Charles M. Schulz once famously said, "All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt." Fortunately, Angelenos can get a decadent share as specialty chocolate is a growing trend in the City of Angels.
The major distinction between chocolate shops is whether they are chocolate-makers — painstakingly producing chocolate from cacao beans (hence the meaning of bean-to-bar) which they use to create bars, powder, drinks, and more — or chocolatiers who melt down already-made chocolate to turn into unique confections.
To learn about all "how-to" facets of chocolate, check out The Gourmandise School of Sweet & Savories in Santa Monica. But in the meantime, peruse this hit list of specialty chocolatiers and chocolate-makers — from legendary shops to sweet new wave sensations—and some with cafés to boot!
"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt." ~ Charles M. Schulz
THE CHOCOLATE MAKERS
Located in Culver City, ChocoVivo (12469 W. Washington Blvd, Los Angeles 90066) is a home-grown chocolate wonderland and the brainchild of Patricia Tsai, a Wharton-educated former CPA who followed her passion and turned her curiosity into a one-of-a-kind bean-to-bar shop and café. Since founding her business in 2009 and opening her shop in 2013, Patricia has sourced her beans from one grower in Tabasco, Mexico and roasts and grinds them in-house. What sets her chocolate apart is the way it is processed—stone ground as the Mayans and Aztecs did over 2,000 years ago. There’s no milk powder, soy lecithin or additional cacao butter. The shop’s shelves are filled with a variety of bars, cocoa nibs, butters, specialty chocolate gift boxes, apothecary bottles filled with chocolate, and more. The café specializes in chocolate drinks using 65% to 100 % cacao, and varying milk and water bases—from sipping chocolate to frozen hot chocolate.
Priced at $45, ChocoVivo's daily tours include a tasting of six different chocolates and a full-size chocolate drink.
David and Corey Menkes began making chocolate in their apartment under the cottage industry law. Now their small-batch chocolate company, LetterPress is run from a small Beverlywood storefront (2835 S. Robertson Blvd, Los Angeles 90034) that also serves as its factory, where they literally do it all—from beans-to-bar. The duo make their organic chocolate bars from scratch, starting with receiving delivery of fermented raw cacao beans from farmers and co-ops predominantly located in Central and South America. The process to turn the single-origin beans into chocolate includes sorting, shelling, roasting, grinding, and tempering all done in one back room. Chocolate is prepared in small batches, with no added sugar, and sits for at least a month to age. It is then melted, carefully handset in molds, and finally, wrapped in paper designed by David.
Made in-house with LetterPress chocolate, ice cream pints include Ghana Caramel Crunch, Mint Chocolate Chip, Tanzania Chocolate and Amaranth Crunch. Also available are single-origin cacao candles, made with extracted oils from upcycled cacao shells.
Chocolate Factory Tours are offered for $20 and include "plenty of samples for everyone."
Brothers Phil and Marc Covitz grew up in Beverly Hills’ iconic Teuscher Chocolates, opened by their mother, Aviva more than 35 years ago. Phil and Marc went their own ways working in advertising and finance, respectively, but came together with a new concept when their mother retired. While a franchise partner opened Teuscher Chocolates across the street, the Covitz brothers re-branded the family store, naming it andSons Chocolatiers (9548 Brighton Way, Beverly Hills 90210) and partnered with chef Kriss Harvey, celebrated for his creations at The Bazaar by José Andrés.
Using chocolate sourced primarily from South America and produce from local farmers markets, andSons specializes in two kinds of chocolate, which they produce their Downtown L.A. factory. The Classic line features traditional flavors such as ganaches and pralines topped with subtle decorative elements. Modern Confections showcases bold and inventive flavor pairings such as White Chocolate with Fresh Lemon Verbena, and Dark Milk Chocolate with Yuzu & Lime, molded inside distinctively colorful hand-painted shells. Also garnering attention are architecturally designed boxes that are perfect for gift giving. Should you want to rest after perusing the chocolates, take a break at their adjacent café for baked goods and coffee.
The internationally revered Compartés is as applauded for its handcrafted chocolate bars and truffles as it is for its artful fashion-forward packaging design —all from the mind of owner Jordan Grahm, who took over as chocolatier of the nearly 70-year-old business at the age of 21, and then bought it from his family at 25. Compartés now has three locations in Los Angeles. The original location is in Brentwood; the flagship Kelly Wearstler design collaboration is at Westfield Century City—complete with patina walls covered with bars, plus frozen hot chocolate dispensed from a machine that magically churns chocolate and milk into a soft-serve milkshake). The latest is a 6,000 square-foot factory (516 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles 90036) which also hosts tours to teach how chocolate is made and distributed. An adjacent retail store offers bars, truffles, and more.
