Ever dined within the lavish interior of Bacha Coffee or had a good laugh with a friend you haven’t met in ages at % Arabica Coffee? If that’s a resounding yes, you probably would’ve heard terms like “single-origin”, “bean-to-brew” and “tasting notes” being casually thrown around while sipping on your cup of coffee. Well, you’d be glad to know that there is an uncanny resemblance between artisanal coffee and chocolate!
Although they originate from different trees (pretty sure, this was an obvious fact) and continents, they share a vast flavour profile and have similar processes of fermentation, drying and roasting. Unlike other fruits such as tomatoes, fruits from both coffee and cocoa trees ripen at different times. This means that farmers are required to manually check for their ripeness and harvest the fruits, thereby justifying the higher price points of such artisanal coffee and chocolate bars.
What are Bean-to-bar craft chocolates?
As the term suggests, chocolates with a bean-to-bar label generally ensure that the entire process from sourcing to packaging is directly managed by the artisan. This implies that intricate attention is paid to quality and sustainable and ethical labour practices. Sounds too good to be true? That is because it IS TRUE! In fact, the bean-to-bar movement prides itself on transparency and sustainability.
Bean-to-bar craft chocolates undergo a series of complex and refined processes in order to achieve certain flavours and textures that best elicit nuanced flavours of a particular region (also known as single-origin) according to the chocolate artisan’s preferences and skills.
There is a great deal of emphasis on the inherent flavours of the cocoa beans as such craft chocolates only contain two to three ingredients — Cocoa, cocoa butter and sugar. Guess it’s time to train your taste buds!
1. Bean-to-bar Craft Chocolates consist of antioxidants and flavanols that pose greater benefits
With a concise ingredient list that can’t get any shorter, the cocoa is definitely the centre of attention. So what? So, you are getting more of the real deal and less of those chemical and flavour additives.
A study conducted by a group of Italian researchers showed that those aged 61 to 85 years old, who consumed medium and high concentrations of cocoa flavanols, had greater attention span, cognitive abilities and memory. Flavanols are a specific type of plant-based nutrient that is found in wine, apples and peanuts, and are likely to be lost during the mass production and processing of cocoa beans. Antioxidants are likewise bountiful in chocolate bars with high concentrations of cocoa. One of the numerous benefits of its antioxidants is the lowered susceptibility to heart diseases.
Maybe you can get away with fewer health check-ups?
2. Bean-to-bar Craft Chocolates are environmentally friendly
Like avocados, mass-scale agricultural production of cocoa entails having cocoa trees grown as a monoculture, with extensive amounts of chemical fertiliser added to the soil. Monoculture plantations grow the same crops over and over again, for an extended period of time, which strips away the nutrients of the soil. The soil is then more vulnerable to diseases and pesticides, greatly impacting the biodiversity of the forest.
Similarly, deforestation of old trees poses a threat to the environment by contributing to global warming. Of course, you don’t have to be a Greta Thunberg to know the dire consequences of companies’ atrocious profit-making business models.
However, the opposite can be said about the agroforestry farming method, where a diverse number of trees and crops are grown together, creating a robust biodiversity and sustainable ecosystem. They even sequestrate significantly more carbon than monoculture plantations, and the bean-to-bar process supports that! Chocolate crafters, like Lemuel Chocolate, proudly engage in the bean-to-bar movement by making it their mission to work with cocoa farmers and reputable cacao agents to preserve ancient cacao varieties and encourage sustainability.
3. The bean-to-bar process encourages fair trade and goes against labour exploitation
Despite the various certifications that your favourite chocolatiers, like Ferrero Rocher, claim to have under their belt, it does not necessarily translate to fair trade practices.
Firstly, a visible flaw of certifications like UTZ, Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance is that they impose exorbitant premiums on farmers. In short, farmers are required to pay an upfront fee in exchange for the aforementioned licenses and that doesn’t exactly lift farmers out of poverty now do they? Precisely because of this, farmers who are unable to afford such premiums resort to child slavery and labour exploitation.
Secondly, such certificates do not ensure continued adherence to fair trade standards. A 2019 article by Washington Post revealed that Mars and Hershey’s are unable to trace at least 50% of their cocoa back to their sourced farms. That’s definitely sneaky of them…
Craft chocolate makers on the other hand may not possess fair trade certifications but instead, they source their beans directly from the farmers. No middleman whatsoever. Direct trade allows for the supervision of farms’ labour practices and harvesting processes, hence ensuring the traceability and transparency in the production of craft chocolates. Now, that’s something to celebrate!
4. Bean-to-bar Craft Chocolates is a sweet treat for your delicate palate
Though it takes skill and practice to fine-tune your delicate palate, once you do, you’ll be able to differentiate the 5 basic tasting notes and its sub-flavors. Since being a wine connoisseur is overrated, why not boast about being a chocolate connoisseur? Here’s a chocolate tasting guide to get you started!
Not a passive learner? Learn about chocolate crafting and have a shot at crafting your very own unique truffles here!
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