Fix any chocolate blind spots when it comes to all things chocolate with this useful chocolate guide.
Created with Chloe Doutre Roussel
The international bean to bar scene is booming as we speak, and is set to grow bigger, better- and quickly. The first thing you need to know is that there are no official definitions nor regulations for the bean to bar industry, which explains why the craft chocolate market remains full of grey areas, with many different chocolate professions and products. The below is a mere attempt to clarify any confusions, and is a work in progress.
A blanket term for fine chocolate, typically made in small batches. It can therefore apply to several categories: artisanal chocolate, microbatch, small batch, bean to bar, tree to bar.
"BEAN TO BAR"
A philosophy, where chocolate is transformed in small volumes, directly from fermented dried cacao beans. A bean to bar maker controls every step of the chocolate making process, from bean purchase, roasting, winnowing, grinding, refining and tempering within a single facility, owned by him/her. Quality, transparency and traceability is at the core of the "bean to bar" philosophy.
In the US, this is known as 'craft chocolate'. In the rest of the world, it is "bean to bar".
Following the philosophy of bean to bar:
- Each batch can be between 6 to 60 kg over 5 days. For larger amounts, refer to Industrial Chocolate Makers below.
- Contains the purest ingredients possible: Specialty Cacao beans and sugar. Sometimes, cacao butter may be included. No lecithin nor vanilla is added.
- "Bean to Bar" makers focus on research, understanding the process at each step of the transformation from the bean to the bar. For example, beans are roasted specially to bring out the full potential of flavour profile.
TREE TO BAR
A chocolate company which qualifies as "Bean To Bar" and additionally:
- owns and personally manages a plantation
- transforms the cacao of the plantation into chocolate
- carrying out the above in a production unit they own and manage
These chocolates, made from cacao from their own plantation are “tree to bar”, and may also be referred to as “Made At Origin”, as the chocolate is made in the cacao producing country itself.
What is not true Tree to Bar?
- Companies that own the cacao and send the beans to be processed into chocolate by a third-party
- Companies that buy cacao directly from farmers ( from plantations they do not own nor manage) and transform it into their own production unit
Examples of Tree to Bar chocolate brands include Mestico (Brazil), Baiani (Brazil), Malagos (Philippines), Fu Wan (Taiwan), Manoa (Hawaii), Soklet (India)
MADE AT ORIGIN
“Made At Origin” refers to bean to bar chocolate which has been made within the same country where the cacao comes from. Can also referred to as ‘In Country’. The company can be of any size here.
Easily confused with “Tree To Bar”, not all “Made At Origin” chocolate is considered “Tree To Bar”, unless the chocolate maker owns and works with beans from his/her own cacao plantation.
Bean to Bar Made At Origin examples: Mission Chocolate (Brazil), Chitram Chocolate (India), Benns (Malaysia), Kad Kokoa (Thailand), Disidente (Colombia), Paradai (Thailand)
Chocolate Maker Types
TRADITIONAL CHOCOLATE MAKERS
Producing chocolate from cacao beans purchased in smaller batches, compared to industrial chocolate makers (500 to 1000 KG). These are usually family businesses passed down through the generations. The trend is to roast beans at much higher temperatures than the bean to bar philosophy, and often adding vanilla and/or lecithin.
Examples include Bonnat, Pralus, Morin, Ducasse, Marcolini,Cluizel
INDUSTRIAL CHOCOLATE MAKERS
Producing large amounts of chocolate from cacao beans, large batches and large total production volumes (1000- 2000 kg per batch, versus 3 to 60 kg of true bean to bar). Their business model is based on producing large volumes of chocolate at once, that will taste the same. These makers roast at much higher temperatures than the bean to bar philosophy, and add vanilla and/or lecithin.
Some of these makers sell purely to other businesses (B2B), some sell to individual customers as well (B2C). Examples
- Only BTB : Felchlin , Puratos, Cacao Barry, Callebaut, Belcolade
- BTB and BTC : Valrhona, Michel Cluizel, Guittard, Amedei, Domori, Weiss, El Rey
- Only BTC: Nestle, Lindt, Ethiquable, Alter Eco, Cote D’Or, Meiji
Why do these brands roast at such high temperatures? For a number of reasons, which includes achieving a consistent flavour and to mask any irregularities in the flavour profile of the beans.
CACAO SOURCING CHOCOLATE BRANDS
These companies usually focus on sourcing the cacao and collaborating with farmers in different regions. They do not produce their own chocolate. Instead, they send their beans to a factory that transforms them into their private label chocolate range. Examples: Original Beans (Felchlin); Akesson (Pralus), Erithaj (Morin)
Such chocolate is usually produced in large volumes.(500 -2000kgs) This has its advantages in terms of price, which is lower than small batch chocolate.
Their main activity is to produce chocolate bonbons (chocolate with a soft filling) from couverture chocolate, purchased from various couverture chocolate suppliers. French consumers are mostly familiar with this type of chocolate. For example, Patrick Roger, Pierre Herme. Most confiseurs tend to buy from only one couverture supplier, often receiving special discounts and favours.
Traditionally, this sort of chocolate contains more cocoa butter to facilitate tempering and works by pastry chefs, chocolatiers and confiseurs. However, most of this chocolate is today identical to those sold directly to the consumer. (Note: We do not sell these types of chocolate bars)
Le coeur de metier is to produce couverture chocolate for other food business that use chocolate as an ingredient: chocolatier confiseur, patisseries, restaurants, consumers (for home baking). Quality, price and daily production volumes of these professionals are varied.
Economic couvertures- Carma (Cacao Barry), Belcolade, Puratos
- Wide price range and usually regarded as better quality : Valrhona, Felchlin
- High end couverture : Domori, Amedei
- High end smaller volumes: Nicolas Berger
Et voila, there you have it. The next time you are trying to choose a chocolate to buy, you will now be familiar with the different categories & brands, whilst understanding some of the reasons behind price.