Every few weeks we ask Chantal questions that you’ve posted on our Facebook page. Countalan Magazine asked: What does Chantal think about the new bean to bar trend in the world of chocolate?
She says: It has to be a good thing. People are paying more attention to their food, from wine to coffee to chocolate, and it’s great that artisan producers are now able to make their own chocolate right from the bean rather than relying on a few large producers.
It’s a great trend, and what’s interesting about it is that in the chocolate world, European trends tend to filter across to the US. This time though, it’s chocolatiers in the States that are leading.
In the past, people wanting to make chocolate in small batches have had to do what Mott Green did at the Grenada Chocolate Company and refurbish antique equipment, repurpose machines from other industries (for example, Mott used a peanut roaster for many years) and cobble together their own. It simply wasn’t possible to buy equipment to make small batches of chocolate from the bean. Now there are a couple of small companies like Cocoa Town that are enabling micro-chocolatiers by selling machines like a cocoa grinder based on an Indian spice mill. These machines are much smaller and lower-cost than other commercially available equipment and make it possible for a lot more people to experiment with chocolate.
It’s a bit like the microbrewery movement, and there are some really interesting experiments around. Making good chocolate does take a lot of skill though, and it’s one area where the 10,000 hour rule of mastery really applies. When people start getting into chocolate they might look for the type of bean and where it was grown but chocolate is much more complex than that and all sorts of factors influence the quality of the final chocolate, from how long the beans were fermented and the depth of roast to how small the particles of ground chocolate are: too small and the chocolate becomes muddy in the mouth, too large and it feels gritty. There are variables at every stage of manufacture and with every ingredient so it requires a huge amount of practice. On top of that, it can still be difficult for producers to source small quantities of good quality beans.
There are good forums for chocolatiers online though, and aspiring chocolatiers can learn a huge amount from the experiments of others. There’s also a conference in Seattle that has a strong focus on micro chocolate makers. It’s a trend that’s growing here too, and we have a couple of bean-to-bar makers in the UK (Duffy’s for example) who started very small a couple of years ago and are doing well now, so it’s something we hope to see more of.
Do you have a question you’d like to ask Chantal? You can ask about her interests, ethics, experiences in business, favourite things… ask us anything, it doesn’t have to be directly about chocolate. If you have a question you’d like to ask her, just let us know in the comments below.