While we offer a large selection of the finest chocolate available, we have strict criteria for vetting what chocolate we sell. If a chocolate meets these criteria it still must pass the most important test – taste. If we don’t like the taste, we won’t carry the chocolate. Just because chocolate is made by an artisan doesn’t mean it’s automatically tasty chocolate.
And then there’s opinion. We eat a lot of chocolate and we each have our own opinions about what we like. Just because we don’t like something doesn’t make it bad. It just means we may not carry the chocolate. We encourage our customers to find their own likes and dislikes when it comes to chocolate. The exploration is half the fun!
We do not offer any bar of chocolate that does not meet our criteria. Artisan chocolate makers must adhere to the following principles:
- Use only fine, flavor cacao to make their chocolate. In addition to criollo, trinitario and Arriba Nacional, this may include well-farmed varieties of forastero.
- Work with cacao beans that have been properly fermented and dried for the best taste. We love it when a chocolate maker works directly with a farm, not only keeping more of the profits in the country of origin, but helping the farmer improve fermentation and drying techniques. This results in sustainable chocolate that has the best flavor.
- Use only acceptable ingredients. These include,
- Cocoa beans (a.k.a., chocolate liquor, cocoa mass)
- Sugar (optional)
- Additional cocoa butter (optional)
- Vanilla (optional)
- Soy lecithin (optional)
- Milk powder (only in milk chocolate)
- Make it taste good! Once a chocolate meets these criteria, we then evaluate it based on taste. If we don’t like the taste, we don’t carry the bar. We’ve found that over time our taste buds have gotten more discerning, resulting in us becoming even pickier about what bars we carry. While we may carry some bars from a particular chocolate maker, we may not carry all of their bars for this reason.
Chocolate Brands we Carry
Located in Orem, Utah in the heart of the Wasatch Mountains, Amano Chocolate was born in 1996 when founder, Art Pollard, decided he wanted to make chocolate from the bean. After ten years of extensive research, tinkering and testing, Art began selling his hand-crafted bars to the public. “Amano” means “by hand” and “they love” in Italian, phrases that speak to how Art makes his chocolate. Art travels to the far corners of South America, Madagascar and Indonesia looking for flavor cacao beans that meet his exacting standards. He pays cacao farmers 3x to 4x the world market rate for cacao beans, and he works with the farmers to improve their fermenting and drying techniques, both key steps in developing flavorful cacao beans. One of our favorite bars is Amano's Dos Rios, made with fragrant cacao beans hailing from the Dominican Republic.
Founded by a sister and brother team, Cecelia and Alessio Tessieri, Amedei is known for producing some of the finest bean-to-bar chocolate in the world. Boasting an impressive array of awards and accolades, Amedei consistently produces flavorful and well-balanced chocolate that is a treat to taste. Alessio travels the world to find cacao farmers who understand the importance of fermentation and drying to flavor development in cacao. From their base in Tuscany, Cecelia works her magic on the beans to bring out wonderful aroma, flavor and complexity, resulting in very special bars of chocolate. Famous for their limited edition, numbered bars of Porcelana and their famed Chuao bar, Amedei is a must on any chocolate-lovers tasting list.
What started as a hobby in 1999 became an obsession and then a business for Sean Askinosie, a former criminal defense attorney. Askinosie turned his love of baking with chocolate into a business of making chocolate from scratch at his facility in Springfield, MO. He produces single-origin chocolate using cacao beans from small farms in places such as Soconusco, Mexico and San Jose del Tambo, Ecuador. In addition to putting a picture of the farmers that pick the cacao beans on his eco-friendly bar wrappers, Askinosie gives 10% of his profits back to these farms. He hopes that this reinvestment will encourage the farmers to continue to improve the quality of the cacao beans they grow, resulting in better quality chocolate and improved profits for all. Askinosie is the only micro-batch chocolate maker who owns a cocoa press, a machine that allows him to make his own single-origin cocoa butter. He uses this single-origin cocoa butter in his bars of dark chocolate, and he also uses it to make some very tasty white chocolate. Askinosie’s white and milk chocolates are made with goat’s milk, resulting in a gamey flavor that pairs nicely with the sweetness of milk and white chocolate. His bars are great for people with an intolerance to cow’s milk.
Bonnat Chocolatier is the oldest artisan producer of chocolate in the world. Founded in 1884 by Félix Bonnat in Voiron, France, Bonnat was the first chocolate maker to create single-origin and single-estate chocolate bars. Bonnat began exporting chocolate to the French colonies in 1919. Raymond Bonnat and his son Stephane continue the family tradition today, selecting the finest cacao and turning it into chocolate of varying origins. Bonnat believes in the saying, "What is good to the taste is great for the soul."
Joan Kukos, owner and Chocolatier of Chocolat Moderne in New York, creates wonderful confections with very subtle flavors. She brings her Greek heritage into play for some interesting confections such as Baklava praliné, Kalamata Olive caramel and Rose Pistachio caramel, to name a few. Her subtle flavors continue in her Kimono Collection, a group of confections with Japanese-inspired fillings that are very subtle. While some of the combinations sound odd, Joan makes them work well. Her subtlety is key in making sure that strong and savory ingredients work well in a sweet confection. On the more traditional side, Joan makes the best peanut butter confection we've found to date. Her Peanut Butter Pizzaz bonbon was so delicious we asked her to make it into a bar. She complied, and we now carry her Peanut Butter Pizzaz Bistro Bar.
