What is Bean-to-Bar Chocolate?

Susan M. Stokes, Chocolate Addict

1 November 2019

So you might have heard “bean-to-bar” chocolate touted around as the best new kind of quality chocolate without really knowing why it’s so good. What does bean-to-bar actually mean? Does it mean quality? 

Well, I’m here to tell you this chocolate is not only delicious and the best kind of chocolate but it’s also great for the farmers and even the genetic diversity of cocoa beans.

You might also hear terms like “craft chocolate” along with “bean to bar” and “fine cacao/chocolate. These terms loosely define bean-to-bar chocolate. Does that mean the chocolate it’s referring to is always high-quality or sustainably sourced chocolate? No – although 99% of the time it is.

 

Bean-to-bar chocolate is created when a small-scale, craft or artisan chocolate maker controls every step of the chocolate-making process from choosing the cacao beans to the final product of the chocolate bar. 

 

These craft makers have tight quality control of their chocolate meaning its healthier with fewer additives (big brands use additives to accelerate the manufacturing process). But they also seek greater transparency over the supply chain sourcing their chocolate ensuring a farm-to-bar pipeline and those growers are paid fairly.

What about Big Chocolate?

In contrast “Big Chocolate” or large scale industry runs the old model for chocolate making and includes big names we all know and love.

 

The “Big Five” chocolate makers: Mars, Nestle, Hershey’s, Kraft, and Cadbury (now owned by Kraft). We love them because they gave us our first experience of chocolate, whether it was that treat after school, easter eggs or a cup of hot chocolate when you’re sick.
 

But with big comes controlling the majority of cocoa sales, and a monopoly on purchasing the cocoa grown in some parts of the world. Often too “Big” means controlling the conditions in which it is grown, harvested and processed leaving farmers at the mercy of commodity pricing.

Big Chocolate vs. Bean-to-bar

In the process of mass-producing chocolate (by brands like Nestle or Mondelez) the vast majority is machine automated, i.e. makers are not involved at every step of production, they also use additives to speed up the process and the quality and origin of the cocoa beans are uncertain.


So what have we learned so far? Bean-to-bar is small-batch chocolate production, which is more expensive than mass-produced alternatives. But the price ensures a better quality chocolate bar because made from superior ingredients sourced fairer and more transparent supply chain.

Bean-to-bar chocolate is delicious small-batch, end-to-end chocolate great for you the end consumer and the cocoa farmers.

Bean-to-Bar Movement

The bean-to-bar movement means there’s been a shift in mindset from “western processed chocolate” to single-origin or single-plantation bars. These chocolate bars are used to showcase the skills of a craft chocolate maker and the nuances in flavour of that region’s beans. Like in wine, the earth where the beans grow, give it it’s unique flavour profile(or terroir). 

But there’s room for both types of chocolate, we need both large scale and micro-batch each serving their purpose, cocoa beans are used in a lot of products from 

 

So who are the Bean-to-Bar chocolate makers?

Using coffee as an example they’re the roaster and barista combined. In small-scale, they carefully select the best cacao beans for their flavour profile. The steps they take include: 

 

  1. Sorting
  2. Roasting
  3. Cracking
  4. Winnowing
  5. Grinding
  6. Refining
  7. Conching
  8. Tempering 
  9. and finally moulding the bar

Phew, it’s a lot of work and if they fall short in any step the quality of the final chocolate bar suffers. So you can see bean-to-bar is not a justification for a higher price tag a lot of time goes into making chocolate from scratch. 

 

How to Identify Bean-to-Bar Chocolate

 

A quick glance at the ingredients list will tell you if the chocolate is bean-to-bar, a quick clue,  less is more, as in fewer, simpler ingredients. Generally, there are only two(cacao and sugar) or three(cacao, cocoa butter, and sugar) ingredients in bean-to-bar chocolate. But for flavoured bars with inclusions e.g. nuts or fruit, there will be a few extra. See some examples below.

Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Supply & Demand

With the bean-to-bar movement gripping Australia and the world, it’s good news for you the chocolate lover because you have a bigger selection of higher quality chocolate to choose from. 

 

We hope you understand what bean-to-bar stand for now. And while it’s not an official industry term and can be used interchangeably with craft, artisan or small-batch chocolate we hope you feel empowered to be able to identify true bean-to-bar chocolate, not just chocolate masquerading as bean-to-bar.

 

So where can you find some?

We’re so glad you asked! And we’re happy to help, at Cocoa Box our “raison d’être” is to help more chocolate lovers discover the wonderful world of bean-to-bar craft chocolate.

In our signature chocolate subscription box, we handpick and deliver only the finest bean-to-bar chocolate to your door every month! We aim to surprise and delight you!

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