Unique among chocolate stores, we're renowned worldwide for our extensive, curated collection of craft chocolate bars. We spend a lot of time vetting chocolate before we add it to our collection.
What is artisan chocolate?
Artisan chocolate is like a good bottle of wine. It is made by craft chocolate makers who use the finest cacao beans to create a delectable symphony of flavors. It may come from a specific bean, from a single origin or even from a single estate. It may have hints of cashew, raisin or cherry. It may taste grassy or earthy. It may be simple or complex, with flavors that linger on the palate. Chocolopolis offers you the chance to try and compare hundreds of bars of chocolate made by artisans who are passionate about creating flavorful chocolate.
Why are the chocolate bars you offer so special?
Excellent cacao bean quality
Artisan chocolate starts with well-farmed, quality cacao beans that have been fermented and roasted to bring out the best flavor profiles. Our collection of chocolate is made by artisans who appreciate the importance of quality cacao and who treat it with the respect and the individual attention it deserves.
The finest chocolate has the simplest ingredients, relying on the flavor of the chocolate to shine. There should be no more than “cocoa mass” or “cocoa liquor”, cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla and soy lecithin in a quality bar of dark chocolate. Many artisan chocolate makers include even fewer ingredients. Dark chocolate should not include milk as an ingredient, but milk chocolate will include milk powder as an ingredient.
Does the % of chocolate on the label matter?
What does “% cacao” mean? It represents the % of the chocolate bar’s ingredients that come from the cacao bean. A higher % chocolate bar has more cacao and less sugar in it, resulting in a less sweet chocolate bar.
You may hear a lot in the press about high-percentage chocolate being quality chocolate. The percentage of chocolate is not an indicator of the quality of the cacao beans or the ingredients used to make the chocolate, so it is not fair to assume that high-percentage chocolate is good chocolate.
While comparing the % on the labels of chocolate will help you identify the relative sweetness levels of the chocolate, it will not help you determine whether the chocolate is “good”. “Good” is subjective – you need to taste the chocolate and decide whether you like it.
Where do I start?
If you find our selection of chocolate overwhelming, we’ve organized our site to make it easier for you to begin to discover a world of chocolate. Our curated collection of chocolate bars is arranged into groups by cacao origin since origin is one of the major factors in describing the taste of cacao. If you’re looking for a chocolate bar with delicious ingredients like fruits, nuts, caramel or spices added to the chocolate, check our our inclusion chocolate bar section.
If you’re ready to satisfy your sweet tooth, or if you’re looking for a gift, check out our Truffles & Treats and Gift menus.
We also have different styles of Drinking Chocolate in our Hot Chocolate section.
While we offer a large selection of the finest craft chocolate bars available, we have strict criteria for vetting the 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 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 fun is in the exploration!
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.
- Work with cacao beans that have been properly fermented and dried for the best taste.
- 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. While we may carry some bars from a particular chocolate maker, we may not carry all of their bars for this reason.
The Final Step: Blind Tasting Panel
In order for us to consider adding a bar to our collection, it must pass the most important test, a blind tasting. Our employees and a panel of our customers regularly conduct blind tastings of chocolates. Our tasting panel is made up of about 30 people, at least 12 of whom taste chocolate during any one blind tasting. Our panel comes with a wide variety of chocolate palates, some preferring lighter roasts with more delicate flavor complexity, others enjoying the bold notes of roasted, smoky or earthy flavor profiles. We evaluate on both taste and texture, so it’s possible that the flavor of a chocolate is good but the texture is not, and vice versa. With that said, it’s more often the case that when one of these variables isn’t up to snuff, the other isn’t either.
The majority of chocolates we taste during these blind tastings rate average or below average. Given the diversity of chocolate palates present at these tastings, there is definitely a range of ratings, but it’s rare that a chocolate receives high ratings across the board. When a chocolate is well liked by the group as a whole, we know we have a winner.
