This South American country may not be the first to come to mind when you think about the world's best chocolate, but it should be. Research suggests that cocoa originated in Ecuador, where it was cultivated and eaten over 5,000 years ago. The most flavorful chocolate produced today comes from aromatic "arriba cacao," from which only 5 percent of the world's chocolate is made. Sixty-three percent of that cacao is grown in Ecuador. One of the country's top three brands, Pacari, continues to collect international awards. Kallari and Republica del Cacao chocolates also have bold Ecuadorian flavors.
For over 80 years, this Swiss chocolate house has produced some of the finest sweets in the world. Its Champagne truffles are renown, and their handmade floral packaging is unparalleled, but when it comes to their bars Teuscher goes for pure unadulterated chocolate. Beginning with only the thin-shelled Criollo beans (surely the rarest, and some say the highest quality), the Teuscher chocolate-makers produce every bar by hand in Zurich, adding only cocoa butter and sugar (and sometimes very little, as in their 99 percent cocoa bar). While its headquarters are in Switzerland, lucky for us, Teuscher has shops all over the world—including in nine U.S. cities.
In 2005, when John Grahm took over this mid-century Los Angeles shop where Marilyn Monroe once purchased her sweets, he fashioned it into an edgy and modern version of Old Hollywood elegance. Partnering with designer Kelly Wearstler, Grahm created a line of stunning bars covered in edible crystal, filled with tortilla chips and cayenne pepper, and flavored with balsamic vinegar. But tradition still rules at Compartés, so everything is handmade and people (not machines) do the packaging.
Artist Christine Sarioz started working with chocolate years ago, but only opened her first shop this year. Molded chocolates, filled with dense, deep chocolate ganache or pistachio praline, look like elegant miniature children’s building blocks, perhaps in a set designed to honor Brutalist architecture; some are gilded in metallic dust for extra sparkle. Her signature item is a hazelnut praline-filled chocolate bar: Shiny, snappy, and wrapped in gold paper, it’s what Wonka would peddle if he’d gone to design school. 9414 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
“Wow,” said Krader, biting into one of the company’s flat, square truffles. “This is definitely the chocolate with the most distinct point of view.” By that, she meant that it had perhaps the most unusual flavor of the bunch, with distinctly fruity notes. “This is from someone who’s redefining what truffles can be,” she said. “The flavorings don't punch you in the face, and it tastes like it was just made.” In other words: advanced chocolatiering. “There’s a sophistication about them,” she said. “Truffle neophytes might want something more general.”
Who would think we would be singing the praises of Canadian chocolate? Soma, which began in 2003, describes itself as a place to "eat, drink, and worship chocolate". Visitors can experience their small-batch chocolate-making up close at the micro-factory on the Toronto store's premises. Their menu boasts an impressive display of mind-blowing creativity, like "Sparky" Gianduja pralines laced with Pop Rocks, Gooderham Worts Whiskey truffles and the 8-Year Aged Balsamic Vinegar truffles. Bars are available in rectangle or circle form — Soma's Chocolate Possible Worlds bars come as 200-gram oversized disks, such as the "Ruby Red" bar topped with wild cherries, cranberries, barberries and dusted with Sumac powder. O Canada!
Even today, the chocolate trade looks a lot like it did in colonial days: Raw materials bought at generally low prices in the tropics are shipped to the developed world and turned into a luxury product. Today, three of the largest importers of cacao to America are fighting a lawsuit filed by a human rights group claiming that they buy beans harvested by child slaves, mostly in the nation of Ivory Coast. Several journalists have contended that the extent of slavery in the cacao industry has been overblown, but it’s hardly comforting to hear that the number of slaves who helped make your afternoon snack has been exaggerated. Without doubt, adults and children on some cacao farms, particularly in West Africa, perform demanding, exhausting work for awful pay.
If you like chocolate bark covered with fresh fruits and nuts, you will go nuts for the chocolate of Paul de Bondt. He was born in Holland and married an Italian, Cecelia. The couple makes international chocolate with flair. Try their lemon lime 64 percent bar made from Madagascar’s finest cacao. Although one can find several outstanding chocolate makers in Tuscany, de Bondt proves noteworthy for his scientific approach to chocolate, offering various percentages of the same cocoa in a series of bars that lets you find just the right nuances for your chocolate preferences. Chocolate and tea shop in Pisa.
