Sweet! Here are six awesome chocolate makers you should know about

Wine-filled chocolates. Chocolate-covered Oreos. Chocolate bars made with clementine olive oil.

The list of chocolate goodies you can buy just keeps on going.

Everyone knows about the big boys of the candy world (like See’s Candies and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory). But did you know there are locally owned chocolate makers operating right under our noses in the Fresno area? Some of them make chocolate sold at stores around the country. Many ship nationwide. All of them have something delicious to offer.

Here, in no particular order, are a few yummy places.

fresno_chocolate_05

Varieties of Raphio Chocolate are displayed at the craft chocolate maker’s Fresno facility on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. The dark chocolates are being marketed as pure and healthy, made from real ingredients from various cacao growers around the world.

CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

1. Raphio Chocolate – This craft chocolate maker roasts its own cacao beans and turns them into chocolate bars in a tiny factory in northeast Fresno. It’s all about dark chocolate here, with bars starting at 72 percent cacao and up.

The single-origin bars are made with cacao beans from either Ecuador, Peru, Tanzania or Nicaragua.

“Just like wine, every origin offers different floral notes,” owner Elisia Otavi-Makmur said.

Most bars are vegan and have just three ingredients: Cacao beans, organic cane sugar and a touch of cocoa butter.

We do make everything by hand. We don’t use any fancy machines.

Rob Taylor, Stafford’s Chocolates

However, Raphio recently added chocolates infused with coffee, salt, peppermint candy and cacao nibs.

A chocolate bar made with Enzo organic clementine crush olive oil – itself an award winning olive oil – is making a splash. The bar won two gold medals at San Francisco’s 2017 Fall Holiday Chocolate Salon in the best chocolate bar and the new product categories.

Raphio is named after the owners’ sons, Raphael and Rio. Their mom, Otavi, makes all the chocolate. Her husband, Yohanes Makmur, was a partner in Molucca Chocolate before the couple founded Raphio.

Raphio’s store opened last week at 783 E. Barstow Ave., Suite G. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It’s in the same shopping center as Kristina’s Natural Ranch Market, which also sells the chocolate.

Raphio chocolate also is for sale at all three KuppaJoy locations, Enzo’s Table, Vineyard Farmers Market in Fresno from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, and Visalia Farmers Market from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays.

Reimers

The California turtle is a top seller at Reimer’s Candies & Gifts. It features locally grown walnuts and pecans topped with caramel and a kiss of chocolate. The treat can be ordered online or at the three Reimer’s stores.

Reimer’s Candies & Gifts

2. Reimer’s Candies & Gifts –This Three Rivers-based candy maker sells online and in its stores. After 60 years in business, Reimer’s now has three stores: The original in Three Rivers near the entrance to Sequoia National Park, one in Oakhurst not far from the entrance to Yosemite National Park and a shop in Avila Beach.

The California turtle is a top seller. It features locally grown walnuts and pecans topped with caramel and a kiss of chocolate. They can be ordered online or in the store. They can be packaged in a box that has an image of the view of Sequoia National Park from Lake Kaweah.

G Debbas cluster bombs

Chocolate Cluster Bombs: Exploding Fruity Crisp Cereal is made by Fresno-based G. Debbas Chocolatier. The candy is sold in FYE music stores, including the one in Clovis on Shaw Avenue, and Abigail’s Candy Shop at Sierra Vista Mall.

Max Debbas

3. G. Debbas Chocolatier – You may have eaten something chocolately from this 40-year-old Fresno company and not known it. Chocolates made in the factory just east of the airport in Fresno are sold at drug stores and big-box stores nationwide under different brand names. All the candies detailed here are for sale at each of the retailers’ locations nationwide.

CVSstores sell its Chocolino La Dolce Vita chocolate bars.

Fittingly, BevMo!stores carry a large selection of their booze-infused chocolates, like the cabernet-filled chocolates under the G. Debbas name. They also make the Cocoa Crate brand, which has almonds tumbled in chocolate with flavors like margarita and piña colada, and boozy caramels, too.

BevMo! also sells Salvatore Constantino pretzel rods dunked in chocolate and made by G. Debbas.

