What's the Difference and Who Cares?

The chocolate industry here in North American has changed significantly in the past 10 years. It used to be that ALL chocolatiers purchased chocolate in bulk then mixed it with various ingredients to make their confections. This was their definition of "making" chocolate. The reason for this was because actually "making chocolate" right from the cocoa bean was an endeavor that required millions of dollars worth of equipment. When a chocolatier could buy pretty decent chocolate for a couple of bucks a pound the significant investment to reinvent the wheel didn't make sense.

In 2008 I opened Choklat, and officially became the second craft chocolate maker in Canada. The US was far ahead with about 25 at the time. Now there are about 25 in Canada, and over 100 artisan/craft chocolate makers in the US. That number is growing daily.

Because of this exciting emergent craft chocolate industry, I believe that chocolatiers should no longer call themselves chocolate makers. Actually "making" chocolate right from the cocoa bean is a combination of both science and alchemy and is a whole business unto itself. It's very different than being a chocolatier and requires very different and specialized equipment.

A chocolate maker, purchases cocoa beans, roasts them, removes the shells, then combines the cocoa beans with sugar, vanilla, and powdered milk to actually make the chocolate.

A chocolatier on the other hand, takes already-made chocolate, mixes it with various ingredients, and forms it into the final confections that people eat.

Most chocolate makers are also chocolatiers, in that they have to actually do something with the chocolate they make in order for it to be attractive and saleable to the public.

Here's where things can get confusing: Some chocolatiers and even coffee makers are dabbling with making chocolate. They have purchased small grinders and a couple of sacks of cocoa beans and are making micro batches of chocolate (between 5 and 20lbs at a time). They might have a few dozen bars in their shop, but the volume of chocolate they sell which pays the bills and keeps the lights on in their shop is still purchased from a supplier. They are NOT sustaining their business by making chocolate. It is for this reason they are not chocolate "makers".

I dabbled with micro-batch chocolate making once. In fact that's how I got started in this industry. I worked during the day as a technical architect, and made micro batches at home in the evenings. I certainly never called myself a chocolate maker back then!

One may argue that they (micro dabblers) make chocolate, therefore they can call themselves chocolate makers. If I were 5 years old and couldn't yet comprehend semi-complex concepts I wouldn't argue with that. However I'm not 5 and understand that I can't view the world in simple black and white. Here at Choklat we roast our own coffee beans and make our own coffee. That doesn't make us coffee makers or baristas. We often make our own butter at Choklat, but that hardly makes us a creamery. We also grown our own peppermint, but that hardly makes Choklat a greenhouse. If I were 5 I wouldn't know what to call us! Welcome to the Choklat Coffee Greenhouse Creamery.... Ahhhhh.... No....

The bottom line is this: Here at Choklat, we make 100% of the chocolate (milk, dark, AND white) we use to make our confections.

WE ARE PROUDLY CHOCOLATE MAKERS.

I will leave it up to you to decide what you want to call the dabblers.

Share this
Posted by Brad Churchill

Brad Churchill is the owner and creator of all things "Choklatey". With over 30 years of business experience, 11 years of chocolate experience and many thousands of hours of research behind him, Brad Churchill brings to the table a very unique and pragmatic view of the emergent artisan chocolate industry. It is Mr. Churchill's hope that he can impart his experience upon budding chocolate entrepreneurs and help them balance their passion for this industry with the hard hitting reality and challenges of owning their own business. These articles are just the beginning....

3 Comments
Gurprit

Thank you for clarifying that. I always thought Bernard Callebaut and Purdy's made their own chocolate, then I looked into it. I guess not...

Heather

Because of nut allergies, I recently started making chocolate at home. I've read with interest so many of your posts Chocolate Alchemy and The Chocolate Life. I love your no nonsense approach and willingness to share with the community. Congrats!

Seraphina L.

I've watched your business grow over the past 7 years. (New shop is gorgeous by the way!) At first I was a bit put off by how outspoken you are. However... It appears that people appreciate your honesty and candor. Keep up the good work, and I'm sorry that differentiating your product from others has been such an up hill struggle.

Leave a Comment