Chocolate Store Reviews and More

I review chocolate confections (pralines, cordials, bonbons, and other chocolates with stuff in them). Here is a web site with reviews of solid chocolates and chocolate bars. Here is more information about what I will and will not review. Use the geographic index to stores by location.

Some of my favorite chocolatiers are Jacques Torres, L.A. Burdick, Christopher Elbow, Anna Shea, Pierre Hermé, and Ginger Elizabeth. Some other notable chocolatiers are Patrick Roger, XOX, and Chocolate Garden.

Reviews
My personal reviews.
Directory
Store addresses.
Notes
Explanatory notes.
Indices
Indices to reviews and directory.
Notes
This page has explanatory notes about my reviews.
My directory page has address and phone information for many other stores.

Introduction

My chocolate store reviews cover the best chocolate stores and chocolate makers I have found. I rate stores primarily on the quality and appeal of the finished confections, rather than the quality of the chocolate used. My goal is not to determine the best chocolate but to describe a lot of good chocolatiers so that you can find your own favorite pieces and flavors.

I like strong but not bitter flavors and combinations of flavors. Belgian chocolate is my favorite, but I am open to trying any chocolatier. I generally am not excited by truffles, especially when they are plain chocolate flavors. Instead, I like diverse flavors and textures, all sorts of chocolates with buttercrunch or hazelnut or fruit flavors or caramel or anything else.

The reviews page has full reviews of selected chocolatiers and stores. A separate page, my chocolate store directory, contains directory information (address, phone number, web page) for the reviewed stores and many others. The directory does not contain reviews except for some brief comments.

Glossary

Type:
The category of chocolate. Basic types are Junk, Standard, and Fine. Fine chocolatiers use high quality chocolate, and Standard chocolatiers use good quality, but the chocolate quality is not the only characteristic of the types. Fine chocolate celebrates the wonder of chocolate, and the chocolate flavor in fine pieces is usually quite distinct. Standard chocolate is aimed more at eating pleasure than tasting pleasure.

Typically, truffles and artisan chocolates are Fine. Nut clusters, creams, and caramels are usually Standard. Most chocolate in your grocery store candy aisle is Junk. However, particular pieces can cross boundaries if they are made with better or worse chocolate and are executed better or more poorly than others in their category.

Some chocolatiers cross types, so I have been creative in describing their mixes. Type is meant to describe the chocolate, not to rate it. Some Standard chocolatiers are recommended over some fine chocolatiers. For a rating, see my conclusion for each chocolatier.

Junk chocolate is that stuff you typically find in grocery stores or bulk candy stores and is not reviewed here.

Conclusion:
Rather than a mechanical rating, I summarize my opinion of each chocolatier, typically by recommending how to use them.

One description I use repeatedly is "tour stop." This denotes a store I would want to visit when I am in the city, but one that I would likely not visit regularly if I lived there. It is a place to splurge when on vacation but not necessarily worth the price on a regular basis.

Price:
I include approximate price information as a guide. Prices do not include shipping. US prices do not include sales tax; European prices include VAT.

Rates may vary at a chocolatier for different size packages and different products. Typically, I will give the rate for a package of about a pound, but, for the very expensive chocolatiers, I use the rate for a smaller package. Also, since prices change over time, I give the year in which I checked each price. Because I did not record price information in the early years of my reviews, not all entries include prices. I will fill in prices as I go and would appreciate your reports.

When I started measuring the chocolates I received, I found a surprising number of chocolatiers gave me less than they advertised. I even tried different scales and measuring a known mass for comparison. When I receive less than the stated mass, I report the price based on what I received.

I report prices in local currency per pound. Using the pound gives a standard mass for comparison. I use it rather than the kilogram because I started my reviews with US stores and write primarily for a US audience. Although I convert kilograms to pounds, I report foreign currencies instead of converting them, because exchange rates fluctuate.

Shipping:
This is the domestic shipping cost for some order two pounds or under (or a kilogram when metric units are used). I started listing shipping costs in 2006 because too many chocolatiers now require expensive and wasteful overnight shipping. I have received more than a hundred chocolate shipments, so I have had plenty of opportunity to compare shipping methods. The expense of overnight or even two-day shipping is almost never worth it, either to prevent heat damage or to preserve freshness. I will count high shipping costs against chocolatiers.

The cost is the maximum charge (e.g., cross-country rather than local) at the cheapest rate (e.g., ground rather than overnight). I report this charge as a guide. Your charge may vary because of distance, current weather, rate changes, speed, or fee structure.

Chart:
This indicates whether the chocolates come with a chart showing you what each piece in the box is. I will note if a chocolatier supplies no chart, drawings or descriptions, a map of box locations, or color photographs.

Addresses:
Most of the addresses listed are for stores. However, sometimes other addresses are shown for a business:

What Stores Will I Review?

Principally, I review chocolate confections. That includes things that are sometimes called pralines, cordials, or bonbons. It is chocolate with stuff in it: chocolate with a cream filling, buttercrunch coated in chocolate, chocolate-covered ganache, and so on.

Since I cannot review everything, I usually do not review solid chocolates or chocolate bars. Here is a web site with reviews of solid chocolates and chocolate bars. Other reasons I do not review some stores include:

Advice to Chocolatiers

Since I have bought chocolate from over a hundred stores, I am one of the most experienced chocolate consumers. Fine chocolatiers are artisans and have to express their own style. Business, however, is another matter, so I have some advice in that area.

Links

Other resources for locating chocolate stores include Johnny's Chocolates and Pralines Survival Guide, Laura's Guide to Buying Chocolate in Boston, Yummy Baguette's reviews of chocolate stores and other sweet gourmet foods in Toronto, Cloister's reviews of solid chocolates and chocolate bars, Chocolocate, and Yahoo's chocolatier listing.

If you would like to know where chocolate comes from, here is a superb page. There is also information at the Exploratorium's chocolate exhibit.

Dialing International Phone Numbers

In my web pages, international phone numbers have a "+" and three parts, like this: +32 (02) 513 78 92. The three parts are country code, area code in parentheses, and local number. Here is how to dial an international phone number.

Your Location Instructions Example
You are in the same area code. 1. Dial the local number.513 78 92
You are in the same country but a different area code. 1. Dial the area code as shown.02 513 78 92
2. Dial the local number.02 513 78 92
You are in a different country. 1. Dial the international dialing prefix for your country. In the US, this is 011.011 32 2 513 78 92
2. Dial the country code.011 32 2 513 78 92
3. Dial the area code without the leading 0.011 32 2 513 78 92
4. Dial the local number.011 32 2 513 78 92

If your phone has a "+" key, you can use it as the international dialing prefix.

In French phone numbers, the area code is shown as "(0)". When calling from outside France, you drop the 0, as the instructions say. Inside France, you always dial it.

© Copyright 1996 by Eric Postpischil.