Chocolate is changing. The humble candy bar is enjoying a serious upgrade from its days as a kids’ trick-or-treat-bag staple, thanks to a new generation of dedicated small batch, bean-to-bar makers. These artisans favor dark chocolate, which is rich in antioxidants. They’re also fond of innovative processes such as barrel aging and have a penchant for exotic flavors, from goji berries to lavender and honeysuckle.
“People are becoming more sophisticated in their taste and are more knowledgeable about what is considered a healthy diet,” says Patricia Tsai, owner and founder of ChocoVivo, a chocolate boutique and factory in Culver City, California.
Like her fellow artisanal makers, Tsai takes chocolate very seriously. She honors the food’s Mayan roots by using volcanic stone to grind her gently fermented and roasted beans, sourced from a single family–owned farm in Mexico. Her products are made without milk or soy, in a variety of intensities and flavors like Cara Cara Oranges + Star Anise, Blueberries + Meyer Lemon, and their popular Shangri-La, blended with toasted black sesame and goji berries, both considered superfoods. In fact, ChocoVivo makes only dark chocolate, which is garnering increasing praise as a superfood itself.
The health benefits of dark chocolate have been stacking up for years. It has more antioxidants than blueberries or green tea, is rich in iron and zinc, and is now credited with everything from boosting heart health to improving memory. No surprise, then, that consumers are learning to love it.
“We are seeing a notably increased interest in very dark chocolate,” says Emily Sutherlin of Katherine Anne Confections, a Chicago candy maker and café specializing in hand-rolled truffles and caramels. Demand for the confectioner’s Superdark Hot Chocolate, sourced from fair trade cacao farms, skyrocketed in early 2020, according to Sutherlin. “The amount we sold over the winter season and into spring was surprising.”
Dark chocolate is just the start at Vosges HautChocolat, which has been focused on unique flavors since opening a tiny SoHo shop more than 20 years ago. The company’s “Wellness Line” offers bars and truffles made with adaptogens—herbs and mushrooms reputed to help the body handle stress. Choose a bar enhanced with matcha green tea and spirulina or indulge in a zingy one flavored with turmeric and ginger.
In other words, all the heady pleasure of chocolate, none of the guilt. Who can resist?
Tempted to taste artisanal chocolates or send some as a gift? Start with these unique offerings*:
• ChocoVivo’s 16-piece Tasting Collection re-creates the boutique’s luxe chocolate experience. The new Create Your Own Cacao Ceremony Kit uses chocolate to enhance meditation. chocovivo.com
• Katherine Anne Confections’ Goat Cheese Walnut Truffles contrast the tanginess of the cheese with bittersweet chocolate for memorable flavor. Or buy a kit to make your own sustainably sourced truffles. katherine-anne.com
• Vosges Haut-Chocolat’s Chocolate Meditation Collection is a box of exotic truffles in flavors like Absinthe, enhanced with Chinese star anise and fennel, paired with crystals and a deck of affirmation cards. vosgeschocolate.com
*Chocolate makers’ flavors often change seasonally