Craft chocolate can be defined in various ways and there is no set definition for it. Chocolate as a product has always been special in our lives. But chocolate as we know is always associated with large brands in the market. But what makes craft chocolate so different from these existing large brands? Before we answer this question, we should understand the chocolate confectionery which is normally available in your run of the mill retail stores. The current confectionery is usually manufactured in bulk to cater to masses where the products are riddled with sugar, vegetable fat and inferior cocoa with multiple origins. Craft chocolate changes this concentrating on every phase of chocolate making bringing the real quality chocolate experience using single origin high quality cacao beans.
Every craft chocolate maker makes their chocolate with some set of standards starting from sustainable sourcing of the cacao from the farmers, roasting, winnowing, refining, conching, tempering, molding and packing. Usually, craft chocolate makers make their chocolate in small batches to maintain quality and consistency. They have a huge emphasis on quality of the cacao beans, their origin, roasting profile etc. Every craft chocolate maker has their own set standards for each step they take in chocolate manufacturing, making their products unique with different natural emulsions bringing natural flavors and experience to consumers.
You may ask large manufacturers also have a similar process and why should craft chocolate be different than them? Now this becomes interesting…..
To answer this question, we need to understand the Bean to Bar making process which craft chocolate makers follow. Bean to Bar process has the following steps usually:
- Sourcing: Cacao sourcing is one of the most controversial topics which chocolate makers face. Bulk manufacturers source their cacao from farmers in bulk and do not concentrate much on quality, origin or terroir. Craft chocolate makers take this step very seriously. Origin, breed of cacao, terroir, fermentation quality and season of produce are the key points which are considered by Craft chocolate makers. Through this craft chocolate makers bring the real flavors of the single origin cocoa they work with.
- Sorting: Once the cacao beans are procured, they are sorted as per size discarding the low-quality beans. This is an important step as it helps in creation of a quality product.
- Roasting: Roasting phase defines taste, color and smell of the chocolate. Every chocolate maker brings unique flavors to their produce using a consistent customized roasting profile for their sorted cacao beans. This is an important step in the bean to bar making process as it defines the taste profile of the chocolate. Roasting starts an important chemical reaction in the cacao beans making them develop flavor, killing bacteria formed during fermentation process and loosened outer shell. Once the cacao beans are roasted, they are cooled down for further processing called winnowing. Typically craft chocolate makers roast their cacao beans at low temperatures to retain the flavors of the terroir.
- Winnowing: Once the Cacao beans are roasted, they are deshelled to separate the shell from the nibs. Nibs are used for chocolate making in the next process.
- Refining Process: Refining process is one the most time consuming and daunting task during the chocolate making process. Refining is nothing but grinding the ingredients to the right smoothness. During the refining process nibs and other ingredients like sugar or other sweeteners, milk powder, cocoa butter depending upon the recipe are added to the stone melangers or ball mills. Typical time taken for refining process in a stone melanger is from 2 to 5 days depending upon the ingredients used where in ball mills take less time for refining (1 to two days). To give a fine and smooth mouth feel craft chocolate makers refine their chocolate to between 15 to 18 microns.
- Conching: Conching is a process to get make sure cocoa butter in the chocolate is evenly distributed across the chocolate. This also brings the right flavors, removes any acidity and consistency across the batch. This usually takes 6 to 12 hours. Post this chocolate is tempered.
- Tempering and Molding: Chocolate is tempered to get the right crystal formation giving it shine, freshness, consistency, good snap when you break it and mouthfeel. White, Milk and Dark Chocolate have different tempering profiles. During tempering process chocolate is melted to certain temperature depending on the tempering profile and reduced to a temperature to create Beta crystals. Temperature is again raised slightly to working temperature for molding. Once chocolate is tempered its placed in polycarbonate molds to create the final product.
- Packaging: Packaging is very important topic for craft chocolate makers. It has to be sustainable and environment friendly. Plastic is normally avoided and aluminum foil and paper boxes are used to pack the chocolates.
This whole process is done in small batches by the craft chocolate makers giving the consumers the best chocolate experience compared to the large manufacturers. As this is something which involves hard work and time, craft chocolate is expensive compared to mass produced chocolate. Even though its considered expensive craft chocolate brings the real value to consumers providing good chocolate which is tasty and healthy as well. Some craft chocolate makers have their own cacao farms where they create unique flavors during the fermentation process. This farm to bar concept is considered to be the top level of the craft chocolate maturity index.
Now that we know why craft chocolate is unique, we should also understand the differentiation it has around the quality. Be it the cocoa origin, beans quality, fermentation, roast profile, ingredients and the recipes make the craft chocolate very different from the mass producers. Craft Chocolate makers use healthy ingredients avoiding refined sugar replacing it with different other sweeteners are muscovado, jaggery, stevia, erythritol, maltitol, mango fruit extract etc. Even to add a nice flavor craft chocolate makers use actual vanilla and other natural ingredients like dried fruit.
What to look for when you are buying Chocolate?
The following are some key points you should look for when you buy craft chocolate:
- Origin of Cacao
- Healthy Ingredients
- Sustainable packaging
Explore and Experience real craft chocolate!!!!
Soothys is craft chocolate maker based out of Hyderabad, India. We bring the unique flavors of cocoa beans from Andhra Pradesh. We are known for creating confectionery with pure and natural ingredients. Soothys aspires to bring exceptional chocolate experience to its customers. Other than Artisanal chocolates Soothys also provides couverture chocolate products for fine baking industry.
you can reach us at: firstname.lastname@example.org