10/04/2011 08:41 am ET Updated Nov 30, 2011

10 Chocolate Factory Tours Around The World (PHOTOS)

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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10 Chocolate Factories to Explore Around the World