What’s Single Origin Chocolate?

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Single-origin chocolate is made from beans from one region or farm, with different tastes depending on where it is grown. Chocolate blends can also promote the best characteristics of chocolate. However, only about 1% of chocolate in the US incorporates fair labor practices, with some areas using child labor practices. The trend towards single-origin chocolate is targeting high-end consumers, but good chocolate is ultimately about personal satisfaction.

It’s not uncommon to hear people talk about wine regions, flavors of wines from particular wineries, and wine made from different types of grapes. Coffee is also often rated by regions and companies that offer coffee exclusively from Hawaii in the form of Kona coffee at a hefty price point for doing so. This interest in different tastes depending on the region migrated to chocolate and introduced the concept of single origin chocolate.

Single-origin chocolate is chocolate made from beans from one region, sometimes even one farm. Chocolate connoisseurs argue that chocolate has different tastes and those tastes depend on where it is grown. When the chocolate is made from beans from different areas, it is more difficult to distinguish the taste. With the advent of single-origin chocolate comes the idea of ​​chocolate blends that promote the best characteristics of chocolate. Blending varieties of chocolate from one location to produce superior chocolate is actually a very old concept, made new by a generation of chocolate experts and tasters.

Advocates and fans of single-origin chocolate have said the region tastes different and encourage chocolate lovers to try simple tastings to detect these differences as well. Some companies even offer four-person tasting kits to detect the multi-layered tastes of chocolate from different regions. Words like “finish,” “snap,” and “sheen” are used to describe the differences between the chocolates, and tasters can discern berry, vanilla, or coffee “notes” in chocolate from a particular region. To many this sounds a lot like wine tasting terms, and it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that. As popularity in wine tasting has become a mass and profitable business, chocolatiers have realized the market potential of chocolate tasting and capitalized on it.

Some companies have used single-origin chocolate for years, and the chocolate-tasting trend has been popular in Europe. America is now catching up with numerous companies offering thin single-origin candy bars. The idea is often combined with the concept of organic growing conditions and good working conditions for the workers.

This is often where chocolate meets its downfall. Transfair USA, which certifies standards for global labor practices and wages, argues that only about 1 percent of chocolate in the United States is produced in a way that incorporates fair labor practices. In some areas, such as the Ivory Coast, chocolate production results in child labor practices which are very worrying. Organic chocolate may not be of the highest quality because chocolate plants are susceptible to numerous pests. Yet companies like Whole Foods now sell organically sourced single-origin chocolate and Transfair.

An advantage of this chocolate is that people can know exactly where what they eat is produced. This can lead to consumer scrutiny in industries known for poor labor practices. Single-origin chocolate is unlikely to put large-scale chocolate producers out of business, who don’t have to describe to consumers where they get their chocolate supplies.

In reality, companies like Hershey’s are now gaining, instead of losing business with single-origin chocolate companies. Hershey recently bought Scharffenberger, Joseph Schmidt and Dagoba Organic Chocolates. Hershey will continue to produce numerous other candy bars, such as the popular Hershey candy bar, but will also profit from the single origins trend across its other brands.

Some chocolatiers believe that recent trends towards single origin chocolate are just clever marketing but don’t necessarily represent better quality chocolate. Many prefer to select their chocolate based on taste rather than region. Ultimately, some chocolate experts argue, the trend is targeting high-end consumers with extra cash to spend, but good chocolate is more about personal satisfaction than the region where it’s made.

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