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...
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:
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)