The Ultimate Chocolate Blog is for people who love to taste and compare high quality chocolate, who want to improve their palate, and to increase their awareness of chocolate from around the world. We also want to connect you to fantastic chocolate recipes. Check us out on Facebook!

Quick Links: List of American Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Makers, List of Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Makers in Canada, The Raw Chocolate List, Organic & Fair Trade Chocolate List (U.S. & Canada), Soy-Free Chocolate List, Chocolate Recipes.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Canada's Growing Bean-to-Bar, Craft Chocolate Market

This Valentine's Day, consider real Canadian chocolate that does not come in a heart-shaped box, but is still made with love and passion...
 
 
Bean-to-bar chocolate-making (also called 'small batch' and 'craft chocolate') is the latest trend in Canada's chocolate industry. It also seems to be the fastest growing segment of the artisan food market.

Just a few years ago, Soma Chocolatemaker of Toronto seemed to be alone in its quest to make chocolate in small batches and directly from the cacao bean (also called cocoa bean), using high-quality beans imported from various growing regions close to the equator.  In the last few years, more and more artisan chocolate makers have popped up in various cities across Canada.  In fact, since I started planning this article two years ago, more information has become available, chocolate maker websites have been launched and my list of chocolate makers has doubled, making my article a moving target, so to speak.

What is the reason that an entrepreneur might want to make chocolate directly from the bean?  For starters, the challenge. Most people do not know that it is quite simple to roast cacao beans at home and make chocolate in a coffee grinder, blender or juicer. But the challenge is to give it a smooth texture, remove the acidity, develop a good flavour profile, test recipes and create something entirely unique that no one else has. There is a sense of accomplishment in making something 'from scratch' and putting your own spin on it.

Others chocolate makers start because they are driven by an idea or belief.  For instance, some believe that chocolate made according to Fair Trade certification is not as helpful to farmers as it can be.  So they want to buy cacao beans through 'Direct Trade' and produce chocolate that directly benefits specific cacao farmers and their families. Often, chocolate makers develop these views because they have travelled and visited cacao farms on their travels.

Other craft chocolate makers are driven by their belief in healthy eating or in an idea of dietary requirements or restrictions. An example is the raw food movement.  A handful of raw food enthusiasts have discovered benefits in eating 'raw chocolate' (i.e. chocolate made from un-roasted cacao beans), and after finding no packaged products on the market, they started making their own at home, and eventually turned it into a business.

Whatever the reason, for Canadians it means that we have more chocolate to choose from, and more choice when it comes to where we want to spend our money.  Do we want to spend it on large, foreign-owned commercial chocolate makers who produce brand-name chocolate bars or on small local businesses who sell hand-made chocolate and support the farmers who supply the cacao?

Our neighbours to the South (that`s right, I`m talking about the U.S.), have truly owned this bean-to-bar trend, with chocolate makers popping up in nearly every State and large city in America. But Canada is now getting in on the action.  And the best part?  You, the consumer, can buy true Canadian-made chocolate, including amazing gifts for any chocolate connoisseur, wannabe chocolate aficionado or any chocolate fanatic in your life.

Below you will find the list of Canada's bean-to-bar chocolate makers.  Since this is a growing trend, new chocolate makers are popping up all the time.  If there is a new craft, small-batch chocolate maker in your area of Canada that is not on the list, please feel free to tell us in the Comments section below.

List of Small-Batch, Craft Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Makers in CANADA:


  • Soma Chocolatemaker (Toronto) - Soma has, by far, the largest selection of any bean-to-bar artisan chocolate maker in Canada.  They make such a large assortment of flavours of chocolate bars and chocolaty treats, that I always seem to find something new when I make a purchase.  I have been to both of their locations in Toronto and the experience is always lovely. With the feel of a relaxing cafĂ©, but all the wonders of a great chocolate selection, Soma offers an experience like no other. Even their 100% dark chocolate (the Arcana bar) is tasty, and all their chocolate is perfectly smooth and well balanced, certainly making them Canada's finest chocolate maker. www.somachocolate.com
  • Owners: David Castellan and his wife Cynthia Leung, started making chocolate in 2003, now two locations in Toronto (King Street West & Distillery District, you can order by e-mail)

