National Chocolate Week – celebrated this year from 14 October to 19 October – not only gives us an excuse to indulge in delicious treats but also highlights the great independent artisan chocolatiers and the companies who work directly with cocoa farmers and promote a fairer price.
As much as we love devouring chocolate, it is important to acknowledge that it frequently contains problematic ingredients, such as palm oil, which is one of the biggest contributors to deforestation, and cocoa, which is an industry fraught with modern slavery. What’s more, it often comes packaged in layers of non-recyclable plastic, as well as foil.
The good news, however, is that brands and consumers are changing their approach to making and buying chocolate, and bringing the issues associated with it to the fore.
So, while there’s no need to boycott chocolate altogether, it is worth considering the alternatives to large conglomerates, with lots of small, independent brands now going further than Fairtrade and working to change the system from the inside. While you may pay a premium, chocolate is a luxury that we should be paying a fairer price for.
Whether you prefer milk, dark or white, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you put together a sweet feast and celebrate National Chocolate Week in style. Happy eating!
Tony’s Chocolonely milk chocolate bar, 180g: £3.50, Waitrose.com
Tony's Chocolonely's range of vegan chocolate is some of the best, not least because of its taste, but also because of its ethical ethos. Featuring in our round-up of the best ethical chocolate brands, our tester praised it for working directly with farmers and investing in farming co-operatives, as well as paying extra premiums on top of Fairtrade prices.
“It sees itself as an ‘impact’ company that makes chocolate, rather than just simply a chocolate producer,” our reviewer wrote. “When you open the bar, you’ll notice the pieces of chocolate are not in perfectly formed squares, and this is to represent how the money made from cocoa is unevenly divided.” The flavours on offer are equally as great, ranging from milk chocolate to dark and milk chocolate pretzel.
The Chocolate Society box of the month: £22.50, Chocolate.co.uk
Winning best buy in our review of the best chocolate subscription boxes, The Chocolate Society is a monthly box for chocolate lovers. Experimental in ingredients, flavours and techniques, Valrhona-trained chocolatier Alasdair Garnsworthy creates small batches of seasonal, monthly boxes out of a professional chocolate kitchen down in rural Somerset.
Our tester liked that you receive two of each variety of chocolate, which “means that sharing is a possibility for once”. “These are hands down the most lovely-looking chocolates we’ve seen, with their eye-catching, colourful shells decorated with contemporary contrasting metallic flecks then elegantly boxed and tied with ribbon,” they said. “A warning: you’ll struggle to part with them if you’re giving as a gift.”
Hotel Chocolat the large chocolatier’s table: £120, Hotelchocolat.com
For the true chocoholic, this box will bring all your cocoa fantasies to life and is ideal for sharing (or not). Featuring in our round-up of the best luxury chocolate boxes, it contains 1.3kg of Hotel Chocolat’s best-loved recipes, including its decadent brownie, caramel custard-inspired blondie and adventurous habanero-spiked chilli praline.
“There really is something for every taste in this wardrobe of chocolate,” our tester said. “Single-origin chocolate also gets to shine, with butterscotch notes in the Colombian 53 per cent, which is interesting to compare to the far deeper, darkly fruity Honduran 72 per cent: it’s truly every chocoholic’s fantasy. Get it out for dessert and watch eyes widen.”
Montezuma's dark side, 90g: £2.59, Montezumas.co.uk
Since February 2020, Montezuma has used eco-friendly packaging – including recyclable inks, adhesives, stickers and tape. The brand's bestselling chocolate products now come in 100 per cent paper and card packaging, eliminating the non-recyclable metallised plastics often used to wrap confectionery.
The brand is Social Association organic certified and, while it’s not Fairtrade certified, Montezuma’s is dedicated to its sustainable cocoa production and farmer's education and investments in the local communities. The Food Empowerment Project – a non-profit organisation dedicated to creating a more just and sustainable world by recognising the power of one’s food choices – comfortably recommends this brand since it is transparent about the country it sources its cacao beans from; the beans are not sourced from areas where child labour and slavery are pervasive; and the brand goes above and beyond to support workers and their families.
The entire range – from its milk chocolate almond and butterscotch bars (£10.99, Montezumas.co.uk) to its organic milk chocolate giant buttons (£3.99, Montezumas.co.uk) and vegan bars (£2.99, Montezumas.co.uk) – is truly delicious.
Livia's nugglets choc brownie, box of 9: £12.99, Livias.co.uk
Known for its range of gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan indulgent treats, Livia's offers a host of sweet treats for vegans and non-vegans alike. The brand is also making positive sustainable steps – no palm oil is used in any of its products, and it’s on a mission to reduce plastic from its packaging.
