Why Craft Chocolate Tastes Different to Mainstream Chocolate

craft chocolate making

Most people who taste bean-to-bar craft chocolate can notice the difference from mainstream chocolate. The kind of specialty chocolate we supply at The High Five Company has a more complex and nuanced flavour that is much more pleasant for your palate, along with a more satisfying texture and ‘slow melt’. Once you’ve tasted the good stuff, it’s hard to go back to mass-produced industrial chocolate. 

Something we get asked a lot is ‘why does this chocolate taste so different?’ People are usually astonished at the variety of flavour notes they can taste in a good single origin bar, and they find it hard to believe it’s made with just cacao and sugar. Here are five key reasons why craft chocolate tastes different to mainstream chocolate…

Specialty cacao

A big difference with craft chocolate is the use of rare ‘fine flavour’ cacao. Just like the different types of grapes that make types of wine, there are many different genetic varieties of cacao. Whilst it is possible to make great chocolate with widely-available ‘commodity’ cacao (if it’s well processed), the rarer varieties tend to offer a more complex range of flavours, outside of the traditional ‘chocolatey’ flavour that we’re all familiar with. In the best chocolate you’ll find a long ‘flavour journey’, with many different flavours emerging as the chocolate melts. This is made possible by exceptional cacao genetics and ‘terroir’, along with careful processing. 

specialty cacao cocoa

Preservation and provenance

Craft chocolate and mainstream chocolate have different goals and intentions. Mainstream chocolate always wants a consistent flavour – if you buy a bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk today, it should taste exactly the same as it did a year ago. To achieve this, the big industrial chocolate companies heavily process the beans – which removes a lot of the flavour – and add extra (unnecessary) ingredients that homogenise the taste. 

Craft chocolate makers take a different approach, particularly when it comes to single origin bars. They choose to celebrate and highlight the different flavours of cacao, and aim to preserve as much of that flavour as possible. This is why you’ll taste big differences between one cacao origin and the next, as well as subtle differences from harvest to harvest. The taste of craft chocolate represents a certain place and time, and just like fine wine, beauty is found in the subtlety and nuance.   

Whole-bean roasting 

A key difference between small-batch chocolate making and large-scale chocolate production is ‘whole-bean roasting’. Craft chocolate makers roast the whole beans and then remove the husk, as this is how to create the most delicious flavour. It’s a bit like baking a whole potato, in order to get that yummy inside.

Conversely, industrial chocolate makers remove the husk of the beans first and then roast the inner nibs. This is faster and more efficient, but a lot of the flavour is lost and you can end up with a burnt taste, as there’s no shell to protect the nibs.

Fjak Chocolate

Attention to detail

You’ll often see the terms ‘handmade’ or ‘handcrafted’ on a craft chocolate wrapper, but what does it really mean? It can be slightly misleading, as craft chocolate makers still use machines to make chocolate, but it indicates that the maker is working on a small scale and paying a lot of attention to detail. Rather than pouring in some beans at one end of the factory and then bars popping out at the other, craft chocolate makers are using much smaller machines that rely on more human intervention. Working in this way allows makers to monitor processes (like roasting, grinding and conching) more closely and to make subtle tweaks throughout the process, resulting in the finest flavour possible. Craft chocolate makers don’t cut corners to save time or money – quality is paramount. 

No nasty ingredients

If you look at the ingredients list on a bar of mainstream chocolate, you’ll probably find a lot of unnecessary ingredients and additives. Industrial makers often use alternative fats, such as palm oil or vegetable oil, as they’re much cheaper than cocoa butter. You’ll also find things like Vanillin (fake vanilla), ‘natural flavours’, milk fat, artificial sweeteners and cocoa powder. All of these things are not required to make chocolate.

Look at a bar of craft chocolate, and you’ll see a lot less ingredients listed. Many of the single origin bars we stock are made with just cacao and sugar! Of course, flavoured bars have additional ingredients, but you won’t find anything fake, nasty or unnecessary – just high quality wholefoods. 

Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate

Price and Value

Now that you know some of the differences between mainstream and craft chocolate, you’ll hopefully understand why craft chocolate costs a little more. When people think craft chocolate is expensive, it’s because they’re comparing the price, not the value. We truly believe that craft chocolate is great value, when you consider the level of quality and the unparalleled flavour. The equivalent level of quality in wine, cheese or beer would be much more expensive!

Be sure to check out our wholesale chocolate shop and feel free to get in touch if you ever have any chocolate questions. 

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