In time for Valentine’s Day, and recognizing the labor of love that is making chocolate, here are a few businesses around the world to support and promote that have made their mark in the grand world of cacao.
Your U.S. Chocolate Connections
My Chocolate Soul | Chicago
Ramona Thomas, chief sweets officer, specializes in all-natural, gourmet, artisan chocolate. Made fresh in-house using a less-is-more approach (no preservatives, artificial ingredients or coloring), the results are fantastic flavor profiles. Products range from truffles and turtles to candy bars and more. Thomas is a trained, award-winning chocolatier who started the company in Chicago in January 2011 because of her frustration with products in the commercial marketplace containing artificial ingredients. Follow her on Instagram.
Viveré Chocolates | New Jersey
While famous for his sea salt caramel with toasted fennel dusted in 24-carat gold, owner and head chocolatier Robert Bowden’s creations are also sought after for decadent and bespoke chocolate gifts served as memorable treats at events around the country. Equally skilled in the boardroom as in his kitchen in New Jersey, Bowden is active in the global cacao industry as a board member of the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund, which is committed to the sustainability of fine flavor cacao-producing trees. Follow him on Instagram.
Harlem Chocolate Factory | New York
In an artisan chocolate shop located in the heart of St. Nicholas Historic District, also known as Strivers’ Row, HCF’s owner and head chocolatier Jessica Spaulding shares the various cultural experiences of Harlem through chocolate. Her collection includes bonbons and truffles aptly named Sunday Special and Speakeasy. Spaulding created the company in 2014 by participating in a start-up business plan competition. Winning allowed her to move from an incubator kitchen to her own location. Check her out on Instagram.
Phillip Ashley Chocolates | Tennessee
Famed for his wildly imaginative chocolate, designer chocolatier Phillip Ashley Rix is a well-known name in the luxury chocolate and culinary world. We are talking flavors such as sweet tea caramel vodka lemonade and Memphis toddy spiced whiskey, to name a couple. Apart from his signature chocolate offerings that look like miniature pieces of modern art, he also has a Taste of Memphis line as well as a Luxury Turtles collection featuring handcrafted bonbons using Belgian milk chocolate. Follow on Facebook.
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Soul and Story | Virginia
This social enterprise shares the stories of women entrepreneurs from Africa and the African Diaspora. Soul and Story works with women who see a problem in their communities, countries and/or the world and seek to be the change they want to see through their own businesses. “We scale their impact by bringing their products to market in the U.S.,” shares owner Tammy C. Freeman. The company currently works with Askanya Chocolates of Haiti, 57 Chocolate of Ghana and the Alliance of Rural Communities of Trinidad and Tobago (ARCTT). Follow their stories on Instagram.
Hot Chocolat | Washington
An award-winning chef with 30 years of experience as a firehouse cook with the Seattle Fire Department, chef Michael D. Poole, artisan chocolatier, founder and CEO, has witnessed his journey come full circle. He received his grand diploma for cuisine and pastry in 2003 at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, where he was class valedictorian and has won gold, silver and bronze awards for best chocolates in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Catch him at a festival near you or join him for a class. Check him out on Instagram.
Take Your Chocolate Cravings Around the World
Midunu Chocolates | Ghana
Artisanal handcrafted chocolates made with Ghanaian cocoa, these delightful bite-sized truffles by chef Selassie Atadika include milk and dark chocolate varieties with infusions of fruits, spices, coffee, teas and tisanes, representing the bounty of the continent. Known for her efforts to bring African culinary heritage to the mainstream dinner table, Atadika is only one of a very small group of chocolate makers in the country working to make Ghana a worthy player in the global chocolate industry. Check her out on Instagram.
LoshesChocolate | Nigeria
“Cocoa has always been around, a balance of art and science required to make chocolates has been the challenge,” says Femi Oyedipe, chief executive of the Nigerian business LoshesChocolate. Her chocolates are entirely handmade in small batches and stone ground with all cocoa content from a single source of cacao bean. The premium bean-to-bar product comes in milk, dark and white chocolate varieties, and milk chocolate with orange pulp is one of the unique offerings. Follow them on Instagram.
Savanna Premium Chocolate | Zambia
Lynn Musonda Phiri and Chiinga Musonda are sisters and co-founders of this Zambian enterprise aimed at changing the narrative of African chocolate. More than 2 million farmers in Africa produce nearly 70 percent of the world’s cacao beans, yet less than 1 percent of the world’s chocolate is produced in Africa. This bean-to-bar chocolatier uses single-origin cacao beans grown in Africa by building direct relationships with the farmers, eliminating the middlemen and ensuring fair remuneration for their ingredients. Follow them on Instagram.