The countdown to Valentine’s Day is on and there's never a more perfect time to source local for this year's box of chocolates. Here are some suggestions of a small group of local artisanal chocolatiers who creatively and passionately ply their trade.
The Berkeley Elmwood neighborhood’s Casa de Chocolates creates delicious confections with “premium chocolate from Bay Area- based chocolate providers known for their quality and sustainability practices.” You can find beautiful, hand-crafted creamy ganache bonbons in flavors like tamarind or chipotle caramel as well as handmade bars in flavors like Chile Mango and Peruvian Espresso. There are also specialty items of chocolate discs of the Mayan and Aztec calendars, chocolate icons in the forms of the Virgin of Guadalupe and more. The shop is “inspired by a passion for Latin American culture and flavors.” In addition to chocolate, the storefront also sells desserts like, tres leches cake, chocolate cupcakes and flan. And you can be sure, no matter who you're buying for, they will feel spoiled by these sweets.
Shopping list: 4-piece Valentine heart box, 61%Chile Mango chocolate bar and Mexican Vanilla Caramels
2629 Ashby Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705 | Phone: (510) 859-7221
Fitting in among well-known eateries along bustling Grand Avenue, this charming little chocolatier's boutique is your palate's sensual delight. Elegant dark chocolate filled bonbons with the likes of caramelized apple, white chocolate ganache infused with champagne, or lavender and honey infused filling are only a few of the rich temptations that await. Michael Mischer Chocolates exclusively uses chocolates made from pure variety noble-grade cocoa beans. You can't help but leave in a better mood than when you came in.
Shopping list: Orange& Togarashi 38% cacao milk chocolate bar, Toffee & Salt 65% dark chocolate bar, peanut butter hearts with layers of peanut butter croquant, salt and peanut butter
Alegio Chocolate offers single-origin, bean-to-bar chocolates grown by Claudio Corallo in the small West African country of Saõ Tomé & Principe, and are fair-trade and organic. For those new to gourmet chocolate, try a few of the individual Alegio Chocolate bars like Liberica coffee and crystalized ginger. These make a great introduction to single-origin chocolates and provide the perfect samples for hosting a cozy chocolate-tasting party. You can also find heavenly filled chocolates that are sure to bring a smile to your Valentine.
Shopping list: Chocolate 70% with crystalized ginger, Chocolate 70% with crystallized orange peels
1511 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709 | (510) 548-2466
The Oakland-based company has no retail store, but its “selection of single origin 80% dark chocolate bars features two simple ingredients: cacao & coconut sugar.” They do not roast the cacao beans or use dairy milk in their chocolate creations so as to keep you closer to the original flavor profile of the beans. The dark chocolate bars are made from cacao sourced in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador or Madagascar. Endorfin’s “Dark Mylk Chocolate” bars mix dark chocolate with a special blend of coconut milk to create the smooth texture of milk chocolate and includes flavors like coffee & cardamom, anise & wormwood and pink salt & heirloom nibs. This is chocolate as a super food, so indulge without guilt.
Shopping list: Look for a selection of Endorfin Foods Chocolates at Marion & Rose’s Workshop
Marion & Rose's Workshop - 461 9th St. Oakland CA 94607 | 510.250.9338
Chocolatier Blue creates a scrumptious choco-fest of deliciousness. Providing their customers with original creations is all in a day’s work for this Berkeley chocolatier. The quality of the chocolate (all organic and natural products) is out of this world, and gets paired with marvelous things that wind up expanding your notion of what chocolate is for. The philosophy of this chocolate maker is that “each chocolate is treated like a dessert in a fine restaurant with a perfect balance of nuanced flavors to compliment the chocolate.” That is why you’ll find delights like “Passion Fruit Caramel” -- Fresh tangy New Zealand passion fruit juice is made into dark caramel with a Solstice dark chocolate shell. And “Chai Tea” -- Mighty Leaf Bombay Chai tea with black tea and spicy aromatics is steeped in fresh-farm Straus cream. These lovely bites combine indulgence with elegance.
Shopping list: Mix and match from the new collection: Sage Honey, Root Beer Float and Vanilla Rum