Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolate
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.
Then 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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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