7 Sources For Sinfully Delicious Chocolate

The cacao bean is a versatile ingredient in the skillful hands of a chocolatier, with an ability to pair well with both sweet confections and savory dishes. From century-old establishments to innovative pioneers, these artisans can transform the bean into a delicious creation. In no particular order, here are some companies offering quality chocolate around the world.

Kicking off the list at #1, the Theo Chocolate Company has made high-quality chocolate from scratch since 2006. The Seattle-based company oversees the entire process, from cocoa bean to bar. Using only ethically-sourced, organic ingredients, it supports fair-trade practices that ensure farmers receive a living wage. Theo's ethical practices have been certified by various third-party organizations.

Cocoa beans are sourced directly from small holder farms in Peru and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Every recipe is developed with minimal ingredients, using quality cocoa butter to create a rich texture. Guests may visit the company's factory and witness the complete chocolate-making process. Elsewhere, Theo's confection kitchen transforms the prepared ingredient into original creations, including bars and cups of various flavors, as well as baking and drinking chocolate.

Next at #2, Wm. Chocolate was founded with the goal of creating nutritious, ethical, minimally processed, and whole-food chocolate confections using real sweetener. The Madison, Wisconsin maker's creations incorporate whole cane sugar, while different bars feature cocoa beans sourced from various locations to lend a unique and complex flavor to each. According to the company, most production is done locally in order to reduce its environmental footprint, as well as boost the regional economy.

After fermentation and drying at the source, the beans travel to the factory, where the raw ingredient is roasted, separated, ground, tempered, and molded into breakable bars. Customers may select chocolate bars based on percentage of cocoa content, by country of origin, or by flavors, including coffee, chili, and orange.

Coming in at #3 is Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier. Located in Madison, Wisconsin, the confectioner specializes in truffles, caramels, dipped candied fruits, bars, and hot chocolate. The cocoa beans used in each bar or truffle are of single-origin, from regions such as Hawaii, Colombia, and Ecuador. Visitors are encouraged to take time to savor each creation using all five senses.

Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier's bars feature a variety of flavor combinations, like cherry almond and white chocolate strawberry. Customers may build custom five-bar bundles to take home or prepare as gifts. Meanwhile, the company's array of gourmet truffles are crafted with fine dark chocolate and fresh cream. Truffle sets include the Tea-inspired Collection, the globally-influenced Adventurous Collection, and the Beerific Taster's Box, which comes with a list of beer pairing suggestions.

At #4 is ChocoSol. The Toronto, Canada chocolatier crafts rustic chocolate bars that incorporate a low heat stone-grinding method, which the company claims retains the complex flavor and nutritional value of the cacao. ChocoSol works closely with farmers and co-operatives throughout Central and South America, sourcing directly from indigenous communities. As a part of its efforts to reduce waste, the confectioner ensures that all packaging is biodegradable.

ChocoSol's line of specialty bars covers a myriad of flavors, from dark chocolate and cherry to cranberry. The company also offers spiced drinking chocolates inspired by the flavors of Oaxaca, Mexico. Customers may shop its varied pantry collection for both roasted and raw cacao beans, cocoa nibs, various bulk ingredients, and even cacao shell mulch.

Entering the list at #5, Moonstruck Chocolate has hand-crafted decadent sweets in Portland, Oregon since 1993. Blending chocolate with local, fresh ingredients from the Pacific Northwest, Moonstruck offers everything from bars to intricate truffles decorated by hand. Partnering with the nonprofit Cocoa Horizons, the company helps build self-sustaining farming communities that improve the lives of cocoa farmers and surrounding areas.

Moonstruck's offerings include bars, hot cocoa, milk chocolate-covered fruit and nut drops, and the company's signature line of truffles. Creative flavors include both standard offerings, like raspberry and orange, as well as more unique pairings, such as key lime, peach, lemon drop martini, Gewurztraminer, and even absinthe from the local Oregon Spirit Distillers. Customers may visit Moonstruck's cafe for coffee, cocoa, and sweets.

Moving on to #6, Valrhona has been producing fine chocolate in the small village of Tain L’Hermitage, France since 1922. According to the company, its artisan chocolates exhibit complex, balanced, and consistent flavors, influenced by the gastronomic traditions of the Rhone Valley. Valrhona oversees the entire process, operating its own cacao plantations in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.

Valrhona's line of sweets includes tasting bars of various cacao percentages, colorful bonbons, baking chocolate, and more. From sourcing rare bean varietals to selecting ideal land, Valrhona claims its farming process gives the chocolate a unique aroma and flavor profile. Beyond production, the chocolatier offers pastry classes for both chefs and non-professionals, where individuals learn to create candies, cakes, and other baked goods.

Lastly, at #7 is Delysia Chocolatier. Based in Austin, Texas, the company specializes in award-winning, one-of-a-kind chocolates that incorporate local ingredients, some of which are unique to the region. Each is hand-made in the Parisian style, and free of preservatives. Under owner Chef Nicole Patel, Delysia was named among the 2016 Top Ten Best Chocolatiers and Confectioners in the Americas by the International Chocolate Salon and Taste TV.

The company is regularly recognized for its innovation in the industry, including offerings specific to weddings, truffle artistry, chocolate bars, and unique confections and flavor combinations. The smokey and savory Salt Lick BBQ dinner collection, for instance, features truffles infused with smoked brisket, dry rub, and barbecue sauce. Meanwhile, the Taste of Austin box collaborates with local iconic establishments to deliver flavors like cheeseburger, fried chicken, and pancakes and syrup.