Eight years ago, Todd Masonis counted himself among the many Bay Area tech company owners. But when his software company was bought by Comcast, he found himself with some extra time, some extra money, and the luxury to pursue his passion: chocolate.
With that luxury, Todd teamed up with a friend to start the small-batch, handmade chocolate factory in the Mission called Dandelion Chocolate.
“One thing that’s really cool is that chocolate makes people happy,” Todd said. “And it’s fun to work on something that people are really happy about … No one ever said to me, ‘I love your software!’”The key difference between Dandelion Chocolate and your run-of-the-mill chocolate factory is that they proudly showcase the natural flavor of the cocoa beans they use. Todd says beans from different areas have distinct, unique flavors that often get lost in mass-production at the bigger chocolate companies. Cocoa beans from Madagascar, for example, have a tart, fruity flavor.
“A lot of times when people try it they’ll say to us, ‘Oh, did you add berries to this?’” Todd said. “And we’re like ‘No, it’s just the bean!’ … It’s super instructive.”
Dandelion highlights those natural flavors by keeping the ingredients simple. They don’t add a single thing to the chocolate besides cocoa beans and sugar — “Beans and sugar, that’s our thing.”
And they can prove it. In fact, they want to prove it. All of the chocolate-making machinery (roasters, grinders, winnowers) is on display in the shop, inviting customers to press their nose up against the glass and watch the chocolate being made.
Dandelion also offers several tours of the factory each week, where you can learn exactly how the cocoa bean from the chocolate farm in Madagascar became the chocolate bar in your hand.
“We wanted to have the kind of space where people could come and actually see what we’re doing,” Todd said. “Being hidden in an industrial kitchen isn’t really that interesting.”
The tasty, interactive tours show you exactly how Dandelion makes good on its “bean to bar” tagline. You’ll see the guy who sorts every single bean by hand, plucking out the ones with even the slightest imperfections. You’ll get to taste the bean before it’s been roasted, in it’s liquid form and also as a solid bar. You’ll even get to see how the 1950’s machine wraps up the finished bars.
And if that isn’t enough, Dandelion also offers chocolate-making classes, where you’ll learn about the variety of types and tastes of cocoa beans, as well as learn how to make a small batch of chocolate at home. (Pro-tip: book one by texting ‘dandelion’ to 415-915-2421.)Todd said a few small chocolate companies have actually gotten their start from one of Dandelion’s chocolate classes, but Todd and his friends didn’t have any classes to take when they started out — they relied on a combination of internet forums, homemade machinery and quite a bit of luck.
“I was always curious about chocolate, and my friends and I just wanted to see if we could make chocolates at home,” Todd said. “We were hanging out in a friend’s garage and bought cocoa beans off the internet and a coffee roaster.
“The first batch of chocolate we made was actually really good. In retrospect, we must have gotten very lucky — but we were like, ‘Oh! This is so easy!’”
To tour Dandelion Chocolate, take a chocolate-making class or learn about their one-week chocolate trip to Belize (!) ask your Scout or text “Dandelion” to 415-915-2421.