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April 26, 2015

Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolate

by Anne Paddock

Five years ago, a visitor to Santa Barbara, California would have thought that the seaside town had nearly everything: great weather, lovely beaches, perfect sunsets, a creative vibe, aromatic coffee shops, artisan grocery stores, and a fabulous farmer’s market but one thing was missing: a bean-to-bar chocolate maker.

It’s not that visitors couldn’t buy chocolate in Santa Barbara – a wide variety of chocolate could be purchased at various retail stores including Chocolate Maya; instead, the town lacked a hometown chocolate maker who was willing to take on the monumental time-consuming task of making chocolate from fresh cacao beans.

twenty-four-blackbirds-assortedThen in 2010, Twenty-four Blackbirds Chocolate opened in downtown Santa Barbara and the rest is history. Operating out of a 1,500 square foot factory, Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolate uses two organic ingredients: cacao beans and sugar – to make intense dark chocolate bars. The company’s founder – Mike Orlando – with a background in chemistry and biology – is obsessed with the chocolate making process which involves a series of steps that require knowledge, patience, and the ability to be innovative because many factors – including the cacao beans and temperature – affect the flavor and texture of every batch of chocolate.

Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolate currently offers three varieties of chocolate bars:

Madagascar 75%:  A single origin bar made with certified organic beans from Akesson’s plantation in the Ambanja region of Madagascar, this bar is “packed with fruity flavors and berries and citrus dominate the flavor profile, while an underlying cream and cocoa finish it off.”Twenty-Four_Blackbirds_Chocolate_Madagascar

Bolivia 75%: Organic cacao beans sourced from the Palos Blancos region of Bolivia makes for an earthy, robust tasting bar with virtually no bitterness because the beans are lightly roasted.  Rich, creamy, and oh so chocolatey.Twenty-Four_Blackbirds_Palos_Blancos

Öko Caribe 75%: Made with organic cacao beans sourced from Öko Caribe (hence, the name), a cacao farming cooperative in the Duarte province of the Dominican Republic, this bar is best described as having a “rounded, malty cocoa flavor and a slight nuttiness that is followed up with notes of honey.”Twenty-Four_Blackbirds_Chocolate_Display

The bars come in two sizes and can be purchased on-line through the company’s website (www.twentyfourblackbirds.com):

14 grams or 0.5 ounces: The perfect snack sized bar that sells for $1.99 – $2.50 each.

40 grams or 1.41 ounces: A larger portion sized bar that sells for $5.59 – $7.00 each.736876_10151392948117792_678960200_o

The insignia of the company – the blackbird – comes from the local blackbirds of Santa Barbara but remind me of the poem “Sing a Song of Sixpence” which is re-written below in honor of Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolate:

                                                                   Sing a Song of Chocolate

Sing the praise of chocolate

A bag full of bars

Made by Twenty-Four Blackbirds

Not your average Mars

When the bars were opened

The people began to sing

The bean-to-bar confections

Are really quite the thing

The king was in the cacao house

Counting out the beans

The queen was in the store

Avoiding her greens

The workers were in the kitchen

Crushing the nibs

When on came the winnow

Before they had their bibs

Conched, refined, and rested

Dispensed, tempered and cooled

Each bar was carefully wrapped

Before it was consumed

Photo Credits:  Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolate

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