The chocolate is made with South American cacao beans and organic ingredients sourced at local farmer's markets. With true California spirit, vegan organic paleo bars are a no-brainer. How about reishi mushrooms, raspberries, and matcha green tea to start? Of course, dipped fruits, nuts, pretzels, and Oreos are among the most popular. Awards and accolades abound, including Oprah’s Favorite Things and a six-month display at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York.
diane krön chocolatier
In the 1970s, Diane Krön and her late husband, Thomas launched diane krön chocolatier in the basement of their New York apartment with a centuries-old Krön’s family recipe. They later opened a shop where they were regaled for introducing the chocolate-covered strawberry to the world - the likes of Andy Warhol and Estee Lauder coveted their confections. To the dismay of many, they closed the shop in 1983. But in 2000, diane krön/K Chocolatier re-emerged in Beverly Hills (9606 Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills 90210) with later expansions to Malibu (3835 Cross Creek Rd, Malibu 90265) and back to New York.
Featured as the “Rolls Royce of Chocolates” on the Food Network, the luxury chocolates are still made in the Beverly Hills shop, now with son David joining in. Among the most prized selections are fudge, chocolate covered fruit, flower boxes filled with chocolate, and a chocolate liquor line - 30 "shots" filled with vodka, tequila or Scotch.
The oldest chocolate shop in Los Angeles, Edelweiss Chocolates (444 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills 90210) has changed hands and names since opening in 1942 - including ownership by Shirley Jones and Marty Ingels - but the recipes for the handmade confections have remained the same. All sweets are made from scratch using imported Swiss chocolate, and added ingredients including marzipan, nuts, caramels, toffee, and marshmallows.
Hollywood stories abound—Katherine Hepburn wrote about the chocolate turtle in her autobiography, the Reagans were regular customers, and legend has it that Oprah orders 10-pound heart boxes for employees every year. But the biggest pop culture story centers around Lucille Ball, who was inspired to write her famous “I Love Lucy” chocolate factory episode after spotting the conveyor belt in the back room factory (which is still used, along with the original tools and pots).
John Kelly Chocolates
When John Kelson and Kelly Green opened their Hollywood chocolate shop (1508 N. Sierra Bonita Ave, Hollywood 90046) with a treasured family recipe for truffle fudge in 2004, little did they know they’d become an award-winning national brand with appearances at the Academy Awards and gifting sweets—and a second shop at 1111 ½ Montana Ave. in Santa Monica. Jeweled displays at John Kelly Chocolates showcase 19 variations of their famous fudge with varying bases of dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, white chocolate, and peanut butter. The chocolates are layered in such a way that it takes five people to assemble just one piece. Among the unique flavors are Dark Chocolate with Habanero & Jalapeño Chile and Peanut Butter with Himalayan Sea Salt. Other decadent treats include salted caramels, chocolate-dipped fruit, molded chocolate, and caramel clusters. Get them specially boxed for an occasion or buy them by the piece.
Milla Chocolates Coffee & Confections
Art and style merge with handcrafted chocolate at Milla Chocolates Coffee & Confections (9414 Venice Blvd, Culver City 90232) the visually stunning minimalist boutique and café owned by chocolatier Christine Sull Sarioz and designed by her husband, Goktug Sarioz. Christine gained traction for her geometric designs after opening a pop-up at the Row DTLA a few years ago - a slew of awards followed.
The permanent location opened in 2018 and is designed like a modernist jewelry store in matte black with gold accents that match the packaging. Visitors can catch a glimpse of Christine behind a translucent wall as she produces her creations made from organic, single-origin chocolate. Among the most popular is chocolate-dipped orange slices and the orange chip bar (crispy orange slices covered with dark chocolate), hazelnut praline bar, and bon bons filled with such deluxe ingredients as Amaro, Champagne, and Kir Royale. Café offerings include coffee drinks, plus a very special iced black sesame hot chocolate, and a chocolate and coffee pairing that includes two bon bons.
This family business harkens back to 1910 in the Ukraine and in the 1970s to Iran, where Mignon was known as the "King of Chocolates." Fast forward to 2002, when third generation chocolatiers Joseph and Anoush Ter-Poghossian brought their handcrafted chocolates and truffles to Los Angeles. Mignon Chocolate is made in small batches at a Van Nuys factory and sold at retail stores in Glendale (315 N. Verdugo Rd) and Pasadena (6 E. Holly St). Choose from more than 60 flavors, including their signature dark chocolate dipped orange peel strips, hazelnut truffles, and ginger with lime-infused sea salt. Mignon is also known for custom boxes and elaborate party favors.
Valerie Gordon is one of the first and most celebrated of LA’s artisan confectioners for Valerie Confections, the company she founded with husband Stan Weightman, Jr. in 2004. She first gained national attention for toffee confections she created in six flavors. Her repertoire evolved to elegant petit fours, chocolates, truffles, chocolate bars, and stunning cakes. Now she has a boutique in Historic Filipinotown (364 W 1st St, Los Angeles 90004); a Tea House & Bakery with a full breakfast/lunch menu and an exquisite tea selection in Echo Park (1665 Echo Park Ave, Los Angeles 90026); and an upcoming location in Woodland Hills. Along the way, she received a James Beard Award nomination for her cookbook, Sweet. Valerie is also known as a dessert "anthropologist" - she resurrects long-gone cakes with perfect taste intact, including the iconic Blum’s Coffee Crunch Cake.