The Top 15 Chocolate-Producing Countries

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During the past decade, I’ve seen as the United States has long been a dominating force in the worldwide artisan chocolate industry, and as my country’s chocolate strength has quietly expanded throughout the globe. Being the birthplace of artisan chocolate culture, the United States continues to have the most chocolate manufacturers in the world, as well as some of the finest.

But, the majority of these countries are cacao-producing nations, which I believe is not a coincidence. Small-batch chocolate production has moved from the United States to Canada and Europe, and more recently into Asia, where over a fifth of the world’s cacao is farmed.

Handmade chocolate is sweeping the Asian market. But, when more value-added and tree-to-bar manufacturers start making noise, I fully anticipate to see certain African nations on future editions of this list. Yet, for the time being, these are the loudest areas in artisan chocolate, not necessarily the most productive, and I don’t anticipate this to last.

Yeah, this is in chronological sequence.

How I Decided the Best Chocolate-Producing Countries

I looked through every nation in the globe and analyzed how much noise they were making on the cacao or chocolate scene. Next I either listed them as candidates or checked them out; overall chocolate quality and simplicity of purchase were important factors. The list was whittled down from there, with most nations being omitted owing to a tiny number or a very quiet group of creators.

Cacao-growing areas have an accepted advantage in terms of culture, but their positions have traditionally been disadvantaged, so I say work with what you have. Remember that stars are created rather than born. They also have some celebrity, the kind you’d learn about online or through friends.

Therefore, if you know of any major events taking place in a nation that isn’t on this list or that didn’t rank as high as you thought, please leave a comment or send me an email. So, before you do, carefully go through this list and assess how public your chosen country’s cacao and chocolate culture is. Is it all over the news, travel websites, and social media? Have any manufacturers or farmers attended foreign trade shows? Could you identify a single manufacturer from your country?

There will always be some author bias in any ranking or comparison, but I have attempted to evaluate these nations as honestly as possible in terms of their expanding popularity and spread across the business. Now comes the exciting part.

1. The United States

In the United States, a consumer trend toward enterprises with more transparent methods and fair-trade components began in the 1980s. This subsequently resulted in the establishment of multiple equal trade and environmentally friendly certifying firms. Nonetheless, the artisan chocolate movement is widely acknowledged to have begun in earnest about 2005.

Taza Chocolate was founded at the same time as Scharffen Berger Chocolate Manufacturer was sold (it is currently owned by Hersheys). Taza, along with four other firms (Askinosie, Patric, Amano, and DeVries), formed the now-defunct Craft Chocolate Manufacturers of America in 2008. Initially, these enterprises specialized on bean-to-bar dark chocolate manufactured with solely cacao and sugar, but their product lines gradually expanded.

By 2010, there were dozens of such small-scale manufacturers in the United States alone. Another noteworthy increase occurred in 2015, and since then, hundreds of small chocolate manufacturers have sprung up around the nation, if not globally. Several of these little chocolate shops have closed due to the epidemic, but some of America’s top chocolatiers remain. Visit French Broad Chocolate Manufacturers for American-made tree-to-bar chocolate and some of the greatest chocolate in the nation’s capital.

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Brazil No. 2

Where do I even begin when it comes to Brazil?

The nation has a long history of cacao cultivation, but agricultural disease devastation in the 1980s resulted in widespread poverty and the loss of their position as one of the world’s top chocolate exporters. Yet, a massive surge of interest has swept the nation in the past three years, notably in São Paulo and the little seaside city of Ilheus. A slew of small-scale chocolate producers, both bean to bar and tree to bar, have sprung up around the nation.

But it was their national chocolate festival that really caught my attention, a major event that is now joining the ranks of numerous older regional chocolate and cacao festivals. It’s like the sprinkles that encircle abrigadeiro, a popular Brazilian dessert made with cocoa powder and sweetened condensed milk that holds together the whole system of producers, farmers, and everyone in between. To top it all off, Brazil is home to a plethora of cacao relatives that are indigenous to the area.

