Living in Amsterdam is not a bad thing. For many reasons. That some food stuff could be among those reasons was not very obvious to me at first. The last two years clearly left a much better impression than initially anticipated. And, yes!, I am only going to focus on chocolate things1!
If you visit Amsterdam, there are some great options for chocolate lovers. There are many very decent chocolatiers and some really excellent ones. There is a fantastic chocolate bar shop specialized in high quality single origin chocolates. There are even two local bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturers (Chocolatemakers + Metropolitan). Further, there is a growing number of annual chocolate events and meetings such as Chocoa or the Origin Chocolate Event.
Amsterdam chocolatier metrics. After month of calculations based on trillions of data sets I came up with this diagram to compare Amsterdam chocolatiers. According to the international, objective laws of chocolates I derived the unforgettability, the visual appeal, the traditionality (aka. “old-school-ness”), the flavor/quality, and the finesse (a french measure). The categories were chosen to avoid over-simplified reduction to one single number ranging from “crap” to “perfect”2. I hope the diagrams I made do at least account a little bit better than a single number the diversity of the chocolatiers. If you for instance see that the profile of Metropolitan is very different from the one of Patisserie Holtkamp simply because they ARE very different. Nonetheless do both make very good to incredible pralines.
My personal Amsterdam favorite. Pretty reductionist design and made from great own bean-to-bar chocolate and with fantastic ganache fillings. Try the Jalapeno or the Mandarin or the Lemon… Yes!
Arguably the finest of Amsterdam’s more traditional styled bonbons. The pleasantly small sized bonbons look like they come right from a confectioner’s textbook. And they taste great!
This small chocolatier in Utrechtsestraat is making fine ganache filled bonbons using very classic flavor combinations. A excellent mixture of well balanced basic recipes with an eye to the detail.
Sympathetic small chocolatier in Amsterdam Oost making pretty and very decent pralines. Van Velze doesn’t pretend to be fancy and revolutionary and sticks to traditional style ganache fillings of very good quality. Definitely worth it!
Many people rave about Puccini’s bonbons. I don’t, they are far too big and massive for my liking. But they clearly do look good and have nice flavor combinations. Their bonbons are handmade in Amsterdam and are sold at three different locations in the city center.
Small, little hidden chocolatier south of Vondelpark in one of Amsterdams richer areas (money wise). Their bonbons are very tclassic also in the sense of not being very experimental, design and flavor wise. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, not everything needs to be new and experimental. But I really think that the filling would greatly benefit from much more intense flavoring. Right now nobody will complain if you offer them some of their chocolates. And nobody will remember them either.
Pragmatic Dutch bonbons. Not impressive looking, but then tasting so much better than expected. Fine taste and very traditional flavor combinations. And be warned… you will have a hard time not also taking one of their many pastries along as soon as you enter their shop.
You like the good old bonbon and don’t feel like trying those new-fashioned samples with stuff like Jalapeno (Metropolitan) or Rozemary seasalt (Unlimited delicious) flavors? Right. Nothing wrong with that. Just traditional, handmade, fine chocolates? Madame Pompadour might look like the ideal place for that. And it is indeed not bad, but I somehow prefer the classic flavored bonbons from Kuyt, Holtkamp, Van Soest, or Van Velze.
And just for better comparison:
One of the many resellers of the Belgian produced chocolates. Look alright. Are crazy cheap. But are not even worth that little. Sorry guys. Better spend the money at one of the ‘real’ chocolatier when you’re in Amsterdam (any of the above mentioned ones is just a trillion times better).
Chocolate made in Amsterdam
Yes, I know, many cities have some shops were you can buy chocolate with a local type of branding. Unfortunately, in 99% of all cases this chocolate will not have been made in the same city but is typically bought from one of the big chocolate producers only to re-package, re-design, or re-shape the chocolate. Real chocolate making from cocoa beans remains a complex and very special process that is still only done at very few places worldwide (although the number, luckily, is growing…). The good news is that you can find real self-made chocolate from Amsterdam!
In a small and hidden workplace, ‘The chocolatemakers’ started a small-scale bean-to-bar chocolate production. They have a strong focus on sustainable production and waste usage and make use of Amsterdam’s proximity to the sea to source their beans from Costa Rica, Congo, or Peru. The chocolate bars are clearly worth trying, with a special recommendation for the smoked sea salt milk chocolate and the dark 80% Criollo. You can also contact them if you’re interested in a guided tour through their facilities (or you might have a look at my post on a tour through their small chocolate ‘factory’).
Where to get fantastic chocolate bars?
No way around this amazing place. They offer a great selection of many of the best and most interesting chocolates on this planet. That’s clearly a good enough reason to pay them a visit, but I’m sure you’ll mostly remember going there because of their enthusiastic and skilled team. They know a lot about chocolate, and best of all: they will not annoy you with any chocolate snobbism or blown up (fake) connoisseur blah blah.
Ice cream parlor, waffle baker, bean-to-bar chocolate maker and chocolatier, Metropolitan is all of it. And they also sell a nice selection of first class chocolate bars3. So, many good reasons for having a closer look.
What a pretty shop. This place was opened in 2009 as “Vanderdonk” by two guys that knew quite a bit about chocolate and bonbons4 . They stopped in 2011 and the shop, pretty much in its original interior design, is now run as “Vanrozelen”. They offer a very good selection of superb chocolate bars, as well as pralines and other nice sweet stuff. Sounds like a great place, but –very unfortunately- I was pretty disappointed with the staff. Whenever I went to Vanrozelen I either found it fairly unfriendly, or I had to deal with salespersons that had no clue of chocolate whatsoever5.
Map of Amsterdam chocolate places
Chocolate places in Amsterdam including chocolatiers and chocolate shops.
- The Netherlands is very clearly not a country with a good reputation in high quality eating (I saw a lot of suffering Italians and French…and not without reason). Luckily, some things are very good though. Cheese, beer (no, not Heineken, but there are plenty of great small breweries and microbreweries), Genever,… [↩]
- If you are a regular reader of my blog (and believe me, you should be!) than you already know that I am not such a big fan of over-quantification which often leads to many misinterpretations. I simply don’t believe that anyone can do wine, or chocolate, or your research, or your brain justice by just ranking it but one simple number (such as the Parker index for wine, or the Hirsch-factor for your academic research, or the IQ for your brain). If you ask me what the best white wine was that I EVER EVER had… I will tell you that it was a very simple one, very cold, on a late afternoon of a beautiful day when sitting on a table with two great friends on the seaside in the south of France. [↩]
- Such as chocolates by Marou, Pacari, Grenada, Original Beans, Chocolatemakers, Akesson. [↩]
- I have never had the chance to try it myself, but from what I heard from several people, it seemed to be a good chocolate location! [↩]
- I am really not writing this out of a bad mood or without thinking. I had several tries, all were disappointing. Worse, other chocolate loving people I talked to had very similar experiences. Yet another aspect I don’t like is that they sell (very delicious) pralines as if they were made by them. They are not directly stating it they keep it –looks like on purpose- so vague when asking in the shop or looking at their website that many people might believe the chocolates were made by them. [↩]