When it comes to the best chocolate in the world, the Swiss and the Belgians have traditionally tussled for top spot. But now, independent artisan chocolatiers across the globe are excelling in their trade. Every major city has a chocolate boutique that offers amazing examples of sweet or salted but always delicious delicacies.
Chocolatiers of today are true to the native origins of the cocoa bean and fashion inventive and delectable chocolate creations by hand, keeping the ingredients as pure as possible.
In the early 16th century, Columbus is believed to be the first to carry the cocoa bean to Spain from South America, where it was used as a fashionable drink mixed with natural sweeteners such as honey, vanilla, and sugar. Soon, chocolate spread across Europe and North America, where, over time, it was refined and mass-produced.
Derived from the fruit of the cacao tree – native to Central and South America – each pod (fruit) contains around 40 cacao beans that are dried and roasted to create the cocoa beans we are familiar with nowadays.
The BusinessClass.com guide to the ten best chocolate shops and chocolatiers in the world:
1) London: Paul A Young
Address: Camden Passage, Islington, London N1 8EA
Ranked among the world's best chocolatiers, Paul Young is at the leading edge of the British chocolate scene. He has produced exquisite chocolates at his Camden Passage shop since 2006 with his business partner James Cronin.
With a background as the head pastry chef for Marco Pierre White, Paul is renowned for his flavour alchemy and original, experimental creations. Paul is the only chocolatier in London working in an authentic artisan way. His creative flare has won him numerous awards, including the recipient of the Outstanding British Chocolatier by the International Chocolate Awards.
Paul's creations are handmade in small batches using only the finest and freshest ingredients, free from preservatives and artificial ingredients. Sample delights from his collection include marmite-filled chocolate bars, 100% Solomon Islands dark chocolate bars, real Champagne Truffles, sea-salted caramels, and Aztec hot chocolate drinking powder.
2) New York City: Jacques Torres
66 Walter Street, Brooklyn
17 Grand Central Terminal
Chef Jacques Torres is also known as Mr Chocolate. He grew up in the South of France and began an apprenticeship in a pastry shop at age 15 before working with two-Michelin-starred chef Jacques Maximin at the Hotel Negresco in Nice. There, he became the Executive Pastry Chef for eight years and won the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France medal in pastry.
The United States beckoned in 1988, and Jacques began working as the Corporate Pastry Chef for Ritz Carlton Hotels before taking a job at the world-famous Le Cirque as Executive Pastry Chef, serving his creations to royalty, presidents, and celebrities alike.
He opened his first chocolate shop in 2000 – Jacques Torres Chocolate – in Brooklyn, New York and was a pioneer in the bean-to-bar movement, becoming the first artisan chocolatier in New York to make chocolate from cocoa beans. A second venue followed before Jacques moved his production plant to a single state-of-the-art facility at Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Jacques specialises in fresh, handcrafted chocolates using the best ingredients free of preservatives or artificial flavourings and uses the motto "Real is my promise to you."
Jacques' collection samples include seasonal creations, Taittinger Champagne Truffles, assorted bonbons, various gift boxes, hot chocolate classics – including vegan options, a special New York Collection, bars, bark and brittle, to name but a few.
The Big Apple is one of the greatest cities in the world and is easily accessible from anywhere on Earth. Fly on American Airlines Business Class and enjoy a stay at The Lowell – one of the finest city boutique hotels on earth.
3) Zürich: Läderach
Bahnhofstrasse 106, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland
Zürich is home to some of the greatest names in chocolate. Fly to Zürich on SWISS Business Class and head for The Dolder Grand. It has excellent facilities to work off the chocolate you eat from Läderach.
Confiserie Läderach AG was founded in 1962 in Glarus, Switzerland, by Chocolatier Rudolf Läderach Jr. and was initially intended to serve as a small confectionery with sweet gifts. However, in 1970, Rudolf patented a revolutionary new process of making truffles (thin-walled truffle balls), and the business continued to expand. Today, Läderach is still a family-run business with chocolate boutiques across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America.
