What is “bean to bar” chocolate, and why does it matter?

As consumers become increasingly conscious of the origin and quality of their food, “bean to bar” chocolate has emerged to signify true chocolate artisanship . This niche within the chocolate industry represents a departure from mass-produced commercial chocolate, offering a more authentic and premium approach to chocolate making.

Photo credit: Elements Chocolate Co

“Bean to bar” chocolate is exactly what it sounds like: chocolate produced from scratch, starting with cocoa beans which are usually (though not always) sourced from a single region. Unlike mass-produced chocolate, which often relies on bulk cocoa mass sourced from various origins, “bean to bar” chocolate makers control of the entire chocolate-making process. This ensures consistent quality and ethical sourcing of ingredient inputs, which are then crafted by hand into unique chocolates.

The journey of “bean to bar” chocolate begins with the careful selection of cocoa beans. Artisanal chocolatiers select beans from specific regions and even specific cocoa farms to achieve the flavour they are pursuing. Quite often, this careful and selective sourcing allows “bean to bar” chocolate to fully trace the origin of their cocoa beans, guaranteeing quality and ethical standards.

Once the cocoa beans are sourced, the chocolate-making process unfolds in a series of meticulous steps. The beans undergo sorting and roasting, where the unique flavors and aromas of the cocoa are developed. After roasting, the beans are cracked and winnowed to remove the outer shell, leaving behind the cocoa nibs.

Photo credit: Good Boy Chocolate

From here, the chocolate maker has the freedom to experiment with flavor profiles by adjusting factors such as refining time, conching duration, and ingredient additions. Some “bean to bar” chocolate makers opt for minimal processing, allowing the natural flavors of the cocoa to shine, while others may incorporate ingredients like sugar, vanilla, or milk to create distinctive blends.

One of the hallmarks of “bean to bar” chocolate is its emphasis on quality over quantity. Unlike mass-produced chocolate, which often relies on additives and preservatives to extend shelf life and mask inferior flavors, “bean to bar” chocolate prioritizes purity and authenticity. By focusing on small-batch production, chocolatiers can maintain meticulous quality control, resulting in chocolate that is rich in flavor and complexity.

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