Born in early 2010, Dandelion Chocolate is a bean-to-bar chocolate factory based in the Mission District of San Francisco.They make chocolate using only two ingredients: cocoa beans and organic cane sugar. Small batches of high-quality beans are roasted, cracked, sorted, winnowed, ground, conched and tempered, and the chocolate bars are carefully molded and packaged by hand. Dandelion sources directly from producers and travels to the beans' origins as frequently as possible to strengthen relationships with their partners. Dandelion's goal is to preserve the characteristics and nuanced flavors of each single origin.
Dandelion was founded by Todd Masonis and Cam Ring. In addition to their Valencia Street location, Dandelion expanded to Tokyo in early 2016. We spoke with Alice Nystrom, who was Dandelion's first employee:
ON FOOD AND CHILDHOOD
I've certainly always loved food, especially chocolate! I didn't have a very refined palate as a kid, but came to love food later in life through making it. I'm also an artist, and love making things to share with others. I started to think of food in this way and found myself making chocolate shortly thereafter.
HOW DID THIS GET STARTED
Todd and Cam are the Dandelion co-founders. Before making chocolate, they were in technology. A few years ago, they started tinkering around with cocoa beans and machines, stayed in the garage phase for a year or so, and I joined them then. There was so much to learn, to try, and to figure out. San Francisco used to have an Underground Market (the same one that launched many a Mouth favorite!) – guests paid $5 to try offerings from new food companies without health permits. In the Bay Area, there are so many fantastic new companies who can't afford to pay for a commercial space because rent is so high here. The market allowed us and others to test new products in the market. When people tried, liked, and bought our chocolate, we started to think about really going into business.
Because chocolate manufacturing equipment is generally designed for an industrial scale, we have to work hard to find machines that will work with our process and small batch-size. We've built, tinkered with, or totally overhauled each of the machines in our factory – none have worked for us right off the shelf. In addition, we don't use emulsifiers in our chocolate so it's very thick, which poses another set of challenges. All told, we have to get creative!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE BUSINESS?
The people who come into our factory. People wander into our cafe every day. They're often confused at first, because they haven't seen a chocolate factory and cafe before. When they linger and watch, it's fun to watch them light up with excitement.