  • Olivia Chocolat (Gatineau, Quebec) - The bars are nicely packaged and presented in a thin, fine format, making them easier to taste and savour. I love the 'hint of maple' chocolate bars that they produce.  Unfortunately, I have had mixed experiences with their chocolate and 'bloom', but I do keep going back for more.  In addition to their original bean-to-bar chocolate, they also make raw chocolate, Canadian maple-flavoured chocolate and hemp-milk vegan chocolate. Their chocolate is certified as Fair Trade. Olivia Chocolat is now available in perfectly portioned packages at Bridgehead Coffee Houses all over the Ottawa area, and their larger chocolate bars are available at other retailers. Olivia Chocolat can also be ordered online from outside of the Ottawa/Gatineau area: http://oliviachocolatiers.com/


  • Hummingbird Chocolate (Ottawa, ON) - I love, LOVE, LOVE! this chocolate maker. They started selling their product at a farmer's market in Ottawa and now have a small chocolate-making facility in the Ottawa area that enables them to sell at various retailers in the Ottawa area, as well as online (www.foodiepages.ca).  Their chocolate is very smooth and they offer an excellent range of single origin chocolate that demonstrates the wonderful flavour differences of cacao from different regions of the world. They also sell small bags of cacao beans, so you can try to make your own origin chocolate at home! www.hummingbirdchocolate.com

  • Habitual Chocolate (London, ON) - offers a full range of bean-to-bar chocolate. 
    Whether you like milk or dark chocolate, I recommend that you try the Sal de Mar 43% Cacao and Sea Salt chocolate bar.  It is salty, sweet and a real treat!  For those extreme dark chocolate fanatics, go for Habitual's Amazonas 80% Cacao dark chocolate bar, it is their smoothest and has low acidity. To order from outside of London, Ontario, you need to call their sister company (http://www.fireroastedcoffee.com/) and ask specifically for their chocolate to be shipped to you (that's how I got some!), as it is not yet available for order on the website. www.habitualchocolate.com 

  •  
  • Organic Fair (Cobble Hill, BC) - this Western Canadian craft chocolate maker just began producing chocolate from the bean a little over a year ago.  They have been selling organic and Fair Trade ingredients and food products for a long while, from their organic farm in Cobble Hill, including interesting chocolate bars with unique flavour combinations.  But they recently made the step to becoming a true chocolate maker - roasting the beans, winnowing (they just ran an IndiGoGo Campaign to get new winnower to do the job!), grinding, conching and taking all the steps to make chocolate from start to finish that is both organic and Fair Trade.  They are one of the few bean-to-bar makers who also sell bakers' chocolate bars in various sizes, made from their own chocolate.  They also sell a range of delicious origin chocolate, including chocolate made from Nicaraguan beans. www.organicfair.com

  • Choklat (Calgary, AB)  They make chocolate from bean-to-bar and chocolate truffles made to order.  What's great is that they make four single-origin 70% chocolate bars with the same amount of sugar, cacao butter, cacao beans and vanilla so that you can taste and compare cacao from different origins (some chocolate makers use different amounts of sugar, which makes it difficult to compare origins).  What's not so great is that you cannot buy online and have the chocolate shipped to your home - believe me, I've tried. No matter how you beg, or how much you offer to pay, Choklat will not accept online or e-mail payment, nor will they courier their chocolate to you. You must find a friend in Calgary, or Edmonton, who can buy the chocolate for you and ship it. www.sochoklat.com



  • Ambrosia Pastry This new bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Southern Ontario makes an amazing 55% Milk Origin Ghana chocolate bar, which is one of the most amazing dark-milk chocolates that I have tasted! You can read all about it here. They now sell their chocolate on FoodiePages or you can learn more on Ambrosia's website:  www.ambrosiapastry.com


  • Wild Sweets by Dominique & Cindy Duby (Richmond, B.C.) - This is the up and comer that may rival Soma before long, winning awards this past year at the international level for their bean-to-bar chocolate.  While being artists and artisans (some amazing chocolate creations can be seen on their website), they are also applying scientific methodology to their chocolate-making.  They have tested and retested each batch to ensure the very best chocolate. Wild Sweets offers a very tasty, very professional, and very smooth bean-to-bar chocolatewww.dcduby.com



