What is Craft Chocolate? All Your Cacao Questions Answered

If you’re a foodie, a chocolate lover, home cook or even a chef, you’ve probably heard the terms craft chocolate floating around the craft food world. If you’re not sure the difference between craft chocolate versus bean-to-bar chocolate or chocolate maker versus chocolatier, you’ve come to the right place! It’s kind of our thing.

What exactly is craft chocolate (and bean-to-bar chocolate)?

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of craft chocolate, let’s take a look at what craft chocolate actually is. The term craft chocolate is very often used interchangeably with the term bean-to-bar. But what is bean-to-bar? Good question! Bean-to-bar is exactly like it sounds: chocolate made directly from the bean carried all the way to the bar. Below are the steps that most bean-to-bar chocolate makers follow:

  • Bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers source beans from single origin locations such as areas in the Caribbean, Africa, East/Central Asia and South America. Essentially anywhere plus or minus 20 degrees north or south of the equator.

bags of cacao beans - craft chocolate

cacao pods - craft chocolate 

  • Cacao beans are then roasted to develop their flavor. Unroasted beans do not have the same complex flavor profiles as roasted cacao beans.
  • Cacao beans are then cracked open to reveal the inside cacao nibs. Cacao nibs are what you will often find mixed in oatmeal, cereals, granola bar, etc. They are basically pure chocolate with no sugar or additives.
cracked cacao beans - craft chocolate
  • After the cacao beans are cracked open, they then undergo a process called winnowing. This separates the outside husks (which are edible but not that appetizing) from the inside nibs.
  • The cacao husks are then set aside for later use or discarded. Some chocolate makers use cacao husks for tea or sell them to breweries to use in the production of beer!

winnowed cacao nibs - craft chocolate

  • After winnowing, cacao nibs are then ground into what is called chocolate liquor, pretty much just straight chocolate. Sugar is often added (and any additions such as flavoring or cacao butter) and then the chocolate grinds at least overnight.
  • When the mouthfeel and taste of the cacao liquor are developed, the chocolate then undergoes a process call tempering. Tempering is what makes chocolate shelf stable, shiny and allows chocolate bars to “snap.”

tempering chocolate - craft chocolate

  • Finally, chocolate is poured into molds, chilled, and wrapped.

 

What’s the difference between a chocolate maker and a chocolatier?

This is one of the questions, as chocolate makers ourselves, we get often. Chocolate makers and chocolatier are quite different, but (most importantly) neither one is better or worse than the other, just different.


Chocolate makers are the people who make chocolate from the bean (as mentioned above). They know how to choose the correct beans for the correct flavor profile based on origin and the fermentation process. They know how to process the beans and create chocolate from the cacao they’ve previously sourced.

Chocolatiers, on the other hand, don’t actually make the chocolate. Instead, they make tasty and often beautiful creations with the chocolate made by chocolate makers. Chocolatiers are the people that make treats such as bonbons and caramels and mold the chocolate into unique and flavors and shapes.

Does craft chocolate have to be bean-to-bar chocolate?

Well, that depends on who you ask. As chocolate makers ourselves, we don’t subscribe to the notion that craft chocolate needs to be made from the bean to the bar, though many people do. Craft chocolate (in our opinion) often comes from creative and talented individuals that are buying bean-to-bar chocolate from chocolate makers and then putting their own spin on it, everything from adding chilis and unique additions such bacon and lavender, to making homemade peanut or almond butter cups.

Where can I buy craft chocolate?

Another great question. You can purchase craft bean-to-bar chocolate from us! But we definitely aren’t the only game in town. Most artisanal cheese shops, craft beer shops and small grocery stores, as well as larger stores such as Whole Foods sell craft chocolate. Depending on what city you live in, craft chocolate is becoming easier to find. But if you can’t find it in your local brick-and-mortar store, you can always go the online route.

A few of our favorite places to shop for craft chocolate in New York City are The Meadow, Formaggio Cheese and The Sweet Shop. You can also check our list of retail locations where you’ll be able to find not only Dalloway Chocolate but a large selection of our fellow chocolate makers.

What craft and bean-to-bar chocolate makers exist?

Besides Dalloway Chocolate, craft chocolate makers exist across the country (and the world!) Everywhere from Middlebury, VT to San Francisco, CA you can find bean to bar chocolate makers scattered across the globe. Check out this extensive list.

Do women make chocolate?

Of course, we do! We’re proud to be in a small (but ever growing) cohort of female chocolate makers. Dalloway Chocolate is, however, proud to be the first and hopefully not the last, bean-to-bar chocolate company in the U.S. owned and operated by queer women.


Have more questions? Good. We have more answers! Ask us anything. Follow us on Instagram at @DallowayChocolate and let us hear your voice.


Cheers and chocolate,


Kelechi and Sara

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