Chocolate Manufacturers – Guide for Chocoholics – Bittersweet Origins Chocolate

We featured Bittersweet in our Chocolate Manufacturers – Guide for Chocoholics.

About Bittersweet:

The company was founded in 2005 and then in 2007, they started to handcraft their own Bittersweet Origins chocolate bars. The founders were from AskJeeves who decided they wanted to do something completely different.

bittersweet cafe
photo courtesy of Bittersweet Cafe

About the products:

These Bittersweet Origins chocolate bars are created in very small ‘micro-batches’ by the Bittersweet chocolatier, Seneca Klassen.

Seneca takes the 50-pound bags of cacao beans which come from Dominican Republic, Bali or Venezuela and takes the chocolate through the whole process from the bean to the bar – and there are a number of steps. It takes four days to create the chocolate bars. And because Seneca works in such small batches, every bar made at a different time – even from the same plantation, will taste different. Like fine wine. Each is a unique vintage. And the flavor is really amazing – a whole range of tastes from fruity to nutty to spicy to earthy.

Chocolate tasting is a lot of fun and a unique experience. The Bittersweet people are putting together Chocolate Clubs with regular tasting events so folks can develop their palates.

In my tasting experience – you snap the chocolate (the noise tells you how well the crystals lined up), you melt it slightly in your hand and smell it, you take a bite and chew it and then you take another taste and suck it. Quite a process – just like wine-tasting.

Bittersweet has focused on handcrafting their chocolate (both their bars and their wonderful chocolate drinks), and chocolate pastries and that same attention to detail is reflected in the look and ‘vibe’ at the actual stores. The furnishings at each of the three stores are different. In Danville the tables are old farm furniture from Hungary, the paintings on the walls were created by the artist-daughter of one of the founders, the benches are of wood from old barns – you get the idea. And all created by craftspeople, not a factory.

The cafes are comfortable hangouts. You can sample any of the chocolates you want. You can buy a cup of hot chocolate and read all afternoon.

bittersweet cafe
photo courtesy of Bittersweet Cafe

And now, this month, Bittersweet is adding its own roasted coffee to its product line. The company will be roasting beans (again in small batches), and then serving that very fresh coffee in their stores the next day. Yet another micro-batched, bean-oriented product that comes from farms around the world.

Bittersweet likes to suggest that even in tough economic times you can have a ‘whole worldwide adventure in your mouth’ with their chocolates. It’s a whole panoply of different nuanced tastes that originate in Africa and South America.

It is fun that every batch is a little different. The beans all comes from sustainable and organic, pesticide-free farms where the company has a direct relationship with every grower.

And, right now, Seneca is in Hawaii planting thousands of cacao trees for his own plantation.


Bittersweet has three locations – Danville, Rockridge and Fillmore in San Francisco. For more info, please visit or their blog. You can also find them on Twitter: @bittersweetcafe.