You don’t need to find a golden ticket to bring your lucky youngster behind the scenes of a chocolate factory. Dandelion Chocolate—the Mission’s “bean to bar” small batch chocolate factory—has been giving $5 tours for a while. But if your love of chocolate goes much deeper, you’ll be pleased to know they’ve just added a new class for kids and grown-ups alike. Chocolate 201 is four hours long and not will teach you everything you need to know about making (and eating) chocolate. Read on to get the scoop.
photo: Yuichi Sakuraba
Former tech entrepreneurs Cameron Ring and Todd Masonis started making chocolate from scratch in their own homes: they even grew small cacao plants at their apartments. Their love of chocolate has bloomed into the store, café, and factory on Valencia street, a kiosk at The Ferry Building and—early next year—their plant is moving to 16th & Harrison into a beautiful old brick building. Dandelion roasts, cracks, sorts, winnows, grinds, conches and tempers their small batches of beans on Valencia street, where they also mold and package each bar by hand. If you’re already familiar with Dandelion, you may know the Chocolate 101 class—a two-hour exploration of the different types of chocolate and how they are prepared. For the real chocolate and baking aficionado, it’s the advanced chocolate-teering you’ll want.
photo: Dandelion Chocolate
Enter 201: Four Hours?
Yes, the 201 class is four hours long, and yes, kids (ages 7 and up) can enroll. Think four hours is far too long for a kid to focus in the class? “It would be if we were just sitting there lecturing to them,” said Cynthia Jonasson, Dean of Beans, (AKA head of the educational program). The class starts by exploring the geographic origins of chocolate by introducing the stories of the farmers who grow the cacao trees and ferment the beans. The program includes photographs and videos which explain the trajectory of the cocoa bean.
Jonasson says she has been surprised by how attentive the kids are: they generally ask significantly more questions than in her adult version of the class. But of course, it’s the chocolate making that really floats their boats. There are some magical steps, she says. “Like when they grind up the cocoa beans for the first time and they turn from a solid into a liquid paste in front of their eyes!” Parent/guardian and child work together to formulate their own small batch of chocolate from multiple origins and decide what percentage of chocolate they want to make.
But Do We Get to Eat the Chocolate?
After kids make their own batches, they get to try each others and compare notes. You might expect that seven-year-olds would choose to make the sugary-est bars they could. But kids usually make their batches with 70% cocoa to 30% sugar, which is the same ratio than in most of the bars. The class starts with a hot chocolate and the kids taste about six pieces of chocolate at the beginning, have a treat in the middle and a savory snack too. (Because: too much chocolate.) The families also take home a pound of untempered chocolate for baking as well as cacao nibs.
photo: Dandelion Chocolate
Think you want to take on a class? Kid-and-parent classes are held monthly on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The next one is Sep. 24 and they fill up quickly because the class size is so small.
Where: 740 Valencia St., San Francisco
Do you think your kid could handle a 4-hour chocolate making class? Tell us in a comment below!