We're not sure when chocolate became the quintessential female guilty pleasure (for proof, see any chocolate ad in recent history), but we're not afraid to admit it: Real men love chocolate, too.

How do we know? As chocolate lovers ourselves, we've noticed a trend of chocolatiers marketing more of their products toward men—chocolates with flavors such as chile pepper, bacon, and beer (yes, beer!).

Still, it's one thing to come up with a wacky new flavor; it's another to create something that genuinely tastes good. So we at Guy Gourmet decided to devise the greatest chocolate smackdown the Internet has ever seen. We asked the best chocolate makers in the world to send us samples and then, in true journalistic fashion, tasted more than 100 different flavors to determine our favorites. For even more ways to challenge your gut, click here for The 10 Foods Every Man Must Eat Before He Dies.

So what's a magazine with the word "health" in its title doing testing chocolates? Save your smirk: A 2011 study from the University of Cambridge found that high levels of chocolate consumption might help reduce the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, by 37 percent. Over the years, Men’s Health has also reported on dark chocolate’s benefits for your brain, your eyes, and even your sexual performance. Click here to check out The 125 Best Foods for Men

You’re listening now, aren’t you? Narrowing down our list of 100-plus chocolates wasn’t easy, and it begged the question: What, besides personal taste, elevates a chocolate to supreme status? That’s what we asked chef Jean-Luc Derron, who teaches chocolate classes at the Johnson & Wales University’s College of Culinary Arts. Here’s what he said.

* The packaging: In this case, what’s on the outside does count. Good chocolate should be tightly wrapped to avoid exposure to air and foreign odors.

* The surface: The texture should be smooth and shiny with no discoloration. A white film on the surface of the bar is evidence that the chocolate has been improperly stored, often in the presence of heat or humidity, which compromise taste.

* The flavor: It should be well-rounded—sweet but not too sweet; bitter but not smoky or burnt. And there should be no harsh aftertaste. “A quality chocolate should leave a pleasant, sometimes fruity, sensation on the back of the tongue,” says Derron.

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With that in mind, we now present to you, The 21 Best Chocolates for Men.

For the milk-chocolate man
Plain doesn’t have to mean bland. To prove it, taste our top pick: the Madecasse Milk Chocolate bar, which contains cocoa beans harvested by hand and grown without pesticides or herbicides in Madagascar. It ranked highly for its smooth and creamy texture with a hit of sweetness, caramel and a hint of salt. Looking for some other no-frills bars? Try Lindt Classic Recipe Milk Chocolate, which our testers described as the perfect "comfort chocolate," or the not-too-sweet Green & Black's Organic Milk Chocolate.

For the dark-chocolate man
Between the feuding factions of milk- and dark-chocolate lovers, the Amedei Chuao 70% Extra Dark Chocolate bar offers a demilitarized zone. This single-plantation bar is named for the Chuao peninsula in Venezuela, a place on the planet that chefs and chocolatiers say may produce the best cacao. The bar’s beans are aged for 20 days to improve their acidity and aroma and the result is deep, rich, and intense. Still not enough bitterness for you? Source a bar of Pacari's Raw Chocolate 100% Cacao, but beware. This alpha chocolate contains no sugar, no dairy, and just one ingredient—pure Ecuadorian cacao. Hungry for more super-charged ways to boost your testosterone? Click Here To Discover The Testosterone Transformation

For the salt craver
Love chocolate-covered pretzels? A little sea salt on your ice cream? Pick up a Theo Organic Fair Trade Salted Almond Milk Chocolate bar to conquer both your salt and your sweet cravings. Its smooth milk chocolate provides a sweet base to complement the touch of salt and the almonds add a satisfying crunch. Need a bar with a little more ... salty pork product? Go for Vosges's Mo's Dark Bacon Bar, which tempers its bacon flavor with the bitterness of dark chocolate.



For the nutty guy
Let the vending machine have the Snickers. The Lindt Classic Recipe Hazelnut bar, packed with crunchy pieces of slow-roasted hazelnuts, topped our choices for a chocolate bar with nuts. Dark-chocolate fans loved the airy, crisp texture of Xocolatti Caramalized Hazelnut Slate and the tropical-tinged Gnosis Coconut Almond bar.

For the caffeine fiend
Deep, rich coffee paired with smooth and creamy chocolate can pack the perfect one-two punch. The hard part? Finding a just-sweet-enough bar that retains the coffee’s full-bodied flavor without leaving a cloying or bitter aftertaste. We loved the Jacques Torres Java Junkie bar that housed flecks of coffee, which provided both a crunch and a kick to its milk-chocolate base. For a deeper chocolate flavor, try the Theo Coffee Dark Chocolate bar, which is made with fair-trade certified Caffé Vita coffee. If you’re looking for a more serious jolt, grab some Pacari Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans.

For the heat seeker
Hot sauce makes almost any food taste better. Chocolate is no exception. We dug the taste bud-popping Madécasse Pink Pepper & Citrus, which packs a stiff pepper finish and a smack of kaffir lime. Want more heat? Try Pacari’s chile bar, made with merkén, a traditional South American seasoning blend that contains smoked chile, coriander, and salt. Or, try Theo’s Coconut Curry for a spicy milk-chocolate bar. If you're looking for more amazing flavor combinations, check out our simple meal tool Short Order Cook

For the fruit fan
Mixing fruit with chocolate is about as basic as pairing wine and cheese, but for a very good reason: The combination never disappoints. In fact, picking a clear winner from the top two was too difficult, so do yourself a favor and try both: Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate Cherry bar has whole, luscious cherries in every bite, and Lindt’s Excellence Black Currant Dark bar complements the intense fruit flavor with roasted almonds.

For the white-chocolate devotee
To be fair, white chocolate is a bit different than "chocolate," as defined by the FDA, because it does not contain cocoa solids from chocolate liquor. However, here's the key when it comes to buying white chocolate: cocoa butter. It's also product of the cacao bean and has a faint chocolate flavor that makes all the difference. If cocoa butter's not in the ingredient list, then leave the bar on the shelf. Our tasters raved about Green & Black’s Organic White Chocolate, made with pure vanilla from Madagascar, and Lindt Excellence White Coconut, which tasted so good, it made fans of white-chocolate haters.



For the adventurous palate

Want to try something really crazy? Enter Theo's Ghost Chile Salted Caramels, buttery caramel infused with the capsaicin king of all chile peppers -- Bhut Jolokia -- and sprinkled with Hawaiian red sea salt. It's not a party in your mouth. It's a rave.

—Jennifer Messimer, Christa Sgobba, and Jerilyn Covert

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