The word connoisseur is thrown around too much these days. Knowing how to sniff brandy, aerate your red wine or distinguish between East and West Coast oysters is simply a matter of being astute. Likewise, knowing the joys of nibbling on small squares of 70 percent dark chocolate with a hint of sea salt does not an expert make. If you're vying to upgrade from bystander to real connoisseur -- from social chocolate-lover to official taste-tester --it's time to go behind the scenes.
Everyone knows by now that Switzerland and Belgium are famous for their chocolate. And any chocolate-eater worth their weight in cacao has likely graduated from Hershey's and Cadbury to smaller-batch, fair trade, organic chocolate by now. But how many serious choco-lovers have ventured to factories across the globe for tours, lessons in cacao history and all-important taste-tests?
Well, the good news is that not all the worthwhile tours are in Europe -- there are US-based factories, too, that churn out rich, bitter, fantasy-inducing chocolates and they give just as fascinating tours. Theo's Chocolates in Seattle and Mast Brothers in Brooklyn, for example, are leaders of organic, mouth-watering chocolate producing in the U.S. and they open their doors to curious (read: desperate) visitors on a regular basis.
As is only right, some of the most luxuriating, traditional chocolatiers in Switzerland and Belgium have hour-long factory tours, delving into the history of chocolate and into the processes of making truffles, chocolate bars, and special treats. Confiserie Sprüngli in Zürich and Maison Callier in Broc-Gruyère are among the most sumptuous tours you can take.
With factories that welcome guests from San Francisco to Australia, there are ample opportunities to distinguish yourself as a true connoisseur. Just try not to look pityingly on at passersby who are still unwrapping Twix bars and Kit Kats. They know not what they do.
- Leora Novick, The Daily Meal
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