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January 15, 2013
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Cello Chocolate of Nevada City offers classes in unique process

When it comes to making chocolate, nothing gets more authentic than the bean-to-bar chocolate method.

Cello Chocolate of Nevada City upholds this process, comprising one of the few actual chocolate makers in the country.

“A lot of chocolate makers are chocolatiers, meaning they buy chocolate bars and make things like truffles out of them,” said co-owner Debi Russell, who operates Cello Chocolates with her husband Ned. “We actually make the chocolate from bean to bar.”

Cello Chocolate began with the couple offering chocolate classes, enlightening people of the chocolate-making process.

“A lot of people think you just take cocoa powder and cocoa butter to make chocolate,” Ned said. “It’s much more than that.”

The classes cost $200 and are common among groups of 10 people, making the price an affordable $20 per person, Debi said. The Russells come to customers’ homes to provide the classes, which last three hours and include a 30-minute slideshow about the history of chocolate.

“We teach them how to make chocolate and get hands-on experience,” Debi said. “People have so much fun with the classes.”

The company prides itself on offering 65 percent cacao, single-origin dark chocolate bars from six different countries—Ghana, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

“We want people to be able to taste the distinct flavors from the beans from different countries and choose the ones they like,” Ned said.

Ned has been working with chocolate for many years after graduating from University of California, Davis, with a bachelor’s degree in food science.

He worked as manager of quality assurance and product development for a small chocolate-related company and then for Ghirardelli Chocolate in San Leandro for 12 years. Debi has a sales and marketing background, having managed executive briefing programs worldwide for Oracle, Cybase and Cisco.

“We’re a match made in heaven,” Debi said. “He does the manufacturing part and I do the sales and marketing part of it.”

Ned used to monitor 150,000 pounds of chocolate with Ghirardelli and now handles about 8 pounds through Cello Chocolate. The Russells decided to make and sell chocolate after the passage of California Bill AB 1616, the California Homemade Food Act, which permits the production and sale of low-risk food items to be sold from a residence.

“We were offering classes and thought that with the new law that was passed, making chocolate seemed appropriate,” Debi said.

The cocoa beans are oven-roasted, “minnowed,” or deshelled, ground up and melted down with cocoa butter and sugar, and poured into molds.

“We have 15 squares of chocolate per bar,” Debi said. “So you can have a little bit every day, if you wanted to.”

The company’s name came from Ned’s love for playing cello, and the catchy pairing of the word cello and chocolate.

“I liked the alliteration of the name, even though cello doesn’t have an ‘h,’” Ned said.

To align with the cello theme, a box of six chocolate bars are sold together in a set aptly named the “Bach Cello Sweet,” playing on the title of the six-part Bach Cello Suite musical composition by Johann Sebastian Bach. Though chocolate-making has been an exciting endeavor for the Russells, the art does pose some challenges, especially acquiring a small amount of beans from different countries.

“We had a shipment of Sur del Mar beans from Venezuela that was in a warehouse in New Jersey and was ruined,” Ned said. “We’ll have to wait for the next harvest.”

Cello Chocolate will be featured at local events, including farmer’s markets and Sunday’s Chocolate Infusion event at the Miners Foundry in Nevada City, while local restaurant Matteo’s and Ol’ Repubic Brewery will be developing a food and beer pairing using Cello Chocolate. Ol’ Republic will be using shells from cocoa beans to develop a type of beer.

“The cocoa shell has a nice aromatic essence after it’s roasted and that’s what we’re using to infuse some of that cocoa smell in our stout,” said Jim Harte, owner of Ol’ Republic Brewery, who made the beer with his business partner Simon Loney.

Matteo’s will be pairing meals with the chocolate and will include the chocolate-infused beer by Ol’ Republic in a food pairing Feb. 11.

“We’ve done five different dinners, but never like this,” said Matt Margulies, owner of Matteo’s. “We are pairing three different chocolates with beers from Ol’ Republic and the menu is to come in the next couple weeks.”

To sign up for classes, order chocolate or get more information, visit cellochocolate.com or call (530) 478-0877.

With the chocolate-making classes and the bean-to-bar process, Cello Chocolates offers something unique, Debi said.

“It’s a great way to share something different with the community.” Debi said. “After all, who doesn’t like chocolate?”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email jterman@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4230.


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The Union Updated Jan 18, 2013 01:32PM Published Jan 17, 2013 09:01AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.