Want to tingle your taste buds? We have selected the world’s top ten flavoured chocolate bars using the trusted Academy of Chocolate Awards (AOC), International Chocolate Awards (ICA) and Great Taste Award winners from recent years.
We talk a lot at Cocoa Runners about how craft chocolate is all about using minimal ingredients, and creating bars that showcase the flavour of the cocoa beans themselves. However, these expert makers have discovered a whole host of intriguing additions to complement, rather than outshine their chosen cocoa varietal.
1. Fu Wan: 62% Taiwan Tie-Guen-Yin Chocolate – double ICA gold winner.
The Bar: The delicate oolong tea used in this bar adds a fruity fragrance to the the subtly spicy Taiwanese cacao.
The beans: As mentioned, this bar uses Taiwanese cacao. The Taiwanese cacao industry is a relatively youthful one, spurred by government encouragement to plant cacao crops in response to damage done to the land by the over farming of betel nuts.
The Maker: Fu Wan actually began as a resort in Taiwan. Warren Hsu was head chef, and through sourcing ingredients locally came into contact with a cacao farmer. He is now one of only a handful bean to bar chocolate makers in Taiwan, with an impressive repertoire of award-winning bars.
2. Fruition: Brown Butter Milk, 43%- AOC gold winner
The Bar: This creamy, milky and incredibly comforting bar is guaranteed to satisfy any sweet tooth. Fruition have used non-fat milk powder from California, and made up the fat content using brown butter from Ronnybrook farm, just across the Hudson River. The brown butter gives an intense caramel flavour to the point that it almost resembles fudge, but this is prevented by the hint of citrus that emerges.
The Beans: Fruition have used cacao grown by a cooperative called OKO Caribe, based in the Dominican Republic.
The Maker: Fruition is a small batch maker based in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Read more about Fruition here.
3. Castronovo Chocolate: White Chocolate With Lemon and Sea Salt- ICA gold award winner
The Bar: This is a pocket-sized piece of the Mediterranean. Denise, the mastermind behind Castronovo, talks about this bar by referring to the old Sicilian saying “a lemon is not a real lemon unless it is Sicilian”. Indeed she imbues this white chocolate with real lemon essential oil and lemon-infused sea salt.
The cocoa butter: Castronovo use cacao sustainably harvested and grown in Central and South America. They pay premium prices for cacao grown by indigenous people who live in and protect the world’s most remote and threatened environments.
The Maker: Denise Castronovo spent 15 years in Geospatial Technology before turning her hand to chocolate making. She is based in Stuart, Florida. Read more about Castronovo here.
4. Åkesson’s: Madagascar 75% with Pink Pepper- AOC and ICA gold winner
The Bar: This bar is full of the fruity-sweet tartness and red berry tones typical of Åkesson’s Madagascan cocoa. Pink peppercorns add a touch of heat and some unexpected floral notes which emerge as the chocolate melts. Exotic, warming and distinctive.
The Beans: Madagascan cacao is grown beneath the shelter of taller crops such as pepper to protect it from the intense sunlight. This lends the beans a natural spiciness, complemented by the addition of peppercorn in this bar.
The Maker: Renowned in the bean-to-bar market, Åkesson’s sells his single-estate beans to over 300 makers worldwide. Read more about Åkesson’s here.
5. Chapon: Tonka White 45%- AOC winner
Chapon – Tonka White 45%£7.95
The Bar: Tonka liquorice adds a delicate complexity to the vanilla, cinnamon and spice which peppers this white chocolate bar. Rich, but not too sweet.
The Cocoa Butter: The cocoa butter used comes from the Dominican Republic.
The Maker: French maker Patrice Chapon is not new to the world of fine foods- in fact, before entering the realm of craft chocolate he was ice-cream and sorbet maker for the Queen!
6. Georgia Ramon- Raspberry & Rose White Chocolate Bar- AOC gold winner 2017
The Bar: The vibrant fuschia colouring of this bar comes from the real pieces of raspberry which have been conched in for added zing. Infused into the bar is Bulgarian rose oil; with 1000kg of fresh rose petals being enough for only 300g of rose oil, this is an aromatic luxury.
The Cocoa Butter: Georiga Ramon have used non-deodorised cocoa butter, giving the bar rich chocolateley flavour notes. The term ‘non-deodorised’ means that the cocoa butter’s natural aromas and volatiles (and antioxidant properties) have not been removed through steam injection.
The Maker: Georgia Ramon was founded in 2015 by renowned pâtissier Georg Bernadini and his partner, Ramona Gustmann, to be a craft chocolate maker, shop, and café dedicated to producing the highest-quality handmade chocolate.
7. Tosier: Tumaco, Colombia 70% Dark with Coffee- 3 Stars at the 2020 Great Taste Awards
The Bar: Ideal for coffee and chocolate lovers. The rich, nutty single-origin Colombian cocoa enjoys floral notes and a hint of caramel. The single-origin Colombian coffee is a perfect match, introducing notes of banana and subtle spice.
The beans: The cocoa beans in this bar are sourced from Cacao de Colombia, an organisation that has worked with three community cooperatives in the coastal Tumaco region to educate farmers and introduce centralised fermenting and drying of their beans. Because of their intervention, farmers in the region today earn 70% more from their cacao than they did selling to the mass commodity market.
The Maker: Started in Suffolk in 2017 by Deanna Tilston, Tosier is dedicated to giving farmers a fair price as part of a transparent and traceable supply chain.
8. Friis-Holm: O’Payo, Nicaragua 50% Milk with Hazelnut- ICA 2019 Finals
The Bar: The hazelnuts contrast the light acidity of Nicaraguan cocoa and complement the butteriness of Fries Holm chocolate.
The Beans: This bar uses a blend of Nicaraguan beans from a co-operative in Waslala, in the nature reserve in the mountains of northeastern Nicaragua.
The Maker: Mikkel Friis-Holm is a Danish maker fascinated with genetics. He ensures he chooses the best varieties with the highest flavour potential.
9. Palette de Bine: Wild Bolivia Maple 70% – Academy of Chocolate Gold Awards 2016
The Bar: The smooth melt and creamy mouthfeel help to unleash the indulgent flavours of currants, raisins and brown sugar. A delicate touch of vanilla caramel leads to a sweet finish that unveils maple notes. Incredibly mild for a dark bar, the bar reminded us of rich fruit cake.
The Beans: the cocoa beans in this bar come from the Alto Beni region in Bolivia.
The Maker: Palette de Bine is a one woman bean-to-bar chocolate maker founded and run by Québecoise Christine Blaise. Christine does everything herself, and by that we mean she literally sorts, roasts, winnows, refines, conches, tempers, moulds and wraps her own chocolate.
10. Solkiki- Costa Esmereldas, Ecuador 64% Coconut Milk- 2 Stars at the Great Taste Awards 2020
The Bar: It has a sweet, biscuity profile with distinctive notes of floral coconut and tropical fruit.
The Beans: The beans in this bar are sourced from the Esmeraldas province in the north of Ecuador. Solkiki works with the Salazars, whose 100-acre family farm is equipped with a high-tech facility for fermenting and drying their beans.
The Maker: Iris and Bob began experimenting with chocolate in 2008, after feeling distinctly underwhelmed by their search for vegan white chocolate. All of their bars are created out of their beautiful off-the-grid 1650s cottage in Dorset, UK.