The ABCs of Bean-to-Bar Chocolate

For DeAnn Wallin, chocolate is her life. “It’s what I do,” she says.

The owner of Solstice Chocolate literally eats and breathes chocolate, and we don’t know for sure, but she might dream about it when she sleeps.

DeAnn is a chocolate maker, specializing in artisan bean-to-bar chocolate. A chocolate maker is different than a chocolatier, as a maker gets the cacao beans and starts from scratch making the chocolate, step-by-step. The only thing DeAnn doesn’t do is grow and harvest the chocolate, because cacao beans will only grow close to in special climates. The only US state that can grow and harvest cacao is, unsurprisingly, Hawaii.

Steps to Making Chocolate

There are nine steps included in making chocolate, including harvesting, fermenting, roasting, conching, grinding, winnowing, tempering, and molding.

DeAnn experimented with making chocolate for years before it became so popular, and even before she founded her own company, Solstice Chocolate. Today, artisan chocolate is an industry, and things have changed a lot from the early days. But DeAnn has always loved chocolate, from her younger years working with her grandmother learning how to temper chocolate to her current expertise as a bean-to-bar producer.

From the time she receives the burlap sacks containing cacao beans to the end product showing up in stores, the level of her love for chocolate is apparent. Although DeAnn is a registered nurse, she says making chocolate is much more fun.

The Harmons and Solstice Chocolate Relationship

In the early days of Solstice, they thought about reaching out to Harmons, which is known for selling and promoting local brands. Their story is a good example of the local networking ties that Harmons has. Solstice wasn’t really sure how to go about it, but they had heard about Matt Caputo, who is currently CEO of Tony Caputo’s Food Market & Deli, a well-known Utah company known for its gourmet and specialty food and prowess.

They dropped some chocolate off to Matt, with a Post-it note explaining where it came from. Since they never heard back, they were worried the chocolate wasn’t good enough, but everything they heard from others indicated the opposite. Finally, they decided to reach out to him once more and discovered their note had fallen off the chocolate, never to be found, but Matt loved the chocolate and was happy to finally find out where it came from. He was also instrumental in getting Solstice on Harmons’ shelves.

Really Good Cacao Is Not Bitter

A lot of people think dark chocolate is bitter, and DeAnn works hard to set that misconception straight. “Really good cacao is not bitter, although it can have a bite,” she says.

Your Harmons cheesemonger is knowledgeable about artisan chocolate pairings and can make recommendations that will elevate your taste buds.

Special Promotion with Harmons and Solstice Chocolate

Listen to the podcast to learn more about the ABCs of making bean-to-bar chocolate, and as a special incentive, you can receive a 50 percent off promo code to try Solstice Chocolate. Details are announced in the podcast, so you’ll have to listen to take advantage of this offer, but we promise it’s worth it.

DeAnn Wallin, Solstice Chocolate

DeAnn Wallin is the creator and owner of the award-winning artisan chocolate company, Solstice Chocolate, which was founded in 2013. She is a chocolate maker who specializes in bean-to-bar chocolate. 

DeAnn is also a registered nurse, but she says chocolate is “more fun.”

If you enjoyed this podcast, you’ll want to listen to our other episodes. You can find them here. Recent episodes include Meal Prep and Planning Made Easy with Dietitian Genevieve Daly, and Eating for Exercise with our dietitians Sarah Kiel and Heather Lieber. 

At Harmons, we’re lucky to have incredibly talented artists at each store, and we’re sure you’ve seen their amazing chalk art as you wander throughout every location. We’re excited to be able to feature some of their work as the featured art on our podcast blog. This art is the work of Ryann Meyers, who works at our Mountain View location. 

All About Bean-to-Bar Chocolate

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.