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  • Writer's picturePortland Chocolate Laboratory

The Benefits of Bean to Bar Chocolate

The Chocolate Experience: From Bean To The Bar

When it comes to chocolate, we all have our favorites.

You may prefer...

  • the silky texture of milk chocolate

  • the creaminess of white chocolate; or

  • the rich, complex flavors of dark chocolate

...or perhaps you like your chocolate with...

  • a caramel center

  • loaded with nuts and fruits; or

  • with nougat and wafers

Whatever your pleasure, you may have seen—and tasted—them all.

You may have also heard a new term related to chocolate: bean to bar.

But what does this mean, exactly? And why do companies choose to market this as something unique or favorable to their customers?

Bean to bar chocolate is simply chocolate products that are made from scratch—literally from the bean—and not preprocessed.

In this delicious article, we will show you just how special bean to bar chocolate is, and why you should order some today.

Table of Contents

  • What is Bean to Bar Chocolate?

  • Is Bean to Bar Better Than Other Chocolate?

  • Bean to Bar Chocolate vs Factory Brands: 4 Ingredients You Should Know About

  • The Rise of Bean to Bar Chocolate

  • Cacao and the Benefits of Real Chocolate

  • How Bean to Bar Chocolate is Made

  • Why Bean to Bar Chocolate is Always the Better Choice

What is Bean to Bar Chocolate?

So, what does bean to bar chocolate mean exactly?

Does it point to a higher standard or quality?

Or is it just another marketing ploy to get consumers to buy into the latest trend?

The term “bean to bar” simply refers to the trade model.

Basically, bean to bar indicates that a company controls every step of the process from the purchase of cacao beans from chocolate farmers to the creation of the chocolate product or bar.

But how is this different from any other chocolate product? Doesn’t it all come from the bean?

Essentially, yes.

But there is a difference between:

  • A factory which mass-produces a chocolate bar using many ingredients that aren’t even chocolate

  • A chocolatier who purchases premade chocolate blocks to melt them down and craft into their desire confections; and

  • A chocolate maker who buys cacao beans in bulk and begins the process with the raw product.

If a chocolate maker claims that they are a bean to bar, the process should always involve raw cacao beans that need:

  • Roasting

  • Cracking

  • Winnowing (removing the shell)

  • Grinding

  • Blending

  • Refining; and

  • Tempering

Does this process improve the overall caliber of the product?

We think so. Read on to learn more.

Is Bean to Bar Better Than Other Chocolate?

Quality over quantity. It’s that simple.

Bean to bar chocolate is the creme de la creme of the chocolate world because not only do chocolate makers labor with raw products and unique recipes, but they usually develop a relationship with the cacao farmers and support a fair or direct trade product and ethical practices.

In addition to making decisions that impact farmers, chocolate makers will typically source beans that are:

  • Environmentally friendly

  • Organic and free of pesticides; and

  • Without Earth damaging chemicals

Bean to bar is an all-around superior product, not only for the reasons mentioned above, but also for the love, time, and attention put into every single chocolate bar produced.

Bean to Bar Chocolate vs Factory Brands: 4 Ingredients You Should Know About

If you imagine the chocolate bars you grew up eating, chances are they are name brand bars that everyone is familiar with. And just like most people, you probably have a favorite that you return to time and time again.

So, why aren’t these factory chocolate bars just as good as bean to bar, and what makes bean to bar chocolate better than the most famous bars at the grocery store?

For starters, the ingredients in a factory chocolate bar leave a lot to be desired. Every mass-produced chocolate bar is more fillers, preservatives, and artificial flavors—and less chocolate.

So much so, that many of them are actually called “candy bars” because they just don’t contain enough actual cocoa, as little as 7% in many cases, to be able to call themselves a chocolate bar.

#1 Emulsifiers

Emulsifiers are not considered essential ingredients to chocolate making, yet every mass-produced bar will contain some sort of this ingredient.

An emulsifier helps chocolate withstand high heats and avoid blooming (when the chocolate turns white), but typically replace cocoa butter which is more costly.

Some emulsifiers include:

  • Soy lecithin

  • Sunflower lecithin

  • Rapeseed lecithin

  • Vegetable lecithin

Emulsifiers come from natural ingredients, like soybeans, but the problem is with the chemical extraction process used to create the lecithin used in many chocolates.

So, why do companies choose this ingredient over cocoa butter?

Simple. It’s all about cost and turning profits.

#2 Vegetable Fats

Another replacement for the more costly cocoa butter is vegetable fats.

The addition of these fats is the number one indicator of a low quality, unhealthy chocolate bar.

In addition to being unpopular with bakers and chocolatiers, due to the separation and grainy consistency when melted down, chocolate bars made with vegetable fats are the cause of a global deforestation crisis.

In the United States, chocolate manufacturers are not allowed to label their candy as chocolate if it includes any vegetable fat whatsoever.

These fats include:

  • Vegetable oil

  • Palm oil

  • Mango kernel

  • Shea butter

  • Kokum gurgi

The cocoa butter that is removed from the chocolate-making process to be replaced with vegetable fats is oftentimes sold to the cosmetics industry for an additional profit.

#3 Vanilla

While real vanilla is used in everyday baking to enhance flavors and improve tastes, in the chocolate industry its sole purpose is to mask the burnt or low-quality chocolate flavors of cheaply bought cocoa beans.

This will appear on the label as:

  • Vanilla

  • Vanillin

  • Vanilla flavoring

Real vanilla is one of the most expensive spices in the world and is very rarely used. Many synthetic options have been produced—using wood shavings and coal, for example—to mimic the flavor of real vanilla.

