There is chocolate, and then there is bean-to-bar chocolate. While many reputable chocolate companies use a standardized blend of cacao from numerous countries, bean-to-bar chocolates tend to contain cacao from a single bioregion. As with wine, this allows the unique flavors of rare and specialty cacao strains to shine in the finished product.
To determine the companies making the best bean-to-bar chocolates in the Americas, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the International Chocolate Awards 2020-2021 Americas bean-to-bar competition (the most recent one that’s been held), which rated hundreds of chocolate bars from producers in the Western Hemisphere. The bars were judged by an international panel of experts including chocolatiers, sommeliers, food journalists, and pastry chefs. We created a weighted index considering gold and silver winners as well as companies that won multiple awards in various categories.
Aside from showcasing the terroir of single origin cacao, another advantage of bean-to-bar chocolates is sustainability. A large number of the companies that produce these chocolates pay their cacao farmers a living wage and source from farms that utilize sustainable growing practices including diverse interplanting. Many industrial cacao farms, on the other hand, clearcut large swaths of rainforest, making chocolate one of the foods with the worst environmental impact.
Pacari Chocolate – a company that won 20 awards in the competition – is a certified organic and biodynamic producer in Ecuador, that sources its beans from local farmers who grow and preserve an array of heirloom cacao varieties using sustainable forestry practices. One variety that Pacari utilizes is Ecuador’s rare Arribia Nacional cacao bean, which is known for its floral aroma and complex flavor profile, helping to make Pacari’s chocolate bars some of the best in the world. (If you prefer your chocolate in frozen form, here’s a list of the best ice cream parlor in every state.)
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