For chocoholics, the generosity of gifting, the pleasure of sharing and the anticipation prior to unwrapping a treasured box of chocolates are moments not easily forgotten.
Of course, with such a vast range of gourmet chocolates on the market, the difficult part is selecting which delicacy to indulge in. From truffles and pralines to bonbons and ganaches, all carefully handcrafted by the world’s finest chocolatiers, premium chocolate lovers are spoilt for choice.
Fortunately there is a way to identify the top quality brands with some investigation into the processes involved. “They [the chocolatiers] work closely with the cocoa farmers and support them in their harvesting and fermentation and pay them 2-10 times the price of ‘bulk cocoa’ for their efforts,” explains International Chocolate Judge and Food Innovation Consultant Jennifer Earle.
“The most important part is fermentation,” she affirms. “Roasting and conching is also important to do well but if the fermentation isn’t done well there’s not much you can do to ‘fix’ the beans into good chocolate!”
Here, we explore the stories behind the brands and the decadent ingredients that bring each gourmet chocolate company’s impressive cocoa creations to life.
Imbued with the qualities of passion, purity and boldness, Godiva chocolates pay homage to the legend of Lady Godiva. According to this story, the wife of Lord Leofric famously rode a horse through the streets of Coventry, Britain without clothing in order for the citizens’ taxes to be lifted. Captivated by Lady Godiva’s generosity and spirit, a Belgian family founded their business in 1926 on this ethos, which has grown to become a global premium brand with more than 600 boutiques. In 1946 the company perfected its dark truffle – an intense mousse filled treat that has come to symbolise the brand itself.
Jacques Torres Chocolate
Born and raised in the South of France, master chocolatier Jacques Torres began his culinary career as a pastry chef during which he developed a fascination with chocolate, leading him to open his first store in the US. Recognised as a pioneer, Torres introduced the bean to bar concept to New York City where he specialises in handcrafting fresh chocolates using high-quality ingredients, including expertly sourced cocoa beans. Jacques Torres Chocolate is sold in three different locations in New York where you can find the finest bonbons, assorted chocolates, truffles and more recently hot chocolate – all packed to perfection.
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When founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat Katrina Markoff undertook her apprenticeship in Spain with Ferran and Albert Adria of El Bulli she began to identify her calling as an alchemical, experiential chocolatier. Authentic storytelling drove the creation of Markoff’s business and her first curry coconut chocolate, which captured an experience she had in India with the Naga people. Founded on the idea of travelling the world through chocolate, Markoff’s 528hZ infused collections combine vibrant cocoa with indigenous plants to open people’s minds to diverse cultures and to communicate a sense of place.
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Amedei began as a small artisan laboratory in Tuscany in 1990, which eventually gave rise to it’s first creation, Toscano Black 70 – an extra dark blend with notes of tobacco, toasted malt and cedar wood. Over the years the laboratory has served as a space where innovation meets tradition resulting in creative, award-winning blends. The company is known for sourcing the rarest cocoa bean varieties from remote locations, which are then transformed into works of art in the form of tablets, drops, pralines and creams using an ancient technique. Characterised by Italian elegance and simplicity, Amedei’s agronomic knowledge has been translated into chocolates that possess a unique aromatic profile. Amedei’s Porcelena, crafted from white cocoa beans that produce a porcelain-like appearance, has held the title of the world’s most expensive chocolate.
More than 80 years ago in a small town in the Swiss alps, Adolf Teuscher embarked on a journey into developing the finest Swiss chocolate on the planet. After years of experimenting with high-quality cocoa blended together with Spanish almonds, French champagne, Costa Rican macadamia nuts and Sicilian citrus fruits, Teuscher created recipes that are still used by the company today. Moreover, integrity of production is so important that freshly prepared truffles and pralines are shipped daily to the brand’s various branches in Zurich, Geneva, Europe, America, Canada, Asia and the Middle East.
The Valrhona story began in 1922 in the small French village of Tain L’Hermitage with pastry chef Albéric Guironnet, who channelled his dedication to excellence into producing artisan quality chocolate. With its own cocoa plantations based in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, Valrhona set out to accomplish what few other chocolatiers endeavour to do – overseeing all aspects of production and becoming a B-certified corporation. In order to ensure exceptional taste and to better develop the brand’s distinct aromatic profiles, every bean is carefully roasted before the mixture is conched for up to three days. Valrhona chocolate is known for its balanced and consistent taste.
Marketed as ‘treasures’, Patchi’s chocolates are more akin to flavourful statements that come in more than 50 different varieties, from ganache and salted caramel to mango cream. Each chef-developed creation is produced within Patchi’s atelier where sumptuous fabrics and stunning packaging meet premium ingredients and exclusive silverware. As a leader in the contemporary luxury chocolate space, the Lebanese brand prides itself on evoking emotions and creating memorable experiences since its inception in 1974. Known for its innovative approach, Gianduja, orange peel and dried strawberries are the secrets to some of the exotic flavours to be enjoyed.
Richart specialises in handcrafted luxury French chocolate and macarons that literally glow and come in a wide range of visually appealing hues. Since 1925 the family-owned French business has been dedicated to producing gourmet chocolate and educating people on the art of tasting and appreciating its finer qualities. Inspired by the contemporary world of art and design, second-generation chocolatier Michel Richart began decorating the surface of each bonbon with sophisticated patterns using the cocoa butter transfer method. These iconic chocolate squares, which have become synonymous with the brand, have decadent fillings – fruit purée, ganache, praline, creams and caramels. The family has been awarded the prestigious Ruban Bleu seven times.