Complete Chocolate Lover’s Guide for the San Francisco Bay Area

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Sweets extravaganza

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I haven’t visited NYC since we started this blog so I don’t know anything about the chocolate scene there. I just assume it’s fabulous. And after trying some chocolate from MarieBelle Sweets, an NYC chocolatier since 2000, I see no reason to change my assumptions.

I hadn’t heard of MarieBelle before a friend gave me a gift certificate. What a happy find: they make bars, bonbons, caramels, molded chocolates, hand rolled truffles, tablets, chocolate covered nuts & fruits, hot chocolate mixes, brownies, ganache cake, clusters… whew!

In addition to offering one of the most extensive ranges of chocolate I have ever seen, they have a depth of offerings too: At any time (what’s available changes seasonally) there are around 15 types of bars, 20–30 flavors of bonbons (sadly, you can’t pick and choose flavors online), up to 5 hot chocolate options (ooh, and they sell tea too)… It takes a bit of time just wandering their site to get a feel for what they have.

And if that wasn’t enough, they offer their bonbon sets in a variety of sizes, starting from 2-piece party favors and going up from there: 4 pieces, 8 pieces, 9, 16, 25, 36 — even a 100-piece box of bonbons! I’ve never seen that before.

As you can imagine with that giant of a candy store, it was hard to choose what to try. I decided to focus on bars and chocolate covered items, chocolate that has a bit of a shelf life so I didn’t have to rush through tasting them.

Marie Belle ChocoBanana bar

MarieBelle ChocoBanana bar

Going bananas for MarieBelle

The bars I tried were all well made, the packaging was attractive, and some of the bars were extra attractive too — decorated with swirls of chocolate, dried fruit, nuts, etc. They ran the gamut from too sweet to just right for me.

MarieBelle uses Trinitario cacao beans from Honduras for their chocolate. MarieBelle’s founder, Maribel Lieberman, grew up in Honduras, and she buys her beans directly from women producing cacao there. From my experience, Honduran chocolate has a very chocolatey taste — as opposed to other origins, like Venezuela, that are more fruity, or Uganda, that are more nutty/savory.

Since what’s available changes frequently, you might not be able to buy the same bars as I did, but there are a few that I would recommend if you can get them. The first of these is the somewhat rare ChocoBanana. I say rare because how often do you see banana flavored chocolate? And also, the bar is not always available — like now while I am writing this.

The ChocoBanana was a 70% single origin (Honduras) bar. It had a good snap and a noticeable banana scent. It had an immediate, good banana flavor (nothing artificial tasting) that was balanced with the dark chocolate. It wasn’t too sweet. There were no pieces of dried banana, only banana flavor in the smooth textured bar. It wasn’t subtle, and the flavor lingered. Definitely recommend.

MarieBelle Coffee Toffee Bar

MarieBelle Coffee Toffee Bar

Coffee Talk

The other bar I really liked was the Running Espresso. Like the ChocoBanana, it had a good snap and smooth chocolate, but this one had the added fun of crunchy coffee bean bits. Again, this bar was a 70%, not too sweet, and had a good balance between the chocolate and the added flavor, which definitely tasted like espresso. This was the most popular bar of the ones I shared with other people, and it’s usually available.

Another MarieBelle coffee flavored bar I tried, the Coffee Toffee bar, was very pretty. It was a 72% dark chocolate bar with white chocolate dragged over one side, then sprinkled with toffee bits. The package was attractive too — with an Art Nouveau style graphic treatment and a big window so you could see the bar’s decorations.

Instead of a distinctly coffee taste like the espresso bar, this one tasted very chocolatey with the flavor deepened by the coffee. The small toffee crunchies were very pleasant. The bar was sweeter than I expected for a 72% bar, but I liked its look and flavor.

MarieBelle Coffee Toffee Bar

MarieBelle Orange Peels Bar

Fruits & nuts

Another good looking bar was the 60% Orange Peels bar. It had the same packaging as the Coffee Toffee bar, so it was easy to see the big slices of candied orange peel laid diagonally across the bar.

While the soft flavorful peels made it difficult to share or break into squares because of how the large peels were arranged, they gave a nice texture and added flavor to the 60% dark chocolate orange flavored bar.

The bar wasn’t bitter or too sweet; this is a good orange chocolate bar and would make a good gift for your orange chocolate loving friends.

The Cacao Market 72% Dark Chocolate and Pistachio bar was another very good dark chocolate, this time liberally sprinkled with chopped nuts. It was a square bar, half the size of the other bars, in packaging similar to the other Cacao Market bars but without a window.

