Reader Recs: World’s Best Chocolatiers

The best thing about the digital age is dialogue. We’re not here to tell you what we think you need to know; we’re here to start a conversation — to ask you for your input, to learn from your experiences and expertise, and to share that local insight with the world.

Some of the best conversations spring up around controversial topics — and a recent post about the world’s best chocolatiers has provided a jumping-off point for just that.

Without further ado, here are some of the best chocolate producers the world over from our Intelligent Travel readers:

Wong in Hong Kong says: “[Brussels-based chocolatier] Pierre Marcolini should be on the list and not Godiva!” George Ammerlaan in the Netherlands agrees: “In Belgium, Godiva is seen as just one of many good chocolatiers. The really good ones include masters like Pierre Marcolini and the House of Wittamer.” Luc in Minneapolis recommends Leonidas, “a very well-known Belgian confectioner,” and Callebaut (a Belgian giant that merged with Cacao Barry to form Barry-Callebaut), which he says makes “excellent dipping chocolate.”

A 10-pack of Brooklyn-based Mast Brothers chocolate bars. (Photograph courtesy Mast Brothers Chocolate)
A 10-pack of Brooklyn-based Mast Brothers chocolate bars. (Photograph courtesy Mast Brothers Chocolate)

Bertil in Paris writes: “As America is certainly the most innovative country right now in the chocolate world, there is also much to say about world class chocolate makers like Amano [in Orem, Utah], Askinosie [in Springfield, Missouri], [San Francisco-based] DandelionMast Brothers [in Brooklyn, New York], Patric [in Columbia, Missouri], [Denver, Colorado-based] RitualRogue [in Three Rivers, Massachusetts], and many others that are showing a new way about craft and quality.”

Pat from Vancouver, Canada says: “Thomas Haas…has brought his chocolates from Germany to New York to Vancouver – to die for!” The Baldwin family in Brantford, Ontario recommends another Canadian chocolatier to go gaga over: Rogers’ Chocolates in Victoria, B.C. “You are able to see the offerings [on their website],” they wrote, “but be warned: cover your keyboard to protect it from drool.“

Kiwi Teresa recommends Makana Chocolates in KeriKeri, New Zealand. “Having tasted many fine chocolates from northern Europe, I’d say they were right up there,” she says. While we’re on the topic of New Zealand, several readers touted the chocolate cred of Patagonia Chocolate in Queenstown.

Mary Lojek recommends checking out Concertos in Chocolate in Boulder, Colorado and Christophe in Charleston, South Carolina. “I love these small passionate chocolate makers,” she said.

Delectable goodies on display at one of Paul A. Young's retail stores. (Photograph courtesy Paul A. Young)
Delectable goodies on display at one of Paul A. Young’s retail stores. (Photograph courtesy Paul A. Young)

Roxanne Browning, a chocolate sommelier in New York who says she knows “a bit about the leaders” writes: “You forgot the most recognized chocolatier by most in the chocolate business, Paul A. Young” in London.

John Richardson suggests the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Company, “one of the only chocolate companies to grow, harvest, process, and produce their own chocolate.”

Keith in San Diego, California writes: “The best chocolate that I‘ve tried is from Bissinger’s in St. Louis [Missouri]. They started in the 1600s in France and Mr. Bissinger came to the U.S. in 1845.” Speaking of Missouri, three readers put Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates in Kansas City at the top of their lists. According to one of them, Daryl Roberts, they also “make the best ice cream in the world.”

Miguel recommends Chocolates El Rey, a Venezuelan chocolate brand made from Venezuelan cocoa (“Yes, I’m Venezuelan,” he joked by way of revealing the potential for bias.), citing their San Joaquin Private Reserve as a good place to start (you can order online). While elsewhere in the Central American world, IXCACAO (formerly Cyrila Chocolates) invited readers to come to Belize to experience 100% Maya chocolate.

Two readers — Dave and JoAnne — are stuck on Moonstruck Chocolate in Portland, Oregon. Portland’s sister city in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle, received rave reviews as well. Sharon Eskridge in Rancho Mirage, California asks: “How could you miss Fran’s Chocolates in Seattle? She has an exceptional product and produces the best dark chocolate I have ever tasted.“

Carmen Farré Fiol from Cerdanyola del Vallès recommends “a small shop in Barcelona” called Farga.

