What Is Bean To Bar, Craft Chocolate?

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Whatever you call it—bean-to-bar, small batch, craft, artisan, or micro-batch chocolate—whatever you name it, it all refers to the same thing: an innovative approach to the production of chocolate.

Although some of the words are more ancient than others, they are all referring to a trend of creating chocolate on a smaller scale. It started in earnest in the 1990s, started picking up steam about 2005-2007, and currently claims as many thousands of small chocolate producers all over the globe as part of its membership. Do you have any experience with your neighborhood bean-to-bar chocolate maker?

The Craft Of Chocolate

Just as someone took the time to make you and care for you, chocolate begins as a seed that someone plants and tends to over time. The chocolate we enjoy today began as a seed. You shouldn’t restrict your chocolate experience to the bar that is right in front of you for the same reason that you wouldn’t want someone to just see a single snapshot from your life. The history of the cacao nibs and the countless seeds that were utilized to manufacture a particular batch of chocolate is condensed into each and every bar of chocolate that you consume. Even if you save that chocolate for a year from now, it will have a different flavor if you let it rest for that long.

Craft chocolate manufacturers are aware of this phenomenon, and they use it to their advantage by manipulating it in order to cultivate the unique personalities of each batch of cacao that they turn into chocolate. The production of chocolate from cocoa beans to bars has been likened to the production of beer and wine, particularly in reference to the vintages for each cocoa bean.

It is generally accepted that the “Big Five” chocolate manufacturers—Mars, Nestle, Hershey’s, Kraft/Mondelez, and Cadbury (which is now owned by Kraft/Mondelez)—represent the “old type” or “old model” for the production of chocolate. This “old type” or “old model” has been in use for quite some time. The phrase “Big Chocolate” has not one but two meanings. One interpretation is that it alludes to the pervasiveness of these things all throughout the planet. They are responsible for the production of a significant portion of the industrial chocolate that is produced across the globe and are most people’s introduction to the flavor of chocolate.

However, it is also a reference to the fact that they formed a mentality prevalent in the sector, one that controls the bulk of cocoa sales. In practical words, this indicates that they have a monopoly on the purchase of cocoa produced in certain regions of the globe, most notably in West Africa. In addition to this, they often have authority over the growing, harvesting, and processing conditions of the crop. So, what exactly is bean-to-bar chocolate, and how has it shown itself to be distinct from other types of chocolate?

Craft Chocolate: Bars With a Heart

It is not as easy as defining a thing in order to provide an answer to the query “What is artisan chocolate?” Craft chocolate is supported by a community as well as an industry that are both complex, and in order to get an accurate image of either, you need to view the whole picture.

Give me permission to paint it for you.

What Is Craft Chocolate?

Craft chocolate is chocolate that is prepared from raw cacao beans that have been procured in an open and honest manner. The cacao beans are then converted into chocolate on a small scale, with a significant focus on the taste that is naturally present in the beans. It is the outcome of a dramatic change away from “chocolate” that is westernized and over-processed toward a cacao product that is manufactured from material farmed all over the globe and sold under the cacao umbrella. It is common practice to allude to the fact that artisan chocolate manufacturers have complete control over the beginnings of their goods, from the unroasted cacao bean all the way through to the final chocolate bar, by using the term “bean to bar.”

One of the fundamentals of “The Movement” is the consumption of chocolate bars made from a particular plantation or provenance. They are used to display not just the taste variations that are unique to each region’s beans, but also the expertise of a skilled chocolate maker. In my view, a superb chocolate maker coaxes a progression of flavor notes from their beans by mixing fragrance, taste, and texture in order to produce tastes that are one of a kind.

When Did Craft Chocolate Start?

Beginning in the 1980s, there was a movement in consumer culture toward companies that engaged in more ethical business operations and used materials that were fairly traded. This subsequently resulted in the establishment of a number of certifying organizations specializing in fair trade and eco-friendly practices. On the other hand, it is widely acknowledged that the handmade chocolate movement first got its start in earnest around the year 2005.

