A favorite food of many, it’s not hard to imagine why chocolate has long been considered a divine, indulgent treat invoking love, passion and even (gasp) greedy, secretive hoarding. Here in Santa Cruz, we are lucky enough to have our choice of locally made upscale chocolates for every occasion, even if that occasion is just going out to enjoy, well, chocolate. Santa Cruz even has an annual Chocolate Festival, complete with a Chocoholic of the Year award for those who consider chocolate the fifth major food group. Good, artisan chocolate is made with heart and skill from carefully sourced, quality ingredients. And local chocolatiers have as much enthusiasm for making their products as others do for eating them. With choices from raw, vegan truffles to chocolate covered bacon to decadent fair trade sipping chocolate, Santa Cruz is a chocolate mecca for both the purist and the adventurous cacao bean addicts among us.


Originally published February 12, 2016

  • Ashby Confections

    16C Victor Square, Scotts Valley

    Ashby Confections’s serves up delicious hot chocolates in addition to their extensive line of confections, from Meyer lemon lavender truffles to almond pralines and Monterey Bay sea salt caramels. Founded by Jennifer Ashby in 2004 with a vision of creating high-end, artisan “grown-up” confections, Ashby’s sources local organic fruits and herbs and only the best natural ingredients for their chocolates. They can also create custom chocolates with personalized messages, images or color themes for a special event or special someone.

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  • Donnelly Chocolates

    1509 Mission Street, Santa Cruz

    Listed No. 8 among the world’s 10 best chocolatiers by National Geographic in 2012, Richard Donnelly has been making chocolate by hand since 1988. The family business on Mission St. is a local landmark not to be missed and was voted "Best" in Good Times' 2011 contest. In addition to hand-dipped bars, flights of spirit-centered chocolates including Limoncello and Prévu, and interesting flavors from Chinese five spice to chipotle, Donnelly’s also offers chocolate making classes.

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  • MacKenzies Chocolates

    1492 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz

    This family owned chocolate shop on Soquel Ave was started in 1984 by Colin and Thelma Mackenzie, and is now managed by their son Ian and his wife Mary, with their two children. They use the finest ingredients they can get their hands on and specialize in enrobed and shell-moulded chocolates. They always have an impressive selection of seasonal chocolates on display, and customers can watch the whole chocolate making process in-store through a glass wall. Custom molds are available for businesses, weddings or family events, too.

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  • Marini’s

    Downtown Santa Cruz & Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz

    The oldest chocolate shop in Santa Cruz, Marini’s has become an icon with locations on the Wharf, downtown and on the Westside. Founder Victor Marini bought a popcorn stand on the Boardwalk in 1915 and his family expanded the business to include salt-water taffy, caramel corn and candy apples. The family tradition was carried on, and today includes a wide variety of hand-dipped caramels, clusters, turtles, strawberries and more (and yes, bacon in both milk and dark chocolate).

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  • Mutari Chocolate

    504 A Front Street, Santa Cruz

    Mutari (pronounced moo-dari) is the first bean-to-cup chocolate shop to open in Santa Cruz. Owners Katy Oursler and Stephen Beaumier use single-origin, ethically-traded cacao beans to create gourmet drinking chocolates. Their mixes are authentic, rich and bursting with chocolate flavor. Because the emphasis is on impeccably-sourced cacao and not sugar, Mutari hot chocolate can be enjoyed as it has been for thousands of years: as a delicious, healing beverage. Chocolate bars are also available at their Front Street kitchen.

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  • Pure Heart

    254 Portrero Street, Santa Cruz

    This one-woman chocolate business is run by Becky Potter, who uses organic, raw and seasonal ingredients. Her chocolates are dairy-, gluten- and preservative-free as she believes chocolate is best enjoyed fresh, in its purest form. Becky sources her ingredients from farmers who are in alignment with a vision of a sustainable, healthy food system for all. Her chocolates can be found in the bakery case of New Leaf’s downtown, Westside and Capitola locations and at various pop-ups and events.

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