On a recent cool & foggy SF afternoon, fellow chocolateer Chocopi and I sampled the hot chocolate at Dandelion Chocolate’s factory and café on fast-upscaling Valencia St. in the Mission district.
Optimal chocolate space
It’s a great space: Shelves with samples of their bars as you walk in the door along with items for sale (cacao pods: $20 a piece, or how about a metate, the traditional Mexican grinding tool, for $200?) and tiny cacao trees under glass domes. The chocolate factory is a large open-kitchen style space behind the counter where you order your chocolate and coffee drinks. There’s a long bar running the length of the factory space, where you can sit, sip and chat with the friendly, knowledgeable Dandelion employees as they create their wonderful chocolate.
A huge chalkboard behind the bar illustrates Dandelion’s bean-to-bar process, and includes their calendar of events, such as their monthly Chocolate 101 and 201 classes. In the front of the space are some tables and chairs where you can enjoy your purchase while chatting with friends or working on your laptop. And it’s all enveloped in the most wonderful scent: chocolate!
Chocolate in many forms
Chocopi ordered the house hot chocolate. I got the Mission hot chocolate, which is their take on Mexican hot chocolate and includes 2 kinds of pepper, cinnamon and ground almonds. There’s also a European chocolate, described as thicker than the house chocolate. All hot chocolate drinks were $5.75. They also offer iced hot chocolate, 4 Barrel coffee drinks and chocolate desserts. The desserts are displayed between the cash registers, so we got a cocoa nib scone too.
Presentation is beautiful: The drinks are served in handle-less Heath Ceramics cups, with a small cookie or chocolate sample on the side. There are handmade marshmallows to add with tiny spoons to stir them in.
I know it sounds impossibly hipster-pretentious—the trendy location, the pricy drinks, the expensive china—but it’s not. The vibe is very friendly and down to earth. And locating where there’s lots of foot traffic (of people who can afford $8 chocolate bars) makes sense.
The menu prices reflect the quality of the ingredients. And the high-quality cups retain the heat of the drinks longer than your classic diner coffee mugs. Which is important because this is super-powered sipping chocolate. You’re going to be enjoying this drink for a while, so it’s nice that it’s still warm at the bottom.
The real San Francisco treat?
And speaking of warm, the Mission hot chocolate has a nice peppery heat to it. It hits your throat on the first sip before you taste the chocolate and other spices. But it’s the texture that was most remarkable to me. The almond bits aren’t crunchy, they’re almost chewy. I’d describe it as more like a purée, but instead of vegetables, it tastes like chocolate!
Chocopi enjoyed the more classic hot chocolate, especially with the housemade marshmallows. And the cocoa nib scone was a nice, less sweet accompaniment. The crunchy nibs added a slight chocolate taste. It came with a small side of housemade preserves if you wanted more sweet or if the scone seemed too dry.
We really enjoyed the grown-up treat that is Dandelion Chocolate’s café. I don’t remember seeing any milk chocolate options, so it’s probably not the place to take small children (although they might be happy just eating the marshmallows for a while) or people who find dark chocolate bitter. But when you want a chocolate splurge, visiting Dandelion could be your mission.
Dandelion Chocolate, 740 Valencia St., SF. Open 9-9 most days, later on weekends, closed Mondays.