Taza Chocolate was established at the same time as Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker was purchased by Hershey’s and then sold. In 2008, the aforementioned company, Taza, together with Askinosie, Patric, Amano, and DeVries, came together to create the Craft Chocolate Makers of America group, which is no longer active. Although these businesses immediately extended their product lines, a significant portion of what they first produced was bean-to-bar dark chocolate that included simply cacao and sugar.

By the year 2010, the United States alone was home to dozens of such manufacturers working on a modest scale.

Another notable uptick occurred around the year 2015, and ever since then, hundreds of new chocolate manufacturers have sprung up in countries all over the globe. Manufacturers that create chocolate from their own cacao bean are included in this third wave. These makers are often referred to as tree-to-bar chocolate makers. Because of this exponential expansion, there has been a significant change in the availability of technology for creating chocolate in microbatch quantities, which has led the numbers to rise even more.

Who Makes Craft Chocolate?

People from many walks of life have taken up the skill of manufacturing bean-to-bar chocolate, with the majority of them coming to the craft by way of an entirely other line of work, such as being a lawyer, an ethnobotanist, or an auto mechanic. Others got their start in the industry as chocolatiers or took over the family enterprise when it was passed down to them. As a consequence of this, chocolate lovers from all over the globe, including myself, have been able to locate a point of convergence in the cacao beans that are farmed in different parts of the world.

The website known as “The Chocolate Life,” which is currently housed on “The Maven,” serves often as both a gathering place and a venue for discussions pertaining to chocolate. Visit their website to discover a great deal more about the complexities of the handmade chocolate movement, including the conflicts over dark chocolate vs dark milk chocolate as well as the advantages of different tempering equipment.

In more recent years, there has also been significant expansion in the value-added handmade chocolate industry.

This indicates that chocolate is being produced in the same nation that is responsible for the cultivation of cacao beans (but not necessarily in the same part of the country as the cacao is grown). The production of chocolate has seen explosive growth in popularity not only in North America and Europe, but also in other regions of the world, particularly Ecuador, Peru, and Japan.

Where Can You Buy Craft Chocolate?

The United States, not Europe, has emerged as the leading producer of artisanal chocolate. Despite the fact that chocolate made in the artisan style has a longer tradition in Europe, particularly in France and Italy, this is not the case. However, the total influence of artisanal chocolate can be observed on a worldwide scale since cocoa output is increasing in every region of the globe. Cocoa producers all around the world are beginning to obtain prices that are more competitive depending on the quality and the distinctive tastes of their chocolate; generally speaking, criollo-dominant varietals are able to garner the highest prices.

Check out my shopping guide for artisan chocolate right here!

Even though West Africa is responsible for producing more than half of the world’s cacao, the majority of the world’s best-tasting chocolate comes from Latin America.

The majority of Caribbean islands engage in cacao cultivation, with the Dominican Republic being the biggest supplier of organic cacao in the world at the present time. Even farther south, in Bolivia, cocoa trees are cultivated, and they may be found all across Brazil. However, the Asian market is expanding at the fastest rate, and cacao estates in South Asia that have historically been used for industrial cacao production are now being replanted with cacao varietals that have a more refined taste.

Why Eat Craft Chocolate?

If you want to grow wealthy in the chocolate business, you’re going to have to take advantage of other people along the road.

Simply said, there are much too many individuals engaged in the dozens of different processes that comprise the process of creating chocolate. Therefore, for the majority of chocolate producers, it comes down to a desire to create a beneficial ecological and economic influence upon the distant reaches of our globe, together with a need to publicly fulfill their long-time love affair with chocolate, often dark chocolate, and the study of taste. This combination has led to a substantial increase in the number of bars that have a quality certification of some type.

