Milton S. Hershey opened The Hotel Hershey in 1933, on a hill overlooking his chocolate factory. Its architecture was inspired by a hotel he and his wife, Catherine, had visited in the Mediterranean and includes a Spanish-style patio, a decorative fountain and a unique dining room without corners. It has 276 rooms and has been expanded to include event space. Wendy Pramik for USA TODAY
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.

Ferrero Rocher is perhaps one of the most famous and popular choclate makers in the world with the confectionary produced by the Italian chocolatier Ferrero SpA. The chocolates were first introduced in Europe back in 1982 by Michael Ferrero and is world famous for its truffle bars of milk chocolate and generous hazelnut helpings. The balls consist of whole roasted hazelnuts within a thin wafer shell covered in the best quality milk chocolates and topped off with chopped hazelnuts.


Review: This Russell Stover box is the classic V-Day chocolate that you've been getting since middle school and it's classic for a reason. The chocolate isn't mind blowing but it's consistently interesting and varied. It definitely has a store-bought quality to it but it's good enough that people will still be happy you got it for them. After all it's chocolate, and if you get someone chocolate and they don't appreciate it, you need to dump them because you don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
The gourmet cookies from San Francisco’s Salty Sweet Bakery are for the cookie-loving kid in you with tastes that are all grown up. You’ll know it from your first bite as the cookie flavors reveal themselves like a chorus line of CanCan dancers on your tongue that finishes with the ephemeral taste of real vanilla and the final flirty curtain call of salt. These sweet but not too sweet cookies tend toward the soft-baked to chewy spectrum. Each are topped with a sprinkle of delicate sea salt flakes.
B.T. McElrath Chocolatier was an artisan chocolatier in Minnesota but has become a part of Annie B’s. (I have not done a new review since the change.) McElrath’s truffle assortment was excellent, with balanced and moderately strong flavors. In most pieces, the flavors remained distinct, working together without losing their own identities. B.T.’s Signature Dark Chocolate Truffle had a full chocolate flavor without any bitterness and without being very sweet. Other flavors include caramel; passion fruit; lavender and pepper; chile and lime, lime, coconut, and ginger; cinnamon and star anise. All were well done. I would ask for a different and stronger caramel flavor, but that is a quibble of personal preference.
You can’t go to Belgium and not go to a chocolate shop – there are more than 2,000 throughout the country! What makes Belgian chocolate unique is that it is only cooled at the end of the production process, which allows it to hold onto more of its aroma. Belgian chocolate is also almost entirely handcrafted. These two factors do make Belgian chocolate a little more expensive, but as they say – treat yourself!

There is nothing in this world that is more crave-worthy, more scrumptious and more delectable than a beautiful piece of chocolate. Whether you’re eating a confection given to you by a loved one in a heart-shaped box, snuggling up with a box of caramels and watching Netflix on a wintery Friday night or are breaking off a piece of peppermint bark for an after-dinner treat, the moment the oh-so-sweet morsel hits your palate, you’re transported into a world of happiness and true deliciousness, even if only for a moment. To honor the beauty of chocolate and the artistry of the chocolatier, we sought out the best chocolate shops in every state.


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.
Chocolate with coriander and fennel? It all started in 1994 when Italian chocolatier Valter Bovetti established a factory in Aubazine, France. There he debuted his trademark chocolate candies shaped as nails and tools. In 2006, Bovetti and five fellow chocolate-makers visited Sao Tome, an African island in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of Gabon. The island was called the “chocolate island,” which inspired them to found a fair trade association named Roca Cacao. The organization bought harvesting equipment for twelve plantations and ensured a living wage for their 120 employees. Beans from the site of the first cacao plantation in Africa, go into Bovetti’s high-quality Single Origin bars.
Donnelly’s chocolates have well-developed chocolate flavors. Many pieces use strong flavors of spices, fruits, or nuts. I recommend identifying each piece before biting into it—the chocolate-banana combination is better when you expect it than when you are surprised. The cardamom piece is similarly better savored when you are prepared to sense the cardamom. (This spice is not used as much as its distinctive flavor and scent warrant. If you are not familiar with it, I recommend smelling and tasting a little separately before trying Donnelly’s cardamom-chocolate combination.)
Savoring each bite of bold, innovative and flavorful hand-made chocolates is without a doubt the best part of being a member of The Gourmet Chocolate of the Month Club™. Discovering chocolatiers and chocolate creations you’ve never tried before makes that even better. But why stop there? Each month you’ll read all about the origins and histories of each featured chocolate, what kinds of time-honored or innovative processes were used to make them, what creative ingredients were used to make them and most importantly, what to look for when you taste them.

