renaissance in making chocolate from scratch signals a new appreciation - by
consumers and chocolate makers - for sourcing, crafting and experimenting.
The new American chocolate maker can be described as making
chocolate from scratch in small batches and often from beans they have
personally sourced. By controlling their entire supply chain, they have the
opportunity to tease out the rich and varied flavors of chocolate.
Greenberg, co-president of Union Confectionery Equipment, points out, the
bean-to-bar movement is a reaction by chocophiles to the deep inconsistency
that exists between mainstream U.S.
chocolate and that found in Europe and Latin America.
“The European products are highly
refined and emphasize bean quality and highly refined manufacturing
techniques,” he says. “The Latin products are far more raw in their refinement,
but completely adherent to local and traditional practices of manufacturing.”
Greenberg points out that the
bean-to-bar movement doesn’t seek to displace the mass market chocolate products,
but rather to offer an alternative noted for high-quality and artisanal
characteristics that also are eco-friendly and Fair Trade-focused.
But sourcing direct comes with challenges. It is much more
time consuming. Cacao Atlanta’s
Kristen Hard admits spending six weeks a year sourcing ingredients. And to
ensure steady supplies means shouldering more responsibility for the growers’ welfare
and the environment. It is not uncommon for artisan chocolate makers to pay up
to two to three times above the fair trade price for their beans. Shawn
Askinosie, Askinosie Chocolate, goes a step farther by offering profit sharing
with his growers through a program he calls Stake
In the Outcome.
to say that melter/moulder chocolatiers are any less talented (see sidebar).
The fine chocolate landscape has been blessed with scores of professionals who
have as much passion and creativity as chocolate makers. But the process for
chocolate makers is much more complicated, one that can yield an astonishing
array of flavor outcomes.
For Alan McClure of Patric
Chocolate, the drive to excellence comes down to “listening to the cacao,
respecting the cacao and using my skills to bring out the most interesting and
delicious flavors. This is beyond the current fixation with cocoa content, how
much vanilla to add, etc.”
Art Pollard of Amano Artisan
Chocolate notes that, “Consumers have been blown away by the amazing array of
flavors that can be achieved with high quality chocolate. People who normally
don't like dark chocolate or even chocolate at all love what we have been able
to do to bring out the true flavors of the cocoa bean.”
trend started back in 1997 when Robert Steinberg and John Scharffenberger
established Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker. Using a few kitchen appliances
and 30 types of cacao beans, the two tested multiple combinations before
perfecting a unique blend that highlighted the true flavor of cacao instead of
masking it with sugar and other flavors.
acceptance soon turned into growing demand, which spurred a host of other
industry and non-industry artisans to try their hand.
Under Gary Guittard’s
leadership, Guittard Chocolate Co. established an origins line of chocolate
under the Etienne name. Former
antique glass owner Steve DeVries - upon picking up a cacao pod on a whim-
found himself establishing DeVries Chocolate in 2005.
followed - Joe Whinney, Art Pollard, Alan McClure, Alex
Whitmore, Jacques Torres, Shawn Askinosie, Tim Childs, Kristen Hard and Scott
Withrow, to name a few - all committing to the tricky task of sourcing premium
cocoa beans and then lovingly crafting products from scratch. In June 2008, several
of these passionate chocolate makers created their own association, the Craft
Chocolate Makers of America (See the Jan. 2009 issue of Candy Industry), to
promote and protect their craft.
work has gotten national recognition. Two chocolate makers - Askinosie and
Olive & Sinclair - won prestigious SOFI awards at the 2010 NASFT Fancy Food
Show. Amano has won a dozen awards in national and international competitions,
effort to recognize and affirm their efforts, Candy Industry has
spoken to several of these trailblazers, asking for their comments on this New
American Chocolate Maker movement.
McClure, Patric Chocolate
The most important thing for me is
flavor. Early on, I wondered: What results in the best flavor - the French
processing method, the Italian or something altogether different? I decided to
study chocolate-making methods in great depth to decide for myself and, of
course, to taste as much fine chocolate as I could - hundreds of bars by now.
