Paul A. Young Fine Chocolates of London -- some of the best chocolate in the world

A couple years back, my friends Paul and James opened a pair of chocolate shops in London, Paul A Young Fine Chocolates, with one branch in the City and the other in Islington, in Camden Passage. Paul is a self-taught chocolatier whose truffles I'd been lucky enough to sample over the years, and James is a very sharp entrepreneur, technologist and activist, so I knew that whatever they made, it would be tasty.

But I didn't count on it being this good.

In a few short years, Paul A Young chocolates have won more awards than I can count, including the Academy of Chocolate's "Best New Chocolate Shop," "Best Dark Chocolate Truffle" and "Best Filled Chocolate," and so on -- and when I dropped in this week to buy the last of my Christmas presents, I discovered that the Observer and the Financial Times had both put Paul A Young on their list of the 10 best chocolates in the world. I'm pretty well travelled, and I've enjoyed some magnificent chocolate here and there, but I'm hard pressed to find a chocolate I find myself thinking about, dreaming of, tasting the phantom of, more than Paul's.

Here are a few of my favourites from the shop. First, the drinking chocolate -- a gently heated pot of molten Valrhona chocolate guarded by several jars of fine ground spice, ranging from chilis to ginger to cardamom, cinnamon, and many others. Get a cup and season to taste, stir, drink, fall unconscious. I'm also a great fan of Paul's chewy, rich brownies, which have the texture and color of good, loamy soil and the flavour of high-cacao artisanal chocolate adulterated with such additives as stem ginger.

But my favourites have to be the truffles -- they were special treats for my wife during her pregnancy and after her delivery, they're the gifts I give to friends come from out of town, they're the treats I go for on days when nothing seems to be going right. There are the "normal" truffles (for example, the gold-medal-winning Sea Salted Caramels have a hard, glossy dark shell that shatters in your mouth, revealing a slow, decadent slurp of salty caramel, or the Kalamansi truffles, with a centre of tangy tropical citrus), and the exotics -- truffles stuffed with Marmite, stilton, and other savouries that turn out to be extremely witty and improbable taste-combinations that are inevitably delicious in a way you never expected.

What's the catch? Well, they're kind of expensive -- especially if you're used to buying an assortment of milk chocolates at the grocery store. And they're also only available in person at the shops in London -- no mail order. Paul's chocolates are made fresh daily on the premises, without any preservatives of any kind, and they just don't travel (I've successfully brought abroad them in my hand luggage, but I wouldn't try to ship them as cargo or by mail). So this is a pleasure strictly reserved for Londoners and those who visit London.

It's this last part that's kept me from mentioning them here for so long -- it seems like a cheat to tell you how goddamned fantastic this stuff is and then announce that you can't have any. But it's the end of the holiday shopping season and plenty of you live in London. If you're looking for an extraordinary gift that comes from a local small business, won't clutter up the house after it's opened, and will certainly be warmly appreciated and fondly remembered, this is my top choice.

Oh, and Paul's hiring staff -- his business is doing very well, despite the crummy economy, and I can't think of a better place to work (except for the risk to your waistline!).

Paul A Young Fine Chocolates

Update: in the comments, James Cronin - Managing Director, Paul A Young Fine Chocolates, sez: "I'll brief the team in the morning that if anyone mentions that they read about us on Boing Boing they can have a free chocolate on me."


  1. The fact that the chocolate is expensive is, I think, almost to be expected. But to describe all the gorgeous chocolate and then halfway through explain there is no way for a poor stateside student like me to ever try any is extremely cruel.

  2. “it seems like a cheat to tell you how goddamned fantastic this stuff is and then announce that you can’t have any”

    Perhaps that makes the chocolate even sweeter?

    I’m going to go get some RIGHT NOW!!!

    (Actually, I probably won’t make it past Camden as I do some Christmas shopping on this glorious London ‘morn.)

