Craft Chocolate Reviews
In the past two decades, craft chocolate went from a handful of bean-to-bar makers to hundreds, offering thousands of bars: many are good, plenty are mediocre, some are exquisite, and more than a few are bad. Nothing can replace your unique experience of tasting a bar to decide whether or not you like it, but in a world of finite resources it's preferable to have at least a vague sense of which makers do things well before you make your selection. In other words, it's nice to know what's good so you don't waste your money. We'll tell you what's worth trying and what to avoid, along with tasting notes and cool background on cacao and chocolate production.
What determines chocolate flavor?
Check out our top recommended brands - ones we love, buy, and gift. They may have an off batch on occasion, but these are makers that we find consistently create excellent chocolate. They are also relatively easy to find in the US.
New makers coming soon!
and many more!
Spotlight: Flavored White Chocolate Spotlight: Uganda
Spotlight: 100% Bars Spotlight: New Reviews of Quebec Makers
Spotlight: New Reviews of European Makers Spotlight: Fruition Origins of Peru Set
We've tried literally hundreds of makers. Some we love (see above). Anything that we're not specifically recommending is listed here, either because it's not good, it's really hard to find in the US, it's no longer in production, or we just haven't tried it recently enough to say one way or the other.
Markham & Fitz
R - T
Steiner & Kovarik
In country bean-to-bar makers
Over the past decade or so, there has been an explosion of small-batch craft chocolate made in cacao producing countries. You might not be able to find all of these makers in the US, but keep an eye out while traveling!
Asterisks indicate some of our favorite brands that are usually available in the US.
*Theo & Philo
About Distinguished Beans
Distinguished Beans does not aim to provide an exhaustive commentary on the offerings of the craft chocolate industry, but rather a curated selection of reviews and tasting notes for some of the best (or in some cases, the misleadingly best-looking) bars so that you can invest your time and money in the those most likely to fascinate, challenge, and delight your palate. To that end there are recommendations on tasting and pairing as well.
About the Reviews
You’ll find the maker listed first, then the name and/or origin of the bar followed by the cocoa percentage. After that, there are tasting notes including the aromas and flavors to help guide your selection, and your tastings later on if you wish. The tasting notes are as objective as possible – I list what I taste and note flavor development, harmony, or possible defects. If batch information is provided, I include that, because bars can vary significantly between batches or harvests. If there is no batch, I will at least provide the expiration date of that particular bar. Under recommendation, I take into account the tasting experience, price, and any other relevant factors. Along with my subjective judgement, I’ll mention who might or might not enjoy the bar.
Negative reviews: We hate giving anything other than glowing reviews for craft chocolate, since it represents the hard work of many people. However, not being honest about the quality of the chocolate does a disservice to potential customers, and ultimately, to everyone, since buying poor quality chocolate will make many people hesitate to spend money on it again. We aim to provide clear information for consumers, not to cause offense.
I have an undergraduate degree in Food Systems and a Master's degree in Applied Plant Sciences (with a focus on Agronomy and Agroecology) from the University of Minnesota. I now work as a research project specialist in sustainable agriculture. I have worked as a cook, cheese monger, and freelance food and health writer before arriving at the world of craft chocolate. Since then, I have visited cacao plantations in Costa Rica, Ecuador and Belize, toured chocolate factories in Minneapolis, Portland, and Belize, volunteered at the Good Food Awards in San Fransisco, and scoured every store I find for the best craft chocolate.