For the second year in a row, Michel Cluizel ($35 for 15 pieces) made it onto our runner-up list. This assortment makes a safer choice than the Recchiuti if gifting to someone with a less adventurous palate. There are no wildly unique flavor combos, and the chocolates come in more traditional shapes with classic fillings and nutty flavors. The chocolate itself is very smooth and subtle, if a little on the sweet side. The simple French confections are also quite beautiful, reflecting the chocolate maker’s painstaking attention to detail. But we don’t find the flavors in this assortment quite as nuanced as those in our main pick, and the packaging and presentation, although pretty, doesn’t offer the same visual impact.
A perfect visual and tasting treat in the beautiful Paris environment can only remind one of the famous Richart chocolate company. The Paris, France located family business serves you with a range of proprietary chocolate recipes including special ingredients that can’t be expected in such a great way anywhere else. The sincere service, a slew of recipe options and the refined taste makes the chocolatier stand tall at the number nine position.
Originating in Zürich, Switzerland, in 1845, this rich, elegant brand is famous for producing the greatest white chocolate on the planet. Personally, I can't say no to a Lindor truffle, the most popular type of Lindt chocolate on the market. The Lindor truffle is a chocolate ball with a hard chocolate shell and a smooth chocolate filling, and it comes in a variety of flavor options. (I sometimes dream of the Lindor sea salt and caramel truffle that comes in an aqua wrapper.)
Not only does dark chocolate reign supreme in the dessert world for its complex bittersweet taste, but it's also ranked as one of the healthiest superfoods because it's loaded with antioxidants. These powerful antioxidants naturally found in dark chocolate can actually help reduce anxiety and depression — particularly when those experiences are related to or triggered by high stress levels. So if you're experiencing the winter blues, consuming antioxidant-rich foods like dark chocolate can be an effective natural remedy.

Garrison Confections’s main attraction is the Seasonal Collection, which features twelve new flavors about every three months. Generally I like new experiences, so that is fine by me, but do not get attached, because your favorite piece will vanish. I tried the collection in April 2007 and was impressed by some pieces, notably the fruit patés. The Pabana was particularly nice, good flavors blended well, including a novel fruit flavor. The 91% was also very nice, unusual for me since I generally like more than chocolate alone. The pieces with alcohol were less appealing to me, as usual. The Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie was a bit piquant with a nice balance. The Coffee Almond Praline started well but finished weakly.
As you can see from our list, finding the right gourmet chocolates need not be complicated or expensive. There are many affordable options for gourmet chocolate that are high in quality and presentation. We’ve chosen selections that will appeal to a wide variety of palates and make up some of the best gourmet chocolates on the market. These chocolates are the perfect gifts for the chocolate enthusiast. You can take a look at our selection of best chocolate gifts for more ideas.

Bridgewater chocolate bars. (Big image.) Take classic chocolates, make them with good chocolate, and upgrade the design and execution a notch, and you have Bridgewater’s assorted chocolates. You can taste the quality and care that goes into these chocolates. I liked the peanut butter pieces quite a bit, as well as the Irish and almond toffees. Not all the pieces moved me, but you should try for yourself.
The scene: a quaint Italian cafe, an espresso, and a piece of Italian chocolate. What’s not to love? The most popular chocolate producer in Italy is Amadei. They buy their cocoa directly from growers, which means they know exactly where the beans came from, and how they were grown. They use that knowledge to produce some of the best chocolates in the world. The Italians also enjoy using chocolate in their pastries, a win for anyone with a sweet tooth.

The chocolate in these pieces was subdued. Mostly, I prefer a balance between chocolate and other flavors. In Richart’s pieces, chocolate does not contribute enough for me. Since it was weak, I tasted the chocolate by itself first before biting into a couple of pieces. The chocolate was slightly bitter without a lot of flavor. That is perhaps not unusual for French chocolate (and I prefer Belgian), but, at this price, I want chocolate to knock me over.
While these chocolates had dustings of flavors that run the gamut from wild fennel pollen to Hungarian paprika on their outer shell, the insides “taste like a blast of dark, straight-ahead chocolate,” said Krader. She noted that the truffles themselves, while tasty, were not necessarily a go-to for chocolate purists: “They use flavorings as an exclamation mark; I'd recommend these for people who pride themselves on their unconventional fashion stylings."
In Hawaiian, “manoa” means deep and solid, and those are the flavors you’ll find in the chocolate at bean-to-bar factory Manoa Chocolate Hawaii. All of the beans are grown in Hawaii, making this Kailua shop a true local spot. That commitment to local farm-to-chocolate production continues in their bars’ flavors, which are infused with local coffee, sea salt and lavender.

