Bean-to-bar is a chocolate making process, where the maker controls every step of the from cacao bean to chocolate bar. The bean-to-bar process is often associated with craft chocolate companies. Crafters have better control the quality of their chocolate through this method. Furthermore, it also produces a healthier product, as it is a more natural process. Crafters do not use chemicals or additives that many bigger brands use to accelerate the manufacturing process. It also affords producers greater control over the supply chain to ensure fair and humane business practices. This is particularly important as cacao production is notorious for the use of forced and child labor and poverty wages for farmers and laborers.
Chocolatiers vs. Chocolate Makers
Famous chocolate brands like Hershey’s or even Chuao are chocolatiers, not chocolate makers, meaning they make confections (ie truffles) out of chocolate already made by another company. Chocolatiers source their chocolate from chocolate-makers, which may or may not be bean-to-bar producers. By contrast, bean-to-bar producers oversee every step of the process.
Often a glance at the ingredients list will tell you if a chocolate maker or chocolatier made the chocolate. Craft, bean-to-bar chocolate is often more pure, and with fewer, simpler ingredients. Normally there are only two ingredients (cacao and sugar) or three ingredients (cacao, cocoa butter, and sugar) in bean-to-bar chocolate.
Mass produced chocolates, such as those made by brands owned by Nestle or Mondelez, are not bean-to-bar makers. This means the chocolate makers do not take part in every step in production with the help of machine automation. These chocolate makers often use additives to speed up certain processes as well. Moreover, the Nestle’s and Mondelez’s do not ensure the origin and quality of the cocoa.
Similar to other small-batch food, bean-to-bar chocolate tends to be more expensive than the mass-produced alternatives. However, this price ensures not only a better product made from superior ingredients, but also cleaner, fairer and more sustainable supply chain.
Where and How to Find
Thankfully, bean-to-bar chocolate is now quite easy to find. In addition to many specialty retailers, mainstream stores like Whole Foods and online retailers like Amazon normally carry a decent selection of bean-to-bar chocolate. Raaka is one such maker that has very good distribution and can usually be found in Whole Foods around the country. It is important to read the label, however, to make sure the chocolate is in fact bean-t0-bar.