Chris Blue, the owner/operator of Chocolatier Blue in Berkeley, CA, is a lucky guy—he’s young, talented, and passionate about his work. By combining fresh, mostly local ingredients with the world’s best chocolate, Chris has created line of chocolate truffles with bold yet balanced flavors.
A stint as chocolatier at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago taught Chris that you have to use the best ingredients to make the best product, and this ethos is reflected in every chocolate truffle he creates.
To start, Chris is the only chocolatier in America that’s allowed to make chocolate confections using Amedei chocolate from Tuscany, which is considered to be the world’s best chocolate. Amedei’s chocolate is unique because they get all their beans come from the famed Venezuelan region of Chuao, which has an ideal microclimate and an age-old tradition of harvesting cacao. Amedei has complete control over the chocolate from bean to bar, and they developed their own processing techniques that maximize the bean’s delicate flavor. Amedei is also one the most ethical chocolate companies in the world, negotiating directly with farmers, ensuring workers rights, and paying them above fair trade standards. For a good overview of how Amedei does business, see this article.
(Amedei’s story is intriguing to say the least, especially when one if its main driving forces is a personal vendetta against French chocolate maker Valhrona, who refused to sell chocolate to Amedei founders Alessandro and Cecilia Tessieri because “Italy wasn’t evolved enough to appreciate such ordinary chocolate.” The Tessieri’s took it as a “personal slight, a national insult, a call to arms” and declared war on Valhrona. Seriously…read the article).
We ended up ordering a 15-piece box with one of every flavor they had on hand: apple cider, pumpkin, peppermint, pistachio, chili, lime, grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, caramel, passion fruit caramel, egg nog, espresso, and palet d’or. There were 14 flavors total, so we got two palet d’ors to fill the extra space. Each one of these truffles needs to be savored, but since my wife and I were splitting them and only had half a truffle each, we made sure to take the time to enjoy every second that they were in our mouths. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the palet d’or, caramel, espresso, lemon, peppermint and lime truffles were definite standouts. There’s a detailed list of Chocolatier Blue’s current offerings on their Web site.
We originally went into the store to buy a box of truffles as a present for a friend who was in town, and ended up staying for nearly an hour talking to Chris about his career, chocolate, and the chocolate business. He offered us some chocolate samples and even gave us a taste of some of new flavors he was developing. The more Chris talked about chocolate, the more I started picking things up off the shelves to buy. Our finally tally was over $80 for two 15-count gift boxes of truffles, a couple packs of Amedei tasting squares, a little bag of the best peanut brittle I’ve ever had, a bag of gianduia (hazelnut) truffles, a $14 bar of Amedei Chuao 70% bittersweet chocolate that was unbelievably smooth with a fruity finish, and a perfect cup of cinnamon chili hot chocolate (the secret? a little sea salt).
Overall, we came away impressed with Chris’s commitment to his craft. He makes all the truffles himself in the store’s open kitchen and doesn’t have any other employees as a way to control quality and reduce overhead, which keeps prices down—his truffles are a bargain at $1.50 each. One of the reasons Chris set up shop in Berkeley was because the rent was much lower than more high-profile locations in San Francisco, like the Ferry Building (although I’d love to see him go head to head with Michael Recchiuti).
It’s pretty obvious that we’ll be going back, especially with Valentine’s Day just around the corner…