Läderach sources the finest cocoa beans from Trinidad, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Brazil, Madagascar and Ghana before undergoing quality checks in Bilten, Glarus, Switzerland. The beans go through a carefully controlled process of preparation before finally becoming couverture – chocolate containing a higher percentage of cocoa butter than baking or eating chocolate. From here, Läderach makes the magic happen by adding fresh and decadent ingredients.
The Läderach Bahnhofstrasse is close to Zürich Main Station and is a chocolate-lovers dream containing many handmade favourites, including extravagant flavours of luxury pralines and truffles, FrischSchoggi (fresh chocolate slabs) and high cocoa percentage chocolate bars.
4) Bern: Nobile Cioccolateria
Rathausgasse 45, 3011 Bern, Switzerland
Willi Schmutz and Martin Shwartz run Nobile and pride themselves on using the highest possible quality and sustainable regional ingredients, blended with passion and instinct to craft the perfect balance of the finest chocolate with no additives, preservatives or palm oil.
Regionality and fairness are essential to the Nobile ethos. Using Swiss products whenever possible – including cow's milk from the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Entlebuch – used exclusively in their couverture. The cocoa beans are sourced directly from farmers and cooperatives within fair and controlled conditions.
Nobile is a multi-award-winner, having been voted the best chocolatier in Switzerland in 2015 and among the top ten praline manufacturers in the world. They were further recognised by the prestigious 'Choco Guide' in 2018 as the best chocolatier in Switzerland and won the best chocolate award.
With a divine collection of pralines, truffles, seasonal offerings, chocolate bars, cholate drinks and spreads, the Nobile Coiccolateria, Bern is a chocolate lovers' haven.
5) Paris: Alain Ducasse
Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, Manufacture À Paris, 40 rue De La Roquette, 75011 Paris, France
Alain Ducasse is widely regarded as one of the finest chefs in the world, currently holding 14 Michelin stars for his restaurants worldwide. However, as a trainee commis chef, Ducasse realised his love for working with chocolate, describing it as "a terribly sensual and bewitching substance."
Jump to modern days and his stripped-back, traditional production facility La Manufacture produces Ducasse's bean-to-bar handmade chocolate for his world-class restaurants and supplies his many boutique chocolate stores.
The cocoa beans are selected based on their purity and personality from a dozen locations – each country of origin offering a different identity and flavour to the next, be it the smokiness of Indonesian Java or the unique botanical aroma of Vietnam. Each bean is 'worked' according to its characteristics to bring out its unique qualities.
Chocolate lovers can indulge in delectable bars, bonbons, pralines, single-origin ganache, seasonal treats and delightful gift boxes.
At his peak, Alain Ducasse won 21 Michelin stars. His Paris Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse holds two stars and is situated in one of the most famous hotels in the city – Le Meurice. Fly Air France Business Class, of course!
6) Belgium: Pierre Marcolini
Brussels, La Manfacture, Place du Grand Sablon 39, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Aged 14, Pierre Marcolini knew he would one day become a chocolatier. By the age of 19, he was a patisserie chef in charge of a team of pâtissiers, and by the age of 31, he had won the World Patisserie Championship and a host of other awards along the way.
Marcolini champions his cocoa plantations and selects only the highest quality, sustainable ingredients from within the 'Cocoa Belt' regions within 20 degrees North and 20 degrees South of the Equator. Marcolini uses beans from small plantations in eight locations: South China, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Peru, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Venezuela – providing the rarest beans.
Once the beans arrive at the workshop in Brussels, they undergo a process of storage, roasting, refining and conching to increase the smoothness, fluidity and delicacy of the chocolate paste. This process produces couverture chocolate, which is then crafted into exquisite delicacies, including signature boxes of Marcolini's finest creations – pralines, ganache, chocolate truffles and chocolate tablets.
