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March 07, 2007

Charles Chocolates - The New Store is Open!


I've been a fan of Charles Chocolates since I tried the passion fruit heart at CocoaBella. Last year I visited the temporary store in San Francisco, and I got to see Chuck Siegel himself do a demonstration at CocoaBella with fellow chocolatier Christopher Elbow. Now it looks like Chuck is realizing his dreams, as well as those of all Bay Area chocolate lovers, with the opening of his new store in Emeryville.

I was lucky enough to see not only the store but to get a tour of the candy kitchen by Chuck himself - by the way, he's just about the nicest guy you could meet - Willy Wonka's got nothing on him.


Right now the store is a sleek little space, with boxes of chocolates seeming to hover on glass shelves backed by art-gallery-chic brick walls, but this is only phase one: a brand new candy kitchen is being built right behind the store, and when it is finished customers will be able to get a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, sit down, and watch Charles Chocolates being made through big glass windows.

"I really want to customers to see what goes into the process of making our chocolates, to understand what we mean when we say everything is made by hand,", says Chuck. All of his chocolates are handmade by his workers in small batches - there is no huge warehouse full of candy since everything is made to order and shipped out within a few days. Walking into the current candy kitchen next door, one can see white-clad workers making blood orange marmalade on the stove for the chocolate yankees, pouring hot caramel into frames to be cut later with a guitar, or wrapping the chocolate bars individually in foil. Everything is clean, efficient, and precise - just as Chuck likes it.

When so much of the experience of fine chocolate is tied to appreciation of the finished product, to the fine glossy sheen of a chocolate bar, the perfect smooth roundness of a truffle, the delicate crisp give of the chocolate shell as you bite through to the ganache, attention to detail becomes paramount, and when the new candy kitchen is finished, it is Chuck's hope that the public will really be able to appreciate how this dedication translates to the beautiful product for sale in the store.

But I would urge you not to wait for the new kitchen to be finished (it should be a couple of months away) but to head over to his store now, and check out all the goodies awaiting your hungry gaze and eager tongue. Some of my favorites follow:


This a new collection of tea-infused chocolates that I was quite taken with - Chuck has used some very fine eastern teas from Teance of Berkeley and created some very unique tasting chocolates that range from delicate (jasmine) to earthy (oolong). I've made tea-infused chocolates before and it's always a trick to balance the flavor and intensity of the tea with the right chocolate - Chuck explained to me that each tea is paired with a different blend of chocolates to achieve a perfect harmony in taste. I really like the lichee and osmanthus chocolates!


One of their signature edible chocolate boxes - I asked Chuck how he came up with idea and he replied that it was actually born out of necessity - at one point his supplier was unable to deliver enough packaging for Chuck and his chocolates, so Chuck decided to make his own boxes out of chocolate. This brainstorm has turned into one of their trademark items - new designs for new collections are constantly coming out, from a Chinese watercolor-inspired lid for the tea chocolates to a pretty floral pastel for the spring collection.


Chuck doesn't just make great chocolates - he also makes some awesome pate de fruit. I am seriously in love with his new collection of wine infused pate de fruit; they taste like perfect distillations of the grape. Chuck uses wines from the gorgeous Artesa Winery in Napa to make his little hemispheres of bliss - the gewurztraminer and champagne flavors are light and sweet, the merlot and cabernet sauvignon delectably intense.


One of their newest products, a chocolate-covered stick of caramel sprinkled with toasted nuts. Chuck is starting to branch out from his original box of chocolates - these little lovelies are like a supercharged version of those Japanese Pocky sticks - very portable and munchable.


Beside the fact that the entire collection of Charles Chocolates is available at the store, another reason you should go is that you can try anything there! The staff is quite friendly and knowledgeable and eager to recommend the chocolates that will delight your tastebuds. Also, through the month of March, there will be free tastings every Saturday of certain chocolates - you can learn about how Chuck came up with the idea for different chocolates and how they are made.

I'll give another update when the new kitchen is open and I get to take a peek inside, but I hope in the meantime you get a chance to make your way to Emeryville and try some of the best local chocolate around!

Charles Chocolates

6529 Hollis Street

Emeryville, CA


Open daily 11AM - 7PM

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I was bummed when you said that his store was temporary, but am elated to hear that he has opened up a new store! I'm definitely putting this one on my "to go" list...gosh, I'll have to visit SF&Cali soon!

Everything looks amazing, but especially the pate de fruit!

dear anita, everything looks so fantastic! i especially like the sounds of the tea-infused assortment - as you've said, it's always challenging getting the balance between the tea flavour and the chocolate flavour right...

Awesome post. The caramel sticks sound great. I'll have to stop by there next time I'm in Emeryville (or make a special trip).

I'm still making my way through the full set of his chocolate bars I got in December.

I have a feeling I'll be wandering in there sooner rather than later... thanks for lighting the chocolate fire! and by the way-- these are amazing photographs!

Just a few hours ago I was lusting after a gourmet chocolate bar laced with chili, and now... now I am so wanting to sample that jasmine chocolate bar! Thank you for the lovely post, I only wish I lived in the area so I could vist your modern Mr. Wonka.

i finally went there this weekend for the tasting of the fleur de sel caramels. charles was there to tell us about his company and his chocolate's history. he recommended the dark chocolate bar with hazelnuts and candied orange peel. it was amazing!

This shop looks wonderful!
I can go on NY chocolate tours and nothing happens..but I come over here and lose it altogether :)

I recognized the packaging and realized I just saw his product in a local cheese store that my friend owns. I am going to have to run out tomorrow and go try it. Thanks for the lovely post (and pictures) on such a great product.

Definitely it's a great thing he's got a permanent store opening up - another reason for you to visit:)

Madam Chow,
I highly recommend the wine pate de fruit - so tasty and perfect texture!

Thank you! I know Charles Chocolates has plans to expand into Asia, so if you ever see his creations, do give them a try!

Those little caramel sticks are so yummy - not sure if they're selling at other places yet, so you might have to stop by his store:)

It's certainly no chore to spread the news on such a great product and an all-around great guy - hope you get to stop by soon!

I know Charles has plans to expand his distribution - so hopefully they'll show up in your area sometime in the future!

Glad you got to go and that you got to meet Charles - isn't he the nicest guy!

Come over to SF and I'll be sure to stuff you silly with chocolate:)

Thanks for giving his chocolate a try - I think you'll enjoy it!

If I were in your area I would be there everyday!

Anita - Wow! These all look amazing. When I left my last job, I said next I'd work in a chocolate store so everyone would be happy to see me!

ooh...i love the packaging, love the chocolate and love most of all, pate de fruit! it's no fair you have all wonderful stores always popping up in your area! :D

Hi Anita, you have brought us a whole new world of chocolates by posting these photographs and telling us about this place. We have seen chocolates and chocolate shops but this is exceptional and most inviting. Makes such an interesting reading and reflects your subtitle "a passion for pastry". Great and thanks!

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