My chocolate-tasting career has taken me all over the world. I’ve toured the original Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania and completed a chocolate-making course with award-winning chocolatier Laurent Gerbaud in Brussels, Belgium. Heck, I was once handed boxes of chocolates by an emissary of a former Soviet republic in a Swiss hotel lobby. [CLASSIFIED CHOCOLATE MATERIAL REDACTED]
However, there’s no need to engage in international cloak-and-chocolate intrigue when you can simply visit the best chocolate shops across Canada. Whether you’re seeking a Valentine’s Day gift or just satisfying a year-round sugar craving, there’s something for every palate. Let’s explore some of the sweetest treats in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.
Rogers’ Chocolates, Victoria
In the years since greengrocer Charles Rogers’ 1885 invention of the Victoria Cream, Rogers’ Chocolates has grown into as much of a Victoria institution as the Fairmont Empress Hotel. The two-storey-tall, Queen Anne Revival brick building is an attraction in itself as a National Historic Site, and elaborate window displays tempt passersby.
Inside the flagship, century-old store on Government Street, you can buy close to 20 different variations on the original, weighty Victoria Cream, with flavours like vanilla, raspberry, and peanut butter. The Empress Squares with toffee caramel and roasted almonds are also perennial favourites. Everything is made with 100% fair trade-certified cocoa. In addition, Rogers’ Chocolates supports talented Canadian artists like Joanne Hastie, Alex Fong, and Peter Wyse by featuring their work on beautiful art tins.
Thierry Chocolates, Vancouver
“I always used to steal dark chocolate from my parents’ room when I was a kid,” chef Thierry Busset admitted with a laugh at his cozy shop, bustling with happy customers, on Vancouver’s upscale Alberni Street. The French chocolatier has come a long way, with more than 30 years in this business.
I felt ultra-spoiled while devouring his rich handcrafted creations, like the palet d’or embossed with gold leaf or the deliciously understated passionfruit ganache. The basque chili delivers a special spicy kick. The chocolate marquise is a decadent slab of goodness with chocolate mousse on top and a layer of salted caramel. You can try it all on the heated patio at Thierry Chocolates while sipping the 72% Kayambe Dark Liquid Chocolate – trust me, this drinking chocolate is way beyond mere cocoa.
Sweet Lollapalooza, Edmonton
When the Lollapalooza alternative music festival kicked off in 1991, my 80’s-trained ears loathed headliners like Jane’s Addiction and Nine Inch Nails. (As in, “Boo! Gimme my Van Halen!”) Yet I’m happy to report that the name of the shop didn’t affect my enjoyment of Sweet Lollapalooza chocolatier Brett Roy’s handcrafted bonbons. They take up to three days apiece to make, from painstakingly achieving the ideal quality of small-batch chocolate to painting each bonbon with vivid cocoa butter paints.
Designated an Expert Chocolatier by the legendary French chocolate manufacturer Valrhona, Roy can be seen at work behind a glass wall at his Commercial Place boutique in downtown Edmonton. Award-winning chocolates include the Raspberry Noir, Pure Nacional, and Dark Salted Butter Caramel.
Those Girls at the Market, Saskatoon
In 2018, the New York Times called Saskatoon’s food scene “shockingly good.” That description certainly fits Those Girls at the Market.
Sisters Julianna and Ying Tan take a health-first approach with their chocolate bars. Their simple core ingredients are organic cacao paste, cacao butter, and maple syrup. Innovative flavours change monthly, such as sea salted avocado, pineapple basil, and pomegranate coconut. Year-round, you can pre-order a batch of chocolates for pick-up at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market (open Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays).
If you consider chocolates to be “edible art,” as Toronto’s Laura Slack does, then you owe yourself a trip to her cute, compact Maisonette boutique in the Distillery District. Fans of Mexico’s Day of the Dead gobble up her hand-painted Dulce de Leche chocolate skulls.
This graduate of Vancouver’s Ecole Chocolat, who doubles as a pastry chef, also creates such delectable truffles as Mentha (pure mint ganache), Marcellus (peanut butter and milk chocolate ganache), and Chaucer’s Heart (pink lemonade tea infused ganache). It is believed that Geoffrey Chaucer, the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages, first associated romance with Valentine’s Day in his 14th-century poem “The Parlement of Foules,” and the latter truffle commemorates his creativity.
Stubbe Chocolates, Ottawa
Heinrich Stubbe recently relocated from his longtime Dalhousie Street location to a gleaming new shop on Wellington West, but his commitment to quality remains the same. The German chocolatier, who came to Ottawa in 1989, offers 40 truffles and 50 bonbons with a bean-to-bar philosophy. The Stubbe family’s chocolate-making tradition dates back to 1845, and this is currently the oldest family-owned and operated business in the nation’s capital.
Stubbe’s staff members – many of whom come from Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute – share his passion. “I love painting chocolates,” one employee told me. “It’s Zen-like, meditative for me.” And if you’re staying downtown at the historic Lord Elgin Hotel, you might find one of Stubbe’s chocolates on your pillow.
Chocolats Geneviève Grandbois, Montreal
Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood is most famous for Jewish eateries like Wilensky’s Light Lunch and St-Viateur Bagel, but Chocolats Geneviève Grandbois adds a uniquely sweet touch.
Geneviève Grandbois, who launched her business in 2002, keeps candy fiends coming back to this high-end, independent chocolate shop with her signature dark chocolate squares. Tantalizing varieties include peppermint, maple-caramelized pecans, and toasted sesame seeds. To ensure quality control and promote sustainable agriculture, Grandbois bought a cocoa plantation in Palmar, Costa Rica in 2007. It’s an investment that pleases both her patrons and our planet.
Top image: Thierry Chocolates