Mike Orlando: chocolate connoisseur who handcrafts Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolates

Santa Barbara is a beautiful city that seems to attract distinguished artisans with zealous devotion to their craft. Mike Orlando is a prime example. Mike is a chocolate maker and chocolatier, a connoisseur recognized as one of the finest in the country, and in a small building on East Haley Street, he and his dedicated team hand-fashion chocolate bars and truffles of the highest quality known by a small coterie of discerning enthusiasts as the unrivaled example of inimitable elegance and taste. We are quite enthusiastic about Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolates and have awarded them ENTREE’s highest honor, our Golden E of Excellence.

Mike, a chemist at heart, works in a much-admired, traditional way, imports his cocoa beans from single origin estates from around the world (Madagascar, Tanzania, Dominican Republic and Honduras are treasured sources) and gently hand sorts then roasts to accentuate the subtle and delicate flavor characteristics special to each bean’s origin. Ingredients are refined in a traditional stone melangeur, tempered and molded by hand in small batches on the premises. We have never tasted quality equal to Orlando’s. Only the highest quality ingredients are used, never any emulsifiers or additives.

The product line includes 1.4 oz. chocolate bars (there are
seven to choose from), drinking chocolate, chocolate-covered
espresso beans, candied Tanzanian cocoa nibs, and an
astounding array of truffles. One flight of five caramels
contains one each of the following: Rosemary Caramel
featuring a 75% Organic Dominican chocolate shell and
locally harvested rosemary; Spicy Togarashi Caramel featuring
a 7-spice blend from Japan containing chilis, orange peel, sesame, and more; Pink Peppercorn and Lavender Caramel where fruit and flowers intersect perfectly; popular Lavender Blossom Caramel featuring actual ground lavender blossoms to give it a real (not soapy) flavor; and their one-of-a-kind Vanilla Salted Caramel with 100% unsweetened Dominican chocolate shell and Maldon Sea Salt. Another flight of five contains one each of the following: Single Origin Dark Chocolate truffle featuring 75% Organic Dominican chocolate ganache; Espresso Ganache using Santa Barbara’s own Lighthouse coffee; Fresh Spearmint Ganache using Farmer’s Market spearmint leaves, Lavender Blossom Ganache truffle; and Vanilla Salted Caramel with 100% unsweetened Dominican chocolate shell. Maldon Sea Salt, fresh roasted coffee, and Farmer’s Market lavender blossoms and spearmint leaves give these truffles amazingly vibrant and fresh flavors.

Mike’s Vanilla Salted Caramels are in a class all their own—rich vanilla caramels sprinkled with Maldon sea salt crystals are encapsulated in 100% unsweetened Dominican chocolate. This makes for a less sweet and deconstructed eating experience; you taste the caramel, salt and chocolate separately as you chew, and
the finish leaves you feeling like you just ate a piece of dark chocolate.

These truffles are gem-like works of art and impossible to
resist. Twenty-Four Blackbirds is unique: this is the only
chocolate factory in Santa Barbara. If you visit them, you’ll
be rewarded with a chocolate and meet the pleasant team. On
Thursdays and Saturdays, there are weekly guided tours
offered and wine pairings with chocolates galore. But you can
also order online. We consider Twenty-Four Blackbirds
Chocolates among the very best chocolates and confections on planet Earth and urge you to try them. Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolates, 428 E Haley St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101, open Tuesday-Saturday 11 am-6 pm. (805) 464-6074,

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