The Best Gourmet Chocolate Bars: A Connoisseur's Guide
Chocolate has been a beloved treat for centuries, but there's a special category that stands out: gourmet chocolate bars. In this guide, we delve into these premium chocolates, exploring their unique qualities and flavors. Whether you've enjoyed gourmet chocolates before or are new to them, this guide will offer insights into what makes them distinctive and sought-after. Join us as we discover the world of top-tier chocolate bars.
What Makes Chocolate Gourmet?
When we talk about gourmet chocolate, we refer to a category that goes beyond the standard. But what truly differentiates a gourmet chocolate bar from its counterparts? Several factors come into play:
Ingredients: Gourmet chocolate often utilizes high-quality ingredients. This includes pure cocoa beans sourced from specific regions, organic sweeteners, and natural flavorings. Absence of additives, fillers, or artificial preservatives is a hallmark.
Process: The method of production matters. Many gourmet chocolate makers employ traditional techniques, ensuring minimal processing to preserve the natural flavors of the cocoa beans.
Origin: Similar to fine wine, the best gourmet chocolates often have a traceable origin. Whether it's single-origin chocolate from a specific region or even a particular farm, knowing the source adds depth to the tasting experience.
Flavor Profile: Gourmet chocolates present intricate flavor profiles. From the initial taste to the aftertaste, they offer a complex journey of flavors that can be both surprising and delightful.
Packaging: Presentation plays a part too. Gourmet chocolates often come in well-designed packages that hint at the premium product inside.
Gourmet chocolate is a dedication to quality, authenticity, and a deep appreciation for the art of chocolate-making. It's an experience that transcends the ordinary, offering consumers a taste of the exceptional.
How to Taste Chocolate Like a Connoisseur
Delving into the world of gourmet chocolate requires more than just a love for sweetness; it's about appreciating the intricate flavors and textures that each bar brings. Here's how to taste chocolate like a true connoisseur:
Start Clean: Before you begin, cleanse your palate. Drink a sip of room temperature water or eat a small piece of plain bread. This ensures no lingering flavors from your last meal interfere with the chocolate tasting.
Examine the Bar: Observe the chocolate's appearance. A smooth, uniform surface with a glossy sheen often indicates proper tempering and storage.
Break the Bar: Snap a piece off. A clean break with a crisp sound points to a good texture and cocoa content.
Smell the Chocolate: Bring the piece close to your nose. Inhale deeply. Gourmet chocolates often have a rich and diverse aroma, ranging from fruity to woody, floral to smoky.
Taste: Place the chocolate on your tongue and let it melt slowly. Resist the urge to chew immediately. As it melts, try to identify the various flavors. A quality bar will evolve in taste, revealing multiple layers of complexity.
Texture: Consider the chocolate's texture as it melts. It should be smooth without being overly oily, with a consistency that feels pleasant.
Aftertaste: Once the chocolate has melted, notice the lingering flavor. A prolonged, pleasant aftertaste is a sign of a well-crafted bar.
Take Notes: Jot down your impressions. What flavors did you detect? How was the texture? This will help refine your palate over time.
With each tasting, you'll become more adept at distinguishing between notes, deepening your appreciation for the artistry behind gourmet chocolate bars.
Top Gourmet Chocolate Brands
Marou was one of the first bean to bar makers in Asia. When Vincent Mourou left his advertising career in San Francisco, he moved to Vietnam to find himself. This is when Vincent met Samuel Maruta, a banker from France living in Saigon with his wife and two kids. The two had nothing but a blender, an oven, cake tins, and Sam's kitchen. Samuel and Vincent continue to work with a tight network of small farmers who they buy the best quality beans from.
Bar to try: Marou Dak Lak 70%
“The best-kept secret of the Incas,” made at origin in Peru. Cacaosuyo are chocolate geeks’ elite rockstars. Minimally processed chocolate bars express each Peruvian cacao strain’s genetics in crystal clear surround sound. Their unrivalled attention to detail and direct trade practices are key in improving the lives of producers and preserving rare varietals that would otherwise be lost to more industrial, “productive” strains.
Bar to try: Cacaosuyo Lakuna 70%
Amedei Tuscany stands as a testament to Italy's longstanding relationship with fine flavors and culinary excellence. Born in the heart of Tuscany, the brand has carved a niche for itself with its meticulous selection of cacao beans from the world's prime plantations. A commitment to authenticity and a deep respect for tradition shine through in each bar, ensuring that every bite is not just a taste but an experience. From the nuanced notes of their dark chocolates to the creamy richness of their milk variations, the Amedei Tuscany collection invites you to explore a world where Italian craftsmanship meets global cacao heritage.