7) Tokyo: Chocolat Bel Amer
Tokyo Garden Terrace Kioicho Kioi Tower 1F, 1-3 Kioicho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Bel Amer is French for beautiful bitterness, and the mission of Bel Amer is to deliver happiness and surprises through chocolate.
The chocolate is handcrafted, expressing the colours of the seasons and events unique to Japan and is sold throughout Japan and online.
Bel Amer's signature products include Palette Chocolate – a plate of 30 different chocolates handcrafted and beautifully presented. The range also includes seasonal Chocolates representing Japanese culture and seasons, 30 types of bonbons including Tarte Tatin and single malt whisky ganache, baked rare cheesecake with white chocolate ganache, baked Madeleines, fondant chocolate, gateau and seasonal treats.
8) Dubai: Al Nassma
12 39 St – Deira – Al Ras – Dubai – United Arab Emirates.
Dubai-based Al Nassma is the first chocolatier to use camel milk in its products. Al Nassma uses a low-profile roast of cocoa beans to accentuate the salty creaminess of the camel milk in their confectionary.
Cows generally produce around 7 gallons (32 litres) of milk per day, whereas camels produce just 2 gallons (9 litres). The milk produced at Camelicious remains the only EU-approved camel milk dairy facility in the world and, due to the scarcity of the product, is an expensive commodity.
All ingredients are pure, with no substitute ingredients or additives. The base recipe consists of camel milk powder, cocoa butter and mass, real Bourbon vanilla, Acacia honey and sugar. All bars are naturally gluten-free.
The company sell to exclusive five-star hotels and premium-brand sellers around the globe, such as Selfridges, and includes outlets at duty-free airport shops and has a solid web-based presence amongst e-commerce platforms.
Products include camel milk chocolate bars with; dates, hazelnuts, Arabia spice, dark milk chocolate with almonds and white milk chocolate with pistachios. Assorted chocolate praline gift boxes and Camel milk chocolate camel figurines.
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9) Los Angeles: K Chocolatier
Beverley Hills, 9606 Santa Monica Blvd, 310.248.2626, Los Angeles, United States
In the 1970s, Diane Krön and her late husband, Thomas, took the chocolate world by storm, launching Diane Krön Chocolatier from their basement apartment in New York. They invented the chocolate-covered strawberry and acquired devoted celebrity customers such as Jacqueline Kennedy, Katherine Hepburn, Andy Warhol and Estee Lauder.
Their operations closed in 1983 but re-emerged in 2000 when Diane Krön/K Chocolatier opened new chocolate boutiques in Beverley Hills, Malibu and New York.
This luxury confectionery has been described as the "Rolls Royce of Chocolates", and Diane still uses the original Hungarian Krön family recipe while using as little sugar as possible in her creations.
Signature K Chocolatier chocolates include chocolate-covered fruit, K truffles, K bears, vodka, tequila and whisky chocolate shots. Other delights include drinking chocolate, chocolate bars, variety boxes, exquisite handmade chocolate bouquets and wedding favours.
10) Sydney: Kakawa
5/147 William Street, Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia.
Kawaka is one of the first chocolatiers in Sydney to make chocolate using truly fresh and natural, locally sourced seasonal ingredients combined with the finest single-origin couverture chocolate.
Head chocolatier and founder Jinsun Kim – originally from South Korea – began Kawaka, having learned her trade from master chocolatiers in London before returning to Australia in 2008 to bring her own speciality handmade chocolates to the world. Kawaka is believed to be the original word in the Olmec civilisation for cocoa beans, and Jinsun has committed herself to produce the purest and finest handmade chocolates in honour of its origins.
After several premise changes, Kawaka now operates from the William Street Chocolate Shop and factory, where customers can watch the chocolatiers at work with their creations.
Kawaka sells their product directly from the shop and online. Signature chocolates include chocolate CDs – deliciously flavoured chocolate discs wrapped in a CD case, single origin chocolate bags and gift boxes, pralines, truffles and bonbons, gift boxes and seasonal delights.
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