Hey! So over the past year or more, I’ve been researching bean-to-bar chocolate makers for a book I’m writing. (Have written. It’ll be available in May; more on that later.) I am just starting an Instagram for my chocolate reviews @the chocoholicsguide so do follow me there. For Valentine’s Day I wanted to post my top picks for best craft chocolate makers. In no particular order. And…I haven’t tried ALL the chocolate. These are picks from those bars I have tried. Trust me, I’ve tried dozens, and dozens, and dozens so far. And I don’t intend to stop any time soon. I’ve become a dark chocolate fiend. Forget that sweet milk stuff that is mass-produced by companies that don’t care where they source their cacao beans. I want the good stuff. And I’m going to get you started on the same quest.
Ok, this one starts the list because it is my favorite. And, yes, I initially thought it was named after some boastful French chick, but it is instead a river in North Carolina, where the chocolates are made. And…fine, the bar I’ve picked is their Dark Milk Chocolate. I think it’s a great starter bar for someone looking to experiment and move onto the dark bean-to-bar chocolate. It’s smooth. It’s delicious. It comes in a sexy box that you can keep and stash small narrow stuff in when you’re done! And you can order from them online. Well worth the shipping expense, trust me. Oh, and I may have referred to them in my story (not by name) but it is my heroine’s fav craft bar as well.
Rock-aaaaa. I love saying that name! Made in Brooklyn and soooo nummy. I think I first found this one at a Whole Foods. Yes, bean-to-bar is possible to find at a grocery store (while many are not). Then I discovered they have a monthly subscription box, so I checked that out. So cool. They send you 3 new bars every month that are not available to the public. Anyway, my favorite bar of theirs is a classic, the Coconut Milk bar. Very smooth, no dairy (if you’re worried about that) and yet another choice if you’re just starting on the bean-to-bar journey. Their Oat Milk and Sea Salt bars also clock in as favs.
Ooooh, nummy, sweet, sexy chocolate bars. I talked to the women behind this company at the Chocolate Festival in Seattle a few years ago. I was so impressed that I bought all the chocolate, and it was all good! And with chocolate bar names like Buff, Kiki, Nudie, Punch, Saltry and Sassy don’t they just belong in a romance novel? The pomegranate and hazelnut bar (Sassy) has a kick and a smoothness befitting its name. And the sea salt bar is Saltry, indeed.
One of the grandfathers of the craft chocolate movement, I highly recommend you try any bar they offer for a taste of quality and excellence. Their packaging is plain and simple, but they don’t need flashy colors for their dark, intriguing bars. Sometimes you can find these at Whole Foods. Grab one! This one was a collaboration bar they created with A Beautiful Mess blog and it’s vegan and gluten-free and all that good stuff, but mostly, it’s a treat!
I’ve become a bit obsessed with Map Chocolate. You must follow her Instagram account @mapchocolate. The flavor combinations in the bars this very small one-woman-owned operation creates are amazing, and yet sometimes baffle me as to how she manages to marry all those wacky combinations into a perfect bar. And get this, the batches are small, and the maker will post on Instagram when they are available for sale online. But hurry! They sell out FAST. My favorite bar so far is: Sunny With A Chance Of Cake, which includes tahini, panela, sea salt, and pineapple. It’s like a BURST of pineapple dancing on your tongue. A. Maze. Ing. If you want to win my heart…
A brand-new fav. I recently tried a toasted white chocolate bar (yes, white!) and let me tell you that was delicious. I know, and I agree, white chocolate just isn’t…well. But this bar? Smooth, fruity, surprising, and hardly worthy of the disdain the other white bars receive (it’s not even white in color, sort of a tannish). I’ve tried their stollen bar as well, with cherries and ground almonds. Nom. This is a UK company, so if you are in the US you’ll have to order directly from the maker or, I’ll tell you at the end of this post where I order most of my chocolate bars.
7. DICK TAYLOR
Another heavy hitter, one of the grandaddies of the bean-to-bar craft. This is no-nonsense craft chocolate at its best. Yes, all of the bars on this list are going to cost much more than your standard candy bar. But these are not candy bars; they are chocolate bars. And it’s worth paying for chocolate that is nurtured from the bean to the final bar. These are not bars you consume in one sitting. You break off a square (or triangle or whatever shape that darned bar wants to break into) and savor it, experience it, enjoy. Make it last days. A week! Seriously, people, this is what you want from bean-to-bar. The experience.
For utter variety of selection and some serious fun you must check out Zotter. I’ve tried many bars, and none have disappointed. My favorite though, is the Chocolate Banana bar. (God created chocolate specifically to be combined with banana; trust me on that one.) This small but hefty bar cannot be consumed over days or a week (as suggested above) but rather must be broken in portions to eat a piece now. And then later (like in five minutes) you decide just one more bite. And then (in about three minutes) you think surely you can save half the bar, but no, another big chunk is really necessary because banana and smooth chocolate and…is the bar gone? How did that happen?
9. FJAK SJOKOLADE
As a born and bred Scandinavian (who has lived in the great tundra of Minnesota all her life) I couldn’t resist trying a bar crafted in Norway. It does not disappoint. I tried the Milk Blueberry (which I don’t see on their site at present). Divine. Lovely. Sensual. Smooth. All those pretty words that should be assigned to romancing a chocolate bar. I’ve posted a pic of their Milk and Brown Cheese bar. I have not tried that one, but someone should dare me to. Cheese and chocolate? I don’t know!
10. TC CHOCOLATE
Chocolate made in my neck of the woods (or up a little higher). If you live in Minnesota you may have heard about this chocolate. If you have not, find it, like Right Now. They don’t call this bar Caramel Crack for no reason. You will not be able to stop eating it. You will be finished and wonder what happened to the rest of it. It’s in your mouth. Sweet and crunchy and toffee-like and just Give Me More!
That’s it! My favs. For now. They can all change, and will, because I keep trying new bars and makers all the time. It’s my treat to myself. (And I’m still claiming it’s research for my book. Just try and stop me.) But where do I find all these bars? There is an excellent online store that gathers all the different bean-to-bar makers’ offerings: Bar And Cocoa. Check them out. Get their newsletter (for sales, people!). I highly recommend them. They ship quickly and everything arrives in great condition. It’s the easiest way to explore the wonderful and exciting world of bean-to-bar.
Now, go forth and eat the chocolate! And get ready for THE CHOCOHOLIC’S GUIDE TO GETTING IT ON, my new romantic comedy available this May!