10 Chocolate Factories To Explore Around The World

The word connoisseur is thrown around too easily these days. Knowing how to sniff brandy, aerate your red wine, or distinguish between East and West Coast oysters is simply a matter of taste. Likewise, knowing the joys of nibbling on small squares of 70% dark chocolate with a hint of sea salt does not an expert make. It makes a true appreciator of the finer things in life; it makes a savvy tastemaker. If you're vying to upgrade from bystander to real connoisseur (from social chocolate-lover to official taste-tester), it's time to go behind the scenes.

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Everyone knows by now that Switzerland and Belgium hold proverbial gold medals in chocolate making. And any chocolate-eater worth their weight in... well, chocolate, has likely graduated from the days of Hershey's and Cadbury to a smaller-batch, fair trade, organic chocolatier by now. But how many serious choco-lovers have ventured to factories across the globe for tours, lessons in cacao history, and all-important taste-tests?

Well, the good news is that not all the worthwhile tours are in Europe — there are U.S. based factories, too, that churn out rich, bitter, fantasy-inducing chocolates and they give just as fascinating tours. Theo's Chocolates in Seattle and Mast Brothers in Brooklyn, for example, are leaders of organic, mouth-watering chocolate producing in the U.S. and they open their doors to curious (read: desperate) visitors on a regular basis.

As is only right, some of the most luxuriating, traditional chocolatiers in Switzerland and Belgium have hour-long factory tours, delving into the history of chocolate and into the processes of making truffles, chocolate bars, and special treats. Confiserie Sprüngli in Zürich and Maison Callier in Broc-Gruyère are among the most sumptuous tours you can take.

With factories that welcome guests from San Francisco to Australia, there are ample opportunities to distinguish yourself as a true connoisseur. Just try not to look pityingly on at passersby who are still unwrapping Twix bars and Kit Kats. They know not what they do.