Chocolate producers are using this tropical wet dream to entice both foreign and local chocoholics, creating chocolate-like delicacies from various Theobromas and even combining them into chocolate bars. Most of the world’s commercial cacao pulp is now sourced from Brazil, where the frozen cacao pulp business seems to be massive. But, Brazilians are dissatisfied with only utilizing cacao to manufacture chocolate and other treats. Some residents are also developing enterprises centered on utilizing cocoa to protect the nation’s dwindling rain forests, providing value to a product that has long been transported out of the country.

There isn’t much you can do with cacao and chocolate that the Brazilians haven’t previously thought of, planned for, and executed on; this is what has won them the number one slot on our list.

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3. The Kingdom of Belgium

Who doesn’t want a chocolate store on every street corner? The allegations that Belgium’s major cities have more chocolate stores than normal are genuine. Nevertheless, since Belgium is not tropical and hence cannot produce cacao, all Belgian chocolate is prepared using imported cacao. Domestic chocolate manufacturers, whose trade dates back centuries, all the way to the 1600s, are so limited in their possibilities.

Cacao was generally drunk as a bitter hot chocolate, which was only available to the upper class as a type of therapeutic beverage. Sugar was added to the beverage at the start of the 17th century, according to the archives, making hot chocolate even more popular across Europe. Several generations later, their descendants continue to produce and eat chocolate at higher-than-average rates.

As a result, chocolate is now reasonably inexpensive across the nation, with each piece costing roughly one euro ($1 USD).

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4. Japan

To be honest, Japan is a fertile ground for chocolate manufacturers and chocolate innovation.

With over a hundred small-scale handmade chocolate manufacturers and no cacao growing on any of the islands, there is an astounding concentration of chocolate here. To go along with them, there are a plethora of chocolate festivals. These concerts are staged in the winter around Valentine’s Day and are always crowded. The fact that you can find a chocolate manufacturer in almost each city in Japan is astounding, but wait until you attend a Japanese chocolate festival.

Japan seems to have a chocolate craze, and they are ready to spend so much for quality chocolate that the Japanese bars I’ve purchased have far outstripped costs from any other nation, including Northern Europe. Along with the numerous international chocolatiers that came before them, overseas producers such as Dandelion and Naive have entered the Japanese chocolate industry. Yet, in Okinawa’s southernmost islands, not only are there handmade chocolate manufacturers, but also a unique sugar farming rebirth. Japanese chocolate producers have shown an incredible dedication to combining Japanese tastes and single origin chocolates in an endless mix of flavors and distinguishing characteristics.

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Ecuador is number five.

Ecuador, one of my favorite places in the world, has a strong chocolate culture and a cacao culture that dates back millennia. Ecuador exports a large quantity of cacao, but it also has dozens of its own chocolate producers spread around the nation, particularly in the Quito region. The only reason they aren’t higher on this list is because they are already well-known for cacao and chocolate, and this is a list of emerging chocolate stars. But, they have the greatest reputation for excellent cacao and chocolate of any country on our list, and theyve been leveraging it as a foundation for future expansion rather than merely coasting by.

To say the least, the quantity of excellent cacao farmed in Ecuador and processed into value-added chocolate is astonishing, and theyre not stopping there. Apart from Brazil, Ecuador is the only other nation I’ve heard of that routinely uses cacao pulp and other cacao by-products in novel ways. Cacao juice, an unfermented variant of the cacao liquor used in many other nations, has become one of the most popular exports in recent months.

Every other week, I learn about a new Ecuadorian chocolate manufacturer, and even when I was there a few years ago, many chocolatiers tended to use locally-made chocolate. Every autumn, they have a chocolate and cacao festival, and the nation now has numerous different terroir zones, not to mention new evidence suggesting Ecuador may be the origin of cacao. If that isn’t enough, the nation has its own unique chocolate cultivar known as arriba nacional.

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Sixth. France

A list of the finest nations for chocolate would be incomplete if France was not included. France, one of Europe’s original cacao-importing nations, is also recognized for the fabled French truffle, one of the country’s best-known confections (though most people don’t appear to realize it!).

