Ned and Debi Russell's retirement plan: Cello Chocolate
For some, retirement means winding down and relaxing. For Ned and Debi Russell, retirement has been a time to focus on their passions and interests. The result is Cello Chocolate, a handcrafted bean-to-bar chocolate company that they founded in 2013, in Nevada City, California.
After years of working in the San Francisco Bay Area, Ned and Debi moved to a quiet town, nestled in the foothills of Sierra Nevada. Ned has decades of experience in industrial food processing, including 12 years as Quality Manager at Ghirardelli Chocolate. Debi has helped to develop business at several technology corporations such as Apple, Oracle and Sybase.
After giving informal chocolate-making classes and “Death by Chocolate” dinners to friends, they began to fantasize about a new project, turning a hobby into a business, with Ned as the chocolate maker and Debi as the sales and business manager. Ned also has a passion for playing cello so they thought it was apt to name the company Cello Chocolate.
Ned roasts the beans in small batches using a machine that lofts the beans in heated air. The beans are winnowed on a custom stainless winnower inspired by John Nanci of Chocolate Alchemy. The shells are given to a local brewery which makes a delicious chocolate stout. Ned also presses his own cocoa butter with the same beans, thus, each chocolate bar is truly single origin. All the bars are 70% cacao and made with organic sugar. Each single origin was chosen for its unique flavor profile. Ned and Debi want to highlight the wide variety of cocoa flavors, from bright and fruity to deep and earthy.
Ned and Debi are passionate about making chocolate, but what they enjoy most is the connections they make with the people and communities that grow cocoa around the world. They have visited most of the farms where the cocoa for their bars is grown. It has given them a deep appreciation for the amount of care and labor required to grow and process quality cocoa beans. For them, every bar of chocolate has a face and a story.