Growing up in Switzerland eating chocolate becomes a challenge. There are so many great premium-quality chocolates available. We soon start to differentiate between industrial-made milk chocolate and handmade dark chocolate. My curiosity in food trends led me to know more about the choccy concept that everyone’s talking about: bean to bar.

What does ‘bean to bar’ mean?

A bean-to-bar chocolate maker is responsible for sourcing the beans before processing them and then undergoing several steps:

  • sorting
  • roasting
  • cracking
  • winnowing
  • grinding
  • conching
  • tempering
  • moulding

Image titlePhoto credit: Wilkies Chocolate

All these steps take place in house as part of the production chain. The whole process takes days, but the result is an outstanding, delicate chocolate that is not comparable to any other chocolate on the market.

How can we differentiate bean-to-bar chocolate from other chocolate?

A bean-to-bar chocolate bar lists cacao, cocoa or cocoa beans as its main ingredient. The big question is: but isn’t all chocolate made from cacao beans? Technically, yes, but it’s not always made by the company whose name appears on the bar. In addition, some chocolate makers produce chocolate from a product called cocoa mass or cocoa liquor, which is what we call cocoa after it has been ground and melted.

How can we recognise bean-to-bar chocolate?

The size of the batch is often the first indicator. Most small batch makers disclose the country of origin of the cacao, and some even disclose the name of the region or the actual estate where the cacao originates. A higher price may be a indicator too. But it’s not always the only indicator, since some small batch chocolatiers who don’t produce bean-to-bar chocolate are also in a high price bracket. So perhaps at the end we should just trust our belly and taste buds! They will lead us to the chocolate we love.

My personal preferred bean-to-bar chocolate

You may not believe this, but my favourite bean-to-bar chocolate is a Japanese product. I love the chocolate by Minimal, which is manufactured in Tokyo. The producers won gold and silver at the International Chocolate Awards 2016. Their bars are tiny, delicate squares sized 8x8mm – but they are full of so much love that they enrich all my senses once placed on my tongue. Of course I should also recommend a Swiss product – the chocolatier Rehmann has a lovely bean-to-bar selection. They began as a start-up with a crowdfunding platform in Switzerland and are quickly making a name for themselves in the chocolate industry.

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