Inside Japan's Craft Chocolate Craze - Craft Sense

Inside Japan’s Craft Chocolate Craze

Japan has always found a way to take trends and crazes from around the world and make them her own; craft chocolate is no exception. By adding their own unique flavors, dedication to quality, and the passion, Japan has taken craft chocolate in some exciting directions.

The Dandelion Craft Chocolate Invasion

Dandelion Chocolate, a brand based in San Francisco, traveled to Japan with the help of entrepreneur Seiji Horibuchi, Dandelion’s founder. He was charmed by their style, their commitment to craftsmanship. He believed in the Japan vision for fine, handcrafted foods. His own shop, The Dandelion Chocolate Factory and Cafe, opened opposite a park in Kuramae and was an instant success.

Dandelion did a lot more than put truffles in a display case. They also ensured customers got a chance to see the craft chocolate making process as they walked in. Artisans work right at the counter making bean to bar craft chocolate with roasted cacao beans. Furthermore, customers can also take a quick tour of the chocolate laboratory and see first hand where their confections are coming from.

On top of craft chocolate, the shop offers unique desserts like a hot chocolate and green tea combination called Kuramae Hot Chocolate. There’s also the Papua New Guinea S’more, a toasted marshmallow topped with a rich ganache.

Dandelion is famous for a welcoming environment and a willingness to try a lot of new things within the craft chocolate world. Their original shop took in people of all backgrounds and taught them how to work with cacao beans. They recently opened a pop-up cafe in New York and taught chocolate-making classes to visitors of all kinds.

In Dandelion’s Wake

While Dandelion wasn’t the original bean to bar chocolate company in Japan, it sparked interest in chocolate craftsmen and women across Japan. Consequently, bean to bar craft chocolate became an art form around the island. New companies were soon coming to life to greet the refined tastes of Japanese craft chocolate lovers.

Green Bean to Bar

Green Bean to Bar’s shop is one of the few places to offer bonbons, the shop has a tasting plate that takes customers through a variety of offerings.

In addition, plays on hot chocolate like the Cacao Tea and sweets like scones and brownies are all made in house in a small factory in the back of the shop. Customers love the variety of offerings and the transparency of the shop as they nibble on craft chocolates of all kinds.

Minimal Chocolate

Minimal Chocolate may actually unofficially be the first bean to bar maker in Japan. They take a different approach to help customers find just the right taste for their palettes. They present their craft chocolates in three main categories; nutty, fruity and savoury, with sub-categories like herbal or chocolatey.

The shop can be found in Tomigaya, Shibuya. Minimal Chocolate offers a chocolate flight that helps customers experience a small piece of all the different chocolates they have on offer. They also carefully pair a chocolate with a cup of coffee. Minimal makes sure to reflect the season and create a good balance of flavors. One past pairing has been a cup of Costa Rica coffee served with their Nutty – Chocolatey bar. Together the two create a scone-like taste with just a hint of orange.

Furthermore, Minimal interacts with their fans with workshops of their own. They teach the art of chocolate once a month in their shop and helping everyone see the art of bean to bar chocolate.  

Escalier Chocolate

Created by pastry chef Tomomi Kaneko, Escalier chocolates are known for their heady aromas and beautiful designs both on the packaging and right on the chocolate bars themselves.

Customers love the bespoke feel of the bars. Customers get to choose not only from flavors like Smoky or Sesame, but also a design they like best. Escalier made an appearance at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, Washington in 2016. Kaneko sold chocolates directly to fans and answered questions with the help of an interpreter.

As a result, Chocolate bloggers went crazy for the bars. One blogger called the Gianduja Cuba bar “extremely smooth” with a “dark roast coffee” finish.


Do you have a favorite Japanese chocolate? Please comment or post a photo below of a maker we may have missed and tell us why you love them.