The finest city in France for chocolate is probably Paris, but Lyon’s annual Salon du Chocolat gives the capital a run for its money. The four-day event has been going on since 1994, and there are now variations all across the globe, including my adoptive nation of South Korea. Every year, tens of thousands of tourists go to spend hours eating exquisite chocolates, witnessing chocolate-themed fashion events, and even viewing chocolate-themed movies.

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Mexico 7th.

Southern Mexico is known as the “bread basket of cacao,” since it is the home of criollo or finely flavored cacao.

Mexican varietals are noted for having a larger proportion of white beans, which have a milder and more delicate taste. Centuries ago, Mexican regions supplied the majority of the world’s cacao, but their share declined as other countries were covered with cacao and the price fell. Yet, the number of chocolate producers and cacao growers has lately increased dramatically. In the face of the oil decrease, people have invested heavily in the business, and the benefits are beginning to show.

Its new emergence on the scene is a result of a mix of sluggish cacao re-planting and rising demand for such high-quality cocoa, as well as more complicated cultural motives. This includes Mexican-Americans relocating to Mexico, the impact of European gourmet cuisine culture, and the global tree-to-bar chocolate production boom. Mexico offers the most cacao museums and cacao excursions or house stays of any country I’ve ever examined.

The nation has been very noisy this year, with several chocolate farms, activities, and museums springing up over the country. Mexican chocolate manufacturers and a few cacao cooperatives are not only striving to create their brand and reputation for excellent cacao, but they are also organizing the festivals and events where they will be shown.

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8. India

Chocolate producers have sprung up all across India’s subcontinent in recent years, both in big towns and on farms.

While there is a cacao-growing powerhouse in Kerala’s southern area, cacao has been cultivated on plantations across the country’s southern half. Coconut is a prominent intercrop and supplementary revenue source. Yet, like in Brazil, the farms I’ve seen photos of seem to have a wide range of other crops growing on them, which may be more for local consumption.

India is now one of the trendiest cacao origins on the market. When more cacao is made accessible each harvest, it is making its way up to the popularity of Vietnam, where the thrill is well-established. It’s getting a lot of attention, but Indian cacao is still ironing out the kinks, with demand outstripping supply, at least in terms of quality cacao.

I’m excited to see pioneers in cacao farming education emerge on the subcontinent, particularly as local demand for cocoa and chocolate grows. Cocoa plants might be a profitable option for farmers to supplement revenue from coconut groves or cacao-compatible agriculture without sacrificing other sources of income.

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Thailand (9)

Thailand has exploded into the exquisite chocolate scene more quicker than any other country on our list.

Last year at this time, the nation had just a few chocolate producers and almost no Thai cacao accessible outside of the country. Nevertheless, in 2018, a slew of chocolate producers opened shop in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, totaling a dozen. Since I first wrote about chocolate in Bangkok, many of them have opened. Apart from the constant rise, the sheer volume of noise generated by the Thai handmade chocolate sector is astonishing.

Kad Kokoa, in particular, seems to be everywhere, which is a deliberate push by the pair behind the business, and in my humble view, a wise one. Not all of these dozen chocolatiers use just Thai cacao, but many do, and virtually all of them have cafés serving coffee, bonbons, and desserts. Thai cocoa has not only arrived on the world stage, but it has also brought with it a raucous party. Although though the Chiang Mais cocoa research center has been producing chocolate and teaching farmers for decades, they did not join the market until this year.

Thailand, with numerous diverse cacao producing zones around the nation, is positioned to become another major participant in the exquisite cacao market over the next half-decade. Chiang Mais cocoa research center is creating a Chocolate School at the end of this year, where farmers may come to learn how to cultivate chocolate. Given the recent investment in continuing to expand Thai cacao in both volume and quality, it’s no wonder that the nation is quickly rising the chocolate rankings.

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10. Peru

Peru, like Ecuador, has thrown some fuel into its cocoa engine in the seven years since I lived and worked at a chocolate museum there.