I have also read as much as
possible, experimented and read some more. I really approached things
methodically. Also, Steve DeVries of DeVries Chocolate was a great help
early on, as both of us approach flavor development from a very scientific
point of view.
Of course, I understood that flavor
is very subjective, and that led me to realize that there is a huge space in America for
something quite different in flavor and texture. Something that comes across as
different, a new American chocolate style. This is beyond the current fixation
with cocoa content, how much vanilla to add, etc.
How can I take what’s at the core,
the foundation of great chocolate, great cacao and let that shine as much as I
possibly can? I really want to bring flavors to people that they haven’t tasted
before. It’s interesting, new, delicious; maybe even refreshing, to give cacao
Admittedly, making great chocolate
depends upon more than great beans. It depends upon [such techniques as] great
fermentation, drying and roasting, and I use my scientific understanding of
flavor formation to effect positive changes.
But it still comes down to listening
to the cacao, respecting the cacao, and using my skills to bring out the most
interesting and delicious flavors. If I do this properly with every chocolate,
then every one will be different, but great in its own way, and certainly well
worth its $6-7 price.
Of course, within this dance of
flavor, there is room for blends as well as single-origin chocolate. My best-selling
product, for example, is a blend of cacao formats, the solid, crunchy cocoa
nib, and finished, conched, smooth chocolate. Due to its popularity and unique
qualities, this October it will be renamed the “In-NIB-itable Bar." At the
same time, three more new chocolates will be released that each focus on
cacao's flavor in new and different ways than I have done in the past.
I am trying to continue to move
American chocolate into interesting directions with each release. There will be
a Dark Milk Chocolate with about 60% cacao solids and more milk than sugar, a
very rare thing; a 70% Signature Blend of four different origins of beans; and
the "PBJ OMG" bar, which is dark chocolate with natural peanut butter
refined into it, and that has less sugar in it than a 70% chocolate bar, yet
tastes sweeter and fruitier than the related pure dark chocolate bar.
Playing with perception of sweetness
and how that relates to balance of flavor and aroma perception - i.e. what
happens in the human brain as much as the mouth and nose - is something that
has become very interesting to me. There is a world of cacao and chocolate
flavor out there that Americans have yet to experience. I hope that I can play
an important role over time in introducing it to them.
Art Pollard, Amano Chocolates
I have been
fascinated with making my own chocolate since the mid 1990s. This long journey
started when I was working at the Physics Department at BYU (Brigham Young
University) where I was
designing and building machinery. I made an off-hand comment one day about how
it would be fun to make my own chocolate. My co-workers said I couldn't do it.
Being a die-hard foodie, it made me all the more determined not only to make my
own chocolate, but to make the very best chocolate possible. It was not long
before I began designing and building my own machinery to make my own
have been blown away by the amazing array of flavors that can be achieved with
high quality chocolate. People who normally don't like dark chocolate or even
chocolate at all love what we have been able to do to bring out the true
flavors of the cocoa bean. We also get quite a few customers who prefer
authenticity. There are many companies that say or imply that they make their
own chocolate. Because of this, we attract a lot of consumers who love the fact
that there is an actual artisan who truly makes the chocolate that they are
Witherow, Olive & Sinclair Chocolate
Sinclair started about a year ago, September 2009. From the beginning, we started
by making our own chocolate. I come from a pastry background, where making
things from scratch is part of the creation process. For me, it’s just like how
anyone would like to get started. If you enjoy drinking craft beer, then you
start to wonder whether you can make something like this. How would I do it? What
would be my take on this? You start messing around with it. That’s how it went
down with me. I like the hands-on process.
philosophy is making small batches, with an emphasis on that part of method
that you can taste. I have been getting inspiration from Southern cooking, such
as using classic Southern seasonings like brown sugar (gives robust
molasses-like tones) or salt and pepper (the basis for our Salt & Pepper
bar that won a SOFI this year).
stone-grind our beans like you do making traditional grits. It’s the only way
to eat grits, and I thought maybe the same for chocolate. All this gives a
Southern-style chocolate that our customers love. There is a waiting list.
