Chocolate’s on our minds, and we want to offer you a bite of some of the South’s greatest artisan chocolatiers. While some of the chocolate makers on this list are small-batch, small-team confectioners, others are opulent, high-end and high-volume. But all create completely irresistible edible art you’ll have to see to believe. The tastiest part? All of these chocolatiers ship to you and your loved ones, but we might also suggest adding these scrumptious shops to your road trip bucket list.
9 Southern Chocolate Makers We Love
Chocolatá uses single-origin chocolate ethically sourced from 100% Latin American farms to create handmade chocolates and specialty items in Birmingham and beyond. Owner Kathy D’Agostino learned the art of chocolate making when she was a young girl working at a chocolatier near her family’s home for many years. Even during her career working in merchandising and design, she always kept the dream of opening her own chocolate shop. Now, her cozy and colorful shop is a chocolate-covered haven where the dreams of others come true. Known for her artful presentation, eclectic shapes, elegant packaging, and frequent collaborations with local artists, Kathy and the Chocolatá team satisfy a revived downtown Magic City’s sweet tooth. Buy a box or three for yourself at chocolatachocolate.com.
Poppy & Peep
People across the country know and adore Nashville artisan chocolatier Olive & Sinclair, who we first wrote about in 2012. We adore them, too, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t let you know about new-to-the-scene Poppy & Peep. Father-daughter duo, Mark and Evane Stoner, are partners and founders of the sweetest 1-year-old business in Music City. As a young girl, Evane remembers her dad bringing her treats from his business trips: fudge from Gatlinburg, TN, and saltwater taffy from Maryland. They loved — and still love — visiting candy shops together. After attending chocolate school, the duo decided it was time to bring their vision for chocolate education to Nashville. Poppy & Peep creates whimsical, flavor-packed chocolate delights, meringues, spread, and more in a custom micro-factory that you can visit (COVID-dependent!) in East Nashville. Find out more at poppyandpeep.com.
Family & Future (formerly Tabula Rasa)
You heard it here first! With more than seven years of micro-batch chocolate making under his belt, North Carolina native Steven Lambeth is taking the plunge to full-time chocolatier. Steven believes chocolate tastes better with only high-quality, healthful ingredients. He starts with organic, fair trade, raw cacao that is rich in antioxidants and then sweetens it with wholesome coconut and maple sugars instead of cane sugar. Steven’s rebranding of his current brand, Tabula Rasa, to the forthcoming, Kickstarter-backed Family & Future Chocolate Kitchen, reflects his deeper purpose: to provide for his family while making delicious chocolate you can feel good about bringing back to yours. Steven’s creative confections are all fair trade, organic, and healthful, with biodegradable packaging. It’s all about supporting the well-being of his customers’ families, the families of cacao farmers, and the earth. Find out more at kickstarter.com.
Maggie Louise Confections
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Maggie Louise Callahan started her career as a corporate finance lawyer in New York City. But a thirst from her creative side just wasn’t being fulfilled in the concrete jungle of Corporate America. After moving to Austin, TX, she attended Le Cordon Bleu and discovered a plentitude of creative opportunities within the realm of chocolate. Maggie soon opened her popular boutique on Austin’s East 6th Street — reopening when it’s safe to — and is now shipping her cleverly shaped, hand-painted chocolates worldwide. Her trendy and seasonal collections include avocado-, cactus-, and lipstick-shaped treats. You can also spot them in many specialty gift boutiques, as well as in — no big deal — Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. Explore Maggie’s mouthwatering treats at maggielouiseconfections.com.
If Maggie Louise is tongue-in-cheek and playful, Phillip Ashley is polished and sophisticated … on the outside. Memphis-based Phillip Ashley Rix is one of the world’s leading chefs and designers of luxury chocolate. With irresistibly inventive flavor combinations like Browned Butter Bourbon Pecan, Ruby Port Goat Cheese Fig Jam, Blood Orange Tequila Creamsicle, and Thai Curry Cashew, each chocolate starts with the finest fair trade chocolate and becomes an edible work of art that’s almost too stunning to bite. Since 2012, Phillip has garnered an international following and orders from high-profile clients, events and corporations like Nike, Apple, the NFL, and the GRAMMYs. You can build a box of your own and virtually explore the insides of each flavor at phillipashleychocolates.com.
