Sadly, Hershey has announced the immediate closing of the small Berkeley factory that, since 2001, has been the flagship of Scharffen Berger chocolate. Scharffen Berger’s dark chocolates were a favorite among Bay Area residents years before it was sold to Hershey in 2005; the cozy Berkeley factory used to be open for tours and chocolate tastings (followed by obligatory hot cocoa at the cafe next door). I have many fond memories of Scharffen Berger chocolate, so this news is depressing.
To add insult to injury, Hershey is also closing the factory of Joseph Schmidt in San Francisco – a company I stumbled upon literally a month ago (subsequently overindulging in truffles.) Hershey is like the chocolate Borg!
Hershey says it will continue making Scharffen Berger brand chocolate at larger plants, where it will be consolidated with the production of other “artisan” chocolates like Joseph Schmidt. In fact, much (most?) Scharffen Berger chocolate is already made at those plants. In recent years, I haven’t been as impressed with Scharffen Berger as I once was; whether that’s because I can taste a subtle difference in how the product is manufactured, or just because I dislike and resent the commercialization of a small brand, I have no idea.
So here’s the sticking point for chocophiles like myself: is Scharffen Berger still an “artisan” chocolate if it’s just one flavor among many cranked out at a big factory off-limits to the consumer? I don’t think so. So do I switch to another artisan chocolate? And if I want to buy local, are there any good, responsibly manufactured American artisan chocolates? Dagoba also belongs to Hershey. NewTree is Belgian. Amadei is Italian. I suppose may try Amano (Salt Lake City), or Charles Chocolate (Emeryville, CA), if I can find them. I’ll continue baking with Ghirardelli (which is owned by Lindt). But when I want a really good dark chocolate to serve with a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, what do I do? Any recommendations?