Complete Chocolate Lover’s Guide for the San Francisco Bay Area

4 bars

Pop in on a J Street Chocolate popup


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Local food upcycle maven/chocolatier Julia Street is always experimenting with food byproducts/foraged food/fermented food inclusions in her bean to bar chocolate, and a good way to explore what she is doing is to go to a J Street Chocolate popup. Cacaopod and I went to one of her 2023 Valentine’s edition popups and got to sample the 4 featured bars plus one of her staples that we had missed before.

Julia Street at Oaktown Spice Shop popup
Julia Street at Oaktown Spice Shop popup

The popups are a great way to explore these unique bars: Julia brings plenty of samples and is happy to answer all your food inclusion and chocolate questions. You can buy what you like on the spot, plus some of the popup locations carry a selection of J Street Chocolate bars on the regular so you can refill your stash between events.

The 4 featured bars in February included 2 white chocolates: Hella Tropical and Save Some for Sesame! Plus 2 dark chocolates: 69% Let’s Go On a Funky Date and 72% INNA Mood for Ginger. All 4 bars were vegan (all J Street Chocolate is vegan). And all of the ingredients were organic except the locally foraged ones (which probably were too, just not certified organic).

Hella Tropical

The Hella Tropical bar was sold out before we got there (snooze ya lose with these limited edition bars), but we got to taste samples. The bar was a white chocolate made with cocoa butter infused with locally foraged makrut lime leaves and topped with cubes of locally foraged pineapple guava paste and ground makrut lime leaves.

The piece I sampled didn’t have the pineapple guava on it, so it was a citrus white chocolate that tasted a little nutty from toasted oats and coconut that Julia added to the bar to make the soft cocoa butter base more sturdy. Cacaopod got a sample piece that included a bit of the guava paste and he thought it tasted very pineapple-y at first, then citrusy. Sadly, Julia said she probably won’t make the bar again because the pineapple guava paste pieces were really labor intensive.

Save Some for Sesame!

Save Some for Sesame!
Save Some for Sesame!

The other white bar at the popup was Save Some for Sesame! When I asked about the ingredients, Julia said that the preserved lemon was made from locally foraged Meyer lemons that she preserved and candied the peels herself. The sesame was organic sesame seeds that she toasted. And she added “a small amount of toasted oats to give the bar some integrity.”

The bar is accurately named: Sesame was the dominant ingredient. I could smell the sesame before I took the bar out of its package. The buff colored bar had visible sesame seeds and a lot of sesame flavor. It had a soft break, this is not a snappy chocolate, but it had lots of crunchy texture. It was sweet and salty, and made me think I tasted a little celery in the lemon/sesame combo.

As coincidence would have it, Julia said she was experimenting with a celery based chocolate now. Inspired by a love of celery soda, she showed us a pic on her phone of vibrant green chocolate in her melanger. Sounds interesting, will have to keep an eye on her site for any developments.

Lets Go on a Funky Date

Let’s Go On a Funky Date

The 69% Let’s Go on a Funky Date was probably the most unusual bar in this selection. The dark chocolate bar was sweetened with date sugar and contained finely chopped dates and black garlic. Julia said she used to make a date and black garlic spread before she started J Street and thought she could add a “chocolatey-ness” to it. “It turned out to be a good pairing,” she said. “But date sugar is such a subtle sweetness, it needed more. Then I remembered I have dates…”

She added chopped Rancho Meladuco dates which livened up the bar: I could smell the dates when opening the package. The bar had a good snap and a smooth texture with little chewy date bits as it went along. The garlic taste was under the chocolate and dates, but it lingered, even got a little hot in the aftertaste. The bean Julia chose for the bar — Camino Verde cacao — was good as a savory contrast/compliment to the other ingredients.

We liked this bar. If you hesitate because *garlic* just know that black garlic is fermented so it’s not as strong as raw white garlic. I wouldn’t call it sweet — it still tastes like garlic — but it’s more mellow. If you like savory chocolate, give it a try.

INNA Mood for Ginger

INNA Mood for Ginger
INNA Mood for Ginger

The last new spring 2023 bar, the 72% INNA Mood for Ginger, upcycled ginger leftovers from INNA, the local jam/pickle company. INNA makes candied ginger snacks and Julia gets the pieces that are not big enough for snacking on but perfect for grinding down and adding to chocolate.

On first whiff, the bar smelled fruity not gingery, but the ginger flavor came up as soon as the chocolate started to melt. Little bits of gritty sugary ginger appeared as the chocolate melted further. INNA sells the snacks as “super spicy ginger” and the bar did have a good ginger heat that lingered.

This bar also used the Camino Verde cacao which I think is a good choice: The not very sweet chocolate balanced the sugary ginger inclusion.

I liked this bar with its novel candied ginger sugary texture — usually chocolate and ginger combos are chocolate covered slices or bite size bits spread over a bar. This bar instead had a good spicy ginger chocolate taste but with a more even distribution of the 2 ingredients. I didn’t even mind the few stray bits of sugary grit that stuck in my teeth. It just made the flavor linger longer.

Sourdough Crunch

Back of Sourdough Crunch bar

The last bar we got was a J Street regular that we missed before due to supply chain issues. The 74% Sourdough Crunch is made with upcycled sourdough bread from Fox and Lion Bread in SF. Julia makes crispy bread crumbs from the bread and adds it to bean to bar chocolate she makes from Madagascar cacao.

This cacao has a totally different flavor than the Camino Verde cacao. The bar smelled fermented and like the other dark chocolate bars it had a good snap. It had a fermented, raisiny/berry taste. It wasn’t too sweet or bitter.

With Crunch in the name, you know this is more of a chewing chocolate than a melting chocolate. You can start chewing immediately or delay it to savor the assertive chocolate flavor more, but at some point you gotta experience its tiny crispy crunchiness. The bar is packed with crunchy bread crumbs which add a slightly yeasty flavor along with some pops of sea salt.

I love this bar! I like the distinctly fruity chocolate and the small crunch breadcrumbs. I know Julia had problems sourcing the bread crumbs while the bakery relocated, then she told us she had to switch to the Madegascar beans because she couldn’t get the same beans she had used in the bar before. I’m glad she persevered because this is a great snacking bar.

And good news: Oaktown Spice Shop carries the Sourdough Crunch bars along with the Caramelized Koji Mylk bars we reviewed last time. So we can easily get this bar on the regular now (barring any more unfortunate circumstances).

If you can’t make it to one of J Street’s popup events, you can order bars online and also find them in a few other places besides Oaktown Spice Shop. Check the website for the latest locations.

And if you want to get the latest bars, J Street now offers quarterly subscriptions of 5 bars each quarter which include limited edition bars and some regulars. More info and sign up are on the website.

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Published March 6, 2023