San Francisco is the birthplace of two of America’s oldest chocolate makers: Ghirardelli and Guittard Chocolate Company. Both have their roots in the Gold Rush, when enterprising businessmen realized that wealthy miners with a sweet tooth had money to spend on luxuries. The companies continue to make confections in the San Francisco Bay Area. And, as a new kind of wealth sloshes around the City, these venerable chocolatiers have been joined by other confectioners, many of which are located in Southside San Francisco.
Dandelion Chocolates, in the Mission, is a “bean to bar” chocolatier; the company sources its own Cacao, roasts the beans to its specifications, and processes them with sugar to create its confections. Tours of Dandelion’s Valencia Street facility are available Wednesday through Saturday by online appointment for $5, with hot cocoa offered at the end. Chocolate-making classes are proffered for children and adults.
Poco Dolce, founded in 2003, is a “chocolate confectioner” buying processed chocolate to create its products. Poco Dolce sources from Burlingame-based Guittard’s, which was founded in the mid-1800’s, and remains family-owned five generations later. Poco Dolce recently opened a renovated, minimalist, storefront on Third Street, a few doors down from Dogpatch Wineworks, a San Francisco event venue, winery and tasting room.
Recchiuti Confections also sources from Guittard, as well as from the French company Valrhona, a go-to source for chefs looking to create luxurious chocolate fillings and ganaches. Recchiuti’s products are available at the Ferry Building Marketplace, where samples of chocolates and Chef Michael Recchiuti’s collections of caramels and baked goods are offered. Recchuiti also owns The Lab Cafe SF, on 22nd Street, which hosts pop-ups that feature an array of foods, such as Spanish Paella and chocolate “art” events.
Alter Eco, located on Third Street, sources chocolate, rice, quinoa, and sugar from around the world and ships them to Switzerland, where chocolatiers create its products. The company is dedicated to paying fair wages to everyone in its supply chain, and having as small a carbon footprint as possible. Its packages are recyclable, if not compostable, and can be found at Whole Foods and Rainbow Market, among other places.
Charles Chocolates, on Florida Street, has a passion for transparency in chocolate making, as evidenced by its clear wrappers, which enable purchasers to see exactly what they’re buying. Located blocks from Dandelion’s warehouse, this small producer has grown quickly. Charles’ bars feature “inclusions” – the industry’s label for nuts, toffee or caramel – which can be seen through the windowpane packaging. It offers tours of its facility for $10, which includes a five truffle tasting afterwards, enabling customers to discuss the flavor differences and subtleties between blends. Chuck – Charles – Siegel owns the company; his wife, Shabana, is British, prompting the couple to offer a Sunday tea every other week, where for $37, sandwiches, tea and sweets are provided on an outside patio.