  • Beanpod (Fernie, B.C.) - Beanpod has a cool logo that is imprinted on all their chocolate bars.  And although they offer a range of bean-to-bar chocolate, a MUST TRY is their Fernie BEAR Bar made with Milk Chocolate and Honeycomb chocolate bar.  It is often sold out and believe me when I say that it is out of this world! www.beanpod.ca 

  •    
  • EastVan Roasters (Vancouver, BC) - This is actually a not-for-profit organization, designed to assist women in need of valuable work skills. They make single-origin chocolate bars and truffles, as well as flavoured chocolate bars. They also sell baked goods made with their own chocolate and coffee beverages made from beans that are roasted in house. www.eastvanroasters.com 



  • ChocoSol Traders (Toronto, ON) - ChocoSol is in Toronto at a new location (1131 St. Clair West) and makes chocolate bars and drinking chocolate without dairy, gluten, soy, or nuts, and it is listed as vegan. Their chocolate is minimally processed, so it has a great crunchy texture, much like the Taza chocolate brand in the U.S..  They also make some raw chocolate and an amazing hemp-based chocolate bar.  ChocoSol offers chocolate-making workshops, which are regularly available, and group/corporate bookings are also offered. They also sell cacao beans, nibs, hemp seeds, agave, vanilla pods and more - everything you need to make your own chocolate!  http://chocosoltraders.com/ 


  • Living Libations (Haliburton, ON) - Less a part of the growing bean-to-bar movement and more a part of the growing 'raw chocolate' movement, Living Libations is likely the most interesting and healthiest chocolate maker in Canada. Their chocolate is not tasty to the average consumer, but very healthy and great-tasting to raw food enthusiasts and others who are used to the added flavours of hemp, maca and a variety of other health-food additives. They have been profiled on a Canadian television show, and I like the chocolate makers' quirky personalities, and I also believe in their cause. Find out more in an article that I wrote, or on the company's website:  http://www.livinglibations.com/products/pure-source-raw-chocolate/raw-chocolate.

  • Sirene Chocolate (Victoria, BC) - a 'direct' trade bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Taylor Kennedy, has a background in economics, finance and cell and molecular biology.  He currently makes two single-origin chocolate bars from Ecuador and Madagascar, and will be introducing other origin bars in 2014. Sirene Chocolate is available in select stores, such as Cook Culture in Victoria. Find out more about Sirene Chocolate at: http://sirenechocolate.com/.

  • I have tasted chocolate from 10 of the 13 chocolate makers on this list, and will be trying out the final three in the coming month. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to use the Comments section below. Clearly, there is a hole in the East Coast market - so does anyone in Halifax want to give small-batch, bean-to-bar chocolate making a try?

    For your viewing pleasure, below are more pictures of Canada's bean-to-bar chocolate.

    OrganicFair offers a Coco-Milk chocolate bar,
    which has coconut instead of dairy.


     
    This is a great example of chocolate intended for a tasting party - three single origin chocolates from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Madagascar offer very noticeable different flavour profiles.



    This picture shows how different dark chocolate can appear when made with different single origin beans (the Madagascar 74% dark chocolate looks just as light-coloured as a milk chocolate bar - yet it contains no milk!)



    Toronto-based ChocoSol makes a fantastic Drinking Chocolate


     
    This is Hummingbird Chocolate Maker's chocolate
     - smooth and delicious!



    (updated February 5, 2014) 

    4 comments:

    1. Thanks to Lisabeth, we've tried products from 3 of the above producers. Sadly we are ruined for any chocolate sold at the corner store! There's not a product a Soma we don't like and their customer service has always been great. I like Ambrosia Pastry's portion size. Hummingbird and Beanpod are next on our list!!!

      ReplyDelete
    2. There is another one based in Victoria, BC that launched in September: Sirene Chocolate. He makes two bars, one with beans from Madagascar and one with beans from Ecuador. 3 more bars will be available in the next month.

      ReplyDelete
    3. Take A Fancy Chocolate - we are a bean to bar chocolate company in Burnaby, BC and sell at the Vancouver Farmers Markets. www.takeafancy.ca

      ReplyDelete
    4. What about Zimt artisan chocolates in Vancouver, BC? Are they bean-to-bar?

      ReplyDelete