#4 Artificial Flavors and Colors

Wait… what? Artificial chocolate?

That’s right. Many of the “chocolate bars” you see on the grocery shelf may include artificial flavors to make it taste more like chocolate.

But why? Isn’t chocolate supposed to taste like chocolate?

Of course, it is. But once you add all of the ingredients above, and extract other more expensive ingredients from the process, what’s left may not satisfy that chocolate craving you have.

Artificial chocolate flavor requires more than 400 chemical compounds to give it that taste we all recognize.

So the next time you bite into a piece of chocolate you might want to make sure it’s actually chocolate you’re eating.

The Rise of Bean to Bar Chocolate and the Benefits of Cacao

Bean to bar chocolate has risen in popularity for a number of reasons.

First, consumers are becoming more aware than ever and won’t settle for anything less than a quality product.

Gone are the days of thinking powdered cheese in your childhood box of macaroni actually contains the calcium required to live a healthy lifestyle.

Consumer awareness has raised the bar on many products, and chocolate is no exception.

When compared to cheaper versions, bean to bar chocolate stands out for:

  • Superior quality

  • Authentic ingredients

  • Ethical practices

  • A sustainable supply chain

Not to mention the rich, and unmistakable taste of the cacao bean. There’s a reason the Aztecs used this magnificent bean as currency.

Cacao and the Benefits of Real Chocolate

What makes cacao so special anyway?

Did we mention the Aztecs? Of course, we did.

The Aztecs, who learned about cacao from their predecessors, the Mayans, considered the cacao bean a gift from the Gods. They worshiped the strange-looking, colorful fruit that held the seeds that they would later use as a form of currency.

They were on to something.

Montezuma fell in love with—and even hoarded— this pleasure drug, and we think we know why.

Cacao is packed with beneficial natural ingredients, many of which, by design, make us feel good.

These delicious chemical compounds have been shown to affect the brain and body in mostly pleasurable ways.

They include:

  • Theobromine: a naturally occurring alkaloid known for mimicking the effects of caffeine, nicotine, and morphine.

  • Anandamide: an endogenous cannabinoid, produced naturally in the brain, that gives us that “feel good: sensation when consumed.

  • Phenylethylamine: a chemical famous for arousing the brain’s pleasure centers, and what we feel when we fall in love.

On top of what we think is a pretty good reason to eat bean to bar chocolate, there are even more benefits to eating real cacao-based chocolate, such as:

  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

  • Better memory retention

  • Lower blood pressure

If that doesn’t make you crave the real cacao found in a bean to bar chocolate bar, we don’t know what will.

Where Do Bean to Bar Chocolate Makers Get Cacao?

A good small-batch chocolate maker will know the difference between a quality bean farmer vs. a farm that mass produces low-quality beans for profit.

Unfortunately, there is a sad reality in the world of chocolate.

Many large chocolate manufacturers purchase beans from farms in West Africa, where 70% of the world’s cocoa comes from. And while there are many farmers and their families that depend on cacao farming as their primary income, it’s not always a pretty picture.

Sadly, farmers are at the mercy of the global market which has demanded chocolate on a scale that isn’t sustainable and this has resulted in mass deforestation, and even child labor and trafficking.

Bean to bar chocolate makers are known for producing small-batch chocolate, with ethically and sustainably sourced beans.

By understanding the supply chain and actually meeting and working directly with sustainable and ethical farms, bean to bar chocolate makers have tapped into the finest sources available, bringing you that delicious treat you love—without the guilt.

How Bean to Bar Chocolate is Made

The bean to bar chocolate process starts with the farmer.

As mentioned, most bean to bar chocolate makers source directly from farmers they know, and trust, to produce the best beans possible, without sacrificing ethics and sustainability.

Once these happy beans are in the hands of a loving chocolate maker—like those of us at Portland Chocolate Factory—the magic begins.

To break it down simply, these are the steps to creating a fine bean to bar chocolate product that we know you’ll love:

  • At the farm:

    • The beans are harvested with care, then fermented by being exposed to oxygen, and finally dried out (usually in the sun) to lock in the flavor of the bean.

  • At the laboratory:

    • Once chocolate makers get their hands on the beans, the beans must be roasted to dry out the outer shell, which is then cracked and winnowed to reveal the cacao nib.

    • Then the nibs are ground down, and any ingredients chosen by the chocolate maker are added to create the final consistency, flavor, and texture.

    • The chocolate must then be tempered to avoid a dull and crumbly bar.

    • Lastly, the bar is molded, bubbles removed, and finally wrapped for freshness with a label that will tell you exactly what’s in the bar, and where it came from.

The bean to bar chocolate process is truly a labor of love. We should know. All of the chocolate produced by Portland Chocolate Factory is done so with love and intention.

We believe in quality over quantity, and providing a product that serves a purpose.

Why Bean to Bar Chocolate is Always the Better Choice

By now it should be obvious why bean to bar chocolate is the better choice.

The myriad of benefits to purchasing and consuming...

  • Small-batch

  • ethically sourced; and

  • sustainable chocolate just a start.

Chocolate makers labor over their craft because we truly believe there is more to chocolate than the impulse buys at the checkout or the chocolate egg hunted by children every Easter.

There’s a bigger picture here.

Portland Chocolate Laboratory was founded on the belief that chocolate provides more than just comfort, but also an opportunity to use the sacred bean as a vessel for so much more.

Visit our website for a complete list of the products we have created to bring peace, tranquility, and the very best chocolate into your life.

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