Welcome to the Dark Side
Before really diving deep into the world of craft chocolate, I was actually…
** cringes a bit **
…more of a milk chocolate person.
** gasp **
I never really liked dark chocolate because it was too bitter or chalky for me personally.
I had spent many years living in two of the world’s most notorious “best chocolate ever” countries – Belgium and Switzerland – so I supposed I had been pretty convinced that I'd reached the Holy Grail of Cacao.
** yea, spoiler alert **
Well, truthfully, at the time I didn’t even know that craft chocolate was a thing!
The reality is, that commercial or industrial or supermarket chocolate is accessible, and cheap.
However, this accessible cheap chocolate is not a good representation of what chocolate is - and can do - and can be – and could taste like.
The greatest difference between commercial or industrial confections and craft chocolate are these 3 things:
1. Stability (at source) Education on cacao cultivation has led to strengthened networks of farmers who are now dedicated to high quality flavor development instead of serving the commodity market. Well-managed, centralized processing and drying techniques not only improve the quality of the cacao beans but effectively represent more stable economic growth and security for farmers.
Commercial confections are made of cheap mostly low quality bulk beans whereas craft chocolate is made with high quality (good genetics, controlled fermentation and drying) fine flavor cacao which has been mindfully sourced. Much more on this in a separate post soon!
3. Roasting. Commercial confections are generally over-roasted. The same rule applies to coffee by the way! Roasting on high temperatures gets rid of a lot of the potential off flavors that come from improper fermentation and drying or just low quality beans. It also gives commercial confections the one thing they depend on most: consistency. Craft chocolate on the other hand is consistently inconsistent. We let nature do the talking. Much like wine, terroir plays a huge role in flavor, and craft chocolate makers pride themselves of experimenting with lighter roasts in order to bring out the beans natural fine aromas. More on this in a separate post soon!
(there are many more differences but these are the main three)
And it is precisely because of terroir, or sourcing, and roasting that not all chocolates are created equally.
Over-roast some low-quality bulk beans and you’re not going to end up with much of a flavor journey. But you will have consistent chocolate. This is what the mass market wants.
Mindfully roast some high-quality fine flavor beans and you will soon discover that the possibilities are absolutely endless. Adjust the roast by a few minutes or a few degrees Celsius on the same cacao beans and you will end up with wildly different results.
This is something I never realized until I discovered the wide and partially inaccessible world of craft chocolate. I was wholeheartedly amazed that chocolate CAN taste like MORE than JUST chocolate. That it actually isn’t always bitter or burnt, and that some chocolates can taste fruity or creamy without the addition of fruit or dairy.
As I started to slowly convert my taste buds to the darker side of life, I also started appreciating single origins for their flavor differences. This in turn had me appreciating specialty coffee more too (wine: I am already there!). Now I have gone over to the dark side. On occasion I still nibble on some milk chocolate, but the sweetness always dominated.
So in an effort to make craft chocolate more approachable and accessible, we will feature a different chocolate bar every month for 2023 (in the months that we ship, so not in the summer!).
We want you to be able our dark chocolate bars (all are 70% and above), without hesitation, because we are quite convinced that you might actually be pleasantly surprised.
Our bar of the month for January is our 90% Tumaco. You can read more about this origin here.