After I published the “37 Chocolates” recap last week, several people asked me about “my top 3 bars” or “the best chocolate.” While the questions are legitimate – surely, I do have a few favorites – I do not have a clear cut answer. When I committed to my challenge in June 2015, my goals were the following:
- Demonstrate to my French readers that there are a lot of excellent American chocolates.
- Discover new bars.
- Be comfortable on video.
- Dip my toes in the world of craft chocolate.
- Understand why some makers charge $10/bar.
But while I was busy pursuing these goals, I made a surprising discovery. As I was preparing my 10th review about Woodblock Chocolate, a craft chocolate maker from Oregon, I clearly recall thinking: “this chocolate-maker takes its craft seriously but does not take itself seriously.” How that thought materialized, I am not sure, but I suddenly understood that, unlike industrial chocolate, craft chocolate carried the soul of its maker. That 10th review marked a turning point in my chocolate journey and I started looking at how a chocolate-maker infused her or his chocolate with her or his personality. In short, my interest shifted from bars to makers.
Well, you may ask, do I have a favorite maker? The answer is yes, I do: Map Chocolate. Map Chocolate converted me to the world of craft chocolate without even trying. If you only watch one of my reviews, I would suggest you check the one I did of two of her bars. Finding the work of Map Chocolate was as close as it got to finding a chocolate soulmate. However, just like my beloved husband cannot possibly be everything to me, Map Chocolate cannot fill all of my chocolate needs either. Besides, there are so many authentic, passionate makers I want to support.
For instance, I’m drawn to the worlds of Dulcinea Chocolate in Pittsburgh (oh, their Tanzania bar) and Chocolate Alchemist from Philadelphia (best hot chocolate EVER), as well as Acalli in New Orleans (their dark milk chocolate was my very first craft chocolate crush) and Violet Sky from Indiana (their inclusion bars are pure poetry). I could go on and on, but I do seem to gravitate toward the work of lesser known, unapologetic makers with a strong passion for their craft. That does not mean these makers are the best (is there even such thing, when a big part of making chocolate is sourcing quality cacao?), it simply means I have been fortunate to have found makers that speak to me.
I started this blog to walk you through what I learned during my challenge, one bar and one maker at a time. I want you to embrace the whole experience, the good, the bad, the puzzling, and the exciting. Just like flat tires are part of a road trip, there’ll be a few bars you won’t like as part of your journey. Making chocolate is both a craft and art and the art part is what appeals to me. That means there is no ranking, no top 3, and I hope you’ll be inspired to go and find the chocolate that will speak to you.