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Vegan Chocolates Everyone Will Love!

These Artisans Show that Animal- and Eco-friendly Chocolate Tastes Great.

Experts say it was probably in Asia's Indus Valley some 3,500 years ago that abstaining from all animal-related foods began. The consumption of chocolate is also quite ancient, going back some 2,500 years ago to various parts of South America. Yet it is only in the past couple of decades that confectioners deliberately set out to make vegan chocolate.

For today's vegans, it's been a veritable feast! From California to New York to the continents of Europe and Asia, wondrous vegan options can be found for those who seek it out. Grahame's Chocolate Guide counts some 58 chocolate businesses that offer vegan chocolate -- and no doubt, there are plenty more.

So what exactly makes a piece of chocolate vegan? Crucially, it must not have any animal-derived products. Chocolate's key ingredient -- cacao -- is a bean grown on trees. So that's not a problem. But milk would be a no-no because it comes from cows. So would caramel, which is partly made from milk. For many vegans, even honey would be considered impermissible because it comes from bees.

Chocolate companies usually indicate which of their chocolates are vegan, but if you want some outside guidance, there are a few organizations which offer vegan certification you can look for on the packaging. Among them: Vegan Action and The Vegan Society.

But enough background....let's get to the chocolate! Following are some excellent vegan confections we have come across for those who wish to explore this growing corner of the chocolate universe:

Lake Champlain Chocolates | Burlington, Vermont | Burlington is not only one of New England's most scenic towns. It also boasts one of its great confectioners: Lake Champlain Chocolates, named for the picturesque body of water on which the town sits. Launched in 1983, Lake Champlain has over the years steadily expanded its vegan offerings to now include a scrumptious assortment of options, such as Dark Chocolate Almond Bark, Chocolate Nonpareils, or Organic Hot Chocolate. You can find them all here on their vegan page: Shop here | GG Profile.

Raaka | Brooklyn, New York | It was on a visit to Thailand that Raaka founder Ryan Cheney discovered the wonders of "raw" chocolate, made from unroasted cacao beans (unlike most chocolate which is made from roasted ones). So impressed was he by its "bold, bright, and fruitier flavor" that upon returning to his Brooklyn apartment, the gears were set in motion. In 2010, he launched Raaka. which produces truly one-of-a-kind flavors like Green Tea Crunch, Orange Mango Mint, and Bananas Foster, among others. Shop here | GG Profile.

Lily's Sweets | Boulder, Colorado | Vegans who also want low-sugar options will love Lily's. Co-founder Cynthia Tice wanted to quit sugar, but still eat chocolate -- so she decided to make her own! Founded in 2010, Lily's chocolate is made from erythitrol and stevia and it is also gluten-free, fair trade, and kosher. And they have several excellent vegan options, including: 70% Extra Dark Chocolate Bars, 85% Extremely Dark Chocolate Bars, and their Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup. (For those with allergies, please note it is made on equipment that also processes dairy.) Shop here | GG Profile.

Tabal Chocolate | Wauwatosa, Wisconsin | As a child, Dan Bieser would go on outings with his grandparents to all kinds of food businesses. They also taught him about making a positive impact on the world. Both lessons seem to have stuck. In 2012, he launched Tabal Chocolate, which is not only vegan, but gluten-free, soy free, organic, and made from bean to bar, using stone grinders. And you won't believe their out-of-this-world flavors, including: Chili Pepper, Tart Cherry, Coconut Milk, and Cherry Pop Beer! See them all here: Shop here | GG Profile.

Belvas | Ghislengien, Belgium | While Belgium is world-famous for its chocolate, you don't often hear about their vegan chocolate. Enter Belvas. Thierry Noesen founded his business in 2005 with a simple goal: to produce chocolate of the highest quality with natural ingredients while adhering to uncompromising values. Says Noesen: "We want to demonstrate...that ethical products can also be delicious." You be the judge. Among their vegan selections are Belgian Thins, Dark Truffles, and - wait for it -- Dark Chocolate with Quinoa, Goji, Almonds and Sunflower Seeds. That's a mouthful -- literally! Shop here | GG Profile.

Hu Kitchen | New York City | Inspired to live a healthier lifestyle and feel better, co-founders Jordan Brown, Jason Karp, and Jessica Karp in 2013 launched Hu Kitchen. Their chocolate is both vegan and organic -- and they like to describe it as "clean" because it has no dairy, emulsifiers, GMO, cane sugar or sugar alcohol. But they do have some great flavors! Check out their Hazelnut Butter, Crunchy Mint, or Simple Dark Chocolate. Shop here | GG Profile.

Happy eating! -- The Editors

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