Judy, who describes herself as “a military person who has had the good fortune to try chocolates around the world,” writes: “Until you have tried Zoe’s Chocolates, you are truly missing out.” She reports that while she buys hers at their shop in Frederick, Maryland, they accept orders online. “Try their pinot noir and apple pie chocolates — two of my favorites,” she said.

A box of chocolate, Sarris style. (Photograph courtesy Sarris Candies)
A box of chocolate, Sarris style. (Photograph courtesy Sarris Candies)

“Simply incredible.” That’s how one reader in Canada described Debauve et Gallais in Paris. “They may also be the oldest continuously operating chocolatier having been established in 1800.”

Kathleen in California says that when visiting San Francisco, “it won’t be a great loss to skip Ghirardelli, though the waterfront tour and sundaes are fun with kids.” Instead, she says, “try See’s and Guittard chocolates.” A reader named Leslie recommends TCHO, Dandelion Chocolate, and Recchiuti Confections in The City By the Bay. “All three are bean to bar,” she said. “Simply fabulous.”

Chris in Washington, D.C. writes: “Bernachon in Lyon, France should be on this list. A small bean-to-bar producer, family-owned for generations and very traditional, with an elegant and hospitable retail store and cafe. Impeccably smooth texture, glossy sheen, and crisp break, with fresh flavors that really pop from top-quality ingredients throughout.” New Yorker Mark Zaleski’s vote goes to Chocolatier Joël Durand, which, he reports, has a “small shop in in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence but now ships.”

Ahmet Aydogan in San Francisco writes: “Missing from the list are international award-winners such as Amedei [in Tuscany, Italy] and [French chocolatier] Michel Cluizel.”

Lin says that after traveling the world, her No. 1 choice for chocolate is Lauensteiner Confiserie in Ludwigsstadt, Germany. “I can not travel to Germany and not come home with 10+ boxes for family and friends,” she said. “And going to the factory and staying at the nearby castle make the perfect trip.” Lin also reports that the chocolate is sold in the Munich airport, so do as she does and “stock up when changing planes.”

Pennsylvania might be synonymous with Hershey when it comes to chocolate, but there are plenty of other gems in the state. Patricia Kita suggests Sarris Candies in Pennsylvania’s capital city, Harrisburg, while another reader recommends Éclat Chocolate, just outside Philadelphia in West Chester. Melissa, a resident of another Philly suburb, encouraged readers to come to her hometown of Lititz to try some Wilbur Buds: “They are so much better than Hershey’s Kisses.”


  1. Conrad the Cacaoist
    March 14, 2013, 7:01 am

    Are you just going to avoid correcting an obvious error to your list and continue to confuse the general public? Or do you want to teach your readers? I’m so disappointed in this article that I will not give NatGeo any more credibility than I give the History Channel.

    TEACH that some chocolate makers grow their own trees and/or directly work with local co-ops or farmers in exotic cocoa growing regions, harvest the pod, remove the seeds, ferment, dry and send it to the manufacturing process, roast, winnow, grind, add ingredients, conch, temper, mold, and wrap their own bars. Perhaps they even create confections make with their chocolate.

    Those that perform all of things things are obviously in a different genre than those that only do three or 4 of them. Confectioners who specialize in chocolate, Chocolatiers, may also produce amazing-flavored products, but operate with much different machinery and exercise a much different set of skills.

    Bottom line, most chocolate people would tell you that THEIR favorite chocolate is THE best chocolate in the world. Or that it’s pointless to make a favorite and then constantly compare your favorite bar with some bar that you will have in the future that will be in different conditions, made with different beans and in a different way.

    I say DON’T CHOOSE a FAVORITE, eat the chocolate that you want to be. Are you full of sugar and cream? Salty? Bitter? Sloppy? Fruity? or Odd? WELL GREAT, there’s a great chocolate out there for you. Look to each next chocolate experience as your next new favorite. And if it’s anything but, keep trying…

  2. Marcela Zamudio
    Oxford, UK
    March 13, 2013, 8:10 pm

    In the list of the World’s Best Chocolatiers you should include Benoit Nihant from Liege, Belgium.

