Picking the Best Bean to Bar Chocolate for the Money
Of course you have noticed the shelves of chocolate at your the grocer and specialty food shop.
Now, craft chocolate, aka, Bean-to-Bar (B-B) chocolate, has found its own niche in the real good food market, and there are more options for chocolate lovers than ever before.
The Big Q: How to choose the best for the money?
The Big A’s:
A craft chocolate bar means the maker really begins with whole beans and turns them into chocolate themselves no remelting of couverture
Note: a maker is not chocolatiers, the chocolatier is one who work with chocolate that has already been made.
Below is a guide on how to choose the best for the money, as follows:
- Do not be sold by wrappers, as some of the best bars come in lame packaging, while some unimpressive bars cloak themselves in bespoke livery. Instead, look to the information printed on the wrapping. The label should include the bean’s country of origin and cocoa per cent, both affect the flavor of your bar. Check the ingredients, making sure cocoa beans are listed 1st
- A chocolate Award is a reliable indication of a quality bar.
- Look for information about how the bar was made. Some will simply say “small batch” or “bean-to-bar,” others tell how the makers found the beans and what makes them special.
Learn what to like and then buy it.
When going for a 2-ingredient bar, just cocoa and sugar, the origin of the beans is important, as their flavor will be prominent.
Even though cocoa beans grow only within 20 degrees of the Equator, there is a wide array of flavors, depending on the provenance of the beans.
Want something with fruity, spicy notes? Try Vietnam.
For floral flavors, go to Ecuador.
The purists swear by 1-ingrediant bars
Now many excellent makers are adding vanilla, chai, blue cheese, and pop rocks, the fun stuff.
Milk chocolate has an association with low-quality, grocery and drugstore chocolate, some makers are now offering “Dark Milk” bars “with as much or more depth of flavor than any dark chocolate.
A Key draw for many buyers of a bar of craft chocolate is the social justice issie, because the maker is paying fair prices to farmers for their better-than-commodity beans grown with environmentally friendly methods.
The cocoa commodity market is rife with poverty and human rights abuses, including child slavery, as well as environmental impacts such as rain-forest destruction.
While the chocolate industry is developing programs to combat these problems, craft chocolate makers operate outside the normal West African supply chain, where the abuses are rampant.
Many craft makers choose not to subscribe to certifications such as Rain-forest Alliance, Fair Trade, or Organic so that farmers will not have to pay the cost of such certification.
Instead, the makers pay the farms or co-ops and evaluate agricultural practices themselves, in what they have styled “direct trade.”
Direct trade is when a company representatives visit the farms and tell their customers about the relationship on the packaging, the more detailed the information, the stronger the relationship between maker and farmer is likely to be.
And that matters more than Organic or Rain-forest Alliance certificates.
Have a terrific weekend.