I recall spending a few days in Lima before returning home and only being able to identify a handful Peruvian chocolate brands for sale in the city despite doing research in both English and Spanish. And I had to go a long distance to obtain them. I can think of a half-dozen Peruvian chocolate manufacturers off the top of my head, and they, like Ecuador, generally use local cacao. Nonetheless, there are now dozens of chocolate producers and a Salon du Chocolat y Cacao in Lima, as well as dozens more makers around the nation, from north to south.

Moreover, owing to a few established cacao brands and notable cacao sources, as well as various chocolate experiences guaranteeing a unique look into Peruvian cacao, Peru has become relatively well-known for excellent cocoa. Every major city in Peru has at least one chocolate manufacturer, and most have some kind of cacao museum. I believe we can blame the ChocoMuseo franchise for that, albeit some locals have launched their own chocolate-making education endeavors.

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England (11th)

I’m not sure whether it was due to a common history and language or simply sheer chance, but England was one of the first countries to be influenced by the American artisan chocolate movement.

It has only gained traction in the past decade or two, particularly since London’s top chocolatiers have begun to enter the bean to bar market. Nonetheless, chocolate factories dot the English countryside, providing a terrific idea for chocolate travelchocolate road trip anyone?

In terms of sheer concentration, England is unquestionably in the top 10 countries in terms of the number of handmade chocolate manufacturers and chocolatiers. Despite their success, they are still trying to educate the British people and build infrastructure for their chocolate villages. In the area, London Chocolate Week has become legendary, and the number of UK-based chocolate subscription boxes and chocolate instructors is at an all-time high.

British chocolate cafés are often more like chocolate education centers or museums, with a vast variety of sweets. All they need are a few cocoa plants in a downtown greenhouse!

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Colombia is number twelve.

While coffee is still the country’s most well-known export, Colombia’s chocolate business has taken up in the past decade or two.

Despite the fact that Colombia has been growing cacao for millennia, the current increase in the number of trees and the quality of cacao produced in the country is the result of a mix of causes. On the one hand, hundreds, if not thousands, of dedicated entrepreneurs are launching their own businesses utilizing Colombian cocoa, ranging from cacao brands to chocolate production. On the other side, the Colombian government is attempting to create cocoa employment in order to reduce the country’s reliance on coca and cocaine.

As the number of Colombian chocolate manufacturers grows, so does the number of cacao growers interested in manufacturing chocolate from tree to bar. Colombian chocolate manufacturers, like those in neighboring Ecuador and Peru, are spread throughout the nation. I’ve seen a good amount of farmers and artisans on excellent chocolate sites, but it’s still not on par with Peru or Ecuador. Yet, they made our list because, despite their tangled history and ongoing problems with drugs and safety, Colombia is on the rise in terms of chocolate production.

They’ll also be accomplishing huge things for a long time. When major newspapers in a country begin to take note of their local chocolate culture, as neighboring Ecuador has been doing for years, it is more indication that they deserve a second look. Look at this article on chocolate in Colombia. On a similar note, as young Colombians are lured into the global artisanal food movement and food tourism, local sugar is becoming more popular in Colombia, providing another channel of interest for local chocolate manufacturers.

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13. The Netherlands

The Netherlands’ connection with cacao and chocolate has been more gradual.

Portugal is one of Europe’s largest importers of cacao, and the country’s numerous importers have been vociferous about their role in supply chain transparency and diversity. Chocoa, one of the world’s biggest chocolate festivals, will be held in Amsterdam in February 2022. The Dutch love of cocoa is a mix of social entrepreneurs, health foodies, experiential companies, and the more traditional chocolate producers and cacao importers, as well as colonial importers of cacao.

The cities of Utrecht and Amsterdam have by far the greatest concentration of cocoa and chocolate firms, but as a quick glance at the Chocoa events forum reveals, it’s not just about creating chocolate. The Dutch technique is similar to the handmade chocolate concept: a transparent supply chain results in better chocolate. Sure, the Netherlands has a great chocolate tradition, but it’s their specialized cacao culture that has piqued my interest.

