By Emily Payne
When signing up for a chocolate tour, you might anticipate loads of chocolate and a bombardment of shameless brand promotions. You hit a bunch of retailers, meet their owners and listen to their spiels. Right?
Well, that’s not the South End chocolate tour, a two and a half hour walking tour around the historic South End. But believe me, this is a good thing. It wasn’t a tour. It was an experience.
I approached the meeting point and first stop of the tour, Code 10, a bakery and café on Washington Street, to a petite Dutch woman smiling and holding nine small paper bags. This was our lovely tour guide, Veronique.
The bag held an outline of the tour stops, a bag of pretzels to cleanse the palette and compliment the sweetness overload we were about to endure and a baggie for extras (thank God). One rule existed: no leftovers.
These tours are surprisingly often run by retired corporate men and women, Veronique tells us, who have a passion for well-made chocolate purveyed by “beans to bar” chocolate dealers, or places that follow their chocolate beans from the plantations right into your hands. Similar to a coffee-aficionado’s repulsion to instant coffee, these people know quality chocolate and won’t settle for the vending machine.
It became clear that this tour wasn’t exclusively about the brands or makers themselves. It was about the art of chocolate making.
After the slightly awkward introductions of our small group, we dove into the first sampling at Code 10: the “chocolate orgasm.” Upon tasting, the noises let loose by the group did this name justice. It was a piece of fudge-y brownie heaven. Seconds were offered and graciously accepted.
Next stop: the Flour Bakery, at 1595 Washington St., which is soon opening a fourth location and whose owner, Joanne Chang, authored the recipe book titled “Flour.” After biting into the Oreo cookie handed to me, I was again pleasantly surprised.
This was no typical Oreo cookie. In fact, it wasn’t an Oreo at all. It was two dense, purely chocolate cookies, with the perfect amount of crispness, sandwiching a center of vanilla frosting. Naturally, I devoured that whole thing without hesitation.
Wasting no time, we headed over to Tremont 647, the stop for the truly daring. In the beautifully-lit bar area we were greeted with nine place settings, each presenting chocolate bacon and almond squares, coupled with a creamy peanut butter and jelly vodka drink. That’s right, bacon and chocolate. Interesting, to say the least. My plate was left with only a small bite eaten.
An entirely different setting, and Veronique’s personal favorite, was Chocolee Chocolates, at 23 Dartmouth St. In a tiny, lit corner of a building, we were met with a warm fried chocolate beignet. One bite into the crispy, powdered dough shell and melted chocolate spilled all over my hands. It was worth the mess.
By this point, though, I had to start utilizing the baggie.
Veronique informed us that typical processed chocolate, such as Hershey’s milk chocolate, actually contains the minimum amount of cocoa required to be considered a chocolate bar, which is 10 percent. The rest of it? Basically milk and sugar.
The South End Chocolate Tour, though, gave us the real deal. These chocolates—so heavy, rich and delicious—made us astonishingly full.
Unfortunately, as Lindsay Bender, a College of Communication junior, reflected, “All of the chocolate we had was very rich and sometimes clashed with the chocolate previous.”
The rest of the tour became a blur. Not to downgrade the quality of the chocolates or charm of the storefronts: Appleton Cafe, Pico, Felicity Sweets, the Gracie Finn Gift Store, and finally the South End Buttery, which ended the tour with a classic German chocolate cupcake. But our stomachs simply could not handle it.
“You have to be a die hard chocolate lover to be able to make it through this entire tour,” Lindsay said.
Fear not, though, because of the glorious invention of the doggy bag. Also, the consumption of chocolate is not the only highlight. Lindsay’s favorite part about it: “finding new mom & pop shops that I will definitely go back to.”
So I politely declined offers of chocolate gelato and saved some goodies for later: an interesting pepper truffle and a bite of coconut bar. Fortunately, there was more to enjoy than just the chocolate, such as the leisurely walk through Boston’s South End, our neighbor, which many Boston University students rarely get the chance to explore.
With treats to share and more chocolate knowledge than I can remember, I left the South End Tour. Would I recommend it? Yes, but you have been warned. This tour is for the true chocoholics. A stomachache virtually guaranteed.