An array of chocolates at the Godiva Factory. (Photograph by Everjean, Flickr)
Each chocolatier on our list produces signature melt-in-your-mouth chocolates, be it a single-source dark chocolate bar, a cream- or liqueur-filled bonbon, a praline, fruit dipped in chocolate, a truffle, fudge, or some other sinfully delicious treat. You will never regret indulging yourself with the confections produced by these premier chocolate-makers.
Teuscher’s version of a box of chocolate. (Photograph by Maako Tazawa, Flickr)
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.
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 bars wrapped in a bow. (Photograph by John Loo, Flickr)
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.
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.
Unwrapping Valrhona’s Ampamakia bar. (Photograph by Everjean, Flickr)
“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.
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.
It’s all about finishing touches at Godiva. (Photograph by Everjean, Flickr)
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.
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.
Puccini Bomboni’s doesn’t deliver, but it’s well worth a trip to Amsterdam. (Photograph by Namealus, Flickr)
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.
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.
This list originally appeared in the National Geographic book, by Nathaniel Lande and Andrew Lande.