The Best Cities For Bean-to-Bar Chocolate
Like wines grown from different kinds of grapes, chocolates made from cacao beans sourced from Ecuador, Bolivia, and other countries offer deliciously different tastes. Visit any of these craft chocolatiers to sample their melt-in-your-mouth treats.
Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate Micro-factory, Atlanta, Georgia
This jewel of Atlanta's chocolate scene was born in the steamy jungles of Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, after founders Elaine Read and Matt Weyandt moved there with their children and began meeting local cacao growers and artisanal chocolate makers. Today, the company’s micro-factory, located in the city's Krog Street Market, grinds whole beans from small farms in the Americas and East Africa and turns them into chocolate liquor. You won’t find cocoa butter used at Xocolatl; the makers craft their single-origin, dark chocolate with only cocoa and cane sugar, and add ingredients like dried apple, sea salt, and peppermint to make scrumptious flavored bars.
Book a tour and tasting to learn about the bean-to-bar process; a wine pairing is included. And don’t miss Xocolatl's Frozen Drinking Chocolate, a “slushy” beverage made with Nicaraguan chocolate in coconut milk, topped with coconut whipped cream and cacao nibs (nibs are like the "chocolate chips" of chocolate). For the holidays, the makers will release a new 60 percent dark milk chocolate bar.
Dandelion Chocolate, San Francisco, California
Visit San Francisco’s Mission District to experience Dandelion Chocolate, where beans are roasted, cracked, ground and otherwise prepared before being molded into bars by hand. Dandelion, which has won multiple awards for its chocolate, works directly with cacao producers to buy high-quality beans grown by sustainable methods. Each year, the company leads trips to visit some of its bean producers. They’ve taken groups to Hawaii; Maya Mountain Cacao, in Belize; Ecuador; and the Dominican Republic. Contact them for details, or just treat yourself to a Kokoa Kamili Bar from Tanzania, with flavors of ripe mango and caramelized red berries, or a bar made from Venezuelan beans that tastes of roasted almond, dulce de leche and chocolate fudge. Dandelion's Madagascar Chocolate Bar offers a punch of raspberry and Meyer lemonade flavors.
ChocoVivo, Los Angeles, California
Like the ancient Mayans and Aztecs, ChocoVivo grinds its beans with a mano and metate, tools that are used like a mortar and pestle. The only ingredients in ChocoVivo's products are whole cacao nibs and spices, so its dark chocolate – the only kind of chocolate the company makes—has a pure, stone-ground, traditional taste. “Chocolate is truly food, not a candy bar,” says owner and chocolatier Patricia Tsai. Look for bars made with 100 percent, 85 percent, 75 percent or 65 percent cacao, or try flavored chocolates like Cherries + Almonds + Black Peppercorns (crumble the bars to make a yummy trail mix).
You can also snack on Shangri-La Bars or melt them for a drinking chocolate. They’re made with beans from Tabasco, Mexico; toasted black sesame; unrefined cane sugar; and bits of chewy, organic Goji berries. They make for great pairings with white or light red wines. ChocoVivo hosts a variety of events so you can meet their growers, sample café beverages, and more.
Solstice Chocolate, Salt Lake City, Utah and other locations
Rich, delicious Solstice small-batch chocolate is made from exotic, slow-roasted cacao beans. All the ingredients are 100 percent organic—and even its zero impact, zero waste facility embraces “green” initiatives, using 100 percent solar power and fully recyclable, resealable packaging. Try the 70 percent Ugandan Bundibugyo Dark Chocolate; its mildly bitter taste comes from cocoa powder made from fine Bundibugyo cacao beans, combined with bits of berries and tree fruit. Palos Blancos Bars are produced from beans harvested in a rainy area in Bolivia; they have a deep, chocolatey taste with hints of fresh cream and nuts. Check the website for a list and map of store locations.
Madre Chocolate, Honolulu and Kailua, Hawaii and other locations
Talk about paradise: Madre’s organic, fair-trade chocolates and the tropical beauty of these Hawaiian destinations make an unbeatable combination. The makers lightly process their beans to retain healthy antioxidants, and flavor some bars with fruits and spices traditionally used by the Aztec, Maya and Olmec tribes that invented chocolate.
Madre has won 23 Hawaiian, U.S. and international awards for its chocolates, which include such treats as the Lili’koi Passionfruit Hawaii Chocolate Bar, Chipotle Allspice Bar, and Hibiscus Bar. Sign up for events or classes to make your own chocolate, or to enjoy a whiskey and chocolate pairing. Madre also offers farm to factory tours, wine and chocolate pairings, and an experience with craft coffee and chocolate. Madre products are available in Hawaii and other locations around the world.
Amano Chocolate, Orem, Utah
Award-winning Amano chocolatiers say they’re passionate about their craft; in fact, “amano” is Italian for both “by hand” and “they love.” They've won international awards for products like their Raspberry Rose Bar, made with ground rose petals and raspberries mixed into smooth chocolate, and the Mango Chili Bar, which combines the creamy, fruity flavor of mangos with the warmth of chiles. One of the company’s original bars, the Madagascar 70 percent Dark Chocolate Bar, is packed with fruity citrus and berry tastes—and it earned a gold medal from London’s respected Academy of Chocolate. If you’re into making your own chocolate—and you have a generous budget—opt for ChocoVision's $2,250 Revolation Delta, sold by Amano, to melt and temper up to ten pounds of chocolate in an hour. ("Temper" refers to making smooth, glossy chocolate.) The Revolation Delta is suitable for use in your home or a lab setting.