  3. I live in Australia, which is probably too far for this chocolate to travel even in hand-luggage, but I enjoyed your writing about it so much that I don’t even regret not being able to try the chocolates til my next European adventure. Very nicely done descriptions of fine chocolate, there. Reading it is like chocolate for my brain.

  4. So where can I go to get extremely high quality chocolate conveniently mailed to my door by this fantastic system we have where I type a number into a website and something from halfway around the world shows up at my door in a day or two?

  5. That definitely sounds like it’s worth a visit, but it’s a pretty long way from Guelph.

    I don’t think that I ever could have conceived of Marmite truffles.

  6. I live in belgium. I find the idea of 2£ truffles a joke.

    While it’s quite possible this guy maks proper chocolates, I can get good chocolates on my local highstreet for 10£ the pound. That includes truffles. Much better than neuhaus or (god forbid) godiva.

    (Sidenote: till 2000 it was against belgian law to call anything chocolate unless it had less than 5% fat other than cocoa butter. This immediatley means that cadburys couldn’t sell their chocolate as chocolate until the EU stepped in, and every other country(including the bloody french) decided chocolate with pig fat was real chocolate)

    The only reason they don’t sell real chocolate in supermarkets in most of the world is because people are used to crap made by companies who want to save a few bucks at the cost of a consumer who doesn’t know better anyway. It’s like selling beer as wine.

    (I’m also available for rants on beer)

  7. It is a dirty secret, and it irritates the French and Belgians enormously but London is really the high-end chocolate capital of the world nowadays.
    For those who want to order online i would recommend l’artisan du chocolat (google it). artisan is actually an English owned and run shop, which invented the above mentioned salted caramel for Gordon Ramsay – (he calls them the “bentley of chocolate”). I have a holiday tasting box here and am about to bite into one of their mint O’s – a wafer thin piece of chocolate filled with fresh mint (actual mint not that fondanty thing most people call mint). Divine

  8. “So where can I go to get extremely high quality chocolate conveniently mailed to my door by this fantastic system we have where I type a number into a website and something from halfway around the world shows up at my door in a day or two?”

    Charbonnel et Walker is supposidly where the Queen gets her chocolate fix:

    Norman Love Confections makes beautiful chocolate that seldom fails to wow the ladies:

    I never know what to get women for Christmas, but nobody has ever complained when I sent them Chocolate from these places.

  9. @#11: Godiva is better than Hershey’s, but that’s about it.

    As a kid I remember Godiva being the best chocolate ever. Is it because I didn’t have much to compare them to, or did they really get waxy and tasteless?

    @#2: If you happen to be a poor stateside student in Boston or Walpole, NH, try Burdick Chocolate. They’re pretty damn good, and they’ve got some interesting, creative tastes among their standard mixes.

    They have hot chocolate so thick it turns into ganache if you refrigerate it, and so rich you *need* to refrigerate the leftovers. Even a small cup is an overwhelmingly chocolately experience.

    And they ship. :-)

  10. Man, I always liked Godiva. Don’t understand dissin’ them.

    As for Beer, I actually didn’t like beer much until one day I had a Corsendonk (dark) and realized I had been living in a beer-cave my whole life.

    So now, over in Camden half an hour ago (as I predicted I never made it out to Islinton), I had a Delerium Noctornum and a Triple Karmelite at Belgo (with some fries).

    Nothing really compares to Belgium’s beer, I think.

  11. I agree with G Jules that L. A. Burdick has the most awesome hot chocolate I’ve had to date. It’s made from actual chocolate shavings and steamed milk.

    For chocolates, though puts them in the shade. They also ship, but are a small two-person outfit and are pretty busy this time of year.

  12. You (unprintable) – giving away secrets like that :)
    (yes, I live in Islington and spend money that I don’t have there…)

  13. I’ll stick with my Mother’s chocolates from Slovenia thanks, described by her Belgian suppliers as being the best outside of Belgium. Again, no mail order either.

