Best Chocolate Destinations Around The World

Doreen Pendgracs

As 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.

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.

Pendgracs-Chocolatour-Cover

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

Where did you taste the best chocolate in your opinion?

(For me, it was definitely Brussels!)

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Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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68 thoughts on “Best Chocolate Destinations Around The World”

  1. Zara @ Backpack ME

    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!

  2. Doreen Pendgracs

    Right on, Zara! Peru and Ecuador definitely have terrific chocolate. Have you been able to notice the difference in flavour between the two?

  3. Doreen Pendgracs

    Thanks, Rachel! And if you’re interested in the book, be sure to make your purchase via my site this week, as the special coupon code is only valid until June 30th. Cheers!

  4. 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 :)

  5. 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!

    1. Doreen Pendgracs

      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.

    1. Doreen Pendgracs

      Hi Anna: I’d love to visit the Euro Chocolate Fest in Perugia. I wish they’d invite me!

  6. oh all that chocolate seems amazing and such a cool adventure. China, with all its charms, is not amazing on the chocolate front

    1. Doreen Pendgracs

      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!

    2. Agness Walewinder

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

  7. Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans

    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.

    1. Doreen Pendgracs

      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!

  8. 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.

    1. Doreen Pendgracs

      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!

  9. 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

    1. Doreen Pendgracs

      Right on, Karisa! I know what you mean. Often … the chocolates I buy when travelling don’t make it to the intended recipient! At least we were thinking of them. :-)

  10. 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! :)

    1. Doreen Pendgracs

      Thanks for your comment, Mike. I challenge you to seek out other US-based chocolatiers and chocolate makers. I’m quite certain you will find many who will please your palate more than See’s.

  11. 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!

    1. Doreen Pendgracs

      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.

      1. Doreen Pendgracs

        Oops! Typos b/c I was distracted. I meant to say 100% chocolate from Hotel Chocolat.

    2. Agness Walewinder

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

  12. Becky Padmore

    Ooh interesting article I’m not a huge fan of chocolate like some people but I have to say the chocolates in Belgium did win me over! :-)

    1. Doreen Pendgracs

      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!

  13. 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

  14. Doreen, great post! I didn’t know how difficult it is to grow Cacao trees. What a ‘chocolaty’ adventure you’ve been on!

    1. Doreen Pendgracs

      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.

  15. Suzanne Stavert

    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!

  16. Yummy! My Colombian friend got me a chocolate from Colombia and boy was I in love. Love the dark chocolate!

    1. Doreen Pendgracs

      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!

  17. 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!

    1. Doreen Pendgracs

      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.

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