Best Chocolate Destinations Around The World

Doreen PendgracsAs you know, I am a big fan of chocolate and I will never forget my chocolate journey across Brussels in December 2012, where I had a chance to taste one of the best chocolate products in Europe. Therefore, I was thrilled to accept a guest post from wonderful chocolate explorer – Doreen Pendgracs of Diversions With Doreen where she describes her chocolate journeys across the globe. For those who are not familiar with her, she has been a freelance writer and author since 1993. She has written dozens of articles that have appeared in numerous periodicals and websites. Moreover, she has recently published the first volume of Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate, a book about chocolate travel.

Best Chocolate Destinations Around the World by Doreen Pendgracs

I grew up in Canada eating chocolate bars, and the occasional boxed chocolates like Black Magic or Turtles, never really knowing or caring how chocolate was made or where it came from. It was only after I became a traveler, that I saw how and where the exotic foods we ate we grown and I developed an interest in that.

The inside of a cocoa pod
The inside of a cocoa pod

 

In 2009, I visited the Dominican Republic, and for the first time saw cacao growing, and discovered that’s where chocolate comes from! Cacao trees produce cocoa pods that contain 30-50 cocoa beans that are processed in a variety of steps and miraculously turned into chocolate. But cacao is a really difficult crop to grow. The trees need just the right conditions, and thrive only in the Amazon regions of South America, as well as in West Africa and other locales 20 degrees north or south of the Equator.

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Doreen (left) with friend Virginia on a cocoa harvest in Peru

 

My most memorable journey of chocolate discovery was to Ecuador and Peru, where I was able to stay with cocoa farmers and participate in the harvest and to experience the effort put into growing the crop that creates our beloved chocolate. Whether it’s disease carrying ants, excess moisture that results in black rot, rats and other vermin eating the contents of the pods, or the Chinese rose beetles that are now ravaging the cacao crops of Hawaii, I quickly learned that growing cacao is not for the faint of heart.

Doreen examining sun-dried cocoa beans in Hawaii
Doreen examining sun-dried cocoa beans in Hawaii

 

If you get the chance to visit any of these growing regions and take a tour of a cacao plantation, do it! It will literally transform your appreciation for chocolate.

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As part of the research for my series of chocolate travel books, Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate, it was also important for me to see how cocoa was processed and turned into chocolate in the countries that do it best. So off I went to Europe, where the world’s top chocolate masters reside. I learned that Belgium, Switzerland, and Holland are primarily known for the creaminess of their milk chocolate, although that is changing as more Europeans discover the pleasures of dark chocolate. You’ll now find excellent dark chocolate in countries such as Belgium being made by young and innovative chocolatiers (who work with prepared chocolate) such as Laurent Gerbaud and chocolate makers (who make chocolate direct from cocoa beans) such as Pierre Marcolini.

Belgium provides tons of opportunities to experience fantastic chocolate
Belgium provides tons of opportunities to experience fantastic chocolate

 

The French developed their own way of making ultra smooth chocolate that is less sweet and creamy than their European neighbours. The Italians, and Spanish have always preferred the intenseness of a pure dark chocolate, and continue to make their chocolate strong and pure much like the very first processed chocolate made in Europe by the Spanish in the early 1500’s.

Fantastic chocolate is now being made in the “New World” and countries such as the United States and Canada are creating tremendous chocolate made from cocoa beans grown around the world. So no matter where you choose to travel, you are likely to find fabulous chocolate if you know where to look for it.

Cutline Some of the colourful chocolate offerings at Confiserie Sprungli in Zurich, Switzerland.
Cutline Some of the colourful chocolate offerings at Confiserie Sprungli in Zurich, Switzerland

 

Volume I of Chocolatour guides you through the best of Europe, with highlights from my visits to several growing regions. I’m currently researching volume II, which will feature the best of the Americas and the Caribbean. And volume III will take in Asia, Africa, Australia/New Zealand, India, and the Middle East. I’ve got a lot of traveling left to do, to gather stories for these, so please subscribe to Chocolatour for updates on my books and chocolate events, and to Diversions With Doreen  for posts on my chocolate travels. It would be great to have you along on the journey.

*Note: When ordering Doreen’s book, use the code VBT20 and they will be able to get 20% off the posted prices when you enter the coupon code at checkout during the Virtual Book Tour period of June 23-30 inclusive.

Where did you taste the best chocolate in your opinion?

