Bean to Bar Chocolate - The Basics

6 October 2015 by David Voxlin

“Bean to bar” is a phrase being thrown about among foodies and chocolate enthusiasts, but what does it actually mean? To learn more about it, we recently spoke to Lani Kingston, Sales and Retail Manager at Mast Brother’s London branch – a pioneering company in the bean to bar chocolate movement.

Chocolate making

Lani explained to us that most commercial chocolate is derived from one standard, mass-produced bar that chocolate companies then melt down, flavour and mould. Bean to bar chocolate, on the other hand, is part of the ‘from scratch’ food movement, involving a far greater level of direct involvement in the chocolate making process. Chocolate makers (and they are chocolate makers, not chocolatiers, Lani emphasises) import the beans directly from the farms and make the chocolate themselves, from bean to bar and using one type of bean. This is where the term ‘single origin chocolate’ come from.

The result is an authentic product with flavour that comes from the cocoa beans themselves, rather than additives. The movement originated in the US, home of Mast Brothers' Brooklyn flagship store, and has since spread across the globe with a handful of bean to bar producers now operating in the UK.

Bean to bar chocolate is beneficial for both producers and consumers. The bean growers are treated fairly and sustainability is encouraged. Bean to bar chocolate makers are willing to pay the extra price for high quality beans - Mast Brothers pays their growers nearly double the commodity price; profits that can be used to increase their plantation size or even convert to organic methods. Lani tells us that the growing significance of the bean to bar movement means that even large, commercial chocolate companies are adopting more sustainable techniques, making for a fairer, greener industry. Fair pay for quality beans also promises to keep the chocolate industry alive by preventing bean farmers from abandoning cocoa for other crops.

Bean to bar chocolate makers intentionally pursue a closer relationship with their farmers out of a desire to know exactly what is going into their products. This changes the relationship we have with our food, giving us an awareness of exactly what we are eating and where it comes from. The bean to bar movement also means that a wider selection of flavours is available to consumers, diverging from the processed norm and offering real chocolate from a variety of beans instead. 

So here are five things you should now know about the bean to bar movement:

  • It produces authentic, high quality chocolate
  • It pays cocoa bean farmers a fair wage…
  • …therefore keeping the chocolate industry alive by providing incentive for bean farmers to stay
  • It connects us to our food, as we know what we are putting into our body and where it comes from
  • It means we have more flavours of chocolate (yay!)

The movement is a great one that we're proud to support. And, let's be honest, we're always happy to have more excuses to eat chocolate!


*Images courtesy of Mast Brothers

Tags: bean to bar, chocolate, craft, Independent, local, Mast Brothers, smallbatch, and UK.