Cacao is native to Central or South America, and the beans were probably first roasted and ground into powder to make beverages and gruel by the Olmecs in southern Mexico around 1500 B.C. Some centuries later, the Aztecs took to quaffing a brew of bitter ground cacao beans sweetened with honey and flavored with vanilla and chiles. They called it “chocolatl,” meaning warm liquid.
The history of chocolate is complex, and how this pre-Columbian beverage became a box of chocolate truffles or a sea salt caramel bar is a long story. The short version: The Spanish brought cacao to Europe, where the chiles got lost and sugar was substituted for honey. Chocolate remained primarily a drink until the 19th century, when John Cadbury, Henri Nestle, and Rodolphe Lindt — all with last names any chocolate fan would recognize today — helped develop chocolate candy. Milton S. Hershey started producing his iconic milk chocolate bars in
Pennsylvania in 1900. Another Pennsylvania company, Whitman’s, introduced its now-ubiquitous chocolate sampler box in 1912.
The first store to sell chocolate in candy (as opposed to drink) form in America was probably either The Original Velatis in Silver Spring, Maryland (1866) or Govatos in Wilmington, Delaware (1894) — both still in business. It’s hard to say how many purveyors of chocolate exist today around the country, in part because many of them do double duty as patisseries, ice cream parlors, or gift shops. There probably isn’t a city or a town of any size in America that doesn’t boast at least one example, though, and big cities probably have dozens, if not scores — and these are best chocolate shops in every state.
In assembling this list of the best chocolate shops in America, 24/7 Tempo considered only places that are primarily devoted to selling chocolate confections, not those with an equal or greater focus on baked goods or ice cream. (There’s nothing wrong with ice cream, of course, chocolate or otherwise, and if you’d like some, consider the best ice cream parlors in every state.)
Some of our choices are simply purveyors of great chocolate and don’t make it themselves, while others are bean-to-bar producers, handling every aspect of the rather complicated chocolate-making process, sometimes buying directly from cacao farmers and almost always using organic fair-trade beans. Some go in two directions, both creating their own products and showcasing the wares of others. Every one of them will satisfy any chocolate-lover’s craving.