15 Chocolate Companies You Have to Try

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There’s no such thing as bad chocolate, but some companies certainly go above and beyond. Worldwide, we consume a staggering 7.3 million tons of chocolate, but today there's far more to chocolate than just dark, white, or milk. And thankfully, there is no limit to the creativity these 15 companies put into their chocolaty confections.

1. CHUAO CHOCOLATIER

Chuao Chocolatier (pronounced chew-WOW) is a master of textural wonderment, known for their diverse range of unique chocolate bars including the Firecracker—a dark bar infused with sea salt, chipotle, and popping candy that explodes in your mouth. Founded in 2002 by Master Chef Michael Antonorsi, the company is named after Venezuela’s legendary cacao-producing region of Chuao and recognized as the first Venezuelan chocolatier based in the United States. Since introducing their original signature flavor, Spicy Maya, the company’s one-of-a-kind menu has expanded to include chocolate bars, bonbons, truffles, and drinking chocolate in extraordinary flavor combinations like coconut hibiscus, raspberry rose, caramel apple, and cinnamon cereal. They have two chocolate cafes in San Diego County, California and can be found in specialty retailers such as Whole Foods, Dean and Deluca, and Crate & Barrel.

2. ASKINOSIE CHOCOLATE

Named one of Forbes' 25 Best Small Companies in America and Oprah Magazine’s "15 Guys Who Are Saving the World," former criminal defense lawyer Shawn Askinosie started Askinosie Chocolate with his wife in 2005 from their Springfield, Missouri home. Using a 6000-pound antique granite melangeur from Europe (fancy phrasing for tabletop grinder) to whip up their first batches, Askinosie Chocolate took off and the owners have never looked back. Their cocoa is sourced direct from farmers in Honduras, Ecuador, Philippines, and Tanzania. Askinosie features a CollaBARation™ line of bars made possible through partnerships with complementary businesses to produce flavors like Dark Chocolate + Intelligentsia Coffee and Dark Chocolate + Crunchy Sugar Crystals.

3. THE CHOCOLATE SMITHS

The confectionery offerings at The Chocolate Smiths are as entertaining as they are unusual—perhaps summed up by the name of their signature line, appropriately called Bizarre Bars. The company specializes in "luxury chocolates with the fun left in." From Scorpion Chili (made with the world’s second hottest pepper) to Bubblegum (mixed with creamy white chocolate and vanilla), the chocolatier uses only high-quality Belgian couverture chocolate to deliver a unique candy experience. Located in Benton, Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK, The Chocolate Smiths ship worldwide and can be found in independent delicatessens, department stores, and major tourist attractions across the globe.

4. VOSGES HAUT-CHOCOLAT

Take a walk on the wild side with Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Their use of exotic ingredients like Hungarian paprika, Indian curry, and Chinese star anise makes them a chocolate lover’s paradise with a twist. Founder Katrina Markoff’s love of travel is reflected in the company's premium chocolate that nurtures awareness of and appreciation for the world’s diverse cultures. Vosges has retail locations in New York, Chicago, and Las Vegas.

5. CHOCOLATES EL REY

Award-winning Chocolates El Rey, one of the oldest chocolate manufacturers in Venezuela, has been making premium-grade chocolates since 1929. A socially responsible and eco-friendly company, El Rey offers consumers gourmet chocolate made with fairly traded cacao beans direct from small- and large-scale Venezuelan growers. Their products, which include the Carenero Superior, Rio Caribe, and Special Reserves lines, are crafted with specialty beans from various regions of this breathtaking South American country.

6. MAST BROTHERS

Artistic elegance describes brothers Rick and Michael Mast’s product line, who name collections of their bean-to-bar chocolate after their flagship locations in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and London. They're the only ones in the world offering bars like Rhubarb and Custard, Black Treacle, Tea and Milk, and Tahitian Vanilla, made with ingredients sourced from some of the most beautiful places on the planet. Sea salt from Iceland? Delicious. Founded in 2007, Mast Brothers wraps all their confections in ornamental wrappers almost too pretty to open. Almost.

