If Willy Wonka had started a chocolate factory in Tokyo, he’d be well behind the game by now. While the bean to bar movement is relatively new, Tokyo’s chocolate scene has long been highly competitive. Annual local events such as the prestigious Salon du Chocolat from France identify the best chocolate makers in the country and see how they compare to overseas experts through a showcase of specially crafted bonbons with exquisite ganaches as well as chocolate-based desserts ranging from soft-serves to éclairs.
The following speciality stores are run by passionate chocolatiers who seek to create new experiences through chocolate while helping you appreciate the complex characteristics of cacao that vary according to terroir. For instance, cacao from Madagascar produces fruity chocolate with strong acidic notes that lovers of bitter chocolate favour, whereas those from Amazonian regions such as Ecuador often boast floral nuances with a fruity finish. So go ahead and indulge – you can keep it simple with a single-origin bar, splash out on a luxurious coffret of assorted sweets, or order an opulent dessert to savour there and then.
RECOMMENDED: Treat yourself to these Japanese desserts in Tokyo
There’s no fussing with espresso powder or vanilla extract in this kitchen. Ken’s Cafe Tokyo sticks to the basics by using just four ingredients in their only product. Unsalted butter, sugar, eggs and chocolate make for a simple yet winning combination in one of the most decadent chocolate gâteaux you’ll ever enjoy.
Despite its unassuming appearance – it looks like a plain chocolate terrine – the ¥3,000 cake has earned Ken’s Cafe a coveted spot in the Top 50 Dessert Shops list by the prestigious Japan Sweets Award for three consecutive years. Eat it at room temperature and it’s a rich gâteau. When chilled, its texture resembles that of ganache, and when warmed, the centre liquifies like molten chocolate cake that you can combine with a scoop of ice cream.
It’s impossible not to get excited about chocolate as you take in the component parts of this café and factory, from the enormous sacks of cacao beans to the shiny metal vats filled with tempered chocolate. Dandelion Chocolate originates in San Francisco but their location in Kuramae, with its modern rustic interior, fits right into this quiet neighbourhood known for its vibrant artisan community.
It’s difficult to choose any single dessert here; luckily many of the sweets are available in a set. Get the brownie flight to sample three baked chocolate cakes made with different varieties of cacao, or the Chef’s Tasting, a dessert platter of five mini treats, including a chocolate choux and pistachio crème brûlée.
Mamano prides itself on being fair-trade as well as organic, dutifully sourcing beans from Arriba cacao farms in Ecuador to use in itscolourful creations. Arriba cacao is so rare that it is only used in two percent of the world’s chocolate produce. The beans are farmed using sustainable methods to protect the surrounding Amazon forest, free of pesticides and chemical fertilisers.
The fresh ganache and bonbons at Mamano are labelled as ‘chocolate of the gods’, a reference to how cacao was originally considered to be sustenance only for kings and deities, celestially dusted with gold andartfully marbled in multiple colours. In winter, you can get the Mamano hot chocolate, made with 50 percent milk, and have the sweetness adjusted to your liking (you should also ask for the seasonal flavoured ones as well). In the warmer months, a popular item is the refreshing yet decadent chocolate kakigori (shaved ice dessert), which comes in flavours such as chocolate orange and honey lemon.
Trust upscale Ginza to house one of the finest chocolate boutiques around. Le Chocolatde H was started by celebrated chocolatier and pâtissier, Hironobu Tsujiguchi, who has showcased his creations at Salon du Chocolat since 2013 – he even took the gold medal for one year.
You can buy coffrets of Le Chocolat de H’s signature chocs, or pick a limited-edition box featuring the award-winning creations that were showcased at Salon du Chocolat earlier in the year; expect daring flavour combinations such as apricot with miso and caramel, or sake and praline. The ¥1,200-a-piece Cacao Blanc de L’illusion is also worth a splurge as it’s made with rare white cacao harvested from the Piura region of Peru.
Minimal founder Takashi Yamashita equates chocolate to Japanese cuisine in that both taste better without the addition of unnecessary ingredients or flavourings. The company’s purist approach is reflected in its name: a straightforward, gimmick-free attitude where everything is made with integrity and simplicity without excessively elaborate packaging or overly complicated flavours.
Minimal’s neatly packaged chocolates are stamped with colour-coded profiles detailing each bar’s origin, texture, sugar content, roast and ratio of beans in such a way that they resemble novelty items. But chocolate enthusiasts shouldn’t walk away without purchasing a few bars to sample and compare.
At the café, the indulgent chocolate parfait and hot chocolate are year-round crowd pleasers, but don’t overlook the seasonal plated desserts either, such as chocolate flan with homemade ice cream, pastel parfaits and fruit-filled crêpes.
Artichoke’s playful take on chocolate sets itself apart from other boutiques of its kind. Here, you’ll find a myriad of choccy creations disguised as other food, such as white chocolate made to look like eggs sunny-side-up, chicken drumsticks and even grilled unagi. Aside from the quirky takes on savoury dishes, the shop also offers a selection of beautifully crafted bonbons and single-origin bars, each with a unique flavour profile due to the way each individual batch is roasted.
While the chocolates make for the perfect gift for anyone with a sweet tooth, the café menu offers a selection of equally artful parfaits (from spring) to be enjoyed in-house, as well as drinks such as the chocolate espresso, a cacao concentrate served as a 30ml shot.
Directed by Chloé Doutre-Roussel, the Parisian chocolate connoisseur, this slick shop is part of Tokyo's 'bean-to-bar' invasion and creates quality choc from raw cacao beans. Join one of their workshops to learn about the entire production process and enjoy an educational journey into the wonderful world of chocolate.
All-organic and eco-friendly, Denmark's Summerbird brings its strong chocolate game to Tokyo with this Aoyama shop. After appearances at Salon du Chocolat and other choc exhibits in the city, the brand has been making inroads into the city with the help of fellow Dane and flower artist extraordinaire Nicolai Bergmann, whose flagship store happens to be just around the corner from Summerbird.
Sit down at the café and watch as delectable Cream Kisses are crafted in the open kitchen – these decadent treats come in three flavours and also make for great gifts.
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