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Suggestions for Chocolate Tour?

I'm thinking of organizing a local chocolate tasting tour for friends. This was originally inspired by a tour through Fog City News (no longer offered). Any suggestions for places that must be included? Obvious choices are Scharffenberger and Charles Chocolates; also possibly XOX in SF. I'm thinking it could be a combination of chocolate makers and chocolate shops (e.g., Bittersweet). SF and East Bay only. As of now, I'm not sure if I'm going to limit this to places easily accessible by public transportation, or if I'll arrange for cars with drivers.

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  1. I was goolging around to see if either Guittard or See's does tours (no), and I found this: http://travel.yahoo.com/trip-view-406... -- lots of good suggestions there!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Thanks Ruth. That is a great resource. Any chance you're familiar with the Chocolate Factory on 12th St in SF? Very intriguing.

      1. re: kresge86

        I don't know anything about them. If you want to check them out, though, I noted on their site they're having a "happy hour" featuring one of their specialty chocolates from 6-8 pm this Wednesday.

        1. re: kresge86

          I've been there, not particularly intriguing. Its just their retail shop - http://www.sfchocolate.com/index.html

      2. As of last Saturday, Charles Chocolates is doing factory tours, guided by Chuck Siegal the owner. I think the tours are only on Saturdays, at 11am and 2:30pm.

        Btw, I think the link below has a misleading address; it on Hollis at 65th.

        -----
        Charles Chocolates
        6529 Hollis St, Emeryville, CA 94608

        3 Replies
        1. re: foodeye

          Hi, I work at Charles Chocolates- the 66th St. address is our old location. Our new Factory Store and Chocolate Bar are located at 6529 Hollis Street in Emeryville.

          1. re: foodeye

            According to their website, they also offer tours on Wednesday. Has anyone done it? Would it interest 11-13 yr olds?

            1. re: Glencora

              We went on the 11:30 tour this morning. (The 2:30 was already full when I reserved online yesterday.)

              It's not really a tour because you stand behind a window and look in at the kitchen. Today they were enrobing chocolates at a machine similiar to the one in the I Love Lucy episode and also making marmalade in a huge pot in an area that looked a lot like a home kitchen. It's a small operation. The tour guide didn't have much to say, but was generous with the samples. I took the free tour, rather than the $10 one, and I can't imagine wanting to taste any more than we did. My favorite was the just-made tea-infused truffles. They use Teance tea. The Jasmine truffle tasted strongly of Jasmine tea, without overwhelming the chocolate. The Oolong was more subtle. They're beautiful, too, and come in an edible box. ($60).

              I wouldn't go too far out of my way for the tour. If you're going to be in the area, you could try it. I enjoyed tasting the really, really fresh chocolate, but I can't say that I learned anything new.

          2. Only Scharffen Berger and Guittard actually make chocolate in the Bay Area AFAIK, so I would definitely make SB part of the tour. I haven't done the tour myself, so I don't know how much you can see of the manufacturing processs.

            At the retail level, I think Chocolate Covered has the largest array of bars and Jack, the owner, seems to relish any opportunity to offer tastes (any excuse to crack open a bar, I think).

            19 Replies
            1. re: Gary Soup

              The SB tour is excellent. They walk you through the factory, show you all of the equipment in operation, etc. You do see the entire process.

              1. re: Gary Soup

                You can see quite a bit on the Scharffen Berger tour, although when I did it several years ago, they weren't actually making chocolate (it was a weekend). They walked us through the whole factory, though, IIRC. The tour also includes a nice little tasting tutorial with lots of samples. Well worth doing, especially since it's free.

                1. re: Gary Soup

                  Thanks for the referral. Where is Chocolate Covered located? I did a quick Google search, but ended up with some company in the San Fernando Valley...

                  1. re: kresge86

                    Chocolate Covered
                    4069 24th St
                    San Francisco, CA 94114

                    It's between Noe and Castro.

                    If that's too far out of the way, Fog City News has probably the second largest selection (but a colder, more condescending staff) and are right downtown:

                    Fog City News
                    455 Market St.
                    San Francisco, CA 94105

                    1. re: Gary Soup

                      Thanks Gary Soup. I work right next door to Fog City News, and am a regular patron. However, having said that, I agree that the staff are not the friendliest. Also, I have heard from my coworkers of many "odd" or downright rude experiences with the owner. I'll check out Chocolate Covered.

                  2. re: Gary Soup

                    What about Charles Chocolates? Aren't they making chocolate?

                    The SB tour is fun. Lots of local schools take fieldtrips there.

                    1. re: Glencora

                      I haven't tried one, but a friend went to a guided chocolate tasting at Bittersweet Cafe and really enjoyed. I'd consider adding it just for the drinks:
                      http://www.bittersweetcafe.com

                      Charles Chocolates is a remelter, not a chocolate maker. The couverture is all Guittard.

                      1. re: fqalzai

                        Very interesting. I had no idea you could set up a private tasting at Bittersweet in SF. Definitely worth considering adding this to the tour agenda.

