así” when I mean “tambien.” Admittedly, I would have been far less sure of my place if I hadn’t read Dandelion’s Making Chocolate: From Bean To Bar To S’more over the holidays.) Our guide, Obed, graciously led the six of us past the bustle of customers into the tour rooms.

In one room, Obed invited us to hold (and shake!) a whole roasted cacao pod, and then broke open a whole, raw cacao pod to show us the fruit inside. This was the one part of the tour where pictures were allowed, but alas my camera was in the purse held for safekeeping in another room. Luckily, the following video does give a pretty good approximation of what we saw:

Dandelion makes single-origin bars exclusively, and I had never really realized how much chocolate’s terroir affects its flavor. At the start of the tour, Obed gave us each a sample of three different chocolates, and we were asked to guess the cacao content of each sample. One tasted mild and roasty, another very fruity and strong. All three were very different, yet it was revealed that each had 70% cacao content. (The Spanish-language tour showcases chocolates sourced from Central and South America, including the Venezuelan bean that will no longer be available for the foreseeable future due to political instability. I’d be curious to see if the English-language tour includes the African and Asian beans in other bars. Something to look forward to!) Each bean requires a different roasting temperature, and a different amount of blending time in the melangeur as well.

There were generous samples of chocolate at every stage of the production (I was most intrigued by the tastes straight from the melangeur). While the immaculate factory may surprise someone raised with visions of the freewheeling Willy Wonka, it drives home the attention to detail of Dandelion’s production. I highly recommend the tour for chocolate geeks and casual visitors alike! (Did I mention the hot chocolate coupon offered at the end, effectively more than refunding your $5 fee and providing the perfect conclusion to your visit?) Dandelion also offers various classes, which would tempt me mightily if I lived closer. Dandelion Chocolate is located at 740 Valencia Street in San Francisco. Visit http://www.dandelionchocolate.com for more information, or to sign up.

ETA: The tours will resume when Dandelion opens its new factory on 16th and Harrison (tentative opening date in April). Watch this space…

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