“Chocolate can be a passion, chocolate can be addiction and chocolate can be a decadent luxury,” says Jeremy Abelson, the man behind PocketChangeNYC.com, a Web site devoted to the most expensive services and goods in New York City. “To the true enthusiast that can afford it, chocolate can be a rare foreign luxury that costs 200 times what most people are used to.”
And he’s not kidding. With Halloween on the horizon, most people grab a sack of fun-sized candy bars and call it day, content to get a bag of sweets while spending as little cash as possible. But for candy connoisseurs, 100 Grand isn’t only the name of a chocolate bar.
“Like any other food item there are all different levels of quality. But when you're referring to just plain chocolate, [the cost] depends on how much chocolate liquor is used, if there is real vanilla in it or imitation, what grade of cocoa butter is used and a slew of other reasons,” says Tony Pananes, proprietor of Olympia Candy Kitchen, a 100-year-old, Pennsylvania-based chocolatier. “It also depends on whether it's real chocolate or ‘chocolate flavored,’ there are tons of candies out there that say chocolate somewhere on the packaging, but you look and it's made with palm kernel oil instead of cocoa butter.”
Indeed, if you’re shopping for candies like the $2,000-per-pound Madeleine truffle at Knipschildt Chocolatier in Manhattan, the $850-per-pound dark chocolate’s from Dallas, Texas’ Noka Vintages Collection, or even the $75 one-pound box of truffles from Donnelly’s truffles in Santa Cruz, Calif., you’re shelling out for a much higher quality product than you can get in grocery store aisles or even so-called gourmet shopping mall chocolate shops.
Discussing Godiva, the chain known worldwide for last-minute Valentine’s Day gifts, Pananes says, “People buy into the beautiful box idea and love to see pretty packaging. It's human nature—we judge chocolates by the boxes that hold them and you cannot get people away from that. They are missing out on true quality, fresh chocolates they can easily get at the hundreds and hundreds of mom & pop chocolate shops all over the country.”
As with most luxury items, with chocolate there is a middle ground. “At $2000 a pound only three types of people [buy expensive chocolate],” says Abelson. “True chocolate connoisseurs, those who think they’re true chocolate connoisseurs and people showing off.”
If you’ve got a sweet tooth and a taste for the finer things, there are ways to indulge without going broke. Abelson recommends visiting Joseph Schmidt Confections, a San Francisco-based shop that has built chocolate gardens for the Queen of England, but also offers boxes of candy for less than $15. Cheri Friedman, of Kron Chocolates in Washington, DC’s high-end Mazza Gallerie shopping center, says that her most decadent piece is a $1 truffle that has been described as “better than sex.”
“It is outrageous and unique,” she says. “It is eaten straight from the freezer and melts almost immediately in your mouth. Despite that, it is still affordable.”
Just because you can find high-end candies at reasonable prices, though, doesn’t mean that every cheap sweet is made with the care and quality ingredients that go into the better brands, and sometimes the good stuff is worth the price. As Abelson says, “Chocolate is a powerful aphrodisiac and an effective tool in the art of seduction, sometimes you need to play with the best.”