Craft chocolate-making has captured the hearts — and taste buds — of Japanese foodies. Much like Japan’s artisanal coffee movement, this new wave of chocolate makers focuses on the origins of ingredients, working directly with farmers to select the very best, responsibly grown cacao beans.
Naturally, Japan has brought its own fleet of delicious flavors to the bean-to-bar trend, adding matcha, sesame, miso, yuzu and sake to the menu.
So, what are you waiting for? Let these four chocolate destinations guide you from one vibrant Tokyo neighborhood to the next, fueling your exploration with dark chocolate along the way (it is a health food, after all!).
Located on a tiny street just a few minutes by foot from Shinjuku and Yoyogi Park, the cozy yet modern storefront houses a shop and café, and serves up everything from latte macchiatos to big bars of chocolate melted on slabs of toast. But the bean-to-bar excitement does not end at the wrapper — Cacao Store also sells chocolate-infused shampoo and even a selection of cacao beans from around the world, which visitors can take home and use to create their own confections.
When the Shibuya specialty shop Minimal (see picture above) opened in 2014, it was one of the first bean-to-bar purveyors in Tokyo. Equipped with its own factory, the store’s in-house production brings customers the freshest fare, using the minimum of ingredients (for the most part, just cacao beans and sugar). Try their craft chocolate cookies, sample tasting sets with a range of distinct flavor profiles, and don’t forget to pack a few bars as stylish gifts for your foodie friends at home.
“We make chocolate to make everyone — including [those] who eat, make and grow it — smile,” says chocolate guru Katsuhisha Yagi of his fair-trade, direct-to-consumer chocolate business. Once only an online enterprise, Vanilla Beans has evolved to become a brick-and-mortar store that fills Tokyo’s Minatomirai neighborhood with the aroma of roasted cacao. It is hard to choose from the over 25 flavors of bars, from single origin to special blends, so save room in your suitcase to bring some home to savor later.
Sample scrumptious bars of craft chocolate wrapped in an eclectic mix of colorful papers, along with bonbons and baked goods, at this inviting Meguro shop. Chocolate pairings workshops introduce a range of chocolate flavor profiles, and each type is matched with sake, coffee, white wine or roasted green tea (hojicha).