Everyone loves chocolate.
Chocolates is one word which brings a smile on every face. From a kid to an adult everybody loves chocolates. It is the perfect gift for every occasion and also for situations where there is no occasion.
Today’s choices are more varied than ever, with all sorts of tempting sweet confections from rich truffles to bittersweet bonbons, organic dark chocolate bars to creamy ganaches.
In any search for the best chocolate in the world, we must start in France. What makes France so important? As in so many matters relating to gastronomy, the French government strictly legislates the production of chocolate. Regulations prohibit the use of any vegetable or animal fat in French chocolate: Only pure cocoa butter is authorized. In addition, French chocolates must contain at least 43 percent cocoa liquor, and a minimum of 26 percent pure cocoa butter. Most French chocolates now contain well above the government’s minimum of cocoa liquor. The best bonbons in French chocolate boast up to 80 percent of dark rich cocoa liquor. And, since it is the cocoa liquor that gives chocolate it’s rich taste, it is not surprising that French chocolates remain the best in the world.
The flavor and nuances of chocolate will also depend on the quality and origin of the cocoa beans used to make it. The best chocolates beans come from: Venezuela, Brazil, the Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Central America and the Caribbean. Robert Linxe, owner of Paris’ Maison du Chocolat, considers the “Ariba” bean from Central America as the finest of all cocoa beans due to its pronounced character and intense flavor. Other widely used beans are: “Guanaja”, “Manjari”, “Pur Caraibe” or “Guayaquil” on their chocolate bars.
Teuscher (Zurich, Switzerland). The Teuscher chocolate tradition began more than 70 years ago in a small town in the Swiss Alps. Dolf Teuscher scoured the world to find the finest cocoa, marzipan, fruits, nuts, and other ingredients with which to make his confectionery. After years of experimenting, he skillfully blended these ingredients into his now famous recipes.
Today the Teuscher kitchens in Zurich make more than 100 varieties of chocolates using these original recipes, which have been handed down from father to son. Only the finest and most expensive natural ingredients are used, and absolutely no chemicals, additives, or preservatives are added. The house specialty is a champagne truffle, a blend of fresh cream, butter, and chocolate with a champagne cream center, dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Chocolates are flown to Teuscher stores worldwide weekly.
La Maison du Chocolat Created in 1977 by Robert Linxe. la Maison du Chocolat sets the benchmark for his unusual and subtle associations of natural flavors coupled with chocolates from different origins. Main boutique shops are located in Paris, New York, and London. Chocolate can be purchased online. La Maison du Chocolat remains our favorite pick.
Vosges Haut-Chocolat (Chicago, Illinois, USA). Owner and chocolatier Katrina Markoff chooses every spice, flower, and chocolate that is flown into the Vosges kitchen to be transformed into fine chocolates. She learned the art of French confectionery at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Further inspired by her global apprenticeships, infusions of rare spices and flowers are combined with premium chocolate in truffles such as Mexican vanilla bean and Argentinean dulce de leche.
Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, Inc. (Berkeley, California, USA). Specializing in dark chocolate, Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker is a premier chocolate manufacturer. It executes each step of the manufacturing process itself, all the way from bean to bar, to ensure that its finished chocolate delivers a flavor like no other. The chocolate-makers first find the finest cacao available, then carefully taste and blend beans of different origins to create a unique flavor profile. All the chocolate is made in small batches using artisanal manufacturing methods. In addition to its ready-to-eat bars, Scharffen Berger makes a variety of baking chocolates.
Richart Design et Chocolat . Richart are smaller, and the flavors are more exotic. Michel Richart is fond of using exotic spices and herbs, and likes to make tiny chocolates that are just one mouthful. In the NY store the chocolates are flown in twice a week from Lyon, France 80 year old chocolate gallery – inventive flavors – with an accent on fruit, spice or flower-flavoured ganaches. Stores in Paris, Lyon, Barcelona, Milan, Tokyo, New York.
Jacques Genin from Paris. Mort Rosenblum picks Jacque Genin as his top Chocolatier. The only problem is that Jacques Genin does not have a chocolate boutique, instead he sends his creations in chocolate off to Alain Ducasse’s restaurants, hotels like the George V and Crillon, and luxury-food purveyor Hédiard. Genin recently began taking customers into his workshop on a quiet residential street.