                        1. re: fqalzai

                          I was just on the Charles Chocolates tour, and they said that they use 3 different couvertures. Besides Guittard, they use El Rey, which I love, and Cocoa Berry. That's one from France that I don't know much about.

                          I'm not sure what you mean by "remelter", but they are chocolatiers, like Rechuitti, Maison du Chocolat, etc. They use other peoples chocolates to make their confections. When i think of remelter, I think of NOKA in Dallas (google them you'll see what I am talking about).

                          The tour was really coo, with samples right off the enrobing line, and some of the most amazing hot chocolates.

                          1. re: shabkins

                            "Cocoa Berry" is probably Cocoa Barry, the French part of Barry-Callebaut, which is the world's largest industrial chocolate maker.

                            Last I heard, Rechiutti used Guittard for couverture, too.

                          2. re: fqalzai

                            Hey, I just found this - it's from the tour at Charles chocolates...

                            http://bayareanewsgroup.com/multimedi...

                            1. re: shabkins

                              Remelter is just an industry term for a company that doesn't make chocolate--just uses existing couverture to remelt, flavor and mold, either into bars or confections. Didn't mean it to sound condescending :-) For what it's worth, I like El Rey and E. Guittard too.

                              Cocoa Barry, incidentally, is also the source of Vosges, Chocolove, Lake Champlain...you name it!

                              1. re: fqalzai

                                Virtually all chocolate labeled simply as "Belgian" is from Barry-Callebaut, in fact.

                                1. re: Gary Soup

                                  Including Trader Joe's -- or at least, those 3-packs of 50 gram bars are. There was a batch earlier this year where they forgot to switch over to blank bars and wrapped ones embossed "Callebaut" in the TJ's wrapper.

                                2. re: fqalzai

                                  That's OK. I had only heard that term used in a very negative Blog expose that I read about NOKA Chocolate. I always was told that it was either "Chocolate Maker" or "Chocolatier"

                                  Callebaut is also now making chocolate up in Napa - I don't know if they bought another company, or just built a chocolate factory there, but I heard that it opened this summer.

                                  1. re: shabkins

                                    Not to nit-pick, but the Callebaut factory is in American Canyon, which is in Solano County, not Napa.

                                    1. re: Gary Soup

                                      Gary, if you're going to nit-pick, please be correct. American Canyon and the Callebaut Factory are in NAPA county, NOT Solano. I know, cause I live in AmCan, and pay Napa county taxes.

                                      1. re: djdto

                                        Sorry, I guess I should know by now not to bet the farm on 900-lb gorillas like Yahoo!

                                        http://dir.yahoo.com/Regional/U_S__St...

                          3. re: Gary Soup

                            Joseph Schmidt doesn't anymore?

                            If stopping by there, I definitely recommend trying their Sea Salt Caramel.

                            -----
                            Joseph Schmidt Confections
                            3489 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                            Schmidt Joseph
                            356 Santana Row, San Jose, CA 95128

                          4. I did a chocolate walking tour 6 months ago through San Francisco. Here were our stops...
                            Ferry Plaza - Ricchutti - REALLY good chocolates and truffles, tasting, little sample boxes.
                            Scharffenberger - Just ok, I didn't buy much of anything there.
                            Fog City news - My friends didn't know about this place! Chocolate Bar Heaven!
                            Teucher - on Sutter near stockton - Just ok, definitely not worth it for the price.
                            Richart - on the same block of Sutter - Exquisite boxes of handpainted truffles. Theyy come in boxes of "fruit" "Tea" "Spices" etc flavors. Not cheap, but absolutely beautiful.
                            XOX - By far our favorite stop on our tour. Get a coffee, you get a sample and 20piece boxes for only $8. My friends liked the quality if chocolate and flavor the most.
                            Cocoa Bella on Union - We were a little chocolate-ed out at this point, but the selection was fantastic, although the service was very slow.
                            Other places you may want to try -
                            Moonstruck Chocolates on Union St.
                            Five Star Chocolates on Divisadero at Oak - Santos th owner used to work at XOX and now has his own store, great coffee too.

                            I hope that helps. :)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: mlucier

                              This is helpful. Thank you. BTW - This looks like quite a hike from the Ferry Building, through Union Square, to Washington Square, and then to the Marina? What time did you start out, and how long did this take?

                              1. re: kresge86

                                It took us a while and we wound up taking a cab to Northbeach where we sat and had some lunch and then a bus to Union Street. The Ferry building downtown area took us about 2 or three hours. (we windo shopped along the way)

                            2. I recently did a chocolate tour through Gourmet Walks. We stopped at 6 different shops, plus a cafe for hot chocolate. www.gourmetwalks.com

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: amanda09

                                Thanks for this info. After Fog City cancelled its tours, I looked for other options, but didn't find any. Which 6 shops did you visit?

                                1. re: kresge86

                                  Richart, Scharffenberger, Rechuitti, Ghiradelli, Fog City, a Swiss place (can't remember name) and then a cafe for hot chocolate. I almost had too much chocolate!