Photo courtesy of iStock / Eva-Katalin
Get your fix with these chocolate makers
While we think hardcore chocoholics should consider heading to Seattle for the Northwest Chocolate Festival in November – it's the best chocolate festival in the country – we know that isn't always possible. If you can't make it there, these bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers can satisfy all of your chocolate cravings.
Photo courtesy of Nuance Chocolate
Toby and Alix Gadd of Nuance Chocolate are the most prolific single-origin chocolate makers in the world, with up to two dozen different origins on hand at any given time, along with chocolate bars aged in whiskey barrels or blended with inclusions. The self-taught husband-and-wife team developed their processes through experimentation and have a knack for roasting – even their darkest bars don't leave a bitter taste.
Visit their Fort Collins cafe for a chocolate tasting flight, cleansing your palate in between bites with whole milk or water crackers. Save room for hand-rolled truffles too – the snakebite truffle with tequila, chili, salt and lime is a favorite.
Photo courtesy of Blake Peterson
Park City-based Ritual Chocolate sources beans from Peru, Mexico, Belize, Madagascar and Ecuador for their single-origin chocolate bars. Founders Anna Davies and Robbie Stout write fun tasting notes for each bar including suggestions for how to enjoy, like pairing the fleur de sel bar with your favorite pinot noir while watching the sunset.
Their new collection of mountain flavored bars include honeycomb toffee, juniper lavender, pine nut and s'mores, inspired by foraging locally and drawing flavors from the mountains of Utah.
Photo courtesy of Laurie Hiatt
Jeff and Susan Mall started making chocolate when they were working as chefs in Baja California, and their culinary background helps them craft bold but balanced flavor profiles at Volo Chocolate. The Malls are big on chocolate and cheese pairings, and even their milk chocolate is a dark milk at 62% cacao and flavored with brown butter and sea salt or roasted almonds.
Volo sources cacao from farmers' associations in Guatemala and Haiti and every bar is made and wrapped by hand at their small Sonoma County workshop in Windsor. Their workshop is not open to the public, but you can call ahead for a tour and chocolate tasting.
Photo courtesy of Judith Suzarra-Campbell and Joshua Lee Mallory
The most under-the-radar chocolate maker on this list is Robert Campbell, a self-proclaimed super taster and Chocolate Alchemist. Campbell eschews refined sugars in favor of panela, maple sugar and coconut sugar to create rustic but sublime bars.
He works in Philadelphia within Sazon Cafe, his wife's Venezuelan restaurant, and although his bars are great, he is best known for thick, over-the-top drinking chocolates and hand-rolled truffles.
Photo courtesy of Anne Savage
Mindo Chocolate celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2019 and Barb Wilson is still making chocolate in her own home in Dexter, Michigan. Wilson's husband, Jose, is from Ecuador and they have a workshop there, where they work directly with organic independent farmers to source Nacional cacao beans.
They also import beans from Ecuador to distribute to other craft chocolate makers in America. Try their country of origin bars and see if you can taste the difference between chocolate made in Michigan versus Ecuador.
Photo courtesy of Kari Young
Xocolatl de David
Savory flavors like brown butter, hazelnut black truffle, sourdough olive oil and foie gras have garnered David Briggs a slew of Good Food and International Chocolate Awards for his Xocolatl de David chocolate bars.
Briggs is based in Portland, Oregon and his creations are well distributed at stockists like Cacao, although he doesn't have his own storefront. Try and get your hands on a coveted jar of rare foietella chocolate spread if you can.
Photo courtesy of Indi Chocolate
Erin Andrews works directly with cacao farmers and cooperatives in Nicaragua, Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic among others to make small batch, single origin, dark chocolate at Indi Chocolate. And it's equally delectable in drinking chocolate as in bars.
This fall, try the molé sea salt truffles and chocolate pastries at Indi Chocolate's Pike Place Market cafe and factory. Andrews also makes tea and spice rubs to showcase cacao's versatility, including matcha and cacao tea. She regularly offers master classes in chocolate making, tasting and chocolate and coffee pairing, too.
Photo courtesy of French Broad Chocolates
French Broad Chocolates
Asheville's French Broad Chocolates is not only bean-to-bar, but also farm-to-factory. Founders Jael and Dan Rattigan have a serious commitment to sustainability and ethical cacao sourcing, too. For example, their single-origin Costa Rica 80% bar is made with beans from their friend's farm in Costa Rica, where Dan and Jael lived for two years and fell in love with chocolate.
They share cacao shell mulch with local Asheville farmers and gardeners, and at their downtown chocolate lounge, you can taste chocolate bars, bonbons, brownies and cake along with housemade ice cream and drinking chocolate. They opened a new chocolate factory in November 2018, where you can take daily tours or a chocolate making class and visit the chocolate museum.
Photo courtesy of Anne Fishbein
Although they're bigger than the other chocolate makers on this list, Dandelion still makes chocolate by hand in San Francisco using just two ingredients: cacao and organic cane sugar. They've helped pave the way for smaller artisan chocolate makers by educating the public about craft chocolate and the importance of sourcing, origin and ethical chocolate making.
Even as they've expanded, their quality hasn't faltered. Before the bar begins its production process, the chocolate maker in charge of each origin (whose name is always included on the bar) might go through months of blind-tasting roasted beans to determine the optimum roast for that harvest and flavor profile. Dandelion's 16th Street chocolate factory in San Francisco offers daily tours.
Photo courtesy of Harper Macaw
Harper Macaw sources all of their cacao beans direct-trade from three different farms in Brazil and a farm in the Dominican Republic. They're dedicated to using cacao to help with conservation efforts and reforestation in both countries, and all of their packaging is compostable, too.
Brazilian cacao is quite rare to find in the States but the quality is outstanding. Try all three single-estate Amazon rainforest origin bars along with bars aged in bourbon, rye and red wine barrels. If you're in Washington, D.C., Harper Macaw's new Georgetown cafe opens the first week of December 2019, serving an array of confections, baked goods and coffee specialty drinks.