The package described the bar as “upscale snacking” and suitable for gifting. I would agree although I found the bar to be mostly chocolatey; the pistachio flavor was very mild — as is often the case with pistachio/chocolate combos.

MarieBelle Matcha bar

All MarieBelle bars use the same dotted mold as the Japanese Matcha bar

Matcha

We tried 2 of MarieBelle’s matcha bars, a white chocolate and a milk chocolate. The white chocolate Japanese Matcha was an attractive green color, and it had a good matcha taste with a smooth, slightly powdery texture. The  bar’s distinctly matcha experience also included a slightly drying effect from the tea’s tannin.

The bar was sweet but really good and not bitter. This is the matcha bar if you like matcha tea.

The 38% milk chocolate Japanese Matcha bar was not as successful. It was not very matcha tasting. Instead it was more of a slightly salty milk chocolate with a bit of a powdery matcha after texture. It was good but not very matcha. Stick to their white chocolate version for a real matcha taste.

I tried one other MarieBelle bar, but I didn’t care for it much. The Caramelized Almond was too sweet for me, and it had a marzipan (sweet almond) flavor, which I don’t care for. It also was a chewing chocolate — lots of caramelized nuts — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it seemed almost like toffee instead of a chocolate bar.

MarieBelle treats

The reason the Mint Malt Balls package looks taller is that there were more treats inside than could fit below the cap!

Chocolate treats

We also tried some chocolate covered pistachios and malt balls. They came packaged in clear cylinders topped with gold colored cardboard caps — simple, but attractive, as they displayed the chocolates prominently.

The appearance upped our expectations, and it just got better: The caps fit on the outside of the cylinder sleeves and hid about an inch top and bottom. Upon opening the caps, we saw that the tubes were filled to the top. MarieBelle does not scrimp!

The Chocolate Toffee Pistachios were coated with powdered sugar, which was fun as the first taste experience of loose powdery sweetness when popped in my mouth. The chocolate came next when I crunched into the pistachio, then lots of sweet toffee before ending in pistachio and chocolate. The name order was accurate on this one. This was a good pistachio experience — the whole nuts had enough flavor to balance the chocolate and toffee, and they had a nice crunch.

The Mint Malt Balls were even better to me. First, they were pretty, speckled mint green balls. Then they had a refreshing mint taste, which blended into a light chocolate, and finished with a crunchy malt ball. Some malted products are disappointing, but this had a good malt taste that held up against the mint and chocolate. I thought they were excellent and definitely recommend them if you like mint and malt.

MarieBell Hazelnut Hot Chocolate

MarieBelle Hazelnut Hot Chocolate

Liquid sweets

Finally, I got a tin of their Milk Chocolate Hazelnut drinking chocolate to try. The holiday packaging was very pretty, and one of the nice things about MarieBelle’s drinking chocolate powders is that the containers are re-useable, and you can buy their drinking chocolate in simple plastic pouches to refill the tins.

Powder is not exactly the correct description for the drinking chocolate. The chocolate was ground but not down to a fine powder; it had some small chunks of chocolate in it.

I made the chocolate following their recipe for European drinking chocolate: equal parts hot water and chocolate. They also include recipes for American style (milk and chocolate) and mochaccino (milk, chocolate, and espresso). I liked the taste — the hazelnut was mild, it was mostly just chocolatey tasting. It was on the sweet side though, so while I like the idea of a hazelnut chocolate drink, I think I would prefer it to be dark, not milk, chocolate.

They do have a few other drinking chocolate mixes, including one flavored with chili, cinnamon, and nutmeg that I might try next.

Sweet Marie

All in all, I really liked MarieBelle Sweets. The gift possibilities alone seem endless: If you want a nice gift for a chocolate lover, you can’t go wrong picking one of their selections. And since they change what’s available frequently, there is always something new to try. For me, it comes down to what my budget can bear because there are more interesting options than $$$ in my wallet.

MarieBelle Sweets are available online and at their shops in NYC and Japan. I recommend signing up for their newsletter: You will get 15% off your first order, plus email alerts to what’s new and what’s on sale at their shops/online.

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About chocolatte

A writer/designer, Nancy lives in Oakland with Ronnie (AKA cacaopod), her husband of many years & fellow chocolate enthusiast.

View all posts by chocolatte →

Date posted: November 2, 2021. This entry was posted in American chocolate, Featured, Front page, Outside the Bay Area, Review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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