Travel and chocolate are. arguably, two of the greatest things ever but can you combine the two? Chocolate is a constant surely? We all know what it is and what it tastes like so how can it vary so much from place to place? Well, like beer, wine and other food, the growing and processing cultures can be wildly different and so local tastes and preferences also differ and so you can take your taste buds on a tour of the world without ever leaving the sitting room.
1. Iceland - Omnom
It might seem odd that a tiny Island nation at the top of the world, with a population of around 320,000, has its own chocolate brand but to understand this you must first understand other aspects to the food culture. Strangely enough, Iceland has an extremely strong coffee culture which partly comes from their close ties to Canada but the Icelandics are known to drink strong, dark, bitter coffee and they love the stuff. In the capital of Reykjavik, they have their own roastery where they roast and grind the imported beans to perfection and you can grab an immaculate cup of coffee. It is here you ca grab some of the various flavors of Omnom chocolate (other retailers are available) and it is perhaps no surprise then that they have a bar that combines coffee and milk chocolate to create something that has the taste and texture of a silky, smooth frappuccino.
2. Vietnam - Marou
Marou's dark chocolate bars use cocoa beans grown throughout the country with each one having the name of a Vietnamese province where the beans are grown. Each bar has a unique and distinct flavor attributed to the region and harvesting techniques required meaning that some have a sweeter taste with hints of green tea whilst others are darker and have tones of berry and fruitiness to them.
3. Papua New Guinea - Soma
In the chocolate making world, the cocoa beans have to be fermented and then dried and in most countries that it is grown, the cocoa is dried by the sun but Papua New Guinea has a greater amount of rainfall than many other chocolate producing nations and so Soma dries its chocolate by lighting fires near the beans. As such, this process is similar to smoking fish or meat and instills the chocolate with a unique taste that is not often found in many bars. Smokey tones come through the fruitiness of the bars.
4. The Dominican Republic - Seaforth
Crafted on the tiny Isle of Wight, just off the coast of mainland England, Seaforth chocolate ships its beans in from The Dominican Republic but what is unique about their transportation is that they come via an environmentally friendly ship that is powered solely by the wind in its sails. As such, orders and timing have to be considered very carefully to make sure the beans turn up when they are needed but when they do arrive, it is well worth the wait.
5. Wales - Forever Cacao
Britain has a very strong chocolate making tradition and there are various high-end chocolate makers throughout its nations, but in a land where Cadbury's is king, Wales has a slightly different approach. In the rolling hills of the rural Welsh valleys, Forever Cacao brings in Peruvian grown chocolate to craft into bars but what is unique about their process is that they don't actually roast the beans. As such they sell a type of raw chocolate that tastes much greener than your average bar but with a velvety, smoother texture to boot.
6. Madagascar - Menakao
Part of the chocolate making process is removing the hard outer shell of the bean before grinding it down. This is known as winnowing and the shell is called a nib, but what Menakao do with their chocolate is to add the nibs back to the mixture to give their bars a crunchy topping. Sometimes these can be salted or treated in another way to add an extra dimension of flavor but it really shakes up the texture palette of what you might be used to with chocolate bars.
7. Mexico - Taza
Although crafted from Dominican beans in the USA, Taza uses a traditional Mexican method of chocolate making that makes its texture more like a cookie and less smooth than others. Grinding the cocoa beans with sugar and spices, they focus more greatly on taste than the refinement of the chocolate so it is coarse with large chunks of sugar crystals and spice in it.
8. Spain - Blanxart
Blanxart makes sure its chocolate is super smooth by focusing on the refining process until it is super creamy. Adding cocoa butter to the mix makes it richer and smoother than so many other chocolate bars that make it very, deeply chocolatey.
9. Hungary - Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé
These chocolatiers in Budapest takes chocolate onto the peripheries of art with each of its bars being molded into something resembling a Hungarian fireplace tile with intricate designs and patterns in the smooth and rich chocolate that they make.
10. Ecuador - Hoja Verde
Percentages in chocolate can affect how dark and sweet each bar can be and how rich and intense the chocolatey flavor is, so imagine how strong a 100% chocolate bar is. Far more bitter than what most might be used to, it is super rich and strong as it is only made with the chocolate bean, no sugar or flavors. Designed to be nibbled rather than wolfed down, its earthy flavors offer up a completely different chocolate experience to the standard bar you might buy from the store.