To be deemed an artisan manufacturer, you now need to demonstrate that you have some kind of relationship with the farmers who picked your beans. This requirement has become de facto standard. But it was the deluge of equality- and ecologically-driven certificates that eventually persuaded Alex Whitmore, the creator of Taza Chocolate, to establish the Direct Trade certification. Direct trade, as opposed to other certificates, just states that the manufacturer purchased the cacao directly from the farmer at a price that was deemed to be fair by all parties. This certification does not cost the farmer anything.

How is Chocolate Made?

Cacao, in its purest form, is a tropical fruit that must be cultivated within 25 degrees of the equator. Only until the cocoa pods or mazorcas de cacao have reached their full maturity can the cacao farmers harvest them, and they do it with extreme caution so as not to do any damage to the cacao trees. Each pod is shattered open as rapidly as possible and set away to ferment. After the beans have through the necessary fermentation process, they are exposed to the sun to dry before being sent to a chocolate manufacturer (after being passed through an undetermined number of hands).

These cocoa beans are transported to the chocolate factory, where they will be cleaned and sorted, roasted and peeled, and finally crushed into a paste known as cocoa mass. Cocoa mass is also known as chocolate liquor and cocoa liquor. After that, the cocoa mass is often sweetened with sugar and frequently smoothed out with milk powder and soy lecithin before undergoing further refining for a further one to three days. At this period, many manufacturers in the fine chocolate business would temper their chocolates after adding one of a kind additives like tea or bacon. Other examples include bacon or tea.

Some people also produce white chocolate from the cacao liquor, while others go as far as to manufacture bonbons and truffles. This is done by pressing the cacao liquid to extract the cocoa butter.

Check out this website of mine for a more in-depth look at the manufacturing process of chocolate.

There are Different Types of Cacao?

Oh yes!

Up until quite recently, there were three distinct categories of cacao into which all of the many cacao varieties might be placed. However, modern scientific research has shown that the issue is not as straightforward as previously thought, and the number of distinct varietals has grown. Cacao researchers have recently been successful in further subdividing cacao varieties into 10 unique genetic groups. This development occurred over the course of the previous several years. Because of evolution, each of them has dozens of different taste variations as a result of differences in temperature, sunlight, altitude, rainfall, nutrient levels in the soil, and many other things. The following is an overview of the three varieties of cacao that are still often used.


In the late 1800s, it was taken to West Africa, and in the 1980s, it was carried to South Asia, all the way from its original growing zone in what is now the country of Brazil. At the moment, it accounts for the overwhelming bulk of the cocoa crop worldwide. It is also the primary variety grown in West Africa, which is responsible for the production of more than two-thirds of the world’s cocoa. Because it is resistant to the majority of cocoa viruses and produces the greatest amount of fruit compared to the other three varieties, it is often known as the “hardy” kind of cocoa.

However, it often has a very straightforward cocoa flavor with very few other flavor notes, which makes it less attractive for use in handmade chocolate. It is the least expensive of the three when sold on the market. Because of this, it is the variety of choice for the production of cocoa-flavored goods and cocoa butter, which is the fat that is extracted from cacao beans and is also referred to as “cacao butter.”


This variety, which falls somewhere in the center of the spectrum, may be traced back to the Caribbean island of Trinidad. It is a cross between the forastero and criollo kinds. As a result of a disease that wiped out the crop, forastero trees were planted on a criollo plantation, which led to the creation of this product. These days, trinitario cacao may be found growing in every region of the globe. It accounts for around ten percent of the world’s total cacao output and the vast majority of the market for fine-flavored cacao. The criollo features of trinitario pods may occasionally be seen in the form of white cacao beans, which can make up as few as 5% of the total beans or one to two beans in each pod.


Criollo is said to have originated in the region that is now known as Venezuela and has the greatest taste and fragrance variety. However, it was subsequently cultivated in pre-Columbian Guatemala and Mexico, which led to a great deal of conjecture on the country of its origin. It accounts for between one and two percent of the world’s total cacao output and is grown nearly exclusively on small farms in Latin American countries. Its end use is virtually entirely in the form of artisan chocolate bars. Criollo trees, which are the most costly of the three varieties, are increasingly becoming a popular choice for new plantings.