  3. Staceyar
    February 24, 2013, 8:19 am

    Oh, what can i say? The pics look so lovely! Thank you for the sweet article and recommendations :)

  4. Dolores
    February 23, 2013, 3:38 am

    Swiss chocolate is the best!

  5. cmim.d
    germany/ europe
    February 20, 2013, 9:46 pm

    do love neuhaus (brussels) best. hmmm

  6. Janet Donnelly
    Speyside, Scotland
    February 20, 2013, 2:45 pm

    Cocoa mountain near Durness in the far north west of Scotland is positively worth the 8 hour round trip. They are a tiny artisan chocolatier and their Chili and Lemongrass truffles have to be tasted before you die.

  7. ploie
    February 20, 2013, 1:56 pm

    until i get my taste buds kneading on these different brands against my palate… i am just as content and high (in heaven!) with all the chocolates i’ve been getting my hands into, and the chocolates i slowly, and one-by-one, get to know… right now it’s MERCI – an assortment of European chocolates in my bed, uuuhhhyum.

  8. Emily
    February 20, 2013, 1:53 pm

    After travelling much of Europe, my absolute favourite was Fassbender and Rausch in Berlin. Yum!!!

  9. jos dujardin
    February 20, 2013, 1:49 pm

    please accept it from a Belgian : an article on the world’s best chocolatiers should include Dominique Persoone.

  10. Kerri
    February 19, 2013, 11:42 am

    I live in Portland, and let me tell you, Moonstruck is HIGHLY overrated. They pretty much are indistinguishable from See’s, and taste like they were built more for shelf-life than flavor. My favorite chocolate from the state comes 4 hours south in Central Point from LillieBelle Farms, and I only get my chocolate when I make a trip down there. Once my husband got me a small box from Moonstruck when I had been out of my other chocolate for a long time, and all but one of them ended up spit out in the sink. I asked him to please not waste our money on that ever again.

  11. sarabeth
    los angeles
    February 19, 2013, 10:29 am

    My favorite is Puyricard, out of Aix-en-Provence….worth every penny!!

  12. Kim Adie
    Burgundy, France
    February 19, 2013, 9:51 am

    Chocolates du CaliBressan in Santa Barbara and Carpenteria are unusual and simply amazing.

  13. Mexico Cooks!
    Mexico City
    February 19, 2013, 9:45 am

    José Ramón Castillo’s Qué Bo! chocolates are not only fantastically delicious but–to gild the lily–they are equally fantastically beautiful, like little jewels.


  14. Judith Lewis
    February 18, 2013, 8:19 am

    Wonderful to see NG respond to the overwhelming plethora of comments on their previous piece and post this update to the site. There are some great names, award-winning names and names of chocolate companies who are genuinely changing the world.

    Awesome job guys!

  15. Nedra Lee Prisk
    Terrace, BC, Canada
    February 17, 2013, 2:20 am

    House of Brussels Chocolates in Vancouver, BC, Canada makes the best Chocolate Truffels – hand rolled & must be consumed within 3 days because of the fresh cream used – to die for!!!

  16. Annie
    February 16, 2013, 7:25 pm

    Neuhaus – Belgian Chocolate

  17. Peggy Coonley/Serendipity Traveler
    February 16, 2013, 4:59 pm

    Sampling the world’s finest chocolates is yet another reason to travel!

  18. Linda van Leuken
    Tilburg, the Netherlands
    February 16, 2013, 6:25 am

    The best chocolate for me is from Huize Geers, right here in Tilburg. Chocolatier Hein Geers creates refined tastes with herbs and spices.

    I love Patagonia in New Zealand too! Their chocolate is more ‘rough’ and in that way different to Huize Geers.

  19. Chio
    February 15, 2013, 4:31 pm

    The best chocolate in the world is MEXICAN!!! Chocolate (or Xocolatl) its a prehispanic gift from Mexico to the world! Taste de REAL Chocolat flavor, “Ah Cacao” its top ten!