What is Craft Chocolate, Anyway?
On a recent trip that included stops in Lima, Peru for the Salon del Cacao y Chocolate and in Ilheus, Bahia, Brasil for Chocolat Bahia, I gave presentations on my views on the past, the present, and the future of craft chocolate. In order to give these presentations I had to create and share a definition craft chocolate.
Agreed-upon definitions for terms like craft, bean-to-bar, artisan, and others term are very hard to come by in the chocolate world. One one hand, a chocolate company like Barry-Callebaut can truthfully refer to itself as bean-to-bar. They start with beans and end with bars (at least in part). What started out as a term used to differentiate small makers from industrial producers has been co-opted by large makers and, while it describes what small chocolate makers do, is no longer useful as a differentiator. Adding criteria for quality or batch size or ownership of equipment or other parameters makes the definition complicated and less usable, IMO.
Over the past year I have been personally using the following definition, which is based on the idea that craft and industrial are different concepts.
A chocolate maker is an industrial chocolate maker when consistency and repeatability are their primary concerns because their customers demand it.
A chocolate maker is a craft chocolate maker when their concerns lie elsewhere: they tolerate and embrace inconsistency.
In the case of an industrial chocolate maker:
- A bakery customer might demand that the pH be the same for every batch. If they baker is using chemical leavening changes in the pH could affect the rise.
- A candy company needs the rheology (flow characteristics) of the chocolate to be the same so they don't have to change the parameters in their tempering machines.
Industrial chocolate makers often employ continuous processing (but that's not a defining requirement), and seek for their chocolates to be the same even though the underlying major ingredient - cocoa beans - changes from harvest to harvest and year to year.
A craft chocolate maker does not care (or cares less) about consistency and repeatability. The beans change from harvest to harvest and year to year ... and so does the chocolate.