Give chocolate for Valentine’s Day? Discover these 11 chocolatiers
It’s time to treat yourself to a box of chocolates. But not every box of candy or truffles is worth your time or money. Although it is a common good, exceptional chocolate not only tastes better, it is better for producers, pod harvesters, roasters, all producers, confectioners and the planet. .
Over the past year, I’ve ordered dozens of boxes of chocolates from manufacturers primarily in the United States. All came with an origin story, the name and location of the farm where the cocoa was grown, or the sustainable and fair trade brand of chocolate used to make the sweets and candies hidden in the decorative box. Some were vegan, most used local ingredients and all demonstrated a mastery of the unique and time-consuming know-how of making molded or coated chocolates. These chocolates are significantly more expensive than a Hershey bar, which sells for less than a dollar, but for so many reasons, if you want to treat yourself, they are worth the cost.
The list below doesn’t cover them all, but it’s a start. If you have a favorite local chocolate shop, a place you trust, start there. If you’re looking to try something new or local, below is a list of some of the best chocolatiers in the country. They all offer boxes of chocolates and national reach. Note: Although most of them offer nationwide delivery, these prices do not include shipping costs.
Socola Chocolatier: Co-founder Wendy Lieu named her store Socola after the Vietnamese word for chocolate. It was a way to honor his parents, who fled Vietnam in the early 1980s. Socola’s flavors – like black sesame, Vietnamese coffee, guava and vanilla passion fruit – sparkle, and its coated candies are some of the most delicate around. The San Francisco shop also offers a variety of confections, a special Lunar New Year box and delicate chocolate mooncakes. Plus, there’s a local connection: Lieu and her sister Susan Lieu, originally from Santa Rosa, started selling their chocolates at the downtown Santa Rosa market 20 years ago. (From $14.95 for a box of 12; 535 Folsom St., San Francisco, socolachocolates.com)
Wild Flower Chocolates: Robert Nieto and his wife, Tara, have been selling their lovely Fleur Sauvage artisan chocolates at local farmers markets for three years, but in December they opened their own chocolate shop in Windsor. Nieto had already made a name for himself in the food world, as a contestant on the Food Network’s “Holiday Wars,” “Cookie Wars,” and “Beat Bobby Flay” over the past few years. They also ship boxes of good vouchers. (Starting at $12 for a box of four; 370 Windsor River Road, fleursauvagechocolates.com)
Desserts from Bert: Bert Smith was already known among friends and family for making delicious treats like peanut butter cups when she opened her Petaluma store in 2004. Since then, she has competed with her desserts in more than a dozen of Sonoma County Harvest Fairs, winning titles for overall dessert. Winner and best individual dessert of the show. For Valentine’s Day, she bakes all kinds of heart-themed candy, sold individually to a tray full of sweets like chocolate-covered Oreo cookies, peanut butter cups, and cream truffles. ($20, $30, and $40 Valentine’s Day platters; 501 Lakeville St., Suite B, Petaluma, bit.ly/3AZZ85t)
Kokak Chocolates: Founder and chef chocolatier Carol Gancia opened her shop in San Francisco in June 2020. After growing up in the Philippines, she immigrated to the United States with the intention of becoming a master chocolatier. Gancia studied with chocolatier Melissa Coppel and pastry chef Stacy Radin at the California International Culinary Center before going it alone. Flavors include single-origin ganaches, as well as infusions such as kalamansi, banana caramel, and lemongrass. There is also a line of vegan candies. (From 19.95 for a box of five; kokakchocolates.com)
Rivière-Mer Chocolates: Unique among chocolatiers, this Virginia-based shop sells chocolate bars and candies that it makes, bean-to-bar, from cocoa pods that grow wild in Brazil. The fruit is picked by the Saraca people, who have cared for the native cacao for centuries. Cultivated and harvested this way, these cocoa trees help maintain a healthy ecosystem and “provide an ecological monetary incentive for people in the Amazon to protect the forest in which they live from logging, cattle ranching and slash and burn agriculture,” according to co-owner Krissee D’Aguiar. River-Sea also imports chocolate from Colombia, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic by sailboat. Find vegan chocolates as well as filled and infused candies in flavors like peanut butter and dark chocolate, butterfly pea flower, raspberry and bourbon vanilla. (From $14.99 for a box of five; riverseachocolates.com)