Independent Chocolate Makers
Does that mean anything to you? It might sound silly, I admit that. But here, at Brasstown Craft Chocolate, every day is the chocolate independence day. And today, on July 4th, we would like to share this little part of our history and show you how we came to be an independent chocolatiers and what that actually means.
The first time chocolate took a form of something you might recognize, was in Mesoamerica back in 1900 BCE. Mayans and Aztecs figured out that the seed which grows on Theobroma cacao trees could be made into a beverage they used to call “bitter water”. They loved this drink so much that these cacao seeds eventually became some form of a payment method. We’re gonna fast forward now to the 16th century and to the Spanish colonization of South America. You may guess – this is the way the chocolate in a form of “bitter water” migrated to Europe.
Finally, the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution brought chocolate to the massively familiar form of a bar. In 1815 Van Houten, the Dutch chemist, managed, for the first time, to successfully separate cocoa butter from cocoa solids. Later, in 1847, a certain English company figured out the way to blend and mold cocoa butter, cocoa solids, and sugar into chocolate bars. And this was the beginning of the mass production of chocolate as we know it. One of the most famous names in this era and even today was Milton Hershey, who originally used to make caramel candy. But he was so impressed by the entire process of making a chocolate bar, that he instantly abandoned his caramel making business and started the one we know him for. The rest of the story, I believe you know, or at least you can assume. Hundreds of brands started competing against each other in this new market.
Of course, the fame doesn’t come without consequences. The ones the chocolate mass production have caused, nobody noticed at first. The companies wanted to get more materials (cacao beans) for less money so that’s what they offered to the producers. And they actually managed to get it because they have already made so much cacao, and if they didn’t want to buy it, who else would? So they would accept the lower price. it’s better to get some money than no money, right? But the prices were lower every time….
The Chocolate Revolution
And then, the chocolate revolution happened! This is when the independent chocolate makers stood up and decided to change something! Who are these people, you might ask? Anyone basically who had the will or the means to make chocolate, either at home or as a small business. They are more known as “bean-to-bar” chocolate producers. The name says it all – they are doing every step of the way personally, from getting the cacao beans to transforming it into a bar. They are buying the highest quality cacao beans directly from the plantations they’re grown at, and they are not afraid to pay good money for a good product. They didn’t need as much cacao beans as the big companies would, but the plantation workers would basically earn the same amount of money for less work since they had to produce a smaller amount of cacao, but of higher quality and sell it to these independent chocolatiers.
This way of trade became quite popular later and not only for the cacao beans but for many more ingredients and materials produced on farms or plantations in South America or Africa. It even got a name – “fairtrade”. Fairtrade is a confirmation that the certain ingredient (or more of them) are bought directly from the people who produced it, it was paid for what it’s worth, so they can continue to grow and develop, while still doing what they are best at.
Brasstown Craft Chocolate can proudly say that we are part of this amazing organization. In our chocolate, we use organic cacao beans, grown on local plantations in Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, and Venezuela. This is how we make people’s lives better on both sides. We support the producers locally and help them achieve better trading conditions while promoting sustainable farming. On the other hand, we support every single chocolate lover in the world and we make their lives richer just by doing what we love the most and what we are best at – making perfect chocolate.
This is our way of supporting and celebrating the Independence Day in the craft chocolate world. How will you celebrate yours?