Jacques Torres Chocolate (New York, New York, USA). When you step into Jacques Torres Chocolate, you feel as though you’ve stepped into a small European specialty store. Many customers compare the experience to the movie Chocolat. Jacques specializes in fresh, handcrafted chocolates. Eat them there, where cafe tables encourage you to sit, sip hot chocolate, and enjoy a freshly baked pain au chocolat — or take a selection home. Visitors often can see the chocolate goodies being prepared behind large glass windows. There are five Jacques Torres Chocolate shops in the city, plus one in Harrah’s in Atlantic City.
Norman Love Confections (Ft. Myers, Florida, USA). “Chocolate is my passion,” says Norman Love, who dreamed of making chocolate that was visually stunning as well as delicious. Love and a partner perfected a technique in which the colored designs for each candy are hand-painted or airbrushed into chocolate molds, which are then filled with the finest chocolate imported from Belgium, France, and Switzerland. The pumpkin white chocolate bonbon is almost too gorgeous to eat. Using only the freshest ingredients, his recipes call for pureed raspberries, bananas, ginger, caramel, passionfruit, and hazelnuts, to name a few.
Amedei’s Chauo .The Italian chocolate maker, Alessio Tessieri, owner of Amedei, a small chocolate works in Tuscany, has secured himself the exclusive rights to the Venezuelan plantation where the legendary Chuao cocoa bean is grown. His sister Cecilia is the master chocolate maker and has formulated a chocolate so unique that it has won over even a highly discerning chef like Heinz Beck. The newly formed Academy of Chocolate in London has named Chauo the best chocolate in the world. Chauo won the Gold Medal. Chauo won “because of its fruity flavor and unique character”.
Jean-Paul Hévin 23 bis avenue de la Motte Picquet Paris, France. A pastry chef by the time he was 24 years old, Jean-Paul Hévin started out at the Hôtel Intercontinental and then worked at the Hôtel Nikko from 1976 until 1988, where he spent seven creative, discovery-filled years pursuing his craft alongside Joël Robuchon. Cheese-flavored chocolates (with tastes like Camembert, goat cheese, and Roquefort) are as outrageous as they are offbeat. Moreover, each variety features a flavor-enhancing dried fruit, herb, or spice.
Michel Cluizel – “La Boutique Michel Cluizel” displays Michel Cluizel’s main products in the heart of Paris, 201 rue Saint Honoré. Since 1948, Michel Cluizel is one of the rare chocolate manufacturers to process cocoa beans. Assisted by his four children, he elaborates exceptional chocolates in his Chocolaterie, in the south of Normandy. Selections: Created in Michel Cluizel’s chocolaterie, with a blend of cocoa beans from several origins, these fine dark and milk chocolate stand out from others by their cocoa content or specific added ingredients. Noir de Cacao 72% Grand Noir 85% Noir Infini 99% Noir au Café (coffee) Noir aux Ecorces d’Orange (orange peel) Noir au Grué de Cacao (cocoa nibs) Noir au Praliné à l’Ancienne Grand Lait 45% (milk) Grand Lait aux Noisettes (milk / haselnuts).
Valrhona (France). Valrhona has been creating exceptional gourmet chocolate since 1922, with cocoa beans purchased directly from premier plantations in South America, the Caribbean, and Pacific regions. The chocolate, made in the French style, comes in a variety of bars. Valrhona was one of the first chocolatiers to describe its chocolate like wine, labeling creations as grand cru, single origins, single estate, and vintage chocolate from bean to bar. In 2008, it introduced spicy, salty Xocopili.
Godiva Chocolatier (Brussels, Belgium and worldwide). The beginning of Godiva chocolates traces back to a 1920s chocolate- and sweet-making workshop owned and operated by the Draps family in Brussels, Belgium. Their “pralines,” typical Belgian filled chocolates, were sold in the large, highly fashionable shops. At the age of 14, Joseph Draps went into the family business. Over the years, he developed both his ability and creative talent as a master chocolate-maker as well as his business sense. He decided to create a prestige range of chocolates and to give it an evocative name. He chose “Godiva” and marketed his chocolates in instantly recognizable gold boxes. In recognition of its excellence, Godiva has been rewarded with an appointment as supplier to the Court of Belgium. Godiva continues to be an innovator in gourmet chocolate.
