Whether you like it dark or milk, bar or drink, pure or filled, there’s nothing like chocolate to sweeten the day. With World Chocolate Day celebrated on July 7 every year, it’s time to pay homage to the dream concoction, a single puff of which makes life more enjoyable.
This year, why not look beyond the marquee treats at the grocery store? Explore some of the local chocolatiers we have access to in the UAE, so you can get your teeth into sweets, while supporting local businesses.
Here are eight brands to discover.
Boasting the world’s first camel milk chocolate factory, Al Nassma is a brand from the United Arab Emirates that has become synonymous with the taste of Arabian chocolates – not only in the region, but around the world (in 2015, the brand made a deal with Harrods to sell their chocolates in the famous London department store).
Al Nassma was established in the United Arab Emirates in 2008 after years of research into camel milk. Today, his chocolates come in different flavors and shapes. Choose from white, milk and dark bars, with or without nuts, or try camel-shaped chocolates, which make great keepsakes and gifts.
This Emirati artisanal chocolatier was founded in 2017 by Mohammad Al Qassimi and takes pride in his bean-to-bar chocolate making, which occurs in the United Arab Emirates.
Cocoa beans come from places such as Madagascar, Tanzania, Peru, Ecuador and Guatemala, and are roasted and blended to create a range of flavors that will delight the taste buds. There is everything from praline ganache and truffles to bars (or bars), not to mention chocolate coated nuts and dates of your choice.
Customers can choose different flavors for the boxes or customize chocolates for special occasions. For a taste of the unusual, try Blu’s yogurt, cheesecake, Arabian coffee ganache or a strawberry and cocoa nib chocolate wafer.
Prices vary from Dh195 to Dh350 per kilogram; available at Mirdif Street, Dubai; Nation Towers, Al Bateen, Abu Dhabi; and via Instagram: @bluchocolateae
Most foodies in the UAE would have heard of Brix Dessert Bar, a chic UAE-born brand located in the fishing port of Jumeirah (it was also recently launched on Time Out Market). While many of his creations are dreamy (his African Powerhouse cake is a must-have), most don’t know that he also creates handmade chocolate bars, which look like works of art.
You have the choice between three flavors: rose, based on white chocolate and rose essence; pistachio, dark chocolate, pistachios and walnuts; and salted butter caramel, a gourmet creation with dark chocolate, salt, cream and cocoa nibs. Brix also offers a range of truffles and chocolate candies.
Dh35 each for bars; available at Jumeirah Fishing Port and Time Out Market in Souk Al Bahar; and via Instagram: @brix_desserts
The brand was inspired by sisters Iman and Luchie Suguitan’s desire to find healthy chocolate after their mother was diagnosed with diabetes. Their trip took them to the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, where they worked with local farmers to learn more about cocoa.
Co Chocolat, launched in 2016, specializes in chocolates with healthy ingredients such as turmeric, macha and moringa. The brand limits its use of refined sugar, preferring coconut sugar or dates, and also supports farmers in the Philippines through Overseas Filipinos Supporting Filipino Farmers, a social enterprise.
“Our USP is that our cocoa is farm-to-table,” says Iman. “We control the growth of our cocoa trees, the way the beans are fermented. We see the quality produced and know exactly how farmers are empowered through chocolate ”.
The Co Chocolat range includes everything from spreads to hot chocolate. Meanwhile, the bars come in creative, vibrantly colored wrappers and designs that are perfect for gift giving.
Bars are priced at Dh28 each; available at Candylicious in the Dubai Mall and Dubai Airport; Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi; online at www.cochocolat.com
Launched as a passionate project by a woman by Emirati Najah Al Muntafiq in 2010, Coco Jalila now counts Emirates Airline, Emaar Hospitality and Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts among its clients. The secret lies in his unique creations: they are made with less sugar and more cocoa butter, and the melting chocolates can also be enjoyed on their own, but also incredibly well with coffee.
The brand has also collaborated with master chocolatier Guido Gobino from Turin to produce a range inspired by Italian taste and flair. On the must-have list, Coco Luna, stuffed with gianduja with hazelnuts and crushed pistachios; Coco Rocca, made with crushed caramelized almonds, nougat, coffee beans and date paste; and the Sea Salt Cremino, milk chocolate with organic sea salt and olive oil.
Prices start from 250 Dh per kilogram; available at the pastry counters in the lobby lounges of Address Hotels & Resorts; and online on www.cocojalila.com
Forrey & Galland
While not a UAE brand per se, it has an intriguing history. Forrey & Galland was first established in Paris, selling luxury chocolate in the early 1900s. However, when UAE residents Isabelle Jaouen and Vincent Moret realized that Moret’s family owned the brand, they decided to revive it in the Middle East.
Today, Forrey & Galland has only two branches: at the Dubai Mall and at Fiorenza La Piazza, in Riyadh. Walk into these stores and you’ll find it’s all about experience, from personalizations to tastings. Customers can choose classic or luxurious boxes and mix and match chocolate flavors including zaatar milk ganache, Omani halwa, and Arabica coffee.
A classic box is priced at 115 Dh; available at the Dubai Mall; and online on www.forreyandgalland.com
Made by two
For chocolate that looks more like a work of art, Made by Two is your best bet. It is a sister brand of the Instagrammable Two at Symphony cafe and can be found on Fashion Avenue at the Dubai Mall.
This artisanal chocolate shop was launched in November 2020 by Mouza Alabbar, to offer a “niche chocolate experience” inspired by art and design. That’s why every chocolate sold is hand painted and features a myriad of designs created using pops of color and gold dust.
The brand is also committed to celebrating the traditional tastes of the Emirates through its collections. Some nostalgic chocolate flavors include Gahwa Sky, an Arabic coffee creation, and Halawa Dust, with a traditional halwa and pistachio taste, both made from chocolate from locally sourced cocoa beans. There’s even an Oman Chocolate Chips for those who want something sweet with a hint of spice.
Prices for individual chocolates vary and can be purchased at the cafe; personalized boxes start from 290 Dh; available at the Dubai Mall; Instagram: @ made.bytwo
It is impossible to list the brands of house chocolate without mentioning Mirzam. The Emirati brand launched Dubai’s first bar bean factory in Al Quoz in 2016, and has since won numerous awards for its artisanal chocolates, including its Single Origin Dark Chocolate from India, Dark Chocolate with Dates and fennel and its dark chocolate. with Rose.
Named after a star, Mirzam sources directly from Vietnam, Indonesia, Madagascar, India and Papua New Guinea, all countries that were part of the spice route and sea-dhow trade with the Arabs in this region.
Its chocolate making process is completely transparent and the brand also offers factory tours, tastings and workshops.
For those looking for a taste of the region, Mirzam has an Emirati collection, with flavors such as milk chocolate with luqaimat, dark chocolate with halwa, dark chocolate with khabeesa, and white chocolate with aseda. The brand also works with artists to create the packaging for its candy bars, making it a creative and delicious gift option.
Prices start from Dh34 for a bar; available at Al Quoz, Dubai; Qasr Al Hosn, Abu Dhabi; and online on www.mirzam.com
Update: July 6, 2021, 10:49 a.m.