Chocolatiers and Chocolate-Makers
The other night I was having dinner in a restaurant, and struck up a conversation with the fellow dining at the next table, who turned out to be Swiss. As we talked, the conversation turned to what I did and when I replied that I wrote cookbooks on baking and chocolate. His curiosity was piqued, as well as that of the two Belgian women at another table.
I knew exactly where the conversation soon would be heading, and of course, I was asked the inevitable question: “Which country do you think makes the best chocolate?”
And is there really a country that makes the Best Chocolate In The World? Not really, it depends on what you like. However there is a chocolate revolution happening in America and lots of new bean-to-bar chocolate makers have emerged on the scene in the past few years, changing the way we think about chocolate.
So it doesn’t really matter if chocolate came from Belgium, Switzerland, France, or even, yup, the United States. We’re lucky to have good chocolate around the world.
Chocolatier vs. Chocolate-Maker
One thing that confuses people is the difference between a Chocolatier and a Chocolate Maker.
A Chocolatier is someone who makes chocolates, those dipped, nutty, or cream-filled confections that we all know and love. A Chocolate Maker is someone, or a company, that buys and roasts cocoa beans and grinds them into chocolate.
There are lots of chocolatiers out there, probably (and hopefully) several in your city, but there are very few chocolate-makers, since the process is difficult and costly, and requires a lot of very specialized equipment and knowledge. There’s no shame in not making your own chocolate from scratch. Very few people can pull together the equipment for making chocolate, then figure out how to do it correctly, so most small-scale chocolate shops buy their couverture, melt it down, and use it for dipping their chocolates.
Much of this discussion was also prompted by was an interesting series of articles about Noka Chocolate, outrageously-priced chocolate from Texas, which sells for almost $9 a piece, and someone tracked down their lineage. I don’t know if Noka chocolate intended to give people the impression that they’re making their own chocolate from scratch or not (since I was polishing off a bottle of wine while I finished it) but the writer spent considerable time tracking down what he suspects is their couverture du jour.
The writer noted that the company alluded to the fact they make their own couverture, but I never believe anyone who says they’re making their own chocolate unless they have some documentation to back it up, or I can see it being made.
Very, very few chocolatiers make their own chocolate. Even a talent like Michael Recchiuti in San Francisco, who’s a chocolatier, happily admits to buying his chocolate couverture, which he sources from the best.
For more information, here’s a list of some of the small-scale chocolate-makers in the United States (updated in 2016):