Christopher's beautiful truffles and caramels are the anchor of our truffle counter. What's more, the taste is equal to the beauty of each piece. Christopher uses some of the finest bean-to-bar chocolate in the world to make his confections. He picks the type of chocolate carefully, making sure the flavor notes of the chocolate work with the particular confection he's making. While the flavors are noticeable, they are not overpowering or overly sweet. The quality of the chocolate and the other ingredients shine through.
Unique among chocolate makers, Claudio Corallo is an agronomist from Florence, Italy who cut his teeth in the coffee industry in Zaire (Congo). Claudio left Zaire in the late ‘90s, settling in São Tomé and Principe, an island country off the west coast of Africa. São Tomé claims the oldest cacao trees in Africa, which were brought to the island country by Portuguese colonists in 1819. Claudio has the unique distinction of being both a cacao farmer and a chocolate maker. He is able to control the entire chocolate-making process from tree to bar. He cultivates cacao from his farms on São Tomé and its neighboring island, Principe. He does not conch his chocolate, a process that mellows strong flavors and increases the smoothness of the chocolate. As a result, Claudio’s chocolate is bold with a bit of texture. This is a great chocolate to pair with wine and savory foods.
Domori emerged onto the chocolate scene in 1996 as the project of Italian chocolate maker, Gianluca Franzoni (who writes under the pseudonym Mack Domori). His journey began in Venezuela when he was on a business trip researching orchids. It was there that he discovered his passion for quality cacao and his desire to create a product from some of the finest beans in the world. Domori’s style tends towards very smooth chocolate with little bitterness and excellent mouth feel. We often notice tropical notes of banana, mango and nuts in many of the Domori bars. In addition to sourcing great cacao, Domori is involved in a project that recovers ancient criollo varieties from the wild at the Hacienda San José in Venezuela. Domori is now part of the Illy Coffee Company.
Founded by Etienne Guittard in 1868 in San Francisco, the Guittard Chocolate Company is one of America’s oldest artisan chocolate makers. The company has an expert team who travels the world to oversee the fermentation and drying process of the cacao beans, controlling the most important part of flavor development in chocolate. Gary Guittard, the current CEO, is renowned in the chocolate industry for founding a group called Don’t Mess with our Chocolate. This grassroots organization was founded to fight an initiative by mass-market chocolate producers who wanted to lower the % of cocoa butter required by the FDA to call a product “chocolate”. Gary’s grassroots effort succeeded, requiring all chocolate makers to continue to include at least X% cocoa butter in chocolate.
Lillie Belle Farms
The personality of Jeff Shepherd, the Chocolatier and owner of Lillie Belle Farms, definitely comes through in his chocolates. Jeff is an over-the-top guy, and his chocolates are over the top. His Don't Eat This Chocolate bar is the hottest pepper bar we've had to date. Jeff's Lavender Sea Salt caramels are one of our most requested items and will not disappoint lovers of sea salt and caramel.
Madécasse has one of the most compelling sustainability stories in the chocolate industry. Started by two former Peace Corps volunteers who used to live in Madagascar, Madécasse is owned by farmers in Madagascar who not only grow the cacao but make the chocolate. This keeps much more of the value and the profit in the country of origin. Profits from selling the chocolate bars go towards improvements, such as the purchase of fermentation boxes, with a focus on continually improving the growing practices of the farmers. Farmers make much more money by making chocolate than they do by selling cacao beans.
We are very proud to carry Patric Chocolate, a micro-batch chocolate made by Alan McClure. Alan is a chocolate perfectionist who was inspired to start his company after returning from a year in France. Alan spent 2006 customizing his own chocolate-making equipment and facility in Columbia, MO before opening his doors in 2007. He makes fantastic single-origin chocolate from a few regions around the world, and his execution is flawless. He hand sorts his cacao beans to eliminate any poor-quality, moldy or germinated beans. His attention to detail and his passion result in incredibly flavorful and bold chocolate.
Founded in X by Colin Gasko, Rogue Chocolatier is one of our favorite chocolate makers in the US. Colin roasts, grinds and conches in very small batches, taking great care with each of the varietals he uses to make chocolate. He sometimes literally makes our chocolate bars to order. Colin began making chocolate with equipment from Chocolate Alchemy, and he became so good at his craft that he started selling bars to retailers. Like many smaller chocolate makers, Colin rotates origins depending on where and when he’s able to source good cacao beans. This means his origins may change relatively frequently, depending on where and when he’s able to source good quality cacao beans. Rogue Chocolatier is fantastic, micro-batch chocolate, and it’s in the most beautiful wrappers we have in the store. Colin’s bars make great gifts.
Taza Chocolate, located in Sommerville, MA, makes chocolate in the Mexican style, working predominantly with cacao beans from the Dominican Republic. The bars have excellent flavor, but the texture may take some by surprise. Taza does not conch their chocolate. Conching is a process of kneading, heating and aerating chocolate liquor that mellows flavors, reduces particle sizes and reduces bitterness. While the texture is different, the quality is equal to the best. The lack of conching means the flavor of the Dominican beans shines through. On occasion, Taza makes limited edition bars, such as a recent bar from Chiapas, which came from only 17 sacks of Chiapan cacao.
One of the oldest artisan chocolate makers in the world and renowned among the finest pastry chefs, Valrhona makes fantastic chocolate. Valrhona’s ability to understand cacao beans and to coax the best chocolate out of them is legendary. Their consistency and technical understanding is also on display for the many chocolatiers and pastry chefs who use their products in making their confections and treats. Valrhona has a long history of finding great-tasting cacao and developing long-term relationships with the farms that produce that cacao. In addition to single-origin bars, we are proud to offer a number of Valrhona’s single-estate bars. Each single estate bar contains beans from one farm and has a designated year of harvest.