Thanks to the great taste of these chocolate brownie nugglets, you’d be forgiven for thinking they weren’t plant-based. If you're not sure you want to buy a whole box of nine, you can buy also a single pack at Holland & Barrett (£1.49, Hollandandbarrett.com).
Love Cocoa avocado 71% dark chocolate bar, 75g: £4.50, Libertylondon.com
If you’re on the hunt for a great tasting treat without dairy, look no further than this bar from Love Cocoa, which featured in our round-up of the best vegan chocolate bars. “We know, it sounds incredibly millennial, but there’s a reason this popular toast topper is used in this bar,” our tester said. “By using the same creamy texture and oils of the fruit, you get a velvety chocolate bar when combined with cacao, but without needing to add dairy – clever.” Even better, for every bar bought, Love Cocoa plants a tree.
Cocoa Loco dark chocolate truffle making kit: £14.99, Cocoaloco.com
If you're looking for a rainy day activity, this truffle-making kit is just the ticket. Featuring in our round-up of the best craft kits for adults, our tester said it comes with all you need to make 30 delicious truffles, bar a pot of double cream. “A fun, even if a bit messy, activity to get stuck into and we think it’d go down well at a DIY hen do,” they said.
Our reviewer also added, “The process takes a few hours in total, as you’re supposed to let the chocolate cool at various points – try to be more patient than we were, or it gets even messier. Our final truffles tasted yummy. The included gift bags and ribbon are a welcome touch, but we’re loathed to give ours away.”
Charbonnel & Walker thank you hamper: £145, Charbonnel.co.uk
If you’re looking to treat someone else this World Chocolate Week consider this “thank you” hamper stuffed with the finest chocolate from Charbonnel & Walker. Featuring in our round-up of the best chocolate hampers, our reviewer said that “just opening the midnight blue ribbon on the cream cardboard box feels special”.
Inside, there’s a selection of some of the company’s best-loved delicacies including two miniature heart-shaped boxes of milk and dark chocolate sea salt truffles, three larger boxes of truffles including the iconic pink marc du champagne selection, and a large stuff-of-dreams box filled with assorted milk and dark chocolate. “Not quite indulgent enough? There’s a 200ml bottle of Moet champagne thrown in to really make this superb hamper a once-in-a-lifetime treat,” our tester added.
Divine Chocolate milk chocolate with orange, 90g: £2.29, Divinechocolate.com
Another one that featured in our round-up of the best ethical chocolate brands, Divine Chocolate has been championing farmers for more than 20 years. What sets it apart from the rest is that it’s co-owned by a British company and Kuapa Kokoo – a Ghanian cooperative of 85,000 farmers. Members command a stronger voice, and the brand has created a supply chain that shares value more equitably. While it is Fairtrade certified, it is going above and beyond through its range of initiatives including, empowering women through encouragement and mentioning.
The brand does not use palm oil in any of its products and is a certified B-Corporation, meaning it meets the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
Hotel Chocolat the velvetiser hot chocolate maker: £99.95, Hotelchocolat.com
For something truly decadent, it's got to be this at-home hot chocolate machine by Hotel Chocolat. Made with real grated chocolate flakes in just two and a half minutes, no longer will you have to slave over a hot stove, or drink mediocre hot chocolate. Included is 10 hot chocolate single serves in a mix of flavours, two ceramic cups worth £20, and a one-year guarantee.
When our writer reviewed the hot chocolate maker, she praised the result for being “rich and frothy” and it “felt really luxurious”. She added, “The best bit could have been that it was an even combination throughout, without those little sticky powder bits at the bottom which you usually get.”
Hotel Chocolat is unfortunately not eligible for Fairtrade certification because it’s owned by a company rather than being a smallholding. As such, it developed an “engaged ethics” programme to make sure its farmers are looked after, including through pay that is higher than the current Fairtrade price.
Willie’s Cacao milk of the stars, 80g: £1.99, Amazon.co.uk
This brand, which featured in our round-up of the best ethical chocolate, is best known for its dark bars that use beans from around the world. However, our tester selected the company’s milk of the stars bar, which uses 54 per cent cacao from Indonesia, as their favourite. “It’s creamy but not overly milky and retains its high quality,” they said.
Instead of labelling itself as Fairtrade, the company practices direct trade: buying straight from the farmers and paying a premium of at least $500 (£400) per ton, which is around $300 more than Fairtrade prices. Although there’s no certification of organic, Willie only sources cacao from farmers who don’t use chemicals and, if that’s not enough, the beans are also tested when they get back to the factory by external laboratories.
For great deals on food and drink (and of course, chocolate), try the links below:
Still not had your fill of chocolatey goodness? Read our guide to the best vegan chocolate bars
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.