7. CACAO ART CHOCOLATES

This Florida treasure features some of the most artistic chocolates ever. Case in point: their decadent Anís y Papelón truffle (an International Chocolate Awards winner), made from sweet anise and raw cane sugar and inspired by the traditional Venezuelan pastry. Sisters Susana and Isabel Garcia started the business in Venezuela but later relocated to Miami. Their goal is to recreate the flavors of their childhood while capturing the growing arts scene in South Florida.

8. MOONSTRUCK CHOCOLATE COMPANY

Master Chocolatier Chef Julian Rose was named one of the best chocolatiers in North America for a reason: He creates chocolate of a near-addictive quality. Much like the Apollo moon landing, Moonstruck is exploring new ground—they just do it by introducing the world to unknown chocolate varieties. Their signature bar, Fortunato No. 4, is made from a Peruvian cacao bean once thought to be extinct. In addition to their four cafes in the Pacific Northwest, Moonstruck Chocolate is sold at specialty retailers and gift shops across the United States.

9. FRENCH BROAD CHOCOLATES

French Broad Chocolates, owned by husband and wife team Dan and Jael Rattigan, is named after North Carolina’s French Broad River—which happens to be the third oldest river in the world. Their truffles—packaged in fanciful collections featuring flavors like cider, beet, ginger, bourbon, lavender, grapefruit, and more—are of colossal proportions. Both the French Broad Lounge and French Broad Factory & Tasting Room are located in Asheville, North Carolina.

10. 2 CHICKS WITH CHOCOLATE

After a life-altering car accident prevented Barbara Wassung from commuting to work, she and her daughter, Elyissia, got serious about launching their chocolate company from their home kitchen in Queens, New York. What started as a home-grown, door-to-door small business has now blossomed into a fledgling chocolatier specializing in hand-crafted chocolates. Their 12-piece signature collection includes a designer box and mouthwatering flavors like passion fruit caramel, raspberry ganache, champagne ganache, and marshmallow fluff. Find their goodies online and at their stores in New Jersey towns like East Brunswick, Metuchen, and Middletown.

11. NORMAN LOVE CONFECTIONS

Based out of Fort Myers, Florida and founded by Norman Love and his wife, Mary, in 2001, Norman Love Confections offers unique, vibrantly colored chocolates that often incorporate fruit—like tart raspberry and passion fruit. Each piece resembles a shining bit of finished marble—exquisite, yet edible. Their recently launched Norman Love Confections BLACK collection combines chocolate from five different regions including Maracaibo (Venezuela), Peru, Ghana, Tanzania, and Hispaniola (Dominican Republic). Find their delightful treats at one of their store-owned "salons" or at hotels, florists, and fine restaurants in the United States.

12. GAIL AMBROSIUS CHOCOLATIER

Shiitake mushroom is just one example of the many adventurous flavors found in Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier chocolate bars and truffles. After a school trip to Paris when she was 17, Ambrosius fell in love with dark chocolate and knew she had to start her own company. She finally had the opportunity to make a fresh start when, more than two decades later, she found herself suddenly laid off. Try the company’s Beerific Taster's Box, which can be found online, at the store in Wisconsin, or other retailers in the greater Madison, Wisconsin area.

13. CHOCOLATE FOR THE SPIRIT

Does the Midwest have spirit? You bet it does! Enriching lives through thoughtfully created confections is the name of the game at Chocolate for the Spirit in Carmel, Indiana. Their Tall, Dark & Handsome bar is a Grand Cru single-origin bar with licorice notes, hints of coffee, and blended-in Swiss milk to create a memorable experience for chocolate connoisseurs.

14. COMPARTÉS

A favorite among Hollywood celebs—including the late Marilyn Monroe—and supplier to major events such as the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards, Compartés has been putting a hip spin on chocolate from their Los Angeles location since 1950. Recently taken over by chocolate prodigy Jonathan Grahm, the chocolatier uses only chocolate sourced from South America, along with local ingredients found at California farmers’ markets. Try Jonathan’s Signature Truffles, which come in various prints and designs and are filled with a rich chocolate ganache.

