There are lots of beautifully packaged chocolates around, but how can we know if what’s inside, is really any good? The short answer is to look at the ingredients, when you know what to look for, you’ll find all the answers right there.
1- Does The Chocolate Contain Vanilla?
I always say, ‘If you have the best cocoa beans in the world… Why would you put vanilla in there?’ Well, the answer is you wouldn’t! The thing about vanilla is it hides that fact, rounds off rough edges and flavours that aren’t so wonderful, it can also be used to add flavour to beans that are somewhat bland.
2- Does My Chocolate Contain Soy Lecithin?
Soy lecithin is an emulsifier that commercial producers add to chocolate to aid the tempering process of chocolate making. If a chocolate manufacturer uses soy lecithin they can use 30% less cocoa butter in production so all about profits not flavour. The problem with soy lecithin though, is that you can taste it! It’s used so frequently that many of us have been accustomed to the flavour, but when you taste real unadulterated pure flavours of fine cacao artisan chocolate, you’ll enjoy a purity of flavour that’s far superior and much more wonderful! Simply put, if a producer is willing to compromise on the flavour of their chocolate to save money, then they aren’t looking to make some of the best chocolate in the world!
3- What Cocoa Beans Are Used In My Chocolate?
Does the ingredients or packaging tell you the name of the bean? Are they fine varieties from individual farms or single estates?
Single Origin - This means beans from one country. So for example, it’s like saying wine from France or Italy. It doesn’t really tell you very much at all!
Single Estate Cacao - When the artisan chocolate producer tells you exactly what variety of beans they are using and they come from a single estate, you can be assured that you’ll be discovering pure and exciting flavours of real artisan chocolate.
When you see that a particular chocolate is made using cocoa beans from a single estate, this means that the producer has gone to extreme lengths to buy a particular bean from a single farm to have that flavour profile. The flavours and characteristics of this chocolate will express the terroir and climate of the estate the beans were grown in, just like fine wine.
85% of the world’s chocolate comes from the Forestero bean, the other 15% are the ones that really interest artisan chocolate makers like myself. Criollo and Trinitario are the fine varieties prized for making chocolates with the most interesting and complex flavours.
WHY I BUY ALL MY FINE CACAO BEANS DIRECTLY FROM FARMERS?
I buy all my beans directly from the farmers. I personally visit all the farms and maintain close relationships with all the farmers I work with. The three essentials of making excellent chocolate are… the genetics, the post-harvest (fermentation and drying) and then the talent and style of the chocolatier, who perhaps has the greatest responsibility because they can over roast the beans and hide those delicate flavour profiles.
By visiting the farmers directly I have the opportunity to influence the post-harvest process and either increase or decrease the fermentation time. This is incredibly important as the fermentation breaks down the different compounds and develops the flavours.
Buying my fine cacao beans directly without a middleman also means that both the farmers and chocolate lovers like you, get the best deal! I pay a minimum of $500 over world cacao prices per tonne of fine cocoa beans.