In some cases, they even go so far as to replace more established forastero trees with younger ones in an effort to make more money from each harvest. Despite the fact that criollo trees often produce less fruits than their counterparts, criollo may fetch upwards of 5x the market price per metric ton if they are correctly recognized and handled after harvest. This is an incentive for growing criollo trees. This enormous increase in price is partly attributable to the fact that their tastes are distinct and complex, and that they do not naturally contain any bitterness.


There are now eleven varieties of cacao that have had their genetic makeup mapped out. Some of them have historically been categorized as either criollo, trinitario, or forastero, respectively. Chocolate Nacional, a cacao variety that is indigenous to Ecuador, was formerly thought to be forastero, but it is now categorized as its own genetically different family of cacao. Despite this, it is possible that Ecuador is, in fact, the country where Theobroma cacao was first cultivated.

So is it Cacao or Cocoa?

According to Hallot Parson, who was one of the co-founders of Escazu Chocolate but has since left the firm, the answer to that question is dependent on the language that you speak. Or, to put it another way, it is dependent on the language that the chocolate maker uses when he or she is discussing the component of the chocolate. In addition to being the Spanish and French term for chocolate, “cacao” is also the scientific name for the kind of fruit that is used in the production of chocolate. I used to believe that the difference rested in whether the fruit was in its raw form or in its processed condition when it was named “cocoa” in English. The plant is called “cocoa” in English. However, I find that Hallot’s explanation makes the most sense out of all of the ones that I’ve heard.

Cacao is the word I like to use when referring to chocolate, both because I am a chocoholic and since my travel interests are mostly focused on Latin America (evidenced forever in the name of my site). However, due to the fact that it may have a variety of meanings depending on the setting, this term has a tendency to throw people off. People who have always known the term “cocoa” will have no idea what you are talking about, despite the fact that the artisan chocolate movement is working to change that.

So when they hear the term, some individuals respond by asking, “Ca what? What did you say? “While some hear the phrase and think of the fruit of their childhood or long days laboring on a plantation, yet others remember fudge-scented rooms full of roasting cacao or their very first piece of handmade chocolate. ” Cacao is a singular experience and a worldwide phenomenon, having roots both everywhere and nowhere in particular; hence, none of these explanations are right, and none of them are incorrect. Cacao is one of the reasons why.

Check out this page if you want to learn more about the controversy around this topic.

FAQ About Bean to Bar Chocolate

Is bean to bar the same as craft chocolate?


The concepts hold the same spirit, but while ‘bean to bar’ describes the level of control that a maker purports to have over their sourcing, ‘craft chocolate’ has come to represent an ethically-focused niche industry committed to making delicious chocolate with fairly-traded cacao.

What is the meaning of bean to bar?

The phrase “bean to bar” refers to a certain business approach. It usually signifies that one brand controls every step of the process, beginning with the procurement of the beans and ending with the production of the bar. On the other hand, there is no formal definition (in a manner quite similar to that of direct trade coffee), and as a result, the market may investigate it in a variety of very varied ways.

Why do people bar beans for chocolate?

The phrase “bean to bar chocolate” was first used by artisanal chocolate producers as a means of differentiating their products from those of chocolatiers as well as mass-produced chocolate. Craft chocolate manufacturers started creating their wares in tiny batches somewhere about 2005. Some of these manufacturers produce little more than a few hundred bars each month.

What is the bean called to make chocolate?

Beans of cocoa Beans of cocoa
The almond-shaped seeds that may be found within the fruit of the cacao tree, which is known as a pod, are what are known as cocoa beans. As we’ll see in a moment, this particular raw material is very necessary for the manufacturing process of chocolate.

What are craft chocolates?

Craft chocolate is chocolate that is prepared from raw cacao beans that have been procured in an open and honest manner. The cacao beans are then converted into chocolate on a small scale, with a significant focus on the taste that is naturally present in the beans.