Why choose artisan chocolatiers?
I love chocolate. Any chocolate. Just bring me that cocoa, sugary goodness and I am the happiest person alive.
Recently, I have discovered artisan chocolates. You might have cottoned on to this trend much quicker than me and noticed like me that it costs a little more – well, quite a lot more.
I was pleased to hear that the popularity of small-scale producers is actually on the rise. This means that there are other people like me willing to spend a little more for their chocolate experience. I have explored some of the reasons for the trend for artisan chocolate.
The simple answer used by marketers
If you want to feel happier and healthier, you should opt for the chocolate made by small brands using the approaches of the artisan chocolatier. This is the simple answer to the question: why choose an artisan chocolate brand? High-class chocolates eaten in small doses is a decadent treat, and nothing like the binges we might experience on mass-produced brands. This “flight to quality”, as the CEO of a successful chocolate chain shop called it, has been prompted by a desire for a more cultivated and mature chocolate experience.
I am not overly convinced by this marketing blurb either. So, my pursuit for an answer continued.
The more discerning response
More cocoa with less sugars and fats is better for your health – so, this is a sharp marketing angle. However, I don’t think this gets to the heart of why people are becoming more discerning in their chocolate choices. When eating chocolate, we are not really being led by our head – we are being driven by our love affair with fine foods.
I discovered that it is the act of love when making products that make us want to share in the passion.
Real artisan makers will take the cocoa bean from the source through to production as confectionary. Artists in chocolatery are interested in the impact of roasting methods, conching times and the different equipment that can be employed to refine the taste. They are the sort of makers who want to understand the difference to the taste profile made using a stone grinder over a steel one. Experts in chocolate will look at the cell surface of the cocoa bean and consider how to coat them to avoid excess fat in the confectionary.
In short, they are sticklers for the detail – paying attention to each part of the process, learning and refining – producing chocolate that is distinct and cultured, like the best wines. I would likely be devastated to see the amount of cocoa used to experiment to get to the flavour profile the chocolatier desires. It is for this reason that an artisan maker will likely only produce micro-batches. I used to think, cynically, that this was a means of increasing desire in the consumer for something limited. However, I have learnt it is instead a natural consequence of the high level of effort and attention to detail when making chocolate from bean-to-bar.
Is it better than the mass-produced bars in our supermarket?
Like anything in life, every chocolate bar has its place. If I want a quick fix of sugar and a small treat on a hard day, mass-produced bars work. No one is going to deprive me of my Freddo when life has treated me harshly in a day.
However, I am aware that the amount of sugar and fat inside each bar will create a yearning in me that means I will want to eat more and more of this confectionery. I often need to show real discipline to avoid becoming too rolly-poly.
I am also more conscious of ethics. Mass-produced bar manufacturers also buy up the harvest of the larger cacao tree growers and farm owners. The mass grown bean is swept up by huge multinationals.
The consequence of this dredging of the supply chain, I discovered, is that the smaller growers with more organic and traditional methods are the supplier of choice for the artisan. Most chocolatiers who see it as an art form will work closely with the growers, as conditions in the soil and the level of watering will impact on the taste. I just love this idea that they focus in on even the smallest detail.
I know we have to pay a lot more for your artisan chocolate. Therefore, it is more than a simple treat to help make you feel a little better. When I buy artisan chocolate, I am purchasing an experience in taste and texture – in short, a moment of luxury. I pay more for my artisan chocolate because the producers will be engaged in fair trade practices, they will experiment to find the best recipe, and they will buy the optimum ingredients.
My answer to the question – why buy artisan chocolate – well, it is to appreciate the refined talent of the maker.