The jungles of Masoamerica is the motherland of cacao trees. Yes, chocolate is growing on trees. And they are not palms, like many mass-market makers think mixing cacao dust with vast amount of palm oil. But we will get back to the big guys later. Now a little bit of history.
Initially heavy ripe cacao pods we valued for their somewhat sweet and delicious white pulp. Nobody had a single idea that one day the uneatable and bitter beans will be used for building hundred-over billion chocolate industry. People we enjoying this natural dessert disposing all the beans from cacao pod. Then the day came. It is unknown who was the first person with the idea that the beans actually have taste. In fact, they have a lot of flavour and they could get you high. Sometimes we think that the evolution of humanity was built around finding something that would make your high: from strong cacao drink that they started to use in mysterious ritual and ceremonies to the uncontrolled excitement of being shared by someone in Instagram.
Later, like all trendy and exotic treats chocolate was consumed by the European elite in a form of bittersweet drink. In unending pursuit for an efficiency the chocolate drink was transformed into a bar - the products we now call chocolate. The growing demand, industrialisation and greed pushed makers to make unavoidable sacrifices. The beans started to be gradually substituted by cheaper and more powerful drug - sugar. Add to this even cheaper palm oil, preservatives and additives that added cancerogenic twist to the witch brew. Many years and body-fat later we finally started to smell a rat.
Thus the craft chocolate industry - the industry tat celebrates the multilayer and sophisticated flavour of cacao beans - was born. The first pioneer of the movement was a company called Scharffen Burger. The company started to produce small batched of carefully crafted chocolate, using cocoa beans from around the world. When first followers started to realise that it was something different, the buzz was immediately spread among food enthusiasts, who were the first adopters and bearer of knowledge about bottomless world of bean-to-bar chocolate. Ironically, the company later was acquired by Hershey's loosing al it's fans and supporters. But it was a beginning of a new chocolate era.
The last couple of decades were disruptive for many industries but growing bean-to-bar segment of chocolate industry is yet to challenge hegemony of big mass marker confectionery corporations. Despite tremendous growth the segment is still represents less than 1% of the whole industry. The US, as one can predict, is leading the movement. The number of craft chocolate makers grew from less than 10 to more than 200 in just a few years and many of them are already struggling to keep-up with growing demand. The rapid growth raised several challenges in front of chocolate makers and increasing productivity while maintaining quality is one of the most important one.
But what, exactly is, craft or fine chocolate and why we think it is capable of paradigm shift? The philosophers of independent markets we struggling to agree on a proper definition while chocolate makers and retailers were shaping the market filling it with core values. Another big distinction of doers from chatters. Some "experts" say that the absence of the definition will not allow consumers to identify good chocolate. In fact, we believe that consumers like us are not necessary stupid and the existence of definitions creates even more confusions and room for unethical marketing practices. To recognise good chocolate is easy. It tastes good and it doesn't contain any industrial crap. But there some more features that are very important for chocolate to be good for your senses, body and soul.
1. It supports cultivation of high-quality and high-value cacao across cacao-growing origins, letting growers to make descent living our of supplying to the industry and subsequently preserving rare cacao varieties.
2. It contains minimum or no artificial industrial ingredients that can compromise originality of the products and a long-lasting health impact.