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. Start here!
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In country bean-to-bar makers: small-batch craft chocolate made in cacao producing countries
⭐ The most highly recommended makers are starred based on taste, consistent quality across the range of bars and availability in the US. Brands with just one review generally do not have a star until more bars have been tried. ⭐
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.
I have an undergraduate degree in Food Systems from the University of Minnesota and am currently pursuing a master's degree in Agronomy and Agroecology, also at the University of Minnesota. 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.