15 Chocolate Companies You Have to Try

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iStock

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.

This Indoor Garden Grows Up to 30 Fruits and Vegetables With Little Maintenance Required

IGWorks
IGWorks

If you want to always have fresh tomatoes and basil on hand without having to visit your nearest farmers' market or devote multiple hours each week to gardening, there's an easier option—no green thumb required!

The iHarvest is a hydroponic gardening system that lets you grow up to 30 varieties of fruits and veggies—including tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, watermelon, and various herbs—right in your kitchen. Powered by 72 watts of low-energy LEDs, the system's lighting and watering functions are fully automated, which keeps maintenance to a minimum.

All you have to do is plant a seed in an apparatus called the media, place the media in a pod, and add water to the iHarvest. The built-in timers do the rest of the work, ensuring that your plants are adequately fed and nourished each day, regardless of the season. After water is pumped to the plant's roots, it runs through a filter and returns to the bottom reservoir of the iHarvest device. The water and nutrients only need replenished once every two weeks, on average.

It's quick, too. Tomatoes are estimated to reach their full size in 10 days, and everything that you harvest will be free of herbicides and pesticides. Hanging plants and fruits like squash and cucumber can be suspended from the iHarvest's trellis, and the vertical design also makes it ideal for people in tight living quarters. The entire system takes up just 2.5 square feet of space, measuring 2 feet, 8 inches wide.

Order the iHarvest now on Kickstarter to get 35 percent off the retail price, which lowers the total cost to $549. And if you want to do some comparison shopping, you may also like the OGarden Smart—an indoor garden that lets you grow up to 90 fruits and vegetables.

17 Delicious Facts About Peeps

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Getty Images

You know whether you prefer chicks to bunnies, fresh to stale, or plain to chocolate-covered. But there’s a lot you may not know about Peeps, everyone’s favorite (non-chocolate) Easter candy.

1. It used to take 27 hours to make a Peep.

A candy Peep being made
Getty Images

That was in 1953, when Sam Born acquired the Rodda Candy Company and its line of marshmallow chicks. Back then, each chick was handmade with a pastry tube. Just Born quickly set about automating the process, so that it now takes just six minutes to make a Peep.

2. An average of 5.5 million Peeps are made every day.

Peeps candies being made
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All of them at the Just Born factory in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In one year, the company makes enough peeps to circle the earth—twice!

3. Yellow chicks are the original Peep, and still the favorite.

Boxes of yellow chick Peeps
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Yellow bunnies are the second most popular color/shape combination. Pink is the second best-selling color.

4. The recipe has stayed pretty much the same.

Cooking up a batch of Peeps
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The recipe begins with a boiling batch of granulated sugar, liquid sugar, and corn syrup, to which gelatin and vanilla extract are later added. 

5. The equipment has also (mostly) stayed the same.

Peeps candies being made
Getty Images

Since Just Born turned Peeps-making into an automated process, the chicks have been carefully formed by a top-secret machine known as The Depositor. Created by Sam Born’s son, Bob, The Depositor could manufacture six rows of five Peeps apiece in a fraction of the time it took workers to form them by hand. And that same machine that Bob built has been keeping the Peeps flowing ever since. Until rather recently …

In 2014, the company announced that it was planning to renovate its manufacturing plant, including The Depositor. “It’s a little sad,” vice president of sales and marketing Matthew Pye told Candy Industry Magazine at the time. “Bob Born made it from scratch in 1954 and it allowed us to distribute and grow the brand nationally." 

6. The updated equipment means new Peeps innovations could be coming.

Making Peeps at the Just Born factory
Getty Images

“The investment in our marshmallow making process will allow for more efficiency, more consistency, improved quality, and additional innovation capabilities,” co-CEO Ross Born told Candy Industry magazine about the new depositor, which will be able to produce a wider variety of Peeps in all sizes. “The [old] Peeps line did one thing and one thing very well—cranking out chicks day in and day out. Five clusters, just in different colors,” Born said.

7. Peeps used to have wings.

They were clipped in 1955, two years after the first marshmallow chicks hatched, to give the candy a sleeker, more “modern” look.

8. The eyes are the final touch.

A close up of a yellow chick Peep
Getty Images

The final flourish for all of these squishy balls of sweetness is adding the eyes, which are made of carnauba—a non-toxic edible wax (that is also found in some shoe polishes and car waxes, plus many other candies).

9. Peeps may be destructible, but their eyes are not.

Making Peeps at the Just Born factory
Getty Images

In 1999, a pair of scientists at Emory University—dubbed “Peeps Investigators”—decided to test the theory that Peeps are an indestructible food. In addition to a microwave, the pair tested the candy’s vulnerability to tap water, boiling water, acetone, and sulfuric acid (they survived them all). When they upped the ante with some Phenol, the only things that didn’t disappear were the eyes. 

10. They really are everyone's favorite non-chocolate Easter candy.

For more than 20 years now, no other non-chocolate Easter candy has been able to compete with the power of Peeps. With more than 1.5 billion of them consumed each spring, Peeps have topped the list of most popular Easter treats for more than two decades.

11. There are sugar-free Peeps.

Counterintuitive, we know. But in 2007, the first line of sugar-free Peeps hit store shelves.

12. There are also chocolate-covered Peeps.

Chocolate-covered Peeps hit the market in 2010. Today there’s a full line of them for every occasion.

13. Peeps come in a variety of flavors.

Color and shape (i.e. yellow chick) are no longer the only ways to categorize a Peep. They now come in an array of flavors, including fruit punch, sour watermelon, lemon sherbet, blueberry, and pancakes and syrup.

14. Peeps lip balm is a thing.

Yep.

15. On New Year's Eve, a giant Peep is dropped in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.


PEEPS®

The drop is done with a traditional chick that flashes different colors at midnight.

16. Believe it or not, Peeps are not Just Born's best-selling brand.

That honor belongs to Mike and Ike. (Sorry, Peepsters.)

17. They're a boon to a creativity.

Blue chick Peeps
Getty Images

All over the country, Peeps have become the preferred media for a number of highly anticipated annual art contests. (You can check out some of the coolest creations from Westminster, Maryland's PEEPshow here.)

Updated for 2019.

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