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fourteen. the Philippines

Unlike Indian and Vietnamese cacao, unless you live in Asia, Filipino cacao isn’t making a lot of noise on the origin market.

Thus, unlike India and Vietnam, domestic use of Filipino cocoa considerably outstrips internal output, and the nation is still importing cacao to fulfill people’ chocolate need. Yet, during the past half-decade or so, the quantity of academic research and on-the-ground farmer training has increased rapidly. The government is spending heavily in both teaching farmers on proper cultivation and processing procedures and planting additional high-quality cocoa at reasonable rates. Indeed, their high goal is to generate up to 10% of the world’s supply by 2022.

The Philippines has officially set their goal quite high, using the fact that production isn’t nearly at capacity as it is in parts of Africa, as well as their heritage as the first site in Asia to cultivate cocoa. The Philippines started collecting cocoa in the 1600s, when it was a Spanish colony, and it has generally remained a small stakeholder crop till now. Consequently, although there are many cacao farmers, there is still a lack of information among them and the wider public, despite the fact that many chocolate producers use local cacao.

Another intriguing approach to chocolate is the tourist strategy; see the in-progress Criollo Resort as an example. I anticipate that in two or three years, the Philippines will have surpassed India as the hottest new cacao origin in Asia, since the nation has both the land and the desire to do it.

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Australia is number fifteen.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quantity of chocolate manufacturers scattered over Australia’s vast geography.

The bias of the English language in handmade chocolate is one of the reasons Australia made this list rather than any of the Honorable Mentions listed below. As the contemporary lingua franca, the quantity of noise you hear from any nation will be mainly determined by the languages you speak and search in, and Aussies speak mine. Apart from the vast number of chocolate manufacturers and chocolatiers in Australia, there is a general interest in knowing more about the cuisine.

What most people don’t realize or anticipate is that cocoa can and is grown in the country’s northernmost region. They also create chocolate with this cacao, and Darwin, Australia may become renowned as Australia’s chocolate metropolis in the near future. Yet, for the time being, the nation will have to settle with the bigger cities of Sydney and Melbourne, where the majority, if not all, of the country’s chocolate producers are headquartered.

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Mentions of Merit

These are some of the nations where cacao, chocolate, or both are making significant strides. Yet, they are either well-known and little-publicized, solidly entrenched and stationary, or developing rather quietly. That is why they were left off the list. The nations listed below have a strong need for cacao and chocolate, but are either too well-known or not loud enough to enter the top twelve.

If you disagree with my rankings, please post a comment with your reasons, especially after you’ve taken at least a cursory look at what’s going on in the aforementioned nations.

  • Venezuela: there is so much happening in Venezuelan cacao and chocolate. Several of the most famous origins in chocolate are from Venezuela, but the situation there is so precarious that it seems like it’s hard for people to grow or reach their desired audience. I have hope that over the next few years this will change and Venezuelans will be able to promote their cacao & chocolate to the level of their neighbors, because it really is (largely) stupendous.
  • Vietnam: this was another tough one to leave off the list, but Vietnam has reach a level of fame such that people know of the several makers there, and could probably even name a few of the dozen or so cacao origins. There is some more noise being made there insofar as new makers, but much of it is still local within the country, and maybe as far as some other parts of Asia.
  • Taiwan: like many parts of Asia, Taiwan has been ramping up cacao production over the last few years, and the number of Taiwanese chocolate makers has exploded. However, Taiwanese chocolate makers and cacao farmers, many of whom are getting into the agro-tourism field, have set their sites on China. So insofar as being loud in English, the Taiwanese voice is being overwhelmingly drowned out.
  • Trinidad & Tobago: another relatively overlooked country in the Caribbean, Trinidad & Tobago is a duo of Caribbean islands off the coast of Venezuela, and home to the trinitario varietal of cacao. At last count the islands had well over a dozen chocolate makers, several cacao farm tours and chocolate experiences, and at least two annual chocolate festivals. But their noise level, while decent, has been relatively consistent over the last couple of years compared to some of their neighbors.

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