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
L.A. Burdick ($40 for 34 pieces, medium-size wood box) was well received, with three second place votes and only one strike against it. The subtle shades of chocolate squares hide a mix of French-inspired ganaches, including plenty of boozy options like Macallan whisky and green Chartreuse. These are safe, middle-of-the-road gifting chocolates that are probably suitable as professional gifts. They are known best for their chocolate mice, which are undeniably cute. L.A. Burdick is based in New Hampshire, with stores in New York City, and Cambridge and Boston.
Pastry chef Jacques Torres left Manhattan’s Le Cirque in 2000 to open his own chocolate factory. Torres now runs a chocolate empire that includes two production facilities, six NYC outposts and one in Atlantic City. F&W editors Kate Krader and Tina Ujlaki, resident chocolate experts, especially love Torres’s milk chocolate-covered Cheerios ($8.50) and caramel chocolate popcorn, an addictively salty-sweet snack. mrchocolate.com
At this year’s tasting, we again liked Michel Cluizel’s well-executed, classic fillings. This box is sure to please anyone with an affinity for old-style French chocolates. They are the sweetest of our top picks, but they are not as nuanced as those from Recchiuti and lack whimsical flavor combinations (which might be a bonus for some palates). We also found this assortment, dominated by simple squares and circles, less visually exciting than the Recchiuti’s range of unexpected shapes. But for the traditionalist, this box might be just perfect.
We cut the chocolates into quarters so that more than one person could taste all of the offerings while also trying to avoid palate fatigue. While this may sound like a silly problem, it can be quite frustrating when your taste buds become overstimulated mid-tasting and fail you. To try to limit this, Saltines and club soda were set out to help tasters pace themselves.
The Brownie Taste Test was around the corner, so the first thing I needed to do was to purchase the brownie mixes. I went to four stores, ensuring that I was getting a good feel for what was readily available at grocery stores around the country. I didn’t want to get specific kinds that some people couldn’t find in their local market. I wanted to test the most popular and recognizable brands.
Sometimes, the best chocolate shops around the country have been in business for generations, descended from old-style candy-making facilities. Sometimes they’re no more than a few years old, started by artisanal chocolatiers, some with formal training and others with little more than a love for chocolate and a desire to learn. Sometimes they’re even local branches of large chains.
The Oaxaca truffle, for example, uses guajillo and pasilla chilies with 75% cacao Tanzanian dark chocolate and pumpkin seeds, while the Naga truffle is filled with sweet Indian curry and coconut that's covered by 45% cacao deep milk chocolate. If you're getting a bit freaked out by the experimental flavors, have no fear — there are also chocolates with cherries, hazelnuts, and other more traditional ingredients inside.
The Mom’s Apple Pie Truffle had a good apple flavor, a background of pie crust flavor, and was well accompanied by white chocolate. I did find it too playful with non-chocolate flavors to take it seriously as a chocolate piece. The Chocolaterie also has simpler and more direct flavors, such as the Epicurean Truffle and the Hawaiian Pink Sea Salt Butter Caramel.
Cake specializes in elegant gourmet cookies that would be right at home on the cover of a Martha Stewart magazine. The cookies and brownies are individually packaged so they remain ultra fresh. Topping it off is the lovely packaging that’s sure to impress anyone lucky enough to receive a gift from Cake. Thanks to its elegance we vote this as an ideal gift to send as a thank you, a client gift, or any occasion where a touch of tea room fanciness is in order.
These are so delicious! Taste like you'd expect a dark chocolate sea salt caramel to taste, but with just a hint of bourbon flavor. Highly recommend. Shipped without a cold pack in November (high has been in the 70s this week) and they arrived in great shape. Ordered as a gift for someone who was willing to share with me. She was VERY pleased as well.
Subject = FABULOUS! I just received my July shipment, the Royal Palm box of Dark Signature truffles, and have to tell you that they are now my favorite chocolatier! The flavors are in perfect balance, the chocolates are not too sweet (so many dark chocolates have been ruined by over-sweetening). The quality is superb! Thank you for introducing them to me
If you are looking for gourmet chocolate with a twist, Vosges Chocolate might be the website for you. A Cordon Bleu trained chef steps out of the box to use unique ingredients. At Vosges you can anticipate bacon, cheese, peppers, and other non traditional ingredients in the chocolate selection. The website is fun but the search functionality is a bit limited.
Hotel Chocolat attempts to provide exclusive chocolate products, but fails. With a noticeable lack of selection it doesn't take long to get through their few products to understand the limitations of this website. Of the few items they offer, several are sold out or unavailable for purchase. Until Hotel Chocolat increases selection and quantity we recommend you shop a higher ranked provider for your chocolate needs.