Why do we care so much what the group thinks? Individuals have their own tasting biases – some may like fruity flavor profiles and a light roast, others may prefer earthy flavor profiles and a dark roast, for example. When we have data points from a wide group of tasters with many different preferences, we have a much stronger group by which to evaluate the chocolate. It’s a more representative sample of our customers and what they like in a chocolate bar. It’s also important to get the input of our employees who serve as the gateway for our customers to the world of craft chocolate. If our employees don’t love a chocolate, it won’t sell.
We appreciate the passion and the hard work of the artisans who have created the chocolates we taste, so it is difficult when we don’t love a chocolate. We’re always happy to re-consider a chocolate that didn’t fare well the first time if a chocolate maker has made changes to the chocolate and continued to develop their skills as a chocolate maker. There have been instances where we did not think a chocolate was up to snuff initially, but accepted the chocolate into our collection a few years later after continued improvement by the chocolate maker.
Our detailed vetting process helps us curate a fantastic collection of chocolate bars that appeals to a broad range of palates and enables our customers to spend their money wisely on chocolate bars we think they’ll love.
Why did we organize our bars by geography?
Our large, curated collection of craft chocolate bars is arranged by cacao origin. We have found cacao origin to one of the best ways to organize our chocolates because cacao origins often offer similar flavor profiles. If you like the red fruit and citrus notes common in chocolate made with cacao from Madagascar, chances are you’ll like many of the bars made with cacao from that region.
Chocolate made with fine cacao beans has a great diversity of flavor profiles that depend on many different factors, geography being a very important factor. While there are many ways we could have organized our chocolate, we feel one of the clearest and most interesting ways is by geography.
Geography evokes discussions of regional similarities and differences in flavor profiles. It enables discussions around the historical and cultural role of cacao in each region. And we hope it sparks interest in learning more about the geo-political issues regarding the farming and production of cacao.
Chocolate by Region
We have provided a key to help you begin your world journey of chocolate tasting. While the descriptions include flavor profiles that may be common to a region, each bar of artisan chocolate is different and may not hold to a stereotype. Keep an open mind and have fun!
Using cacao beans from multiple regions, artisan chocolate makers put care and attention into the proper roasting times and temperatures of each bean type so that the sum of the beans is greater than the parts. Blends are often well-balanced and serve as a delicious introduction to artisan chocolate.
Home to some of the most prized cacao in the world, Venezuela offers a diversity of bean types and flavor profiles that vary among its many cacao-growing regions. Venezuelan cacao is a must for any guided chocolate tasting.
Known for the delicate Arriba strain of the cacao bean, chocolate made with Ecuadorian cacao is prized for its often flowery and grassy notes. A milk chocolate-lover interested in trying dark chocolate might enjoy the delicate and approachable notes of a dark chocolate bar made with cacao from Ecuador.
Central & South America
Native to Central and South America, cacao was used as currency by the Aztecs who stored the beans in vast royal treasuries. Warriors and the wealthy drank cacao as an unsweetened, spicy beverage. Today Central and South America represent a diverse range of cacao beans and flavor profiles. You can't go wrong with a bar from the cradle of cacao.
Caribbean & North America
Trinidad is the birthplace of the trinitario strain of cacao, a cross between the flavorful criollo and the productive forastero. Trinitario can be found throughout the Caribbean, presenting a range of diverse flavor profiles that vary by island.
Intense red fruit notes provide a unique and identifiable flavor to cacao from Madagascar. If you’re new to artisan chocolate and you’re looking to “wow” your palate, this is a great place to start!
Africa produces 70% of the world’s cacao, much of it used to make mass-market chocolate. A handful of artisans are creating flavorful chocolate from quality African cacao beans. There is also excellent cacao coming from the islands of São Tomé and Principe, where chocolate maker Claudio Corallo has revived a dormant cacao-growing industry.
Cacao hailing from Southeast Asia often has smoky and earthy flavors that result from drying the beans by fire during the rainy season. Milk chocolate lovers looking for an interesting chocolate that’s less sweet will enjoy the flavors of milk chocolate made with cacao from this region.
Inclusions are where the fun begins! These bars of chocolate include herbs, spices, dried fruits, nuts and fillings. If you have a sense of adventure, try out some of our more unique combinations.