Condor Chocolates is brothers Nick and Peter Dale’s homage to the sense of adventure that brought their parents together, and a celebration of their mother’s home country of Ecuador’s world-class cacao. Born, raised and educated in Athens, GA, Nick worked in agriculture while tinkering with chocolate in his home kitchen. Peter worked in politics before realizing his place was also in the kitchen. They opened Condor in Athens’ historic Five Points neighborhood, purveying bean-to-bar chocolate bars, truffles, sipping chocolate, coffee, iced beverages, gelato and a variety of confections. The shop allows sweets lovers to witness the production of all truffles and other decadent desserts from a warm and welcoming environment. Once you are road tripping again, we highly suggest pairing a trip to Condor with one to home interiors emporium Steel + Plank just a few miles away. Explore — and order a taste of — Condor’s melt-in-your-mouth confections at condorchocolate.com.
French Broad Chocolate
To know Asheville is to know French Broad Chocolate. In 2003, founders Jael Skeffington and Dan Rattigan dropped out of graduate school, packed their lives into a 40-foot vegetable oil-powered school bus, and drove south to Costa Rica. They bought an abandoned cacao plantation and opened a café and dessert shop where they studied and experimented with chocolate recipes. When they realized they just weren’t beach people, the growing Rattigan family drove the bus to Asheville, NC, sparking a serious chocolate craze almost instantaneously. Today, their Chocolate Lounge is perched right on the bustling Pack Square and, pre-COVID, was just as packed at 11 a.m. as it was after dinner! Whether it’s a pinch of salt, a sprinkling of freeze-dried raspberries, or a swirl of naturally colored lavender cocoa butter, the artisans treat each and every bonbon, bar, and confection like a miniature work of art. If you’re ever in Asheville, visit the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, the French Broad Chocolate Factory (and take a chocolate tour!), and the French Broad Chocolate Boutique (where they sell handcrafted ice cream)! Find out more at frenchbroadchocolates.com.
The talent and artistry of Denise Castronovo, the magician behind Castronovo Chocolates, is evident in the dozens of International Chocolate Awards — and praise from the New York Times and Washington Post — that her chocolates have garnered in recent years. The bean-to-bar chocolate expert calls the coastal town of Stuart, Florida home, but frequently visits the Latin American farms and farmers who provide the wild-grown cacao that ends up in her creations. Castronovo cultivates in their chocolate the flavor notes native to one location much like a vintner develops flavor notes in a quality wine. A nut-free, gluten-free, soy-free and emulsifiers-free chocolate maker, Denise and her team use only cacao, cane sugar, art and skill. See and shop all Castronovo Chocolate creations at castronovochocolate.com.
Sweeties is a quaint shop in Historic Seaport Georgetown, SC, that churns out myriad homemade sweets in a small-batch, old-school operation. Seemingly stuck in time in the best way possible, Sweeties specializes in pralines, fudge, caramel, toffees, brittles and ice cream that could tempt even the most self-restraining passerby on a hot Lowcountry day. Owners Skip and Cindy purchased Sweeties in 2006 to pay their personal bills while they operated a non-profit animal rescue. When the rescue closed in 2019, Sweeties continued to give some sweetness back to the community. They deliver boxes of treats to local front-line workers and offer discounts for any online order sent to a front-line worker. On your next South Carolina coastal adventure (Georgetown is near Pawley’s Island), visit the shop in its historic building dating back to 1870 with all original floors, walls and ceiling beams. Find out more and shop online at sweetiessweets.com.
We hope that after learning about these nine incredible Southern chocolate makers, you have added a few sweet stops to your must-visit list. In the meantime, order online and tell us what you try!
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