Bar to try: Amedei Toscano Black Chocolate Bar 70%
Cacao Sampaka was created to propagate the culture of cocoa, to revive chocolate tasting as a social custom, and to convey their passion for this legendary food of the gods. They handcraft chocolate from start to finish. They use real chocolate with no preservatives or coloring to create an evocative language of shapes and flavors.
Founded in 2015, Goodio is a food pioneer with a big heart. The story started with a question: “What if there was a food brand you could trust?”. Goodio was created on the principles of sustainability, well-being, and transparency. It's a vision to bring Nordic-inspired flavors to a chocolate brand for the global consumer.
Bar to try: Goodio Wild Blueberry 61%
Chocolate Naive, one of 200 bean-to-bar producers worldwide, operates in a small town in Lithuania. The chocolate master carefully roasts fresh cacao beans every morning, creating handcrafted bars with complex flavors and seasonings. Only the best ingredients are used, and the company strives to become world-class craftsmen in working with this exquisite production. Naive makes chocolate that showcases the character of each cacao bean, putting Lithuania on the map as a rising star of gourmet chocolate.
Bar to try: Naive Rough Ground Organic Chocolate 75%
Raaka is devoted to making uncommonly delicious chocolate that captures the brighter, bolder, and fruitier side of cacao. They make every bar from scratch with unroasted cacao beans, sourced from growers they trust and admire. The unique flavour of their unroasted chocolate is part place, part process. They craft their bars in celebration of each cacao origin's unique character. Their chocolate making process values the community of growers, producers, and makers whose livelihoods depend on cacao and chocolate. All of their chocolate is made from scratch, bean-to-bar, in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Bar to try: Raaka Rose Cardamom 70% (Limited Edition)
Modica style chocolate, born in the elaborate and eponymous city in southeastern Sicily, has long suffered in reputation due to cheap cacao from dubious sources. Enter Simone Sabiani, Modica restaurateur with a restorative eye for food, natural wine, and chocolate. His Sabadì chocolate taps the potential of Modica style, known for cold processing, lack of added cocoa butter, and rough texture, to highlight the raw materials that go into its creation. Sabadì showcases how ethical sourcing, attention to detail, and thoughtful inclusions can match this unique style to the baroque beauty of its rich history.
Akesson's Organic Chocolate is the first "Tree to Bar" chocolate maker. The Akesson family started with a single plantation in Madagascar. Today, Bertil Akesson has expanded the company's cacao network with plantations in Madagascar, Brazil, and Indonesia. If you tried craft chocolate or world-famous chocolatier chocolate, it is likely that it came from one of Akesson's cacao plantations. Akesson's Organic Chocolate bars have won a multitude of awards and is regarded as one of the best craft chocolate bars on the market.
Bar to try: Akesson's Brazil Dark Milk 55%
Dick Taylor Chocolate
Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor have always loved crafting. With a background in woodworking and boat building, they have always worked with their hands. Craft is a guiding principle in their lives. After hearing about the craft chocolate movement in the late '00s, they saw similarities in woodworking and craft chocolate making. They became fascinated with the idea of the chocolate experience and in 2010 bought their first chocolate-making equipment. Their chocolate captures and highlights the subtle flavour nuances in the cacao they source from around the world, with the goal to make an enjoyable chocolate experience for us.
Bar to try: Dick Taylor Belize Toledo 72%
Mirzam chocolate maker drawn by the stars, tells the story of the spice trade through the lens of craft chocolate. This Emirati company, with five distinct lines of artisan chocolate, expresses the tale of the Middle East’s ancient role as seafaring traders, with each bar speaking to the history, culture, and traditions of those along the maritime Spice Route.
Bar to try: Mirzam Dark Chocolate with Orange & Cinnamon 62%
Based on family recipes and named for founder George Domurot’s niece, a National Park Service Forest Ranger, Ranger Chocolate Company carefully handles each cacao bean to unlock nuance, regionality, and terroir-driven flavours in their chocolate.
Bar to try: 100% Chocolate Bar
Taza Chocolate makes stone-ground chocolate. Cacao is so complex in flavor that they want to let it shout loud and proud. That is why they do less to bring us more. They stone grind organic cacao beans into perfectly unrefined, minimally processed chocolate with bold flavor and texture, unlike anything you have ever tasted.
