Some people travel to witness the natural wonders of the world, to come face to face with centuries of old artwork or bask on a beach. But for travel blogger Doreen Pendgracs, she travels to serve a singular purpose: to find great chocolate.
You can hardly blame her; chocolate is enjoyed by millions around the world, some of us would even admit to an addiction. However, not all chocolate is made equal. Join us as Doreen takes us on a virtual journey; discovering 10 of her favorite artisan chocolates of the world, and the exotic locales in which they can be found.
Why travel for chocolate?
Can you base an entire holiday around tracking down some chocolate? Well, you probably wouldn’t – but it’s another ‘sweetener’ that might compel you to travel to a locale you’ve dreamed of visiting before. Doreen offers the below advice about travelling for chocolate.
- One reason (to travel to these locations) is because handcrafted chocolate truffles or bonbons do not travel well. You’ve got to go to the source to taste them at their best, and to prevent damage or melting while in transit.
- Another reason is to go to the source where the cocoa is grown to taste jungle chocolate in its pure form made within weeks (and sometimes days!) from the time the cocoa beans have been harvested. The taste difference between that and commercial chocolate candy is equivalent to eating or drinking any other product on a fresh versus processed basis.
- And the third reason is for your health. Eating a small amount of pure dark chocolate or cocoa nibs (small chunks of roasted cocoa beans that you can purchase at health food stories) daily is good for your heart and brain health, for your blood, skin, hair, teeth, and even for weight management.
We found that Doreen is right in principal, that dark chocolate can produce various health benefits, but it should still be consumed in moderation. With that in mind though, let’s take a trip around the world to see where some of the best chocolate can be found.
Asia may not be your obvious choice when it comes to a chocolate destination. Regardless, the artesian chocolate connoisseurs of Asia source the best cocoa in the world, adding their own cultural touch.
- FOSSA Single Origin Chocolate, Singapore
Lying to the south of Malaysia, Singapore is the world’s only island city-state. While visitors can expect densely populated urban areas, 50% of available area is covered with greenery. This metropolis has a sense of space and vibrancy that many of its ‘sister’ regions lack.
Singapore’s FOSSA purchase premium cacao beans from the world’s top 5% of crops, and “heroes” the rich flavor by adding only sugar. Maintaining the integrity of the cocoa gives the FOSSA chocolate a complexity adored by the craft chocolate lovers of the world.
Doreen: “…biting into one of these bars takes you away on a purely sensorial journey of chocolate pleasure”
- La Chocolaterie Nanairo, Japan
Japan has a little bit of everything for visitors; snow-capped mountains offering world class skiing, tropical beaches to the south and bustling cities that blend innovation and culture around every corner. While you’re there, have a bowl of ramen for breakfast in a hole in the wall ‘café’, sashimi for lunch, and some chocolate for dinner!
The Japanese pay fine attention to detail when producing chocolate, and take a lot of care producing their blend in small batches. Bean-to-bar producers La Chocolaterie Nanairo use only organic ingredients, with pretty designs and elegant packaging.
“…their dark chocolate bar with dried figs is one of the best bars I’ve ever had.”
Image source: Paulayoung.co.uk
Europe is often traveled to for its culinary delights, however, among all the produce of the region, chocolate isn’t one of their own. Thanks to explorer Christopher Columbus, the Spanish invaded areas of South America and discovered cocoa beans. Highly prized by the South American indigenous tribes, cocoa was brought to Europe in the 16th century, according to Renaissance Magazine, Oct 13’ (p.41).
- Original Beans in Amsterdam
The capital city of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is famous for its canals and cycling culture. With beautiful architecture in the city and Hollands stunning tulip fields, both urban and rural areas are vibrant and welcoming. It’s an ideal spot to enjoy some cocoa by the cannels.
Original Beans motive is to travel to areas of the cacao bean and leave no footprint, meaning, for every bar sold a plant seedling is sowed. To date, Original Beans have planted and preserved over 1,000,000 trees in the cacao regions.
“…this is one of the most eco-friendly socially-conscious chocolate makers you will find who is making great single-origin chocolate of beans from several outstanding cocoa-producing locations around the world.”
- de Bondt Cioccolato Originale of Pisa, Italy
Located in the stunning region of Tuscany, Pisa isn’t just about the Leaning Tower. Architecturally, there is so much more to enjoy, from gothic churches to renaissance piazzas. Pisa also hosts a lively street culture with a bustling café scene, so visitors can watch the world go by over “Uno espresso”.
For those visiting the remarkable Pisa, Casa de Bondt should also be included in the itinerary. Dutch-born chocolate maker, Paul de Bondt is renowned for his bark chocolate filled with nuts, dried and candied fruit.
