A Beginner’s Guide to Craft Chocolate – What is Bean-to-Bar Chocolate?

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For all of you chocolate-lovers out there, how well do you really know your chocolate? We don’t mean your Hershey bars and Kitkats. If you’re a chocoholic, you would have definitely heard of this budding trend in Asia and the USA that is craft chocolate.

With many consumers nowadays looking for higher quality snacks made with a little bit more TLC than the average chocolate bar, the craft chocolate trend began, taking root in the US and slowly spreading across Asia. Check out our guide on all things craft chocolate to find out more about how chocolate can be more than just Cadbury bars and Twix sticks!

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Craft chocolate started in America when consumers started to crave for higher quality chocolate. The chocolate making process had been highly factory-line focused and there were hardly any variations between chocolate bars.

However, an increasing number of chocolate manufacturers discovered that different cocoa beans yielded different tastes and flavours when roasted properly. Thus began the advent of the modern world’s craft chocolate pioneers such as Dandelion Chocolate and Mast Brothers.

The final products are coined as bean-to-bar chocolates as the process is highly curated all the way from the sourcing of the cocoa beans to the packaging of the finished bars.

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The Bean-to-Bar process may seem simple but it’s extremely labour-intensive.

The very first step would be to start sorting cocoa beans — the main ingredient of all chocolates. They are harvested from cocoa trees that bear fruits called the cocoa pod. The beans come in all shapes and sizes and may arrive at the chocolate manufacturing facilities in varying standards of quality. Bad beans can’t be used as they may affect the quality of the chocolate.

The cocoa beans have to be roasted to release their flavours, cracked and winnowed to separate the nibs from the husks. Nibs are edible while the cocoa shells are not.

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Cocoa nibs have to be ground by stone mills called melangers until they are a fine, liquid-like paste. This is when sugar and milk may be added to the mix. Chocolate has to be ground to a super fine consistency so as to not be gritty so it may take up to 50 hours!

Once the chocolate is of good texture, it is taken out of the melangers to, age, “temper” and mould into whatever shape and form. It is important to age the chocolate to ensure the volatile flavours are not lost. After that, the process of tempering allows chocolate to be stable and not melt even at room temperature.

The total amount of time needed to make a single batch of chocolate could span over weeks.

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Since craft chocolates rarely have any preservatives or extra colourings and flavour, they tend to be a lot healthier and contain less sugar than most factory-processed chocolate bars!

Craft chocolate also helps farmers earn more as makers purchase in smaller quantities, paying premiums for single-origin beans. The farmers are often paid directly and without any middle-man involved. This helps sustain the farmers that are paid a lot less by bigger manufacturers who purchase in bulk!

So the next time, should you buy a bar of craft chocolate, you’ll truly understand the difference and appreciate the unique characteristics of each bite!