15. DIVINE CHOCOLATE

Divine Chocolate is, unusually, a farmer-owned chocolate company. Co-owned by the 85,000 farmer members of Kuapa Kokoo, the cooperative in Ghana that supplies the cocoa for each bar of Divine, the chocolatier got its start in the UK before relaunching in the United States in 2007. Each wrapper includes a variety of Adinkra symbols which date back hundreds of years and convey traditional Ghanaian values and wisdom. Check out their popular Dark Chocolate with Pink Himalayan Salt.

14 Secrets of McDonald's Employees

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

While there’s virtually no end to the number of fast food options for people seeking a quick meal, none have entered the public consciousness quite like McDonald’s. Originally a barbecue shop with a limited menu when it was founded by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald in the 1940s, the Golden Arches have grown into a franchised behemoth with more than 36,000 locations worldwide.

Staffing those busy kitchens and registers are nearly 2 million McDonald's employees. To get a better idea of what many consider to be the most popular entry-level job in the nation—staff members on the floor make an average of $9 an hour—we asked several workers to share details of their experiences with errant ice cream machines, drive-through protocols, and special requests. Here’s what they had to say about life behind the counter.

1. McDonald's employees can't always deliver fast food all that fast.

While McDonald’s and other fast-service restaurants pride themselves on getting customers on their way, some menu items just don’t lend themselves to record service times. According to Bob, an assistant store manager at a McDonald’s in the Midwest, pies take an average of 10 to 12 minutes to prepare; grilled chicken, 10 minutes; and biscuits for Egg McMuffins, eight to 10 minutes. In the mood for something light, like a grilled chicken and salad? That will take a few minutes, too. Bob says salads are pre-made with lettuce but still need to have chicken and other ingredients added.

The labor-intensive nature of assembling ingredients is part of why the chain has more recently shied away from menu items with too many ingredients. “We are trained to go as fast down the line as we can, and if we have to stop to make something that has 10 ingredients, it tends to slow things down,” Bob tells Mental Floss. “Corporate has realized this and has taken many of these items off in recent years, [like] McWraps, Clubhouse, more recently the Smokehouse and mushroom and Swiss and moved to items that can go a lot quicker.”

2. McDonald's workers wish you’d stop asking for fries without salt.

A serving of McDonald's French fries is pictured
Joerg Koch, AFP/Getty Images

A common “trick” for customers seeking fresh fries is to ask for them without salt. The idea is that fries that have been under a heating lamp will already be salted and that the employee in the kitchen will need to put down a new batch in the fryer. This does work, but customers can also just ask for fresh fries. It’s less of a hassle and may even save employees some discomfort.

“People can ask for fresh fries and it's actually way easier to do fresh fries rather than no-salt fries,” Andy, an employee who’s worked at three different McDonald’s locations in the Midwest, tells Mental Floss. “For those, we have to pour the fries onto a tray from the fryer so they don't come in contact with salt. It can get awkward sometimes getting everything into position, especially if you have a lot of people working in close proximity and it's busy, so I've had some scalded hands a couple of times trying to get fries out in a timely way.”

3. McDonald's workers have to pay careful attention to the order of ingredients.

McDonald’s is pretty specific about how their burgers and other items are supposed to be assembled, with layers—meat, cheese, sauce—arranged in a specific order. If they mess it up, customers can notice. “In some cases it has a big impact,” Sam, a department manager and nine-year veteran of the restaurant in Canada, tells Mental Floss. “Like placing the cheese between the patties with a McDouble. If they don’t put the cheese between the patties, the cheese won’t melt.”

4. There’s a reason McDonald’s employees ask you to park at the drive-through.

A McDonald's customer pulls up to the drive-thru window
Tim Boyle, Getty Images

After ordering at the drive-through window, you may be slightly puzzled when a cashier asks you to pull into one of the designated parking spots. That’s because employees are measured on how quickly they process cars at the drive-through. If your order is taking a long time to prepare, they’ll take you out of the queue to keep the line moving. “My store has sensors in the drive-through that actually tell us exactly how long you are at each spot in the drive-through,” Bob says. “We get measured based on something we call OEPE. Order end, present end. [That measures] from the second that your tires move from the speaker until your back tires pass over the sensor on the present window. My store is expected to be under two minutes.” If an order will take longer than that, you'll be asked to park.