Christian Constant -37, rue d’Assas, Paris – Mr. Constant is a master chocolatier who travels the world to garner the best ingredients for his creations. He makes the chocolates from the finest cocoa liquor and cocoa butter. The flavors are delicious and subtle. The sugar addition is just enough, so the texture is incredibly smooth. Mr. Constant offers four different hot chocolates, described with adjectives like onctueux, cremeux and parfumé.Dave Lebovitz’s (author of the Great Book of Chocolate) pick is the glossy slick as ice tarte au chocolate with a rich chocolate crust.
Pierre Marcolini -Stores in Brussels, France, Japan, UK and New York. Pierre is one of only two Belgian chocolatiers, and one of four in all of Europe , the title of chocolatier being bestowed solely upon those who select their beans, roast them and make their own basic ingredient, couverture. He uses only the finest cocoa beans from Venezuela, Madagascar, Ecuador and Mexico. New location for the signature collection of Pierre Marcolini is at: 485 Park Avenue, New York City. Products” Coeur Framboise -A bitter ganache with raspberry pulp coated with white chocolate, wide selection of bonbon’s from different origins, herbal infusions.
Richard Donnelly Fine Chocolates (Santa Cruz, California, USA). These chocolates are unusual, to say the least. Richard Donnelly likes to push the chocolate experience by combining its rich tones — he uses Belgian and French chocolate — with ingredients such as lavender, chipotle, saffron, cardamom, and Earl Grey tea. Such innovation helped Donnelly win the Best Artisan award at the prestigious Euro Chocolate Festival in Perugia, Italy, just ten years after he opened his shop. To maintain quality and ensure freshness, Donnelly produces no more than 50 pounds of chocolate a day. If you need a break from the exotic and unusual flavors, try Donnelly’s white chocolate macadamia nut or a honey vanilla caramel.
Richart (Paris, France). Committed to quality, the French chocolate-maker Richart guarantees you the most refined chocolates from the most refined ingredients. Richart recipes, developed and tested by the Richart family, have won France’s most prestigious confectioner’s honor, the Ruban Bleu, seven times. Having perfected the art of chocolate making, Richart now focuses on enhanced flavors and distinctive designs and colors. A box of assorted chocolates is visually stunning. If you really want to impress, splurge on the $850 burlwood vault with seven drawers of chocolate — complete with temperature and humidity gauges
Puccini Bomboni (Amsterdam, Netherlands). You will actually have to visit Amsterdam to sample what may be the best chocolates in the Netherlands. The proprietors of Puccini Bomboni, a delightful cafe and restaurant, hand-make each chocolate on the premises and do not deliver. Exotic combinations of chocolate and spices, concocted from the freshest ingredients, are a specialty. Although the variety isn’t enormous, the quality is truly amazing.
Chocolate has been the center of several successful book and film adaptations. In 1964, Roald Dahl published a children’s novel titled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The novel centers on a poor boy named Charlie Bucket who takes a tour through the greatest chocolate factory in the world, owned by Willy Wonka. Two film adaptations of the novel were produced. The first was Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, a 1971 film which later became a cult classic, and spawned the real world Willy Wonka Candy Company, which produces chocolate products to this day. Thirty-four years later, a second film adaptation was produced, titled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The 2005 film was very well received by critics and was one of the highest grossing films that year, earning over US$470,000,000 worldwide. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was also recognized at the 78th Academy Awards, where it was nominated for Best Costume Design for Gabriella Pesucci.
Like Water for Chocolate (Como agua para chocolate), a 1989 love story by novelist Laura Esquivel, was adapted to film in 1992. The plot incorporates magical realism with Mexican cuisine, and the title is a double entendre in its native language, referring both to a recipe for hot chocolate and to an idiom that is a metaphor for sexual arousal. The film earned 11 Ariel Awards from the Academia Mexicana de Artes y Ciencias Cinematográficas, including Best Picture.
Chocolat, a 1999 novel by Joanne Harris, tells the story of Vianne Rocher, a young mother, whose confections change the lives of the townspeople. The 2000 film adaptation, Chocolat, also proved successful, grossing over US$150,000,000 worldwide, and receiving Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Original Score.