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My apologies to Forrest Gump, but the saying really should be “A box of chocolates is a lot like life—you never know what you’re going to get.” With so many different chocolate companies offering up boxes upon boxes of their wares, it can be hard to even know where to start. Your choice may be dependent on the flavors you like, the flavors the recipient likes (if you’re gifting), the occasion and even your level of risk (there’s a lot of weird chocolate on the market now). Thankfully, my colleagues and I were willing to do the hard work of tasting loads and loads of chocolate in a conference room to make your life a little bit easier. These are the brands we’ve deemed to have the best gourmet chocolate, and the occasion or person they might be best for. Proceed with caution, because eating one single piece can quickly snowball into sampling the entire assortment.
Our Best Chocolate Brand Selections
Best Overall Chocolate
When I revealed these chocolates to my colleagues, they literally applauded. Thierry Atlan, who became a Meilleur Ouvrier de France Chocolatier in 1997, has crafted stunning pieces of chocolate that taste as good as they look. These were the consensus favorite among our staff, all of whom have varying tastes and preferences. The smooth texture is complemented by delicate, not-too-sweet flavors, including the likes of lime yuzu caramel and jasmine tea, among more standard combinations. The “little box of jewels,” as one of my colleagues called it, is simply magnifique.
Most chocolate lovers have heard the name Jacques Torres before. In fact, the company’s website notes that Torres is affectionately known as “Mr. Chocolate.” As such, you can best believe they make a great stand-by chocolate, presented in an Hermès-esque box. Some noted that these lean a bit toward the sweet side, but the cute designs and fun flavors (chai tea, key lime) make up for some of the sugariness. If you’re looking for a box from a well-known name that most everyone would enjoy, this is your go-to.
Whether a chocoholic or not, anyone should be happy to receive a box of zChocolat. While the pieces themselves are sufficient, it’s really the presentation that sets them apart. You can choose to have your chocolates sent in a mahogany box with the recipient’s name engraved on the front and their initials embossed in the wax seal atop the wrapping (along with a suite of other gift services). Unboxing the package is a sumptuous experience, and you can sense the care that went into creating such a luxe item. More than just some chocolates you enjoy and then forget about, zChocolat is basically a keepsake—one with the instant gratification that a box of chocolates provides.
La Maison du Chocolat
Sometimes, you get a box of chocolates and you wish that the pieces were just a touch smaller—so that you can eat more of them at once. La Maison du Chocolat solves that problem, creating delicate, minimalistic chocolates that are the Goldilocks pick when it comes to size. That size, though, does lead to the box looking slightly cramped, more than one Robb Report staffer noted. But it also means that the box can contain pairs of the same chocolate, great for those who want to share a particular flavor or simply double-down on it. The chocolate is clearly high-quality, but some pieces were rich and sweet, while others had a slightly too-mild flavor.
Buy Now at La Maison du Chocolat
Vosges Haut-Chocolat is not for those seeking your typical milk or dark chocolate filled with ganache or caramel. Vosges is for the adventurous eaters among us. The flavors are strong and quirky: You might choose a piece featuring organic Wakaya ginger, freshly grated wasabi, 72 percent cacao dark chocolate and ceremonial matcha (the Black Pearl). Or one with Bulgarian rose water, pistachio paste, 45 percent cacao deep milk chocolate, dried rose bud tea and Bronte pistachio (the Sveta Sofia). The flavors are all inspired by founder Katrina Markoff’s travels, and while they are exciting, some may be better in theory than in practice. A particular downside? The descriptions don’t come with corresponding pictures, so you are left to fend for yourself just a bit more than would be desired. I guess that’s also part of the adventure …
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These Kollar chocolates elicited gasps from my colleagues, that’s how beautiful they are. The box itself is quite minimalistic (fitting with the Northern California brand’s tech-adjacent locale), which makes the reveal all that more delightful. The colorful pieces look like gems, appealing to artsy types and anyone aesthetically minded. The flavors are original and unique (sunflower seed praline; fennel pollen; red wine), but some said they faded fast after taking a bite. Still, Kollar gets major points for its modern take on a category that can often lean more toward the traditional.
