All About Bean-to-Bar Chocolate

January 22, 2021
| Created by Cheesemonger Mariah Ballard

Chocolate has nostalgic ties to childhood, special occasions, and gifts. It’s been a staple in my household since childhood, with my mother stockpiling chocolate chips for a possible apocalypse and saying that she will trade them for other goods because chocolate will be in demand. Chocolate chips were counted out to each child to have a fair amount to snack on as she baked. Chocolate was also given for every holiday and definitely had the most trading power with siblings and parents alike when it came to Trick-or-Treat loot at Halloween.

The Bean-to-Bar Difference

We are all familiar with chocolate, but what does bean-to-bar chocolate mean? Is it any different from what we have been eating our whole lives?

Bean-to-bar is a label that has been growing in popularity as companies seek to choose cacao beans that are ethically sourced and full of unique and delicious flavors for the chocolate they are making. Chocolate makers use bean-to-bar to signify that they are taking care of the chocolate from the time it is a newly fermented cacao bean at the farm through the shipping, roasting, grinding, conching, and tempering process that it takes to make the chocolate bar.

Not all chocolate is produced by companies paying fair wages, offering decent living standards, or conditions for the people working at the farm and in the cacao processing.

In the past cacao beans were sold by the farmers to a middleman to manage the sale of cacao to large companies, which often led to farmers getting a small percentage of the sales dollars. Bean-to-bar chocolate makers seek to meet the cacao farmers in person and learn about their business. Bean-to-bar chocolate makers also buy direct from the farmers and farmer-owned coops and have transparency on the price being paid per pound to the farmers for all purchases. This ensures fair income for the farmers. 

Taste the Bean-to-Bar Difference

The other reason chocolate makers are seeking the bean-to-bar method is because chocolate lovers have recognized a difference in the taste of chocolate based on the ingredients used. 

Chocolate makers go straight to the source to find cacao beans with fine flavor to make the best chocolate. The chocolate maker goes to the farms where the cacao is grown to taste batches of cacao beans. Many flavors found in the cacao beans stay with the cacao as it is made into chocolate and can be tasted in the final chocolate bar. 

Chocolate is made from the cacao plant that grows best within 20 degrees of the equator. Countries known for their cacao are Madagascar, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Uganda, Vietnam, and India. Hawaii is the only state in the US growing cacao for harvest and production of chocolate.

Chocolate makers can make a stand-out chocolate bar by choosing beans with unique flavors. 

Bean-to-Bar Chocolate in Our Stores

Harmons has over 150 bean-to-bar chocolate bars. It is fun to grab chocolate bars from a couple of different countries and taste with your family to experience the different flavors. Here are a few suggestions to taste the differences between cacao growing regions and flavors.

These bars have cacao, cocoa butter, sugar, and some have vanilla. All the tasting notes come from the cacao.

Solstice Sambirano Madagascar—Madagascar chocolate is known for its bright, tart, red berry and citrus notes.

Millcreek Cacao Roasters Arriba Pure—This cacao is from Ecuador and has rich caramel and floral flavors.

Ritual Chocolate Peru Maranon—When tasting you can note roasted nuts, floral, and stone fruit.

Here are three great examples of bean-to-bar chocolate makers if you’d like to learn more:

Millcreek Cacao Roasters

Ritual Chocolate

Taza Chocolate

Mariah Ballard is a certified cheese professional, and in charge of the certification program for all of Harmons cheesemongers. Mariah was also the second person in the state of Utah to be inducted into the Garde et Jure for the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers, an incredible honor. The Guilde is comprised of 6,000 members representing 35 countries and is dedicated to educating and maintaining knowledge and respect for the art of cheese making. 

As the specialty cheese buyer for Harmons, Mariah is also in charge of specialty chocolate and she loves to share her passions with others.