  14. That’ll be on my list of places to visit when I next get to London. In the meantime, I’ll be checking out my nearest Bernard Callebaut shop to pick up some of my favourites… that is, once the weather improves.

  15. Funny. I’ve walked down Camden Passage a million times but never noticed this place. Must reboot my eyes.

  16. @Giant Negro: Of course, chocolate is never wrong, but it’s quite easy to find out what to give women for Christmas.
    Just ask.

  17. Wow. I’d been thinking of a reason to take a trip to London…and while this hasn’t totally sold me on the idea, it’s certainly helped. Between Kakao in Berlin, Jacques Torres & MarieBelle in New York and Soma here in Toronto, I’ve had some pretty fine chocolate myself. There’s always room for more.

  18. Chocolate, schmocolate; what London really needs is a half-decent pork pie. Ginger Pig’s is ok but it’s no Petch’s.

  19. i’m not going to seem very festive by saying this, but good old bbc radio 4 opened my eyes about chocolate a while back. buying chocolate is like buying petrol. it all comes from the same place:

    ‘The industry is dominated by three chocolate makers, Barry Callebaut, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland Company. In the UK, 99.999% of chocolatiers, whether they be large companies such as Cadbury Schweppes or small independents, purchase their chocolate from them, to melt, mold and package to their own design.’ (wiki quote from the programme)

    the impression i got was that the same goes for europe. not only that but nearly all of the stuff they make is of the same grade. 0_o

  20. Wow – thank you Cory for the very kind mention and thank you everyone else for your comments!

    You’re right that a lot of the world’s wholesale chocolate supply is dominated by a few mega-corps who don’t exactly produce the finest stuff. We’re one of the 0.001% (your statistic is incorrect and a bit too extreme, but I’ll play along with it for effect) who don’t buy any of that crap though, and there’s no fat other than cocoa butter in our chocolate.

    You’re also absolutely right that London has become the most creative centre of the fine/artisan chocolate world. I’ve travelled a lot of the world tasting and testing and I love living here so much.

    I hope to see some of you soon! I’ll brief the team in the morning that if anyone mentions that they read about us on Boing Boing they can have a free chocolate on me.


    James Cronin – Managing Director, Paul A Young Fine Chocolates

  21. excerpt:

    “To call Wienrich and Boettcher “chocolate makers” was like calling Leonard of Quirm “a decent painter who also tinkered with things”, or Death “not someone you’d want to meet every day”. It was accurate, but it didn’t tell the whole story.

    For one thing, they didn’t make, they created. There’s an important difference. And, while their select little shop sold the results, it didn’t do anything so crass as to fill the window with them. That would suggest… well, over-eagerness. Generally, W&B had a display of silk and velvet drapes with, on a small stand, perhaps one of their special pralines or no more than three of their renowned frosted caramels. There was no price tag. If you had to ask the price of W&B’s chocolates, you couldn’t afford them. And if you’d tasted one, and still couldn’t afford them, you’d save and scrimp and rob and sell elderly members of your family for just one more of those mouthfuls that fell in love with your tongue and turned your soul to whipped cream.”

  22. jamescronin — Free chocolates for BB readers is generous! I’ll have to remember that when I’m back in London, as I’m sure the offer is available forever ;)

    By my (limited) understanding, chocolate makers make bulk chocolate (“couverture”) from cacao, which they provide to chocolatiers, who then turn the chocolate into chocolates. If Paul A Young Fine Chocolates lists their couverture suppliers, then you might be able to order a bar of the same chocolate off the web, from Chocosphere. My favorite is Amadei.

    From the brownie and truffle raves though, it sounds like you’re not going to be able to replicate the experience by ordering their same couverture, as their prowess apparently lies in their chocolatier-ing abilities, rather than their chocolate-ordering abilities.