Michaels craft stores carries two kinds of chocolate bark and boozy caramels (like chocolate whiskey caramels with toffee) under the Cocoa Crate name.

FYE, the music store at 200 W. Shaw Ave. in Clovis, carries a different kind of chocolate made by G. Debbas. Called chocolate cluster bombs, the candies come with an “explosion of flavors.” The exploding fruity crisp cereal candy, for example, has white chocolate, fruit cereal and “popping crystals” similar to Pop Rocks.

“When we say that they’re exploding, we literally mean it,” said G. Debbas vice president Max Debbas.

Abigail’s Candy Shop, formerly known as Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, at Sierra Vista Mall carries the cluster bomb line, too. You also can find individual chocolate turtles, jumbo peanut butter cups and chocolate pretzel rods.

At Costco.com, Cocoa Crate chocolates and jumbo peanut butter cups are available for shipping.

The G. Debbas factory itself is selling bags of chocolate-covered chocolate cookies topped with caramel, and sea salt roasted almonds through Dec. 31. It’s the rear building at 2794 N. Larkin Ave. It’s open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, but closed Dec. 25 and 26.

staffordsmugmelts

Stafford’s Chocolates sells these “mug melts” designed to be swirled into coffee or hot milk. They are available online or at the company’s stores in Porterville and Los Olivos.

Stafford’s Chocolates

4. Stafford’s Chocolates – Porterville may be out of the way for some people, but their chocolates are available online and in several Valley stores.

Truly a family run business, the Taylor family bought it five years ago. With their pastry chef son home for the holidays from San Francisco to help, the family is busy making all its chocolates by hand.

That includes red wine truffles, moon pies, pistachio brittle and mug melts – marshmallow, caramel and dark chocolate on a stick designed to be swirled into coffee or hot milk.

In addition to online orders, you can buy them at their shop at 114 N. Main St. in Porterville. Stafford’s has a new shop run by the owner’s sister in Los Olivos.

Stores that carry Stafford’s chocolates in the central San Joaquin Valley: Bullard Pharmacy in Fresno, Enjoy the Store in Visalia and Sweet Destination in Reedley.

Grandpas jalapenos

Chocolate covered jalapeños are a hot seller at Grandpa’s Popcorn & Sweets in Fresno. Grandpa’s specializes in a large variety of different kinds of popcorn and also has a cupcake bakery and a candy counter. It’s a family run business started by Fred Campbell, his grandson Daniel and his grandson’s wife, Cassiopeia.

SILVIA FLORES Fresno Bee file

5. Grandpa’s Popcorn & Sweets – This shop, which opened earlier this year at 673 E. Nees Ave., is known for its popcorn, but it dips all kinds of goodies in chocolate.

Popular chocolate-dipped goodies include pretzels, gummy worms, marshmallows, Oreos, graham crackers and jalapeños. Yes, jalapeños. The unlikely combo is top seller and conversation piece.

Grandpa’s most popular chocolate item is its zebra popcorn, which is popcorn drizzled with white and dark chocolate, owner Cassiopeia Campbell said.

California gourmet

These snowmen from California Gourmet Co. can be personalized to include a person’s name, such as “Merry Christmas, Rita.” Flip it over and you can see the chocolate bark it’s made from, which includes marshmallows, crushed peppermint candies and crushed Andes mints.

Special to The Bee

6. California Gourmet Company– Formerly Bouquet of Fruits, this shop makes plenty of chocolately goodies that can be purchased on their own or as part of a gift basket with fruit and nuts.

It sells many of its chocolate goodies online, but even more are available in person at the store at Bullard and West avenues in Pavilion West shopping center.

“People love our peppermint bark,” owner Gina Paul said.

There also are chocolate-dipped Oreos and graham crackers. A pretzel crunch that’s popular is a mishmash of pretzels, caramel, chocolate, white chocolate, marshmallows and M&Ms.

Another option available in store are personalized snowmen. The front of the snowman can include a person’s name, such as “Merry Christmas, Rita.” Flip it over and you can see the chocolate bark made from crushed peppermint candies, marshmallows and crushed Andes mints.

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