Your First Bite of Craft Chocolate

In her memoir Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl recalls taking her mom to a sushi restaurant for the very first time. The former restaurant critic picks the restaurant carefully because she knew the first bite bite will shape her mom’s impression of sushi forever. How caring, I thought then, if only we all had someone to guide us through the best foods in life. While taste is a subjective matter, we could all benefit from some gentle guidance as we venture outside of our culinary comfort zone, don’t you think?

Several years ago, my first bite of craft chocolate had left my taste buds unimpressed. I had picked the bar at a store because of its pretty packaging but, when I bit into the chocolate, all I tasted was burnt, ashy notes.  I was so disappointed that I swore off bean-to-bar chocolate altogether. It took several years and a free sample of Twenty-Four Blackbirds chocolate to reignite my interest in craft chocolate. But what if I had never been handed that second chance? That’s why one of my goals during my “37 Chocolates” challenge was to help my friends find craft chocolate that they’d like. It was so rewarding to help my friends discover new favorites that I decided to do that for you today. I hope this post will help you discover new favorites: if so, please let me know in the comments!

You can order the chocolate bars in this post by clicking on their respective photos.

If You Like Sweet Chocolate

Is there anything more comforting than a sweet, creamy milk chocolate? I think not! That’s why I like to keep a stash of milk chocolate around and, with so many quality options available, you’ll find a bar that will hit your sweet spot. To get you started, I included three craft chocolate with varying degrees of sweetness.

Original Beans Esmeraldas Milk

Original Beans Esmeraldas Milk 42%

With its smooth texture and nutty, caramel notes, this bar has everything you expect from a milk chocolate. A 42% cacao content makes for a satisfying bar.

Labooko Nicaragua Milk Chocolate 50%

Described by George Bernardini as “the best milk chocolate in the world”, this bar has the perfect balance of sweet, creamy, and chocolatey. If you think of milk chocolate as candy, this one will change your mind.

Raaka Coconut Milk Chocolate 60%

While technically not a (cow) milk chocolate, this coconut milk bar by Raaka has the same creamy richness as its dairy counterpart.

If You Think All Dark Chocolate Is Bitter

There are many reasons to like dark chocolate, one being its attributed health benefits. But if you’ve never had a dark chocolate that you like, try a dark chocolate made of Madagascar cocoa beans. The island’s cacao is known for its strong citrus notes and complete lack of bitterness. In short, Madagascar chocolate will redefine your conception of dark chocolate.

michel cluizel mangaro

Michel Cluizel Mangaro Dark 65%

This smooth, citrus-y bar tastes so bright, a picture of the sun formed in my mind as the chocolate melted on my tongue.

Omnom Madagascar 66%

This bar by Icelandic maker Omnom one is one of my favorite chocolate bars EVER. And I have had over 150 to date.


Ritual Madagascar Sambirano 75%

Made in Utah, this two-ingredient bar will win you over with its smooth, slightly dry texture, and its balance of citrus and peanut notes.

If You Like Dark Chocolate

I have seen you at my tastings. You proudly claim to LOVE dark chocolate. Your eyes grow big at the mention of an 80% cacao content. You like your chocolate pure, plain, no nuts, thank-you-very-much. If that’s you, here are some bars to fuel your love of the dark stuff.

Potomac Chocolate Upala Costa Rica 85%

A veteran of the American bean-to-bar chocolate scene, Potomac makes some of the darkest, boldest chocolate out there. This Upala tastes as dark and pure as its 85% percentage will let you believe. This is the chocolate of purists.

Akesson's Madagascar 100%Akesson’s Madagascar Criollo 100% Dark Chocolate

Your first bite of 100% cacao chocolate should be like your first bite of sushi: the best that it can be. Akesson’s award-winning 100% bar is creamy, fruity, and without any of the bitterness you would expect from a pure cacao bar.

For the Salt Chocolate Fiends

Mulate Sea Salt Chocolate

Mulate Sea Salt Dark Chocolate

With a buttery mouthfeel and a bold, but not overwhelming, saltiness, this playful bar is the perfect snack. I finished mine three days after it came in my Bar & Cocoa box.

Dick Taylor Fleur De Sel

If, like my friend Stephanie, you are a huge fan of the Lindt Fleur de Sel bar, you will go crazy over Dick Taylor’s Fleur de Sel bar. With a satiny texture and classic chocolate taste, this bar is an elegant take on the classic chocolate and salt combination. This is one of my most gifted bars.

Don’t Know What Kind of Chocolate You Like?

Then try a Bar & Cocoa dark chocolate subscription box! I discovered so many new favorite bars thanks to the box and I know you will, too.

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