5. The McDonald's drive-through employees can hear everything going on in your car.

While the quality of the speakers at a drive-through window can vary, it’s best to assume employees inside the restaurant can hear everything happening in your car even before you place an order. “The speaker is activated by the metal in the car, so as soon as you drive up, the speaker turns on in our headset,” Andy says. “We can hear everything, and I do mean everything. Loud music, yelling at your kids to shut up, etc.”

6. The employees at McDonald’s like their regulars.

Customers eat inside of a McDonald's with an order of French fries in the foreground
Chris Hondros, Getty Images

With hot coffee, plenty of tables, Wi-Fi, and newspapers, McDonald’s can wind up being a popular hang-out for repeat customers. “[We have] a ton of regulars who come into my store,” Bob says. “I'd say at least 75 percent of my daily customers know us all by name and we know them all, too. It makes it nice and makes the service feel a lot more personal when a customer can walk into my location, and we can look them in the eye and say, ‘Hey Mark! Getting the usual today?’ and we've already started making his coffee exactly how he takes it.”

7. McDonald’s staff get prank calls.

Unless they’re trying to cater an event, customers usually don’t have any reason to phone a McDonald’s. When the phone rings, employees brace themselves. In addition to sometimes being asked a legitimate question like when the store closes, Sam says his store gets a lot of prank calls. “Sometimes it’s people asking about directions to Wendy’s,” he says. “A lot of inappropriate ones. Most are pretty lame.”

8. For a McDonald’s worker, the ice cream machine is like automated stress.

A McDonald's customer is handed an ice cream cone at the drive-thru window
iStock/jax10289

The internet is full of stories of frustrated McDonald’s customers who believe the chain’s ice cream machines are always inoperable. That’s not entirely true, but the machine does experience a lot of downtime. According to Bob, that’s because it’s always in need of maintenance. “The thing is, it is a very sensitive machine,” he says. “It's not made to be making 50 cones in a row, or 10 shakes at a time. It takes time for the mix to freeze to a proper consistency. It also requires a daily heat mode, [where] the whole machine heats up to about 130 degrees or so. The heat mode typically takes about four hours to complete, so you try to schedule it during the slowest time.” Stores also need to take the machine entirely apart every one to two weeks to clean it thoroughly.

Bob adds that the machine’s O-rings can crack or tear, rendering the unit inoperable. Seasoned workers can tell if a unit is faulty by the consistency of the shakes or ice cream coming out, and sometimes by the noises it makes.

9. McDonald's employees don't mind if you order a grilled cheese.

Contrary to rumor, there’s no “secret menu” at McDonald’s. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sometimes snag something not listed on the board. Andy says a lot of people order a grilled cheese sandwich. “I've made many a grilled cheese before,” he says. But it’s not without consequences. “Sometimes it can get a bit risky doing it because the bun toaster wasn't designed to make grilled cheeses so sometimes you get some burnt buns or cheese or the cheese sticks inside and it slows down the other buns from getting out on time so that causes more burnt buns.”

Another common request is for customers to ask for a McDouble dressed as a Big Mac, with added Big Mac sauce and shredded lettuce. “I think [it’s] a way more practical way to eat a Big Mac since there's less bun in the way, and it's also way cheaper even if you do get charged for Mac sauce.”

10. McDonald’s workers recommend always checking your order.

A McDonald's employee serves an order
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Nothing stings worse than the revelation that an employee has forgotten part of your food order. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not because the employees are being lazy or inattentive. According to Bob, it’s simply due to the volume of customers a typical location has to process in a given day. “We are human,” he says. “Mistakes do happen. We always feel terrible when they do but when we serve 1000-plus people a day, it's bound to happen.”

Bob recommends checking your bag before leaving the restaurant and not taking it personally if there’s an issue. “Be nice to us if you have a problem,” he says. “It's a huge difference between coming to us and saying, ‘Hey, I seem to be missing a fry from my bag,’ and ‘You bastards didn't give me my fries!’” If you want to check your bag at the drive-through, though, he recommends trying to pull ahead so cars behind you can move forward.

