WHAT IS CRAFT CHOCOLATE?
Chocolate is heavenly. Chocolate helps you be in Rude Health. ‘Surely not?’ I hear you cry. Yes, but you’ve got to try the real deal. Nothing else matches up.
Comparing proper, craft chocolate to mass produced chocolate is a bit like comparing a free-range roast chicken to a chicken nugget. They are both chicken, but that is where the similarity begins and ends.
Craft chocolate, just like craft beer and good wine, should be made using the finest and simplest ingredients, and focus on provenance and the maker’s skill. It’s all about coaxing out and enhancing the natural flavours of the cocoa bean. Real chocolate is delightful. Break off a piece. Close your eyes and slowly let it melt on your tongue to taste its many nuanced flavours.
Real chocolate is made from a hyper-nutritious seed. It is roasted to bring out its flavours, ground into a fine paste, and finally sweetened with sugars, preferably unrefined ones from the juice of sugar cane, or the nectar of the coconut flower.
The cacao seed is said to contain the secret to longevity, happiness and good sex. It is a veritable superseed. No complaints here.
HISTORY OF CACAO
The ancient Mayans arguably developed the first-ever chocolate recipe. What heroes. They softened the bitterness of the cacao bean through fermentation and drying. Even Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern plant taxonomy, recognized the esteemed status of the bean, naming the cacao tree ‘Theobroma’, meaning food of the gods. We are on the same page Carl.
Only in the mid-nineteenth century were machines powerful enough to crush cacao seeds mechanically. The cacao and cacao butter, contained in the seed, could be refined to a degree that was palatable and chewy. Allowing the finest and purest chocolates to be made.
THE MODERN DAY REALITY
Sadly, this is not how most chocolate is made. Instead the fast-growing chocolate industry has settled for a more profitable technique. The fat is extracted from the seed to separate the cacao butter and cacao powder. Once broken down into its components, the chocolate is reconstituted by mixing the bitter cacao powder with refined beet sugar to create a cheap, replicable taste profile sold as ‘drinking chocolate’. To reduce costs, the precious cacao butter is often part or wholly replaced with milk fat, other plant fats, and fillers like caramel. And voila, you have the average chocolate bar.
CHOOSE YOUR CHOCOLATE LIKE YOU CHOOSE YOUR WINE.
Happily, over the course of only a few years, a new culture of real chocolate has retraced its roots back to the rainforest and the simple, pure traditions of the ancient cacao cultures.
The best of these chocolate-makers know their cacao plantations as intimately as a top winemaker would. This allows them to get the best from their bar.
Since land and farming practices are the key factors that determine the quality and taste of chocolate, respect for origins and direct purchase have become currencies in the new real chocolate trade.
For the planet, palate and body, the new real chocolate culture promotes a more meaningful and pleasurable way of enjoying chocolate: less really is more.
The flavour doesn’t come from cheap synthetic flavourings, fake vanilla or tonnes of added sugar but from the cocoa bean itself. Keeping the ingredients pure has another advantage too; it’s better for your wellbeing. Turn over a dark craft chocolate bar and you’ll only see these ingredients: Cocoa beans, cacoa butter and sugar.