Raising the (chocolate) bar

Sweet Austin chocolatier named one of America's best by Food & Wine

Sweet Austin chocolatier named one of America's best by Food & Wine

Madhu Chocolate Austin
The Austin chocolatier makes a variety of chocolate bars inspired by Indian flavors.  Madhu Chocolate/Instagram

Austin-based Madhu Chocolate is savoring national recognition from none other than Food & Wine. Focusing on producers of chocolate bars, the magazine named Madhu one of the 50 finest chocolate makers and chocolate shops in the U.S.

“Harshit Gupta and Elliott Curelop source quality cacao from the Tumaco region of Colombia — a favorite among some of the most accomplished makers on this list — and then go wild with the flavors, drawing on Gupta’s Indian childhood for inspiration. Saffron, black pepper from Kerala, cloves, and coriander all make welcome appearances,” Food & Wine says in its recent write-up about Madhu.

Members of the editorial team at Food & Wine faced such a tough task in creating its list of the country’s 50 best chocolatiers. They had to independently select and review — aka taste test — each chocolate product featured by the magazine.

Madhu (meaning “sweet” or “honey”) specializes in small-batch chocolate bars that emphasize Indian spices, nuts, and flavors. The New York Times reported last November that Madhu’s most popular offering is a masala chai dark-chocolate bar “whose mild sweetness is tempered with heady ginger and clove.”

Aside from ethically sourcing cacao beans from Colombia, Madhu powers its chocolate facility entirely with renewable wind energy and composts much of its waste.

Madhu sells its chocolate delights on its website and at various stores around Austin.

Madhu isn’t the only Texas chocolatier to gain praise from Food & Wine. Also appearing on the magazine’s list is Cacao & Cardamom in Houston.

Here’s Food & Wine’s summary of Cacao & Cardamom: “Don’t knock procrastination — it might just change your life. For Annie Rupani, it was the study breaks from LSAT prep, during which she began teaching herself all about chocolate. The one-time Miss Pakistan World would later begin experimenting, combining modern technique with the bold flavors of her upbringing. Wildly colorful bonbons and patterned bars, in flavors like coffee and cardamom, are a visual feast.”

Cacao & Cardamom operates a flagship store at 5000 Westheimer Rd. in the Galleria area and another store at 2013 W. Gray St. in River Oaks. The business also sells its artisan chocolate bars and other chocolate products online.

In 2019, Forbes lauded Cacao & Cardamom for its “architecturally stunning truffles.”

“The presentation features a black box that twists open into a spiral of dazzling selections. Shapes run the gamut from trapezoids and pyramids to concentric layers of circles,” Forbes says.

Rupani leans on ingredients associated with her Pakistani roots to whip up her confections.

“I am not interested in anything that has been done before. I want to create something you’ve never tasted before, something you don’t really expect in chocolate,” Rupani told CultureMap in 2013.