Experience craft chocolate

February 2022 – The craft chocolate industry continues to grow, with a strong focus on ethical practices, and many American makers rivaling classic European chocolatiers. Artful labels detail the country of origin of the cocoa bean, social responsibility, fermentation and roasting techniques, and of course the all important cocoa percentage.


For Mia di Tommaso, Driver’s chocolate buyer, the first priority is knowing the chocolates are made responsibly. She looks at the quality of the beans, and for Fair Trade certified products. Some makers, like Askinosie Chocolate, go beyond fair trade practices, offering profit sharing to farmers and sending them samples of the finished product. “Many farmers grow cocoa beans, but have never tasted chocolate,” said Mia.


As far as taste goes, the origin of the cocoa beans makes a difference. Beans from Madagascar tend to make bright and citrusy chocolate — Ritual Chocolate has a popular Madagascar bar — while beans from Africa have a richer, fudgy, chocolate flavor. Beans from Ecuador can be smoky or spicy, and are sought after by some of Mia’s customers.


All fine chocolates list the cocoa percentage, because the taste of the bar depends so much on this number. The percentage shows you how much of the bar is cocoa butter and cocoa solids — the higher the number, the darker the chocolate. The remainder is added ingredients, such as sugar or milk powder.  In the craft chocolate world 70% cocoa is typical for dark chocolates. High quality milk chocolates range from 30-60% cocoa. Mia suggests looking for chocolates that use cocoa butter. “Cocoa butter is a really important ingredient, more than any other type of fat,” said Mia.


Craft chocolatiers also use fermentation and roasting processes to create unique flavors. All cocoa beans are fermented, but the length of fermentation can vary. Most chocolate makers use roasted chocolate beans, perfecting their methods and temperatures to enhance the beans like coffee roasters.  Others, like Raaka Chocolate, offer unroasted virgin chocolate bars that boast the raw benefits of the cocoa bean.


Valentine’s Day Tip: Look for a limited selection of Charles Chocolates Valentine confections, due to arrive early this month!



Marou | Ritual

Beyond Fair Trade



Our favorite raw chocolate


Rabito Royale | Fruition

Chocolate fig and Caramels



L’Amourette | Charles

San Francisco chocolatiers


Askinosie | Charles | Fruition | Goodnow Farms | Honey Mama

Good Food Award winners


Askinosie | Guittard | Taza | Cacoco

Add the milk of your choice