Here at Raintees we know that not all chocolate is created equal, which is why we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite chocolate brands! All of the chocolatiers listed below make some of the highest quality chocolate, sourcing their ingredients from fair trade and sustainable farms and putting in great care to ensure their chocolates are one of a kind. Though life might be like a box of chocolates and you may not know what you’ll get, you can be sure that with these chocolate brands you know that you will be getting some of the best quality chocolate on the market.
Some useful concepts and ideas to get you familiar with chocolate…
Cacao vs. Cocoa
If you’ve been confused on when to use the word cacao or cocoa, you’re not the only one. While the two are disputed widely over the internet, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary there is no real difference between the two words and they can be used interchangeably. Cocoa is more often used to described the powder created from grinding cacao (or cocoa) beans, whereas cacao is more often used to describe the tree itself. Apparently English is the only language that has two different words for the beans, and “Cacao” is even listed as a definition under “Cocoa”, so put your mind at ease over the two.
Cocoa Solid Percentages
Often on chocolate bars you’ll see a percentage, such as 35%, 55% or 72%. This shows how much of the chocolate bar is composed of cocoa solids. Milk chocolate, which contains more additives like milk, sugar, and cocoa liquor to create a creamier taste, is usually on the lower percentage side, such as 30%. While there’s no technical cut off in the U.S. to differentiate between milk chocolate and dark chocolate, Europe requires dark chocolate to contain no less that 35% cocoa solids, while some U.S. milk chocolates have as high as 50% cocoa solids. White chocolate is a creation using only sugar, milk and cocoa butter with out cocoa solids.
Single Origin Chocolate
Single origin chocolate is made using only one variety of cocoa beans in one region. The belief associated with single origin is similar to that of wine and coffee; that the less blending that occurs in creating a product, the more the region’s distinct flavors will be detectable in the final product. This often means that the practices used to create the chocolate are easier to trace and can often help ensure fair trade.
Cocoa Parlor and Tonic Scene
Cocoa Parlor is a brand new chocolate store that has set up shop in Laguna Niguel, California. There they hand craft batches of organic truffles in creative flavors like peach, rosemary fig, and chili lime. Their chocolate bars are organic, fair trade, gluten free, soy free, and nine flavors are even vegan. Their ingredients are simple and pure, and their flavors have creative names such as Strawberry Mermaid (Peruvian single origin), Surfer Girl (coconut and pineapple) and Deep Velvet (milk chocolate with attitude), and Popped Quinoa.
Tonic Scene is the sister brand to Cocoa Parlor and contains only raw organic chocolate in equally exciting flavors like Apricot Ginger and Jungle Peanut. Many of their chocolates are Peruvian single origin.
Must Try: Simple Pleasure. Can’t decide between milk, dark, nutty, or salty? This chocolate is a perfect blend of all of those! At 56% cocoa it’s considered a dark chocolate but doesn’t have the heavy bitter flavor dark chocolate often displays. It also contains small pieces of hazelnut that adds a rich nut flavor with out making it feel like you’re stashing nuts for the winter. Topped off with Himalayan Pink Salt, Simple Pleasure is the perfect chocolate to satisfy an array of chocolate cravings.
Find this flavor and more at their website http://www.cocoaparlor.com/
Dick Taylor Chocolate
The Founders of Dick Taylor Chocolate, Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor, used to build wooden furniture and boats before they started creating some of the finest handcrafted chocolates. According to them, the process of creating furniture from raw wood is very similar to creating chocolate from the raw cacao beans. Because they start from the raw cacao beans, the chocolate creating process takes over one month to complete, but allows them to skip out on having to add vanilla, additional cocoa butter, and emulsifiers, creating a pure, delicious end result. Dick Taylor was featured on USA Today’s Best Designed Chocolate Bars for their unique chocolate bar wrapper, which has an exquisite design of a wooden boat being built; a tribute both to their wood carving beginnings as well as the craftsmanship involved in making excellent chocolate.
Must try: Dick Taylor’s 72% Belize Toledo Chocolate Bar was recently a winner in the 2014 Good Food Awards; if you don’t trust us, trust the Good Food Awards – this chocolate is one of the best! Buy it here: http://www.dicktaylorchocolate.com/
John and Kira’s Chocolates
Not only do John and Kira make fabulous chocolate; they’re also philanthropists. When they began tossing around the idea of starting their own chocolate business, both knew they wanted to create chocolates that used only pure ingredients from local organic or biodynamic farms in Philadelphia. Kira had already been volunteering at an Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative garden, and soon collaboration began between John and Kira’s Chocolates and multiple urban gardens in Philadelphia, as well as 22 other organic or biodynamic farms. While most of the produce John and Kira use are locally sourced, they get some of their more exotic ingredients from all over the world, like vanilla from Singapore, shade grown coffee from Mexico, and cloves from Sri Lanka. John and Kira enjoy making the chocolate about the farmers that contribute the ingredients, rather than themselves.
