My Day At the Dark Chocolate Factory

The Dandelion Chocolate sales locations offer samples of their single-source bars

The Dandelion Chocolate sales locations offer samples of their single-source bars

Sorting, Sniffing, and Tasting Are All Part of the Job of Making Intense Dark Chocolate Bars

Chocolate has always been one of my favorite foods. An allergy to chocolate in childhood was tough for me, and I could sneak only occasional bites. This sensitivity persisted, punishing me with a rash, a severe cough, and/or an excruciating headache if I dared eat chocolate even as an adult.

Happily, when I got rid of all the animal foods in my diet, I discovered I had never been allergic to chocolate at all. I had been allergic to the combination of chocolate made with milk. I could eat as much vegan dark chocolate as I wanted with no allergy symptoms.

While dark chocolate can be healthy, the amount you need to eat for health benefits is small – one to three ounces a week will do it. Eat too much, and you’re liable to contribute to weight gain and diminishing returns. So, since the optimal allowance of chocolate is not very big, you’ll want to enjoy the best chocolate you can to get the maximum enjoyment and benefit from it.

The most intensely flavored chocolate bars I’d ever eaten were from Dandelion

Each of these large bags of fermented cacao beans will make about 700 bars of dark chocolate

Each of these large bags of fermented cacao beans will make about 700 bars of dark chocolate

Chocolate, so I decided to take the tour of their manufacturing facility in San Francisco’s Mission District. Dandelion’s dark chocolate bars are made by hand, from whole chocolate beans, in small batches. The entire factory would fit into a large living room, yet the results are amazing.

Only organic sugar is added to the beans during the manufacturing process- no excess fats or other chemicals. The bars are dairy-free. (Full disclosure – I have no financial connection to Dandelion Chocolate, nor have I received anything from them other than the free public tour and small tastes of their bars. The chocolate

This roaster was adapted by the small factory to roast cacao beans for a longer time at lower temperature

This roaster was adapted by the small factory to roast cacao beans for a longer time at lower temperature

samples are available to everyone who visits).

Their carefully selected cacao beans are sourced from small farms around the world, so you can be sure they are not grown on large plantations in West Africa that use child slave labor. Each type of bar Dandelion makes is single-sourced from one farm.

The farmers ferment their ripe beans, then ship them to Dandelion in large sacks, where employees sort every bean by hand. Beans that are cracked or otherwise substandard are tossed into a bin to be composted, while the top beans move on to be precisely roasted for the time and at the temperature that will be bring out

After the first round of grinding, the chocolate still is not smooth enough for bars

After the first round of grinding, the chocolate still is not smooth enough for bars

the subtle notes of that particular batch.

The photos I took tell the story of the rest of the process. My favorite part of the experience was the heady aroma of chocolate in the factory, followed by the chocolate “fountain” that is part of the machine in which the chocolate is melted for the last time before being poured into molds to form the bars. I was interested to learn that cacao beans undergo a complex chemical change as they are repeatedly ground, heated, cooled, aged, then heated and cooled again to be transformed into dark chocolate bars. The end result is a bar that is resistant to melting in your hand, and has a nice snap and sheen.

To get the chocolate smoother and thoroughly blend it with sugar, another grinder processes it for three days

To get the chocolate smoother and thoroughly blend it with sugar, another grinder processes it for three days

If you are used to commercial chocolate made in large factories, heavily processed, and diluted with milk and other additives, the Dandelion chocolate may taste quite intense to you, perhaps even bitter. However, as you keep eating it, your preferences will change. Commercial candy will no longer even taste or smell like chocolate to you as you learn to love the real food.

Here’s the bonus. At that point, you’ll no longer be tempted by the counters full of common candy that are at the check-out of so many stores. Being able to move past these former temptations without a glance will help you stay healthy and lean. And the small-

After this long grinding process, the chocolate cooled and is aged in giant blocks

After this long grinding process, the chocolate cooled and is aged in giant blocks

batch, artisan chocolate is so intense in flavor that you need only a small amount of it

to feel satisfied.

So branch out and train your tastes to be happy with limited amounts of much better treats. My Perfect Formula Diet plan allows you to consume 5% of your calories (about 700 a calories a week) from foods other than whole plants. So you can savor some great dark chocolate without guilt.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read more about the health benefits of dark chocolate.

The aged chocolate blocks are heated again (tempered) in an intriguing machine that creates a tempting chocolate fountain

The aged chocolate blocks are heated again (tempered) in an intriguing machine that creates a tempting chocolate fountain

After the tempered chocolate is cooled in molds, the bars are hand wrapped in foil

After the tempered chocolate is cooled in molds, the bars are hand wrapped in foil

Intrigued? Now you can use our Whole Foods Blog Finder to target informative, fun postings on whole foods, plant-based diets. Quick information at no cost!

Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet: How to Lose Weight and Get Healthy Now With Six Kinds of Whole Foods, a book which describes a whole foods, plant-based diet that can include dark chocolate.

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