Dark Chocolate’s Health Benefits, Plus Where to Find the Best in the Bay Area

Dark Chocolate’s Health Benefits, Plus Where to Find the Best in the Bay Area

Dark chocolate may be the world’s de facto panacea. Deeply rooted in myth and folklore, the ancient Mayans believed cacao beans promoted strength, wisdom and virility, and the Aztecs revered chocolate as their Gods’ chosen drink. For mere mortals like us, chocolate has long been touted as an aphrodisiac, and more recently, scientific evidence suggests that dark chocolate’s health benefits are for both the body and the mind.

Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content (at least 70%) is considered one of the superfoods linked to brain and heart health and circulation. It’s rich in fiber and minerals, including iron, magnesium, copper, chromium and zinc, as well as antioxidant compounds, including polyphenols, flavonoids and catechins. Some evidence suggests that dark chocolate can have a drug-like effect on the brain. Dark chocolate contains small quantities of tryptophan, which is a building block of serotonin, and trace amounts of phenylethylamine (PEA) which raises blood pressure and heart rate and releases hormones linked to the brain’s pleasure system. The interplay between the caffeine in chocolate and theobromine, which is the principal alkaloid of the cacao bean, also induces a feeling of well-being and pleasure. 

While science debates the extent of the powers of dark chocolate, there’s no question that the simple act of eating dark chocolate brings great pleasure — and when consumed with moderation, this pleasure is a powerful force. What’s not to love about that? This Valentine’s Day, treat yourself and your loved ones to the pleasure of indulging in dark chocolate. The Bay Area is home to a number of chocolate powerhouses, such as Ghirardelli and See’s, and it’s also a fertile ground for an array of award-winning, small-batch, craft chocolatiers producing locally sourced, sustainable, bean-to-bar dark chocolate.

Featured Photo: Courtesy of Dandelion Chocolate​
Dandelion Chocolate: Dark Chocolate's Health Benefits
Photo: Courtesy of Dandelion Chocolate

This bean-to-bar chocolate maker is located in San Francisco’s Mission District. For over 10 years, they have been turning cocoa beans and organic sugar into single-origin dark chocolate. Dandelion travels and builds lasting relationships with cocoa farmers and producers, then crafts small batches of chocolate back home in their San Francisco factory. With a minimal approach, they aim to highlight different cocoa beans’ distinctive flavor notes — from classic fudge to tangy fruit. Bean to bar in all forms.

2600 16th Street, San Francisco

Feve Chocoloate: Dark Chocolate's Health Benefits

An artisan chocolate and confection company based in San Francisco, Feve’s broad range of beautiful chocolate confections include truffles and uniquely flavored dark chocolate bars, made with premium, non-GMO quality chocolate from suppliers that specifically work with cacao farmers who are paid fairly and significantly more for their product than is set by Fair Trade organizations. They are four-time winners of the Good Food Award®, granted to American food producers who make tasty, authentic, responsibly produced food. 

222 Palou Avenue, San Francisco

Kokak Chocolate: Dark Chocolate's Health Benefits
Photo: Courtesy of Kokak Chocolates​

Specializing in small-batch, single origin heirloom chocolates, this Castro neighborhood-based company offers giftable boxed chocolates, bars, truffles and hot chocolate drinks. Their single origin dark chocolates are made from the Arriba Naciónal, a rare cacao variety, known to be the oldest in the world and the most prized by chocolatiers globally. It is known to have terrific overall balance with a complex, intense, long, pleasant and unique flavor. Their organic chocolate is sourced from a fair trade and sustainable collective in Ecuador.

3901 18th Street, San Francisco

Photo: Courtesy of Recchiuti​

Recchiuti exclusively offers custom-blend chocolates with distinct flavor profiles, meticulously crafted by Valrhona to match gourmet confectioner Michael Recchiuti’s discerning palate.  They use only the finest chocolate with a minimum of 32% cocoa butter, resulting in irresistibly smooth and creamy confections.

Recchiuti at the Ferry Building, 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco

Photo: Courtesy of Sweet 55​

Sweet 55 produces award-winning Swiss-style chocolate, boasting no preservatives and handcrafted with Swiss grand cru chocolate. Ursula Schnyder, chief chocolate officer, and her team work with the world’s most sustainable Swiss vendors to source the highest-grade materials for our products. These vendors pay their cacao suppliers above-average prices to grow, harvest and process the purest chocolate you can find.

225 Cabrillo Highway, Suite 104C, Half Moon Bay

Photo: Courtesy of Alegio Chocolate

This Palo Alto-based company produces “soil-to-bar” chocolate, that is fair trade, single-origin and biodynamically farmed. Their vegan chocolate makes the statement that 100% pure dark chocolate does not have to be bitter when sourced well and made with love and skill.

522 Bryant Street, Palo Alto

The Xocolate Bar is a Latina-owned family business, where life partners Malena Lopez-Maggi and Clive Brown make creative chocolates that are as beautiful as they are delicious. Their house blend of chocolate is organic and fair trade, and they use all natural ingredients, including natural color cocoa butter and edible mineral dust for decoration. Members of the Good Food Guild, supporting fine quality artisan food, the duo also offers plenty of vegan and gluten free options.

1709 Solano Avenue, Berkeley

Hailing from Oakland’s Grand Lake neighborhood, Michael’s Chocolates produces award-winning chocolates influenced by Michael’s background in pastry, hospitality, service and wine. This combination lends balance, texture, and pure flavors to his creations. 

3352 Grand Avenue, Oakland

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