In the lofty strata where Tessieri operates, “making chocolate” means that you make the chocolate. You import cacao beans from plantations. You roast them and husk them and grind the cacao nibs into a fine paste. You add sugar and grind some more. Finally you swirl the mixture in open tanks called conches, which smooths the texture while helping to blow off acids and other nasty flavors. It’s complicated, demanding work, and few small companies even attempt it.

In the lofty strata where Tessieri operates, “making chocolate” means that you make the chocolate. You import cacao beans from plantations. You roast them and husk them and grind the cacao nibs into a fine paste. You add sugar and grind some more. Finally you swirl the mixture in open tanks called conches, which smooths the texture while helping to blow off acids and other nasty flavors. It’s complicated, demanding work, and few small companies even attempt it.
The Tessieris work about 40 miles west of Florence, close to the Arno, and not far from Pisa; the Italian wine and food magazine Gambero Rosso has called this region the Chocolate Valley because of the concentration of chocolatiers who work there—among them Paul de Bondt, Roberto Catinari and Luca Mannori. The Chocolate Valley is not nearly as famous as other parts of Tuscany. For me, this only increased its allure. While other tourists inched through the vineyards of Chianti staring at the exhaust pipe of the rental car just ahead, I would be lazily bobbing along in a rowboat, dipping pieces of bread over the side into the world’s biggest fondue.
Theo Chocolate can be found at many higher-end markets but a visit to its shop guarantees a taste of hard-to-find flavors, like a bonbon filled with caramel that’s flavored by the smoky heat of a ghost chile. Theo, which ships its chocolates nationwide, uses only organic and certified fair-trade chocolate for all of its creations. 3400 Phinney Avenue N, Seattle, WA 98103
At their Brooklyn, New York, factory, the bearded brothers Rick and Michael Mast create fantastic single-origin dark chocolate bars that are wrapped in custom-printed paper and named after the sources of the cacao beans, such as Papua New Guinea, Moho River, Sambirano Valley, and La Red de Guaconejo. “They’re interesting, and certainly showcase the tangy, tropical, terroir-driven flavors of chocolate,” says F&W’s Kristin Donnelly. mastbrothers.com
There is something for everyone on this list of chocolate companies. Whether you prefer indie chocolatiers like La Maison Du Chocolate in New York and Norman Love Confections in Naples, FL; European chocolate makers with a rich history like Teuscher in Zurich, Switzerland; more recently popular brands like Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker in Berkeley, CA, or tried-and-true standbys like Hershey's and Godiva, it's hard to go wrong with any of the chocolate makers on this list. Which company makes your favorite chocolates? 
Hand-dipped bonbons are a specialty for Alma, one of Portland’s standout chocolate shops, but only its toffees, molded chocolate figures, and chocolate bars are shipped nationwide. Stop in for a taste of owner Sarah Hart’s Thai peanut butter cups and rose caramels — the filling contains just the right amount of salinity to offset the drop of rosewater that’s inside each one. Or, order in advance of the holidays to snag a hazelnut or peanut butter crunch bar, caramel-pecan bar, or mocha almond nibby. Alma ships nationwide. 140 NE 28th Avenue, Portland, OR
The zChocolat collection of chocolates combine with Valencia almonds, Piedmont hazelnuts, quality French butter and cream in the ganaches are world renowned. These are not your typical box of chocolates as you can expect caramels, pralines, Chocamandine, Orangettes, Pistachio-almond marzipan sprinkled with pieces of caramelized pistachios, passion fruit caramel, Venezuelan dark chocolate ganache, Hazelnut praline infused with coffee ganache, gifts catered to Valentine's Day with heart shaped chocolate and more. zChocolat is also unique in that it's made in the purest form, low in sugar, with no preservatives, no coloring, all natural ingredients, no alcohol and 100% pure cocoa butter.
The lucky residents of Sacramento have a treasure in Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates. The Hazelnut Praline was excellent, with evocative hazelnut. The Almond Rocher had a great texture. Its almond was well balanced with the choolate although it could have been stronger. The Peanut Butter Croquant also had an excellent balance with the flavors brought out well, including a little zip to the peanut butter.

The phrase dark chocolate sea salt caramels should be a selling point in itself, but these bite-size treats also have something else going for them: they have almost 500 five-star reviews on online. And there’s a reason why. They make other salty-sweet chocolate-caramel combos seem lackluster in comparison. One reviewer said they have a “bold saltiness” that’s “not for the faint of heart” and another said, “My favorite candy ever!” The creamy, rich caramel is cooked to just the right consistency and the smooth chocolate goes perfectly with the visible salt flakes on top.
French Broad Chocolate is a must-try shop located in Asheville, North Carolina. It has chocolates that have won numerous awards at the International Chocolate Awards and Good Food Awards. The confections, which range from single-source bars to vegan lemongrass and ginger truffles, are made with local ingredients and sustainable, wholesome cacao beans.
Sure, some people might see a box of chocolates as a last-minute gift idea — one you revert to when you can't think of anything else— but those same people are dead wrong. A really amazing collection of treats — like the best assorted boxes of chocolates, below — are the gift that keeps on giving. Every time your lucky gift recipient places a piece of mouth-watering goodness into their mouths, they'll think of you and your act of kindness.

You can't make a list of popular chocolate brands without including Mars. This incredibly famous worldwide brand is responsible for Snickers, Galaxy, Dove, M&M'S, Milky Way, Twix, 3 Musketeers, and Mars bars. Like Nestlé, Mars focuses on candy bars and confectioneries instead of plain chocolate products. But it definitely offers a combination of chocolate, nougat, caramel, or other ingredients that you won't be able to say no to.
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