“[this chocolatier] makes the most amazing collection of chocolate barks that I have ever tasted”
- Paul A Young, London
London is a leading global city, offering a plethora of landmarks and attractions for visitors. From Tower Bridge to Buckingham Palace, a trip to England’s capital showcases history over the centuries. Don’t forget to pay a visit some of the great markets too: Portobello and Camden are two you should definitely look into. All this touring will mean a lot of walking, so you probably don’t have to feel too guilty about indulging in some chocolate!
Paul A Young fine chocolate is leading the chocolate chase in Britain with his reputation as a ‘flavor alchemist’. All chocolate is made by hand in the shop kitchens using fresh ingredients – free of any preservatives, additives, concentrates, essences or compounds. The chocolate is pure and can be found in three stores across London.
“Walking into his chocolate shop is an experience you will never forget!”
Image source: dandelionchocolate.com
North America may not spring to mind when seeking the best Chocolate the world has to offer, but Doreen has found some little gems on her travels.
- SOMA in Toronto, Canada
The most populous city in Canada, Toronto is recognised as one of the world’s most multicultural cities. Toronto is known for its art and sporting events, so there is always a game to watch or an exhibition to see. It’s also quite the location for foodies, with celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain taking a trip there to sample some great cuisine. Why not follow his lead and sample some Canadian chocolate?
The process that SOMA undertakes to make this chocolate is just as important as the sourcing of beans. Beans are carefully roasted to different temperatures depending on the origin, then timed and heated to create the perfect chocolate. Cacao nibs and sugar are crushed into a thick paste with a slow grinding release which releases a desirable intoxicating aroma. The bitterness that you can find in some chocolate is mild due to a special process of aerating. It is then tempered and molded to create a carefully and cared for chocolate. This is just a taste of the craftsmanship that goes into making artesian chocolate.
“As a Canadian, I would be remiss to overlook Canada’s most innovative chocolate maker that makes great bars and really cool artistically-designed truffles and chocolate bon bons.”
- Dandelion Chocolate, San Francisco
Known for its cool summers steep rolling hills and iconic architecture, ‘San Fran’ is a cosmopolitan city with a vibrant café culture. Only second to New York in population, San Francisco is a mecca for digital innovation, with Silicon Valley housing the headquarters for companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Uber and Airbnb.
If you’re done sampling savoury delights on Fisherman’s Wharf, why not try something sweeter? The chocolatiers at Dandelion Chocolate started with two guys growing cacao plants in their apartment and pan roasting the beans over the stovetop. Now, the workshop is a local favourite and one of Doreen’s top picks.
“…a leader in the US-based craft chocolate movement, whose bars are consistently good to great”
- Madre, Hawaii
Part of the United states, Hawaii is a group of 6 pacific islands famous for its white sandy beaches and pristine waters. With a tropical warm climate and an abundance of wildlife, these little islands pack a punch when it comes to beach holidays. Go for your honeymoon, or a mid-year break from the cold…or just because you can!
If you’re after a great selection of chocolate, you’re in luck. The beans don’t have to travel far for Madre, the Hawaiian made chocolate. All beans are organic and fair trade, so you know you’re getting a fresh and authentic product.
“These guys are continually working with an increasing amount of Hawaiian grown cacao and make an incredible bar called the “Triple Cacao Bar” that makes me want to fly back to Hawaii right now!”
- QueBo!, Mexico
Mexico is the southernmost country in North America, with a lot to offer the budding traveller. From the stories of the Aztecs to the stunning coastlines, wild jungles and volcanoes – Mexico is much more than the food … although the chocolate is worthy of a visit too!
The vibrancy of Mexico is reflected in the playful chocolates of QueBo! Exotic, yet contemporary; the chocolate here is rated the best in all of Mexico. The hot chocolate is a creamy favourite as listed on ultimatehotchocolate.com.
South America is the heart and soul of the cacao plant, and is a sacred national treasure treated with the utmost of care.
- Roselen in Lima, Peru
To the east of South America lies Peru, a nation offering diversity like few others. With the Andes mountain range running north to south and the amazon basin to the east, options for travellers include everything from mountaineering to the jungle ruins of Machu Picchu.
Once you’ve finished touring the epic landscape, it’s time to enjoy some simple pleasures. When graphic art meets chocolate, you know you’re in for a beautiful product. These chocolates are hand painted by chocolatier Giorgio Demarini. If only you could take them home with you to hang up on the wall.
“These chocolates are a work of art, and taste as fresh as the jungle from where they originate.”
Inspired to make your next trip a chocolate adventure? Doreen’s blog and books are a great place to begin to discover more of the best artesian chocolate the world has to offer.