French Broad: This chocolatier opened in Asheville in 2007 and does a nice job of giving the chocolate lover a big truffle for the buck. These were some of the largest truffles we tasted. Their Buddha Collection’s vegan truffle was a favorite (composed of bitter sweet chocolate and coconut cream), lending the truffle a nice exotic edge. The Lavender and honey from the signature collection box—a milk chocolate ganache around a dark chocolate ganache blended with local honey and lavender—was the a delicious riff on lavender. The mole negro—housemade mole in dark chocolate and rolled in sesame seeds—great texture and spice.
There’s no shortage of treats out there for purchase — especially of the mass-market variety that Hershey’s, Mars, Whitman’s, and Godiva peddle. The trick, then, is in distinguishing the handmade and carefully crafted from the mass-produced marketing hype. Here’s where to buy a truly excellent box of chocolates, organized by category of confection.

Dilettante claims confectionary descendance from Julius Rudolph Franzen, pastry chef to Franz Josef, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. I have only their truffles to judge them by. Unfortunately, I prefer other pieces with a greater variety of components and expression. Truffles are too often an overdose of chocolate and cream. Dilettante may move up on my list when I have more experience with their products, such as their gift box assortment.
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.
Harper Macaw is a true chocolate factory in the heart of Washington, D.C. When you walk through their doors, you’ll find artisanal chocolate bars made with beans from three specific Brazilian cacao farms. The blended bars bring out the best flavors from each cacao bean, but what makes this shop distinctive is its more whimsical offerings, including politically-inspired bars and a grapefruit soda chocolate, complete with carbonated sugar.
The love for chocolate does not discriminate. No matter how old you are, where you are from, how much money you have, or what your social status is, chances are there is some kind of chocolate that you can't say no to. There is a reason why chocolate is loved by people around the world -- it actually causes a chemical reaction in the brain that makes you happy.
Launched in 2006, the Seattle-based Theo Chocolate was the first chocolate manufacturer in the US to be both 100 percent organic and fair-trade. (The Fair Trade Certificate goes only to eco-friendly products made by workers who are paid enough to cover their basic needs and reinvest in their operations.) Theo’s conscientious chocolates are delicious: nuanced and intense, like dark, single-origin bars from nations such as Ghana and Madagascar. Founder Joseph Whinney is so passionate about chocolate that he hired a biologist to genetically map Theo’s beans. Not all of Theo’s endeavors are so serious: 3,400 Phinney bars, named for the factory’s street address, come in whimsical flavors like the salty-sweet Bread and Chocolate ($7), featuring dark chocolate mixed with bread crumbs; it’s perfect with afternoon coffee. theochocolate.com
Pastry chef Kee Ling Tong has been hand-rolling each of her delicate chocolate truffles since 2002. Her tiny storefront in New York City’s Soho neighborhood (and two counters in Midtown) is a must-stop for chocolate lovers, who will savor each piece’s paper-thin shell encasing flavors like black sesame truffle and green tea. Kee’s almond truffle is pure joy: A deeply salted white chocolate ganache is made from cream steeped with toasted almonds; each truffle is then rolled in toasted almonds for crunch. Unfortunately for non-New Yorkers, Kee’s does not ship nationwide. 315 West 39th Street, New York, NY 10018 (multiple locations)
Garrison’s pieces generally were not a good showcase for chocolate; it played only a minor role in most pieces. While ordering, I was put off by the lengthy legal terms. I would rather a chocolatier tell me more about their products than about how all shipping problems will work against the customer, and the seller does not want to be bothered with anything like ensuring their product is delivered well.
Chocolate doesn’t get any fresher than Jouvay, perfected by the Grenada Cocoa Farmers Cooperative based at the rural Diamond Chocolate Factory. The idea was to partner with local farmers working right in the ecosystem to grow the best quality beans. While visiting the 18th-century factory inside a converted rum distillery built by French monks, see the cocoa beans drying on trays under the Caribbean sun. Growers employ a centuries-old French tradition of “walking” the beans—turning them gently by walking over the shells, which are later roasted and removed. Inside the small tasting room, sample each chocolate bar flavor, such as ginger and cocoa nibs. Factory and farm in Victoria, Grenada.
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