Even within the realm of handcrafted, bean-to-bar chocolate, there’s quite a lot of variation when it comes to the size of different operations. The more commercial they get, the more I start to question the legitimacy of what they are doing (yes I’m talking about you Mast Brothers). Rather I love finding the hidden gems of the bean-to-bar world. The brands you may have never heard of before, but definitely deserve the recognition.
Cello Chocolate is just that. They only make about 15 pounds of chocolate a day, but they are using beans from origins I’m pretty sure I’ve never tasted before. And if this site is any indication, I’ve tasted a lot of chocolate.
Ned and Debi Russell own Cello (they named it as such because Ned actually plays the Cello and draws similarities between the way good music and good chocolate can resonate with a person), and are producing their chocolate out of Nevada City, California. With Ned’s background in chocolate product development and Debi’s background in sales, they’ve brought their experiences together to bring bean-to-bar chocolate to the world. Having taken several trips to Belize, Trinidad, Ecuador, and the Dominican, they’ve spent time hand-picking the beans they want to use, and learning traditional, local methods of chocolate production to bring back to the US.
Cello makes 6 different bars that I was fortunately enough to get to taste test recently. They were all unique, but one of the especially standout ones was their Trinidad bourbon barrel aged bar. They actually brought bourbon barrels back to California with them from Kentucky in order to make these chocolate. You very much get honey and sweet corn notes from the aging process in the bourbon barrels. I can’t say I’ve ever tasted chocolate like it.
Another one of my favourites was the Ghana with sea salt. My love for salted chocolate is definitely not unknown, and combining this with an origin I had never tried before made for a win win. It had a richly chocolate flavour but also a fruitiness to it, which was brought out even more so by the salt.
The Costa Rica bar was also notable, largely due to its smoothness, and the nutty, coffee-like notes it offered. But honestly, if you’re looking to try any origins that are lesser known than your typical Madagascar or Dominican Republic bars, Cello has you covered.
If you want to try the bars for yourself, you can order them online here. The set would also make a great gift for the chocolate aficionado in your life!
*The chocolate for this article was graciously provided by Cello, however the opinions here are my own.