I was not satisfied at Pierre Marcolini. The Massepain Pistache was unremarkable. The dark chocolate in the Noisettine Fondant was so strong it almost overpowered the hazelnut. The ingredients and components in the piece were good, but the composition was not great. In the Trianon Fondant, the dark chocolate exterior did overpower the filling, and the wafers were soggy, not crisp.
The story of how Amedei eloped with Chuao and sent the wedding pictures to Tain l’Hermitage isn’t exactly a vision of sugar plums, but the chocolate industry has a long history of wars, most of them far more brutal. Steve DeVries, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker from Denver, used to say that the Spanish arrived in Mexico and threatened, “Give us your cacao or we’ll shoot you.” Hunting beans in Mexico, DeVries repeated the remark to an anthropologist. “No, no, no,” the anthropologist said. “Before that, the Aztecs came down and said ’Give us your cacao or we’ll cut your hearts out.’”
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.
This is a nice one! I'm not necessarily a super gourmand lover, but when I want to smell something just for myself and enjoy on a relaxed, rainy day at home I'm into the foodier smells. This is a great example of something foody but not sickly. There is a definite dryness to the chocolate. There also feels like a note of amber at the backend that keeps it from smelling JUST like an opened milk chocolate bar.
We walked buy this store in New York City and subsequently ordered the hot chocolate on a stick variety pack. They come in three favors (white, milk and dark chocolate) and taste great! We love good chocolate (vahalrona, Godiva, Jacque Torres, etc.). These are very tasty, fun to use, and unique. Kids especially enjoyed creating their own chocolate drink. We also emailed the company for rush delivery and they were excellent in responding and following up. Highly recommend!
Created by Austrian chocolatier Joseph Zotter in 1987, Zotter Chocolates offers 365 flavors, produced each day of the year! While we taste-tested an assortment of flavors ranging from the creamy, caramel-filled Coffee Toffee to the not-for-the-faint-of-heart 100% cacao Peru bar, the Goji Berries in Sesame Nougat emerged as the unanimous favorite. This milk chocolate bar is studded with dried goji berries and filled with layers of green tea ganache, homemade nougat and soy and sesame filling. Also worth noting is the colorful and unique artwork that covers each bar designed by Andreas h. Gratze.
Varsano’s looks like your average chocolate shop, so I was not expecting much, but their chocolates surprised me. Their uncommon white chocolate peanut butter cup was very nice, and the milk chocolate was good too. Marzipan is a favorite of mine, but only when it is elevated from a plain hard paste to something fluffier and more flavorful, and Varsano’s does that with an excellent chocolate-covered pistachio marzipan. I also liked the chocolate-covered graham cracker. The chocolate they use for covering their pieces is appealing. However, the buttercrunch tasted very weak to me, and the truffles did not impress me in 2006 as they did during my first visit.
Curate the ideal luxury haut-chocolat tower for your lucky gift recipient or stock up on your favorites. Anchored by a 16-piece truffle collection of your choice, a salty-sweet comfort food selection and Exotic Caramels are stacked on top and hand-tied with a our signature purple bow. With over twenty different combinations, you can satisfy every chocolate chocolate desire.
Famous for its waffles, chocolate, and beer, Belgium is an effortless blend of old and new. Its culture and open-minded attitude are based on the population’s amalgamation of identities. Its capital city, Brussels, serves as the headquarters of NATO and the European Union, making it a hub for government activity and a meeting place for world leaders. Custom university programs to Belgium offer a world of topics to explore. ...Read More
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Award-winning author and master chocolatier Paul A. Young deserves the accolades he receives for his creativity and mastery with all things chocolate. Walk into his tiny Camden Passage original chocolate shop and inhale the intoxicating aroma of fresh chocolate being made on-site. Young is one of the British chocolatiers who launched the chocolate revolution in London about 15 years ago, casting aside the overly sweet British chocolate of old for the fresh and innovative chocolate offerings that you’ll now find in at least a dozen top-notch chocolatiers in the capital city. Try his dark chocolate sea salt caramel pecan brownies—guaranteed to seduce every unsuspecting chocolate lover. Three locations in London found in Camden Passage, Royal Exchange, and Soho.
Nobody knows for sure how many chocolate shops there are in the U.S. today, at least in part because many of them do double duty as patisseries, ice cream parlors, or gift shops. Suffice to say that there is probably not a city or a town of any size in the country that doesn’t boast at least one purveyor of specialty chocolates, and many places have more. There are at least 80 of them in New York City, for instance, and more than 30 in Los Angeles.