Jacques Torres’ products are excellent, and there is not much to detract for that. A correspondent recommended the Alizé Heart of Passion, but the nut pieces are my favorites, with the Heart and other fruit pieces second. Most of the nut pieces, such as the Heavenly Hazelnut, had the fine crunchy texture of a praliné. The Cinnamon Praline was also a great nut piece, with hazelnuts. The European Peanut Butter had sort of an airy taste to the peanut butter. The Heart had a nice pop to the passion fruit flavor enveloped by chocolate flavor. The Creamy Raspberry, Fresh Squeezed Lemon, and Love Bug were also excellent fruit pieces.
Hailing from France’s Rhône Valley, Valrhona is considered the Rolls Royce of chocolate. Depicting how fine the French taste is, Valrhona has been crafting couvertures since 1922. Valrhona is known for creating a range of unique and recognizable aromatic profiles by perfecting techniques for enhancing the flavor of rare cocoa beans that are directly bought from the plantations in South America, Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean.
The chocolates of Kee’s Chocolates had generally good compositions; the chocolate was combined well with other flavors. The Black Sesame was particularly novel, crunchy sesame seeds with prominent flavor and somewhat subdued chocolate. The flavor of the Smoked Salt was also unusual, an interesting sensation. Others were more ordinary. Unfortunately, I did not find them good enough to justify the price.
The flavors we taste-tested ranged from the creamy, caramel-filled Coffee Toffee to the earthy and bitter 100% cacao Peru bar (not for the faint of heart). Our unanimous favorite emerged as the Goji Berries in Sesame Nougat, a milk chocolate bar studded with dried goji berries and filled with layers of green tea ganache, homemade nougat and soy and sesame filling. In addition to creating their hand-scooped chocolates in-house, Zotter is an independent bean-to-bar producer that prides itself on using organic, fair-trade quality cocoa beans and runs the company entirely on eco-power.
Christopher Elbow ($35 for 16 pieces) was our top pick for 2014. In a blind tasting, a panel voted it their favorite. In the most recent tasting, the chocolates came across as too sweet and the flavors a little heavy-handed. While they are absolutely beautiful—the chocolates resemble baubles and jewels—they were squeezed out of the top spots by this year’s contenders.
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.
Our chocolate drinks are made using premium single origin chocolate. We make 3 drinking chocolates (a classic dark French style, a lighter Venezuelan milk with cinnamon, and a spicy dark one with ginger, coconut milk and other spices) and several different hot chocolates including vegan and sugar free options. To compliment the chocolate we have espresso from Caffe Vita, Salt & Straw Alberquina Olive Oil ice cream pour-overs, Bakeshop shortbread cookies, and other special treats. We also make Cacao Premium Drinking Chocolate and Cacao 100% Pure Dark Hot Chocolate mixes available for you to take home and enjoy later.
High-quality chocolate, made from the best cacao beans, is the first step. Next is the filling. When a confectioner makes the conscious decision to make high-quality chocolates, they forgo preservatives and artificial flavors and use natural fruit, nuts, butters, spices and herbs. The end result is something that isn’t as shelf stable as Russell Stover or other drugstore candies. Preservatives in those drugstore offerings affect the flavor of the chocolates. When you pit the long-life brands to more perishable high-end chocolates in a blind taste test, the differences are glaringly clear.