Chocolate Making with Cello Chocolate + GIVEAWAY

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.


Cocoa beans (these were from Ghana) freshly roasted out of the oven
Cocoa beans freshly roasted out of the oven.


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.


The official Cello Chocolate Couple ~ Ned & Debi Russell


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.


Once the nibs are created and shelled they get sifted
After the cocoa beans are roasted in the oven they are then winnowed (shells removed). The beans are broken into nibs (process not pictured) before going through a final inspection and sifted through a sieve to remove all shells.


This is what cocoa nibs look like after running through the Champion Juicer (using a different attachment than pictured above)
This is what cocoa nibs look like after running through the Champion Juicer using a special attachment. This paste is called “chocolate liquor” though no alcohol is present.


Chocolate liquor (there's no alcohol, that's just the official name of the chocolate at this stage) is then placed into the melanger to make creamy
Chocolate liquor is then placed into the melanger which is sort of like a Crock pot for chocolate.


Cocoa butter and then sugar are added (just the exact amounts) and the melanger spins for 20 hours to ensure smooth and creamy chocolate
The melanger then spins for 20 hours to break down the sugar crystals and ensure smooth & creamy chocolate.


By adding sugar and cocoa butter the consistency reaches perfection.


Mr. Cello Chocolate tempering the chocolate (sometimes using a blow dryer is needed!)
Mr. Cello Chocolate keeps the chocolate at a consistent temperature. Blow dryers sometimes come in handy!


By taking out the warm chocolate and placing some of it on a cool marble slab the cocoa butter molecules crystalize. The chocolate is then considered tempered.


After 20 hours and the chocolate is smooth, it gets poured into the molds (and then some of the bars get topped with cocoa nibs)
Once tempered, the chocolate is poured into molds to cool (some bars get topped with cocoa nibs). Once it sets, the chocolate will then be wrapped, labeled, and ready to sell.


At the end of the day (or two day process) here's the final product -- beautifully wrapped and delicious chocolate bars ready to eat!
At the end of the two day process, the final product looks like this — beautifully wrapped and delicious chocolate bars ready to eat!


The chocolate is made! We've called it a day! Time to lick the spatula!
After a long day of chocolate making we called it quits. Time to lick the spatula!


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.


Win this 6 pack of Cello Chocolates in the GIVEAWAY!
Win this 6 pack of Cello Chocolates in the GIVEAWAY!



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 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.

3. Not required, but appreciated, please show Cello Chocolate some love by following their Facebook page.

4. Yeehaw and good luck!





43 thoughts on “Chocolate Making with Cello Chocolate + GIVEAWAY

  1. Sounds kinda silly, but I didn’t realize the chocolate was made in such small batches (even for a small local company)! Also didn’t realize the cocoa beans from different soils taste so distinctly different. Thanks for the peek into this world! I live in Sac and will definitely track down these chocolate bars. Would they do a tour for a family of 2 adults and 3 kids? <3

    1. Thanks Keleigh! I know that Cello Chocolate does chocolate parties and that might be a better approach (instead of a tour) since they make all of the chocolate out of their own home kitchen. Feel free to contact them directly for inquiries: and tell them I sent ya! Best of luck with the giveaway. Yeehaw!

  2. the link doesn’t work to their facebook page… however I looked them up and found their page and liked it

    By taking out the warm chocolate and placing some of it on a cool marble slab the cocoa butter molecules crystalize. who knew

    1. Thanks Michelle!

      I will go in and fix the Facebook link right now; I appreciate the heads up!

      Thanks for joining in on this fun and delicious giveaway. Yeehaw!

    1. Do you live in the Nevada County area? If so, it’s available at 9 locations and of course online as well. Yeehaw!

  3. I didn’t realize it took so long to make and was such an involved process. It is definitely a labor of love but I appreciate it!

  4. I never knew exactly what cocoa nibs really are–I just knew they were some less processed aspect of chocolate. Thanks for this post, very interesting.

  5. So interesting…I did not know that chocolate liquor didn’t have alcohol it. I love chocolate. It’s my favorite indulgence. =)

  6. This must have been so fun for you Kayle, I just met this fun couple over at Summer Thymes Cafe where they were sharing their yummy chocolate! I loved the Venezuelan the best, plus the nibs add the fun crunch! I love knowing another wonderful reason to have marble! and Hair Dryers are multi purposeful: for hair, of course, paint drying in hardware stores and now in chocolate making! and February is chocolate month, perfect timing, thanks so much!

    1. How fun that you’ve been able to try these delicious, local, organic and fair trade chocolates Wendy! Gotta love chocolate all of the time, not just during the month, eh? And yes, the behind the scenes tour was a hoot — hairdryers and all! Good luck for a chance to win all 6 of Cello Chocolate’s bars! Yummy yeehaw!

  7. I knew some of this from reading a story about Patric Chocolate. I didn’t remember the tempering part. I guess it needs to be a certain temperature, yet not too cold.

    1. Yes, it’s a tricky process. Chocolate has to be at just the right degree for making. Amazing and delicious! Thanks Leslie!

  8. Wow!!! This is amazing!! The way they make chocolate makes me fall in love with it even more. And what’s even better is that it’s Vegan!! And like Kaleigh mentioned, I didn’t know the chocolate was made in small batches within a long period of time: 16 hours! But if you think about it, they enjoy making the chocolate and that’s what, in my opinion, must make this company/chocolate such an amazing one! Wow!!! Thank you so much for sharing this!! 😀

    1. You bet Lara! Isn’t the chocolate making process amazing? And delicious of course! Good luck with the giveaway!

  9. I just want to thank everyone for their enthusiasm and interest in our chocolate. We really enjoyed spending the time with Kayle and love to share our knowledge of chocolate! Good luck everyone on winning the Bach Cello Sweet Variety 6 pack!!!

    1. Thanks again for sharing the chocolate making process with me! I had a great time, not to mention it was a tasty venture! So happy to share Cello Chocolate with my readers!

  10. I knew I loved juicers for a good reason… Ummm…I meant for green juice! LOL I’m sure I could add chocolate to it!

    1. I wish it was as easy as making chocolate in a juicer. Good thing isn’t not because I’d be doing it everyday. Happy green juicing Jennifer. Let me know how it tastes with chocolate. Ha! Ha!

  11. Wow! 20 hours to break everything down!!! I had no idea. I’d go nuts waiting LOL! That is dedication and a love for chocolate making 😀 Thank you for the chance to win such an awesome giveaway! Oh, and I love all the pictures of how it’s made!

  12. That’s cool that they use a juicer to make the “chocolate liquor” from the cacao nibs. Makes me want to try it myself!

    1. Chocolate indeed CAN be vegan Barbara, and without all the other unnecessary ingredients like soy lecithin. Yeehaw!

  13. Thanks everyone for your comments! We have a WINNER! Keleigh Friedrich please check your email inbox for details! Yeehaw and congrats!

Comments are closed.