You’ve probably heard of all sorts of artisanal and craft made foods, from coffee to cheese and everything in between. If you’ve ever wondered when you’d be able to get artisanal handmade chocolate, then you’re in luck. Bean-to-bar chocolate is chocolate handcrafted by chocolatiers who control the process of making chocolate from beginning to end. This isn’t chocolate made in a factory.
The process begins with the cocoa bean, which is native to South America but can be found in many tropical climates throughout the world. Like coffee, the region and climate the bean is grown in affects its taste and true artisans seek out specific regions and farms to get the best tasting bean. The cocoa bean is then transformed into the decadent chocolate we know through a process of roasting, milling, and mixing it with other ingredients (bean-to-bar makers do this all in-house). The main ingredients have traditionally been sugar or nuts, but bean-to-bar chocolate makers have experimented with all sorts of tasty varieties, making their chocolate bars one-of-a-kind. This is a taste you simply can’t get in a mass-produced chocolate.
Bean-to-bar chocolate is booming in New York City and there are plenty of great shops to try some out. What began as a few innovative upstarts has blossomed into a vibrant chocolate-making scene. Jacques Torres, also known as Mr. Chocolate, was originally a top-notch pastry chef from France who opened his first bean-to-bar store in New York in 2000. Jacques Torres now offers a dizzying array of his expertly crafted chocolate in eight locations across the city, including his original shop in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn is a particularly hot location for bean-to-bar chocolate and is home to the Mast Brothers, Cacao Prieto, Raaka Chocolate, and Antidote Chocolate. The Mast Brothers, who the New York Times called “pioneers of the bean-to-bar movement,” first set up shop in 2007 and offer a splendid variety of craft chocolate bars. And now they have two new locations in LA and London. Raaka Chocolate was started by Ryan Cheney because he wanted to make chocolate his own way and to make sure it was ethically produced. Raaka Chocolate features fair trade grown cocoa beans and a unique process of using unroasted beans to create virgin chocolate bars.
If you’re a chocolate lover or simply someone who can appreciate the art of making food, then you’ve got to check these places out.