  23. James, do you mean there is no dairy in your dark chocolate? Even the really excellent chocolate makers I’ve encountered seem to include milk as a matter of course, unless they are deliberately making vegan chocolate. Several of my friends didn’t believe it was possible to make a chocolate bar without dairy products. “Milk” chocolate just means it has *more* milk. When I showed them a bar of Green and Black, they were honestly shocked. But I’ve never found a non-dairy truffle.

    (I’m just curious. I’m not likely to go to London any time soon.)

  24. my current favorite for domestic (us) ruffles is posh chocolate in missoula, montana. they recently scooped up a batch of awards at the international chocolate salon show (8 out of 21 awards presented at the 2008 competition is pretty good for their first time out.)

    until paul and james ship their delights to this side of the pond, you can always try your hand at whipping up a batch of my open source truffles.

  25. @#37: your “excellent” makers are certainly not excellent if they put milk in chocolate and call it dark chocolate. Dark chocolate should contain only five ingredients: cocoa solids, sugar, cocoa butter, lecithin (an emulsifier) and vanilla, in that order. That list is right off the back of a Valrhona bar from my kitchen, and the Scharffen Berger chocolate bar next to it has the same ingredient list. Even more mid-range chocolate makers who sell in the US would agree, there: Lindt and Ghirardelli have the same formula for their bittersweet lines (like Lindt’s “Excellence” line). I just looked, and Hershey’s “Special Dark” (their “premium” dark chocolate) does, indeed, have milk in it, but that’s crap chocolate, so it’s not what’s being discussed, here.

    As for places to order, my vote is for Teuscher, out of Switzerland ( The company, itself, doesn’t ship, but several of its US stores do, and the champagne truffles are pretty magnificent.

  26. G. Jules – Burdick’s chocolate is great, but Boston also has local choclatier Taza chocolates. They roast and grind their own beans.

    Right now they are adding about 1 thing a year to their menu and sell stuff at local stores and at the farmers’ markets too. Very dark and delicious organic direct-trade chocolate bars.

    And they ship.

  27. I visited Paul Young’s yesterday on Cory’s recommendation (sadly before I read about the free chocolate offer), and I have to second everything he wrote. By far the best chocolate I’ve ever encountered, with an absolutely mouth watering selection.

    I live the rest of my life a little sadder, knowing that the vast majority of the chocolate I now sample in my life will forever pale before the delight of those sea-salted caramels…

    I’ll certainly be returning to fill out a few Christmas presents. And some for myself of course…

  28. @ #29: You’re quite right.

    This shop is one of the best. But isn’t it a shame that most people have to travel this far to get a good chocolate?

    Every village should have their own chocolatier. We all like chocolate. We all taste the difference. Yet loads of people have never eaten proper chocolate. It’s sad.

    Nowadays every supermarket offers a decent selection of wine. Why not chocolate? More people like chocolate than wine.

  29. Boy the way, can I point out just how disgusting that albino “white chocolate” crapola is? Is there even any chocolate in it? And how come in any box of chocolates, the white ones are left behind? Why are there even white “chocolates” in a box of chocoloate?

  30. For those in North America who now desperately need a (good!) chocolate fix, I heartily recommend chocolatier Bernard Callebaut, based here in Calgary, but available by mail order across the continent.

    Bernard is a Belgian import that we now proudly claim as our own. And we locals get bragging rights over having the only Café Chocolat where you can sample his hot chocolate creations…

  31. Paul A. Young chocolates sound fabulous. My own weakness on the US side of the Pond is for MarieBelle. I’ve only been to their New York SoHo location, though the employees there say the store in midtown is bigger and nicer. The cocoa choices and menu items in the Cacao Bar in back are a pleasure indeed, but it’s their saffron, cardamom, and other flavored chocolates that haunt me. The taste, texture, and beauty are all exceptional.

    An added bonus prize (and the primary destination for some) is Kee’s Chocolates, just around the corner and a block or so away from Marie Belle. Kee’s doesn’t ship, so you have to be in New York or have friends coming from there.

