Charles M. Schulz, the American cartoonist who created “Peanuts,” once wrote: “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
It’s almost impossible to say no to chocolate, whether bittersweet truffles or sugar-saturated bars, it’s not only perfect for indulging the taste buds, but also seems to improve your mood.
Chocolate makers remove cocoa beans from the pods, which are then fermented, dried, roasted and cracked. After grounding the nibs and extracting cocoa butter, a thick, dark brown substance — chocolate liquor ­— is left.
The chocolate is then refined again, adding ingredients like milk and sugar.
The final step is known as conching, when the heated chocolate liquor is slowly stirred to get rid of the residual moisture and volatile acids to achieve a mild, smooth and rich taste.
Boutique chocolatiers working their magic in Shanghai create a diverse selection of mouthwatering treats, from truffles with creamy fillings to chocolate fondues.
Of course, there’s a price to pay for premium chocolate. Imported truffles are pricier than the average imported chocolates, and with no preservatives, fresh truffles have a limited shelf life.
Here are some recommendations for top-drawer chocolate.
Napoleon Chocolate Bar
The cafe not only sells handmade truffles, but also desserts and drinks made with fine imported Belgian chocolate.
The Julu Road branch has a chic and modern interior in cocoa tones — ideal for sampling all things cocoa while enjoying a friendly vibe.
The gourmet truffles are from Belgium and can be packaged in gift boxes.
Children will love the chocolate lollipops that come in various flavors — including almond, raspberry, peanut butter and passion fruit — for 15 yuan each (US$2.4).
The chocolate bar’s signature mud cake in Australian style (36 yuan) is made with 65 percent Belgian dark chocolate, Australian coffee beans and fresh milk from New Zealand. Try it with a scoop of ice cream for an extra 10 yuan.
Chocolate fondue for two is 85 yuan, with a choice of dark, milk or white chocolate.
It’s served with a platter of seasonal fruit, marshmallow and banana cake to dip in the warm chocolate.
The dark chocolate used for the fondue has a rich flavor with just the right amount of bitterness to bring out the aroma of fine cocoa.
• Julu Road branch
Opening hours: 11am-11pm (Sunday to Thursday); 11am-12pm (Friday and Saturday)
Address: 242-2 Julu Rd
• Super Brand Mall branch
Opening hours: 9am-10pm
Address: B2/F, Super Brand Mall, 168 Lujiazui Rd W.
Jean-Paul Hevin Chocolatier
He specializes in handmade gourmet chocolates and macaroons using the best cocoa beans and containing less sugar than many others and no preservatives.
Truffles are about 22 yuan (US$3.5) each, while a lollipop is 68 yuan. A box of five macaroons is 148 yuan.
Opening hours: 10am-10pm
Address: L2-35, ifc Mall, 8 Century Ave
Blondel chocolate bars come in various flavors — including sea salt, pistachio, mint and chili pepper. They are sold by weight at about 25 yuan (US$4) per 10 grams, with prices varying for different flavors.
Blondel also offer classic truffles and pralines.
Opening hours: 10am-10pm
Address: L147, Xintiandi Style, 245 Madang Rd
The house specialty is the champagne truffle. It features a blend of fresh cream, butter and chocolate with a champagne cream center surrounded by dark chocolate ganache, then covered in milk chocolate and dusted with confectioner’s sugar. It’s priced at 48 yuan (US$8) per piece.
It also offers hot chocolate and coffee to pair with the artisan truffles, pralines and Giandujas.
• Jing An Kerry Center branch
Opening hours: 11am-10pm
Address: S302, Jing An Kerry Center, 1515 Nanjing Rd W.