Beans to bar, artisan chocolates, handcrafted chocolates or whatever you call it has been gaining popularity in our region for the past two years. Using typical kitchen equipment and tools, anyone can make their own unique chocolate from cacao beans. My first experience with beans to bar chocolates was with Chocolate Academy, a course conducted by Chef Jean Marie Auboine from Las Vegas on 23rd September 2017.
Having been in the chocolate manufacturing industry for past 15 years, I was fascinated by what beans to bar was all about. So…what is beans to bar? In a nutshell, it is simply handmaking a small batch of chocolate from cacao beans. Each step of the chocolate making process is carefully controlled from bean selection, sorting, roasting, cracking, winnowing, ingredient mixing and conching to moulding. What is most interesting is that you can bring out the distinct, unique taste and aroma of a single bean origin from the chocolate. Ingredients used are often few and natural. No dutching or alkalising processes are carried out, unlike in commercial chocolates! Characteristics of a piece of bean to bar chocolate are so different from the commercial chocolates you’ve seen on supermarket shelves. Due to the small amount produced and time consuming process, beans to bar chocolates are not cheap. A 70g beans to bar chocolate bar can cost between USD3-5!
During our course, we had the opportunity to try out cacao beans from Philippines, Madagascar, Indonesia, Costa Rico, Venezuela, India, Tanzania & Ecuador. We made a wide variety of chocolate, from dark chocolate to milk chocolate of different cacao content. Each chocolate made from each bean origin has its own unique taste, from fruity, astringent, acidic, woody and earthy – some even has a coffee taste (not artificially induced) – my taste buds had stopped working halfway through the tasting session. Nevertheless, it was a great learning experience.