(For me, it was definitely Brussels!)

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68 Comments

  • Nice idea for a post! :)
    The best chocolate I’ve tasted was in Ecuador and Peru (where I even took a chocolate making class.. we did everything from scratch!). Right now we’re in Colombia and local dark chocolate is also very, very good!

  • We’ve been to a few chocolate tours and museums in South America and it has been fascinating to learn the process of how chocolate is made as well as the incredible history of it. Probably my favourite part is the samples you get to try :)

  • I LOVE chocolate, what a great idea for a post! On a recent trip to Bali, I saw a cacao plant for the first time. I’ve also had Belgium chocolate, and it definitely fantastic!

    • Hi Emily and Katie:
      Emily, yes South Am is a great place to explore the world of chocolate!

      Katie: Yes, Indonesia does grow some excellent cocoa. I’ll be covering Indonesia and that part of the world in Volume III of Chocolatour.

    • That is slowly changing, Rebekah. The middle class Chinese are beginning to take an interest in artisanal chocolate. So slowly, you will begin to see more high quality chocolate being offered in China. Cheers!

    • I know. Chinese chocolate is just tasteless… (that’s probably one of the reasons why Chinese are so skinny) :-P.

  • My first experience seeing where cacao grows was also in the Dominican Republic. Last summer, I participated in a chocolate-making workshop at the Choco Museo in Granada, Nicaragua. Who knew that so much goes into making our beloved chocolate treats?! That experience definitely gave me a newfound appreciation for all that goes into creating delicious chocolate bars.

    • Thanks for your comment, Dana. Yes, it’s really amazing how much goes into making great chocolate. That’s why it’s so expensive! It’s been a pleasure researching and writing this book, and my journeys of chocolate discovery continue. I hope you’ll subscribe to my site so that you’ll keep in touch. Cheers!

  • I couldn’t have missed this post. I am such a big chocolate lover that i have to know all the paths to Chocolates. :) Thanks for a great insightful tour on my favorite sweet. I think I already knew about Belgium and Swiss chocolates, but rest of it is a learning for me.

    • Thanks, Renuka. Yes, Belgium and Switzerland are long known for their great chocolate. But there is a whole new movement to make more dark chocolate in these countries that have long been known for their milk chocolate. Things are definitely changing in the world of fine chocolate. I get into that quite a bit in my book. Cheers!

  • Totally agree about Brussels! I bought 3 boxes of chocolate when I was in Brussels-1 for me and 2 for my family. Somehow I managed to eat all 3 boxes! Oops! The chocolate was so good I really couldn’t help myself! lol

  • This is fantastic Doreen and I’m envious that you were able to participate in the cocoa harvest! Sadly, I must say that the only chocolate I’ve had (other than candy bars) is from See’s here in the U.S. Thank you for sharing her with us, Agness! :)

  • Mmm I love the stronger chocolate from France compared to the other milkier version from Belgium etc. I’m not sure where I had the best chocolate… I usually just eat the darkest fairtrade chocolate I can find. Once I ate 100% chocolate though and that was a bit much for me!

    • I’m with you, Charlie. I, too, prefer the more intense flavours of Mediterranean countries such as Italy, France, and Spain. And 100% pure chocolate doesn’t have to be bitter. Keep experimenting, and you will find the ones that taste best to you. Hotel Chocokst of London makes a fabulous 109% chocolate from its Saint Lucian cocoa.

    • I had only some chocolate croissants when in Paris so I can’t really say much about French chocolate.

    • Hi Becky: You may find that when you sample chocolate from different countries, it will have a more positive impact on you. I love eating cocoa nibs because they’re actually chunks of roasted cocoa beans and are actually a health food!

  • One of the few things the world seems united about is the love of chocolate. I think each has its merits but dark fair trade whatever its origins is my personal preference

    • Hi Paul, Karen, and Suzanne. Nice for you to drop in here, and thanks for your comments!

      Suzanne, I do love what I do. Chocolate really does make people smile, and therefore really is a wonderful world to be immersed in.

  • Great post! I can’t think of any subject matter better than chocolate! I want Doreen’s job. Just imagine traveling and writing about chocolate! I think it would be a great second career!

    • Hi Aggy: Yes, Colombia does have some great chocolate as well. We’re so lucky that the world of chocolate is opening up to us as more places are growing cacao and making chocolate, and more of us are engaging in chocolate travel and getting to the places we were can get the best of it!

