WRITTEN BY Rachael Medina
Rachael Medina is the staff writer and content manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests of Humboldt C…See full bio
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Sweet, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate has a magical ability to brighten any day. With ingredients ranging from marshmallows and honey to white pepper and rhubarb, there’s no end to the flavor profiles you can experience with this single, decadent dessert. Though it’s tempting to stick to your favorite chocolate bar, there’s too much good chocolate in the Golden State to not branch out.
While there are endless brands to choose from, many of California’s chocolate companies go above and beyond—crafting works of art using single-origin, high-quality chocolate with a conscience. Read on to discover some of our favorite California chocolate brands.
Based in: Los Angeles
LetterPress Chocolate specializes in small-batch, bean-to-bar, single-origin chocolates. Using sustainable practices and organic cane sugar, LetterPress has become an award-winning Los Angeles chocolate company, but it’s the taste that has customers hooked. Order a handful of dark chocolate bars in various flavors such as spicy chili, mint, and mocha. Make sure to add the unexpected white chocolate varieties—which are made of cocoa butter rather than cacao beans—before checking out.
Based in: Redlands
Owned by Ryan and Cassi Berk, Parliament Chocolate is a small shop offering high-quality chocolate created from intentionally sourced ingredients. The company specializes in single-origin chocolate bars and prioritizes respect for the farmers and the chocolate itself, resulting in an unparalleled experience. Parliament hand-sorts the beans, then roasts, winnows, refines, and tempers the bars to offer some of California’s best chocolate. Choose between cacao nibs, chocolate syrup, hot cocoa mix, drinking chocolate, chocolate bars, and truffles—or do yourself a favor and try one of each.
Based in: San Diego
Nibble Chocolate isn’t your average chocolate company. Serving up small batches of single-origin treats using just two ingredients, Nibble Chocolate sells ethically made, vegan chocolate that maintains its health benefits. Pick between a variety of cocoa percentages for a classic chocolate bar, or go wild with a selection of vegan truffles, chocolate flights, and Nibblelitos (jars of perfectly snackable chocolate squares).
Based in: Manhattan Beach
Founded in 2010 by Nicole Trutanich, Bar au Chocolat is a labor of love that combines science and art. Beginning with sustainable farming practices, Bar au Chocolat crafts small quantities of high-end chocolates using only two ingredients so the cacao shines through. Order a few dark chocolate bars, hot chocolate, baking chocolate, or roasted cacao nibs to round out your pantry, and let these delectable sweets brighten your day.
Based in: Berkeley
TCHO Chocolate is one of the finest California chocolate makers and is a crowd favorite in our Bay Area chocolate taste test. With a deep commitment to lifting up their farmers and urging them to participate in the various stages of the production process—even allowing the farmers to taste their own products—this brand rises above its competitors. Using a scientific approach to chocolate making, TCHO creates unique flavors and does it better than anyone else. The company’s Flavor Labs are used to train farmers and leaders how to distinguish the nuances of the cacao beans, so all of the growing and processing conditions can enhance the end product. From different weather patterns to soil variations, each change in the environment impacts the chocolate, and by putting education first, TCHO has nailed the art of consistency.
Based in: San Francisco
Dandelion Chocolate arguably offers the best single-origin chocolate bars in San Francisco. Founded in 2010, this small-batch chocolate company has an affinity for dark chocolate and provides an untraditional chocolate-eating experience. One of the only foods that is fermented and roasted before ending up in your hands, chocolate has unbounded potential and can taste like so many things; from honeycomb and macadamia nuts to whipped cream and key lime, Dandelion accentuates the inherent flavors without adding anything but sugar. If you have yet to try these unbelievable bars, now’s the perfect time.
Based in: Eureka
Using organic, fairly traded cacao, Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate completes all three weeks of the chocolate-making process in its Eureka factory to produce some of the best chocolate bars out there. Even the subtlest of flavors can be enjoyed because only organic cane sugar and organic cacao are used to create the base for each bar of chocolate. Whether you try an exotic flavor—such as black fig, bee pollen and fennel, or brown butter with nibs and sea salt—or go simple with single-origin dark chocolate from Madagascar or Belizeeither, you’ll surely be craving more. And if you’re driving through Eureka during your Ferndale getaway, make sure to stop in for some drool-worthy chocolate fudge pops.
Based in: Burlingame
If the scent of chocolate chip cookies wafting over you at the Millbrae BART station isn’t enough to make you want to cheat on your diet, I don’t know what will, but I’m grateful for Guittard Chocolate’s delicious smells either way. With several generations of chocolate-makers in the family, Guittard has mastered the art of eating, baking, and drinking chocolate. So if you’re looking for an exceptional bar of blended, single-origin, dark, or milk chocolate, Guittard is an ideal place to start.
Based in: Nevada City
Beginning with cacao beans from seven countries across the world, Cello Chocolate crafts each single-origin chocolate bar using the same ingredients (cacao beans, cacao butter, and organic sugar), so the chocolate’s subtle and unique flavors can be easily distinguished. What began as a home-operated venture has blossomed into a bonafide business doing good for the world; all proceeds are used to provide scholarships to students and support philanthropic causes. Choose your chocolate in-store based on the cacao’s origin or the bar’s tasting notes—since they are all made with the same ingredients and are all 70-percent cocoa, you’ll be able to directly compare them. If you live in Rocklin, Roseville, Auburn, or Folsom, you can order bars online and have them delivered to your door, so order up!
What’s your favorite California chocolate company? Tell us about your favorite artisanal chocolate bars in the comments below.
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