Must try: John and Kira’s Ladybugs are adorable, unique, and their most popular product! They come in flavors like raspberry, garden mint, and honey lavender, and beneath each chocolate ladybug in the box is a fun fact about ladybugs.
Get a box of fresh chocolates from John and Kira’s here http://www.johnandkiras.com/
At Richart Chocolates, being a gourmet chocolatier runs in the family. The family owned company was created in Lyon, France in 1925 by Joseph Richart. Three generations later it’s still in the hands of the Richart family and hasn’t succumbed to mass production, keeping their practice focused on the details and quality of the chocolates over the quantity produced. Though Richart sells chocolates all over the world, they hand make their chocolates in small batches to ensure top quality chocolates and macaroons. Chocolate isn’t just chocolate when it’s from Richarts – it’s a work of art, with seven distinct aromas, or “collections”, including Balsamic, Roasted, Citrus, Fruity, Spiced, Herbal and Floral.
Must try: Part of the Herbal collection, Thyme Praline is an exotic blend of fresh thyme and the smooth nutty undertones of pralines.
Find these exotic collections here https://www.richart-chocolates.com/chocolates/
Edward Marc Chocolatier
Edward Marc was originally created by two young Greek immigrants who were attempting to make a living in Pittsburgh in 1914. One hundred years later, the family now has 5 locations in Pennsylvania and Washington DC, including the Milk Shake Factory, whose extravagantly delicious milkshakes were featured on the TODAY show. Besides getting to enjoy fantastic handcrafted chocolates, if you order any product from their catalog, Edward Marc will donate 20% of your purchase to a charity of your choice from a selection in their “One Sweet Gesture” program. These charities include Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation, The Children’s Institute, Touch a Life Foundation, and Wounded Warrior Project. Edward Marc believes that a portion of every business transaction should go towards someone in need, and that compassion and philanthropy should be the foundation of every business model.
Must try: Snappers – the perfect blend of creamy caramel, milk chocolate, and crunchy pretzels. Sweet and salty. Need we say more?
Try them out here http://www.edwardmarc.com/
With vibrant colors and eye catching patterns, Compartes Chocolates are a fresh take on a classic treat. Not to say that they haven’t been around for a while – Compartes was created back in the 1950′s and has since attracted many celebrities into its doors through the decades (including making “Oprah’s Favorite Things” list) . Compartes uses only organic and all natural ingredients from scratch. Not a trace of artificial additives or preservatives can be found in these chocolates. Added ingredients such as fruits and spices are locally sourced from the Los Angeles area, and the cocoa beans themselves are primarily single origin from places in South America.
Must try: Dark Chocolate Covered Ginger. If you’re a ginger fan, the reviews say it doesn’t get any better than this!
Browse their 72 flavors here http://compartes.com/
Based out of Oahu, Hawai’i, Madre Chocolate was founded by two young travelers who both developed an interest in the ancient Maya, Aztec, and Olmec cultures. One worked on social and environmental justice issues in Central America, while the other is an exotic botanist who researched medicinal plants in Central America. When the two combined their skills to begin crafting artisan chocolate in Hawai’i the results were incredible. Madre Chocolate is a bean-to-bar company, and grows most of their cocoa beans in Hawaiian soil right down the road from their chocolate factory. They incorporate the local fruits and flavors of Hawaii in their “Kokoleka” chocolate line, like hibiscus and passion fruit. In their “Xocolatl” line, they use traditional flavors and spices inspired by what the Maya, Aztec, and Olmec tribes may have put in their original chocolate batches, like Xocoxochitl Chipotle Allspice and Amaranth Crunch. All of their bars are vegan and soy-free, and their bars are designed with traditional Maya art.
Must try: Their Triple Cacao Bar represents the history of cacao and has two awards (one gold and one silver) from the Chocolate Awards, one award from International Chocolate Awards, one from the Northwest Chocolate Festival, and a Gold Seal from the 2013 Good Food Awards. Try it here http://madrechocolate.com/Home.html
Ayja is a recent Santa Clara University graduate who double majored in Environmental Studies and Music and minored in Creative Writing. She grew up in Sandy, Utah, and spent her childhood skiing, rock climbing and hiking in the Wasatch Mountains. Now living in Palo Alto, California, Ayja spends her free time reading, writing, running, and researching sustainable efforts around the world. She’s passionate about sustainable agriculture, international development, and environmental education, and hopes to combine her passion for writing with her love of nature and travel.