Our top sellers
are the Mexican-style bar (with cinnamon, cayenne chili and unrefined sugar),
which starts with a huge cinnamon note and ends with a hint of heat, and the
Salt & Pepper bar.Kristen
Hard, Cacao Atlanta
past, chocolate was over-processed and over-produced, even dumbed-down in order
to make it attractive and cheap for the masses. Chocolate was just chocolate. But
since 2004 or 2005, people started paying attention to cacao’s flavor profile,
its genetic heritage. If you protect its integrity and don’t over-process it or
dump lots of sugar or lecithin into it, you can really taste exquisite flavor
nuances between beans.
I look at
this challenge like the wine industry does: different beans - like different
grapes - provide completely different sensory experiences. For example, a
Venezuelan Porcelano will taste totally different from a Venezuelan Patinemo or
Dominican Hispaniola or Madagascar
bean. Each bean evokes a different experience.
is to give people that opportunity, that experience, when they taste my
products. We not only make bean-to-bar products, but also bean to ice cream,
bean to truffles, bean to whatever we decide to work with.
One of our
best-selling products is the Salami di Cioccolate, chocolate salami. We include
on our wrappers such information as its origin, bean name, flavor profile,
percent cacao, even altitude. As an aid to the consumer, I hope the chocolate
industry moves to some sort of standard labeling to give the consumer the right
include blueberry and beet, Laphroaig scotch
whiskey with ginger and lemon curd truffles. Many of the ingredients are
locally sourced and fresh.
challenge is trying to get a producer’s attention when you are only sourcing a
half container-load of beans, when other manufacturers will place orders for
Askinosie, Askinoise Chocolates
start of the company in 2007, I have been passionate about making chocolate,
cacao beans and with the farmers growing those beans. All our products are
bean-to-bar and sourced directly from growers. We profit share with them and
open our books to them so they understand the profit-share calculation. I am
not interested in Fair Trade certification; we are “beyond Fair Trade.”
little company, chocolate is a means to an end, a vehicle whose real driver is
to engage people, whether 10,000 miles away or one mile away. In the morning, I
get up and think not about making chocolate, but about what lives we might
positively impact today. Our commitment has grown to create www.chocolateuniversity.org.
We use only
two ingredients: cocoa beans and organic sugar. We try not to interfere with
the purity of the flavor and honor what the farmers have grown. Our constraints
are the long lead times due to direct trade. We can’t call a broker in New York City and expect
a delivery the following week. I must be a really good forecaster of demand and
live with the consequences.
example, in 2010, I underestimated demand and ran out of beans by September. After
much effort, I was able find additional supplies.
Consumers Want Info, Adventure
As Guittard points out,
“Consumers are interested in knowing where their food comes from, how it is
processed and most importantly, what its ingredients are. And they want to know
why one product may taste different from another.”
Given that demand, the
craft chocolate market will expand, and chocolatiers will specialize in
specific niches, says Clay Gordon, noted author of “Discover Chocolate”
and the creator and moderator of TheChocolateLife.com.
Gordon says that the
“overall market for high end chocolate is growing, so these craft chocolate
makers will differentiate themselves based on the origins of the beans they
choose and whether or not they choose to blend.
“Another key point of
differentiation is whether or not a chocolate maker presses his or her own
cocoa butter and grinds their own cocoa powder,” he continues. “In order to
make a true origin chocolate, any added cocoa butter has to come from the same
Gordon ultimately believes that “any
city or town that is large enough to support a craft brewer or brewpub is also
large enough to support a craft chocolate maker.”
“When people start to taste
chocolate with flavors unlike anything they have ever experienced, they start
to get it,” McClure says in the Packaged Facts report. “[Next] they want to
learn more, taste more, and there is no turning them back.”