Happy Valentine’s Day!
Earlier this week I spent a few hours behind the scenes in the Cello Chocolate kitchen here in the Sierra Nevada foothills in Nevada City, California. What better time to explore the ins and outs of chocolate making than during the month of love? I had the privilege of getting the full behind-the-scenes tour of one of the country’s only true chocolate makers. Yup, that’s right, this small, two-person chocolate company is one of about fifty companies in the United States that creates chocolate from “bean to bar.” Perhaps you’re wondering what that means. Unlike chocolatiers, who melt already made chocolate to create truffles or caramels or use chocolate as a coating, chocolate makers buy, roast, shell, and grind cocoa into chocolate. The benefit of this is the chocolate maker can control the chocolate making process which in turn creates better chocolate — chocolate that preserves the beans’ distinctive flavors. And I can tell you from experience, distinct they are.
Cello Chocolate roasts, grinds and tempers cocoa beans from six different countries, hence the names of their chocolate bars: Ghana, Venezuela, Peru, Dominican, Bolivia and Ecuador. And, whenever available, the beans they purchase are certified fair trade and organic. Each of their flavors is perfect for the dark chocolate lover because their bars are between 70 – 73% cocoa. Unlike other chocolate bar companies, Cello Chocolate is made with only THREE ingredients (cocoa beans, cocoa butter and sugar). That’s it. Nothing else. And to top it all off, their chocolate is also dairy-free, soy-free, gluten free and of course vegan!
Owners, Ned and Debi Rusell, are the dynamic duo behind this handcrafted, artisan and small-batch chocolate company. While Ned wears the apron in the kitchen, Debi wears the pants in the marketing department. Ned comes from a background of both construction and Food Science. He worked for many years at San Francisco’s famous Ghirardelli Chocolate. Debi on the other hand, thrives at promoting and selling the chocolate. She has a history in sales and marketing, working for companies in the Silicon Valley such as Apple. With their shared love of chocolate and Ned’s ability to play his favorite instrument, the cello, no one is left wondering how Cello Chocolate was born.
While in the Cello Chocolate kitchen, not only did I stuff my mouth with all the chocolate I could, I also stuffed my brain full of all sorts of information about chocolate making during my tour. It was like taking a trip around the world, the chocolate world that is. Unlike my need to hoard chocolate, I want to share the information I learned with all of you. I took some photos to document the true artisan chocolate making process and all that it entails. This is a true labor of love. From start to finish, it takes about sixteen + hours to produce fifteen pounds of Cello Chocolate! If you asked either Ned or Debi about the process they too would agree that they make chocolate because they enjoy it. “We want to stay small and local and have fun,” says Debi. I couldn’t agree more and I am so blessed to have them (and their chocolate) readily available to me right here in my hometown.
My guess is that not many people have had the opportunity to see how real chocolate is made. I hadn’t before a few days ago. Because of that, in combination with the fact that the equipment needed to make your own chocolate is costly, I decided to capture the process of true artisan, handcrafted chocolate making from beginning to end. I hope you enjoy the photos. Drooling is both permitted and acceptable.
Chocolate making is not for wimps that’s for sure! Not only was I able to walk through the entire chocolate making process with two very well versed and educated chocolate makers, I also was able to sample each of the chocolate bars. I can’t tell you how different each bar tastes. Each type of bean is grown in different soils and in different locations in the world. Each bean also undergoes a different fermenting process before Cello Chocolate ever receives or roasts them. It’s really a matter of sampling the each of the bars to understand their complex flavors. How else will you know your favorites?
Interested in trying Cello Chocolate? You’re in luck if you live in Northern California because Cello Chocolate is available at nine different locations. Don’t fret if you live outside of the area! You can purchase Cello Chocolate directly from their website. All online orders ship the same day via 2 day USPS priority mail.
For more information on Cello Chocolate:
Facebook: Cello Chocolate
****Cello Chocolate Giveaway****
And just for fun, I’ve teamed up with Cello Chocolate to give away a Bach Cello Sweet Variety Pack (a $36 value) to one lucky winner. What’s better than one chocolate bar? All six of course! See giveaway rules and instructions below.
1. One random winner will be chosen on 2/17/14 at 12:00 PST and notified via email. If original winner does not respond within 1 week, another random winner will be chosen.
2. One entry per person, US entries only.
3. Giveaway shipping costs included.
1. Sign up to follow the Cowgirls & Collard Greens blog by visiting www.cowgirlsandcollardgreens.com/blog. Enter your name and email address. Both are required. Thanks so much to those who are already following!
2. Please leave a comment below this blog post sharing one new thing you learned about chocolate or chocolate making that you didn’t know before.
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4. Yeehaw and good luck!