If you’ve been browsing our vegan chocolate selection, you may have wondered “what is bean to bar chocolate?” More then just a trend or the latest fad on the chocolate scene, bean to bar is a great indicator that you’re buying an extremely high quality and delicious bar of chocolate.
Put simply, “bean to bar” means the chocolate maker is responsible for every aspect of production, from the raw bean, to the finished bar. It may or may not surprise you that many ‘chocolatiers’ buy in mass produced chocolate couveture and have no control, input or knowledge of most of the process.
Chocolate making is a little bit like magic, a alchemical process that is part science and part art. Bean to bar chocolate makers infuse every aspect of the process with skill, passion and meticulous attention to detail. By dealing directly with cacao farmers, bean to bar makers are able to explore and experiment with the incredible variety of flavours this amazing bean has to offer, all whilst ensuring high quality farmers are fairly paid.
Starting with the finest beans they can access, a bean to bar maker will take cacao through the following steps.
Beans are sorted, very often by hand to remove any that may be short of the mark. To borrow a phrase, it only takes one bad bean to ruin the whole bar.
The raw cacao beans are roasted in their shells. A challenging process, this is where the skill and knowledge of a true chocolate wizard begins to shine through. Cacao has an incredible variety of flavours within the raw bean. The temperature used and length of roast will all have a dramatic impact on the final bar.
Cracking and Winnowing
To make chocolate, the now tough outer husk must be removed from the treasure that lies within. The bean is cracked into pieces before the husk is separated from nib (winnowing). Dedicated chocolate makers will again sort the beans by hand, making sure all the husk is removed.
Grinding and Conching
The word conching arose because the original vessel used to hold chocolate looked like a shell, known in Spanish as concha. Many modern artisans combine these two processes in a machine called a melanger – a large metal cylinder with two rotating granite wheels. Here the flavours are developed and refined into those of the finished bar. The process involves heating and mixing the cacao along with the other ingredients such as organic sugar, vanilla, or palmyra jaggery syrup for several hours to several days. The most mysterious and least understood part of the chocolate making process, this is where art and craft of a master chocolate maker really shines through. The truly faithful bean to bar chocolate maker will experiment with many different conches to makes sure they unlock as much of the chosen beans flavour as they possibly can.
A good temper will give the finished bar that glossy appearance and ever so pleasing “snap” when you bite into it. There are 6 different forms of crystals that cocoa can form, only the betaV form harderns into the firm shiny chocolate we all love. The chocolate maker increase and reduce the chocolate temperature until only betaV crystals remain.