11. McDonald's employees don't recommend the grilled chicken.

If a menu item isn’t all that popular, it can wind up experiencing a low rate of turnover. Of all the food at McDonald’s, the most neglected might be the grilled chicken. Because it doesn't move quickly, workers find that it can turn unappetizing in a hurry. “That stuff has a supposed shelf life of 60 minutes in the heated cabinet, but it dries out so quickly that even if it's within an acceptable time frame, it looks like burnt rubber, and probably tastes like it, too,” Andy says.

12. Golden Arches employees aren’t crazy about Happy Meal collectors.

A McDonald's Happy Meal is pictured
David Morris, Getty Images

Happy Meals are boxed combos that come with a toy inside. Usually, it’s tied into some kind of movie promotion. That means both Happy Meal collectors and fans of a given entertainment property can swarm stores looking for the product. “The biggest pain involving the Happy Meals is the people who collect them,” Bob says. “I personally hate trying to dig through the toys looking for one specific one. We usually only have one to three toys on hand. It's especially a pain in the butt during big toys events such as the Avengers one we just had. There was like 26 different toys, and some customers get really mad when you don't have the one that they want.”

And no, employees don’t usually take home leftover toys. They’ve saved for future use as a substitute in case a location runs out of toys for their current promotion.

13. McDonald's employees can’t mess with Monopoly.

The McDonald’s Monopoly promotion has been a perennial success for the chain, with game pieces affixed to drink cups and fry containers. But if you think employees spend their spare time peeling the pieces off cups looking for prizes, think again. Following a widely-publicized scandal in 2000 that saw an employee of the company that printed the pieces intercepting them for his own gain, the chain has pretty strict rules about the promotion. “Monopoly pieces and things like them get sent back to corporate,” Bob says. “We aren't allowed to touch them, open them, or redeem them as employees.”

14. One McDonald's worker admits there have been sign mishaps.

A McDonald's sign is pictured
Tim Boyle, Getty Images

Many McDonald’s locations sport signs under the arches advertising specials or promotions. Some are analog, with letters that need to be mounted and replaced. Others have LED screens. Either way, there can be mistakes. “I've never seen anyone mess around with the letters,” Andy says. “But I do remember one time we were serving the Angus Burgers and the ‘G’ fell off of the word ‘Angus.’ Good times.”

The Reason Why It's Technically Against State Rules to Sell LaCroix in Massachusetts

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

No one is quite certain what goes into LaCroix (“La-croy”), the carbonated water that’s become a popular alternative to soft drinks. The zero-calorie beverage comes in several distinctive fruit flavors that the drink’s parent company, National Beverage, has described as being derived from “natural essence oils.” That highly secretive process is believed to be the result of heating fruits and vegetables, then making a concentrate out of the vapor.

To try and crack the mystery, Consumer Reports recently approached officials in Massachusetts with a public records request for documentation relating to LaCroix. Massachusetts is one of the few states requiring manufacturers of carbonated water to obtain a permit and submit water quality tests to sell their product.

The verdict? Consumer Reports still isn’t quite sure what goes into LaCroix. But it might be technically against state regulations to sell it in Massachusetts. That’s because the state has no records on file for the mystery refreshment.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health could not find a permit for LaCroix, and there were no water quality test results on hand, either. Without those documents, the drink should technically not be for sale in the state. After noticing the oversight, Massachusetts sent a request to National Beverage for the necessary information. If the company fails to comply, the state could end up fining them or banning the sale of the drink. A spokesperson for National Beverage told Consumer Reports the company intended to comply with the request.

Why does the state need any information at all? Thanks to some bureaucratic quibbling, carbonated water products are treated differently than bottled water by regulatory agencies. The Food and Drug Administration considers carbonated beverages like seltzer and flavored sparkling water to fall under the heading of soft drinks. While the FDA mandates certain manufacturing standards for those drinks, it doesn’t apply the same rules as it does for bottled water, which is expected to adhere to strict rules about contaminants and quality testing. That leaves certain states like Massachusetts to conduct their own quality assessments.

There’s no guarantee that such testing will divulge LaCroix’s secret to their flavoring process, which is likely to remain a mystery.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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