Bar to try: Taza Organic Wicked Dark 95%
Cuna de Piedra
Cunda de Piedra Comalcalco is a group of Mexicans who are passionate about cacao. Its mission is to raise the quality of life of everyone involved in the process, from those who grow and harvest the land, to those who consume their bars. Cuna de Piedra is a homage to Mexican cacao. Each one of their chocolates is a reflection of the best lesson Mother Nature has taught us: good things take time, but they are worth waiting for.
LetterPress Chocolates' story starts in high school, where founders David and Corey met. Their first experience with cacao was in 2011 when they traveled to St. Lucia on vacation and happened to stop at a cacao plantation where they got to taste the pulp from cacao pods for the first time. Today, LetterPress Chocolate has its very own factory where you can visit and even complete a tour with tastings.
Bar to try: LetterPress Bachelors Hall Jamaica 85%
A blend of cacao nibs aged in bourbon whiskey barrels for several months is transformed into this dark chocolate with hints of honey and whiskey. From their home of Park City, Utah, Ritual uses Bourbon Whiskey Barrels from High West Distillery to age the cacao nibs used for this bar.
Bar to try: Ritual Bourbon Barrel Aged 75%
Amano Artisan Chocolate is a small-batch craft chocolate maker based in Orem, Utah. Amano is an award-winning maker, they make all their chocolate on vintage equipment. Their small batch process allows Amano to control and observe flavor development, making each batch of chocolate not only delicious but unique.
Bar to try: Amano Dos Rios 70%
OmNom Chocolate Reykjavík
OmNom is a small-batch, craft chocolate maker based in Reykjavík, Iceland. The company started as an experiment to see if the two friends could master how to make chocolate. From the start, they received positive tasting feedback. After receiving positive feedback, they set up a small chocolate-making lab inside a converted gas station and launched. OmNom's mission is to make the best chocolate possible using the highest quality of ingredients.
Bar to try: OmNom Tanzania 70%
Manoa Chocolate Hawaii
Manoa is a Hawaiian-based chocolate maker. Hawaii is the only state in the USA to grow cacao. The story of this maker began in the labs at the University of Hawaii in 2010 studying cacao as a crop for the state. Manoa started as college students with no money and bootstrapped their business with ingenuity and determination.
Valrhona is a French chocolate company founded in 1922. The company produces a wide range of high-quality chocolates, including dark, milk, and white chocolate, as well as chocolate bars, pastries, and other confections. Valrhona's chocolate is known for its rich, intense flavor and is used by many professional pastry chefs and chocolatiers around the world. The company is based in the small town of Tain l'Hermitage in the Rhône-Alpes region of France.
Bar to try: Valrhona Grand Cru Abinao 85%
Pump Street Chocolate
Pump Street Bakery, originally known for their exceptional bread and pastry, now creates some of the best chocolate around. Using beans from renowned origins like Hacienda Limon in Ecuador and Finca 3 Marias in Honduras, Pump Street's chocolate is exceptional in both flavor and quality. Their inclusion bars, which combine chocolate and bread crumbs, offer a unique and delightful combination of texture, aroma, and taste. Indulge in Pump Street's one-of-a-kind creations and experience their passion for artisanal craftsmanship and commitment to delivering the best possible experience to their customers.
Bar to try: Pump Street Grenada Crayfish Bay Estate 70%
Since 2008, Original Beans has ventured into remote rainforests to source the world’s rarest cacao beans and transform the cultures of chocolate, food, and luxury. Original Beans founder, Philipp Kauffmann, represents the 7th generation in a family of recognized nature explorers and conservationists who coined the term “sustainability”. Philipp gave up his job at the United Nations in New York to grow Original Beans as a leading brand for a world in which we regenerate what we consume. For each bar purchased, Original Beans plants a tree with their initiative, One Bar One Tree.
Bar to try: Original Beans Vegan Almond Milk Esmeraldas 50%
It was in April of 1954 when the master chocolatier Francesc Agrás embarked on a long journey through the best patisseries and confectioneries in Europe. His passion for excellence in artisan confectionery was the seed that led to the founding of one of the most renowned Catalan chocolate factories: Bombons Blanxart. It all started in a modest workshop in the neighborhood of Les Corts (Barcelona) and feeding a dream: bringing the best cocoa beans from Ghana, Congo, and Guayaquil to chocolate.
Bar to try: Blanxart Dark Chocolate With Almonds 60%
The world of gourmet chocolate can be an adventure. Each brand offers a unique taste and story. Whether you're new to this world or have sampled widely, there's always something new to discover. For a straightforward way to experience these brands, consider the Kekao Box. It brings a selection of these chocolates directly to you, making exploration easy and enjoyable.