Bean to bar chocolate is literally finished chocolate products made from cocoa beans. What's that? I hear you say. Isn’t all chocolate made from cocoa beans? Well, not exactly.
While of course chocolate is made from cocoa beans the company that molds and wraps that bar of chocolate you see on the retailers’ shelves is unlikely to be the same company that made the chocolate. We have heard that over 90% of the world’s chocolate is made by just 10 companies and of course it’s those well-established, mature companies that have been benefiting from the abuses going on in West Africa. These companies make cocoa mass which is then sold to other companies to melt down, add flavors and other ingredients and make it into bars; or they make the entire product for the company that puts its brand on the package. It’s not a very transparent or authentic industry, is it?
Next time you are in the chocolate aisle, after you pick up your favorite Wild Mountain Chocolate bar, pick up one of the other bars and look at where it’s made and then read the ingredients. Any bar that is “made in Canada” but which has on the ingredients list cocoa mass, cocoa liquor, cocoa powder, chocolate, is literally buying in another company’s chocolate to “make” their chocolate. If on the slim chance it does say cocoa beans it was likely made and packed in Europe by one of the major chocolate makers on behalf of the North American brand promoting it.
Bean to bar chocolate companies literally make their products. They purchase premium cocoa beans, roast the beans, grind them, add other ingredients, and form the bars, which they package ready for retail. Bean to bar chocolate makers will use different production techniques, which bring out different flavors inherent in the bean.
A cocoa bean has over 400 different flavonoids, while a grape has approximately 200. Where the cocoa beans are grown, how they are fermented and dried at the farms and cooperatives and how they are roasted and treated by the chocolate maker all impact flavor of the finished chocolate. The commoditization of the cocoa industry has meant these taste possibilities have been lost to most consumers in favor of homogenization.
The making and eating of chocolate once more becomes a craft and gourmet taste experience and not the industrialized commodity it has become under the management of the major chocolate companies.
If you enjoy chocolate, try some bean to bar chocolate and see what you have been missing.