If you have ordered coffee from us in the last 5 years or so, at least during the cooler months, you would have found a sweet surprise included in the package: really fine single-origin chocolate from Santander, a top-shelf Colombian chocolate maker. We don’t advertise this bonus, we don’t promise it, we just include it in the order as a high-grade token of our appreciation for your business. After initially trying other brands – Hershey’s, Ghirardelli, etc. – I wanted to find something unique, something of very high quality that you wouldn’t expect to find in every market’s chocolate section. After considerable searching high and low, I discovered, through a tiny window in the turbulent diffusion of the troposphere over a fixed area of the Pacific Northwest, a little known layer of the earth’s atmosphere: the Chocosphere.
It was in this new orbit that I discovered the Santander mini chocolates, as well as many hundreds of other chocolate raptures. Speaking of which, you know those multicolored sprinkles you’ve seen on cupcakes and birthday cakes all your life? The ones that visually promise something to celebrate, but really just taste like bad wax? The taste is so unsatisfying that I distrust anything in that shape. Well, one day, Jerry and Joanne, the kind owners of Chocosphere.com, included a different chocolate sample in our order, and there it was – that shape. They were all brown, not multicolored, but I felt that instinctive mistrust: nothing that looked like that could possibly taste like food. But I noticed the label said Guittard. That’s the company started by Etienne Guittard, a Frenchman who first came to California looking for gold, like everyone else who showed up there in the mid-nineteenth century. He happened to bring chocolate from his family’s factory with him, and when people tasted it, he struck his own kind of gold. He returned to France, honed his skills, and returned to San Francisco in 1868 to open Guittard Chocolate. Today the company is still a family craft, run by the 5th generation of Guittards. And those brown sprinkles? They taste like chocolate. Really, really fine chocolate. Whenever I get the chance, I hand them out to my friends’ children, so they can know early in their lives the potential that exists for their future celebrations. And even if you’re not baking, the chocolate sprinkles are excellent over ice cream, mixed with milk when making a latte, or just eaten by the spoonful from the bag. Not that I ever do that, of course…well, maybe once in a while. But I can stop any time I want!
My favorite Guittard product is the chocolate blossom curls. Something about that unique shape makes them especially fun to bake and decorate with. They’re the best thing to adorn the top of a milky espresso drink, a chocolate cream pie, huckleberry ice cream, or your bare palm right before it moves to your mouth.
Since the sprinkles showed up, we’ve received many other samples with our regular orders that have expanded our chocolate horizons. I love anything from Michel Cluizel, especially their “minigrammes” which are like chocolate chips without the points. There’s nothing better for chocolate chip cookies. Cafe Tasse is another standout company we enjoy.
Another strong favorite is Valrhona, one of the biggest French chocolatiers. In addition to all their wonderful consumer chocolates, they have a line of chef’s chocolates, which usually come in bulk packaging. One day when I was ordering from Chocosphere, Joanne told me about the Valrhona Noisette Noir Gianduja blocks. Each block is 1 kg, consisting of 29% dark chocolate and 32% powdered hazelnut.
Each morning I shave 8 or 10 curls into the milk before I steam it for my morning cappuccino. If you’ve ever had a hazelnut flavored drink at a coffee shop – it’s not like that at all. It doesn’t taste like hazelnut flavor; it tastes like you’re drinking a mocha cappuccino and eating fresh hazelnuts. It’s the best espresso milk drink ever. I also make this for my mid-morning cappa, my after-lunch cappa, and again just before bedtime.
My other favorite Valrhona products are the dark chocolate-covered toasted Spanish almonds, the dark chocolate-covered hazelnuts, and the dark chocolate-covered candied orange peel. Oh, and let’s not forget the Manjari Orange bars…my, oh, my.
These amazing treats are just a fraction of the thousands of products the site has available from more than 50 chocolate makers around the globe. Even among the few brands I’ve mentioned, there are hundreds of options. And just in case you’re wondering, this is not a paid blog post. In fact, Jerry and Joanne don’t even know (yet) that I’ve written this. I’m just enthusiastic about great chocolate because it is often so hard to find, and I feel like you should know about this place. Especially if you drink coffee, since chocolate and coffee go so well together. I’m tempted to say that this gold mine of chocolate is like heaven on earth, but I don’t think that’s quite right; heaven isn’t on earth, but it’s close…it’s just right up there in the Chocosphere.