  32. If you love chocolate, you should watch this preview of an upcoming Dutch documentary:

    I used to love eating chocolate. As an army brat, I fell in love with German and Swiss chocolates when my father was stationed overseas in my youth.

    In 2001, my wife read an award winning Knight Ridder piece on child slavery in the cocoa plantations in the Congo and other cocoa producing areas of Africa. It turns out that these areas are propped up on child slavery and that chocolate created in the area makes up more than 40% of the world’s cocoa production.

    As chocolate is traded in a commodity market, all commodity chocolate, all the beans get mixed together meaning that almost any chocolate you buy, unless is specifically is listed as fair trade (or more rarely “Slavery Free”), is tainted by child slavery.

    The Chocolate Manufacturers Association, through lobbyists like Bob Dole fought “Slave Free” labeling on US chocolate and instead got the CMA approved Harkin-Engil Protocol legislation passed. Harkin-Engil was supposed to monitor the situation in Africa and certify that commodity chocolate sold in these regions was child slavery free by 2005. When 2005 came, the H-E protocol was an admitted failure and instead of receiving any consequences the chocolate industry was given another 5 years to, now, only certify that 50% wasn’t made by child slavery. Essentially, the H-E protocol is a stalling tactic to move the issue out of the public eye.

    We gave up eating chocolate in 2001. We didn’t want our money to support an industry that acknowledges and tacitly (and sometimes openly) accepts child slavery as part of doing business. Not us, not for what is essentially a luxury good.

    Unless chocolate is fair trade or a chocolateer can source their cocoa to specific farms that don’t engage in the practice of child slavery(many say they do but don’t offer proof because they say that certifications and monitoring cost too much money), the chocolate they create is probably tainted by the practice of child slavery.


    It’s funny. All my friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances end up knowing this information. Usually it comes after repeated times of our politely turning down chocolate when offered in the form or cookies, cakes, ice-cream, or candies. Eventually they ask why we don’t eat chocolate and we say that it is just our choice. When they push, we ask them if they really want to know and advise them that they probably don’t want to know. Even with the warning, they all want to know. When we tell them, they are mad.

    All but a handful (maybe 5 people) have said that they could never give up chocolate even if it was created by child slavery. They all say they also can’t commit to buying fair trade chocolate as it is harder to find and more expensive.

    That is one of the saddest things for me.

  33. I’ll second the above plug for L’Artisan du Chocolat with a link: They are also based in London, just south of Sloane Square, and they are fantastic. Brilliant hot chocolate, incredible filled chocolates (which in times past have been oak, leather or cardamom flavoured) and salted caramel balls you can even get on the other side of the planet (here in Australia).

    They do internet ordering, and they make (at least some of) their own chocolate from beans bought fairly (“By buying ground cocoa directly from the Brazilian growers at a price set by them“).

  34. Pleased to see that Mr Young is getting (even more) press. Been going there for a year or two and they are unequivocally the best. The staff are great, and you can put on 15 pounds by standing in the shop doorway and inhaling.

  35. Another big reason to visit Camden Passage is the next door shop to Paul A Young – Susy Harper, one of the best womens clothes shops in London – one-off, ethically sourced, made on the premises clothes designed by Michelle Anslow (Cate Blanchett for ex wears her clothes in Notes On A Scandal).

  36. It’s this last part that’s kept me from mentioning them here for so long — it seems like a cheat to tell you how goddamned fantastic this stuff is and then announce that you can’t have any.

    I have to tell you all about the most wonderful Mince pies that ever were made. They’re baked according to a generations-old family recipe, passed from mother to daughter secretly in the back room of a family bakery. The home-made mincemeat itself is allowed to mature for several years before use, producing a depth of flavour unmatched by commercial offerings.

    Unfortunately, I only made two dozen, and we ate them all yesterday teatime. Sorry.

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