  • Perhaps I’m biased (being British and all) but I can’t get enough of Green & Blacks. The purer the better. I always stock up on the 90% before leaving the country – totally addicted! I’m looking forward to trying different types around the world though, perhaps I’ll find one to knock G&B off the top spot!

    • You definitely will, Charlie. Green & Blacks is OK, but it’s definitely not handmade artisanal chocolate made right at the source where the beans are grown. If you love pure dark chocolate, try Original Beans. They’re a Dutch company that works with carefully selected beans from 4 distinct growing regions. Their chocolate bars are among the finest tasting chocolate I’ve ever had. but they’re a sustainable company, so you’re helping the environment and the growers by choosing the Original Beans bars.

  • YUM! I LOVE chocolate. A little bit ago, I got really into artisan chocolate and researched as much as I could about how cacao is grown and how you get from the pods to chocolate bars. And I got really into single origin chocolate… I have to say I’m very partial to Peruvian chocolate! I would LOVE to opportunity someday to stay at a cacao farm and learn firsthand how it’s made!

  • I’m not sure which was the best chocolate I tasted so far, perhaps because I still have to find the best one and I have plenty of suggestions here :)

    • Franca: If you are in Italy, there are many fabulous chocolate makers there! I love Paul de Bondt’s chocolate. Catinari is also good. I have a chapter on Italy in my book.

      Tim: I don’t think I’ve had Koko Black yet. Perhaps it’s time I contact them again and see if they’ll send me some samples. Australia will be covered in volume III of Chocolatour, but Koko Black and others are listed in the global A-Z Guide for Chocolate Lovers contained in volume I.

    • I can’t wait to make it to Australia to dig into a local chocolate. I’ve heard you have the best coffee there with some chocolate sauce :D!

  • I’m glad my home country Switzerland got a honorable mention ;) aaand now I crave chocolate because I can’t find anything but Snickers bars here in China.

    • Absolutely, Tiffany! No matter what new players come onto the scene, Switzerland will always be a leader in the world of chocolate. Are you familiar with Sprungli Confiserie in Zurich? It is a chocolate lover’s dream come true!

    • I know. China’s not the best place for chocolate and sweet lovers :-(. At least it’s much easier to keep fit :P.

  • Thank heaven for this blog post. Chocolate!!! Many people go travelling with wine in mind, because there are so many places on this gorgeous planet that you can find incredible wines that are not just memorable, but affordable. Just as the wine connoisseurs seek the best vineyards, so too do the cheese fans, travelling far and wide for the most exotic and incredible tastes that cheese has to offer. Visting home town farms, where the people only speak a language their people have spoken for centuries, to little known pubs that serve the kitchen cheese special, which ends up being a delight in an unexpected place, those two finer things send people packing for a fun trip very quickly. But chocolate… there are few who don’t appreciate chocolate, and I would certainly wager that those who enjoy cheese and wine must also tickle their palettes with this delicacy. I’ve never traveled specifically with chocolate in mind, but I will rethink that starting now. I only knew of Belgium before this, because it’s widely considered the best chocolate in the world, but I am also aware that there are many others who haven’t had a chance to shine but are every bit as good. Thanks to your incredibly informative post and mouth watering pictures, I’m looking forward to finding out first hand for myself! Thanks so much!!!

  • Very interesting journey! I’m a huge fan of chocolate. I always prefer dark chocolate. I did a great chocolate workshop in Peru and it was really nice to understand more about the process and to make my own chocolate. It was Delicious!(=

  • Switzerland and Belgium are home to my chocolate loves.
    From what I learned on my Chocolate Diets in both countries was Switzerland makes really good chocolate bars, but Belgium makes the better chocolate treats and morsels.

    • Hello Jeremiah, and thanks for resurrecting this two-year-old post. It still stands strong. Thx again to Agness for inviting me here to write about chocolate. the world of chocolate is continually evolving and changing. There are many new players on the scene who are creating marvellous chocolate through North America. I’ve been covering a good number of them on my site, and will do so more in-depth on volume II of Chocolatour which will be released in 2017. But regardless of all the new players, Belgium and Switzerland still do make some of the best-tasting chocolate in the world, with an increasing amount of dark chocolate included in the mix. Jeremiah, I agree that the Swiss make fine bars. But the chocolate truffles at both Sprungli and Teuscher are exquisite. Try them! Your taste buds will thank you.

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