Based on appearance alone, us Robb Reporters had a few qualms with Ethel M’s Classic Collection box. Some of the pieces were rather large, and having the chocolates so spaced out made the offering appear scant (there are only 16 pieces available). But once we were able to get past the visuals, the flavor was actually one of the highest-rated among all the chocolates we tried. The lemon satin crèmes, peanut butter milk chocolates (shaped like actual peanuts), coconut delights and more were all unexpectedly delicious.
Most boxes of chocolate are likely to include at least one or two caramel options. But for the true caramel lover, you can’t do much better than Fran’s. The company’s gray salt caramels (dipped in dark chocolate) and smoked salt caramels (wrapped in milk chocolate) are like a better Milky Way, as one of my colleagues put it (without the nougat, though). The caramel isn’t too sweet and it meshes beautifully with the delicate chocolate coating. The non-caramels we tried were less of a hit, though, so you may be best advised to go for a caramel-only box.
If you’re someone who thinks that the best part of a box of chocolates is the variety within, Neuhaus’s Belgian chocolates are for you. The company’s ballotins come with a whopping 42 pieces of chocolate, spanning fresh cream, praline, ganache and gianduja-filled. The flavors lean more toward the classics, rather than any adventurous combinations, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The list of options was too long for some of our staff, but can you really have too much chocolate? (Please don’t actually ask anyone who participated in this taste test; at least half of them went home feeling ill. The things we do for our readers!)
John Kelly’s chocolates are certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. The pieces are enormous (you can barely eat one at a time; maybe that’s a good thing?). And they’re extremely rich, thanks to what the company calls its “truffle fudge,” technically a fudge but with the consistency of ganache. I personally loved these, although I can’t say many of my colleagues agreed. Some of the flavors do lean toward what you might find in a seaside fudge shop (chocolate with walnuts; chocolate and peanut butter) but others are more “chocolatey” (dark chocolate with sea salt; chocolate raspberry). It’s definitely a nontraditional version of the chocolate box, so make sure you know who you’re buying for.
Leonidas is one of the better-known names in the world of Belgian chocolate, and it’s ideal for the person with a huge sweet tooth. The creamy, smooth pieces lean heavily in that direction, whether you’re biting into white chocolate with pineapple buttercream (obviously) or ganache with dark chocolate. The layered packaging of the general assortment, which you can buy in half-pound increments up to two pounds, is a bit unwieldy to manage. But once you find the exact piece you’re searching for, prepare for a “heavenly” experience, as one staffer put it.
What makes something a gourmet or fine chocolate?
Obviously, the chocolate itself has to be high quality, made from the finest cacao beans. But beyond that, the filling of a gourmet or fine chocolate usually leaves out preservatives and artificial flavors, instead using natural ingredients. This is why you’ll often see the ingredients listed with an origin, such as Vosges’ Bulgarian rose water. The reliance on organic and fresher components means that the chocolates themselves are a bit less shelf-stable than your grocery-store Russell Stover, but the taste differential is quite dramatic. And the top-shelf ingredients also lend themselves to top-shelf prices, with gourmet chocolates averaging out at $2 apiece.
What are the different types of chocolates and fillings?
Besides the difference between milk and dark—which is mainly about the percentage of cocoa solids they contain—there are several different types of bonbons and truffles. (Plus white chocolate, which actually contains no cocoa solids at all). In the assortments we tried, the fillings were varied, but some of the most common were buttercream, praline and ganache. Buttercream is a mix of butter and sugar, flavored with a whole host of liquid extracts. Praline uses some sort of caramelized nut, usually hazelnuts or almonds, that is ground into a paste. And ganache is a smooth mixture of chocolate and cream. Particularly varied boxes will contain a combination of all these, while some companies may opt to stick to one particular formulation.
How did we choose and categorize the chocolates on this list?
My colleagues were more than gracious enough to take some time out of their day to taste-test copious amounts of chocolate. That ensured we had a panel of people with different palates and preferences. All of us graded each brand on a number of factors, including appearance, texture, flavor and variety. We cut many chocolates into even smaller bite-size pieces so that more than one person could try the same flavor, or so that one person could try several flavors without making themselves sick. Along with our scorecards, we discussed the different brands as we tasted, noting factors that can’t come across in a simple number grading system. Of course, everyone’s tastes will vary, so take that into consideration when purchasing, but this is what we honestly thought of every brand presented here.