All You Need to Know: Bean to Bar Chocolate
Chocolate is good for the soul. As in it actually is, we’re not just making this up as a marketing ploy. Cacao contains PEA (phenethylamine), which triggers the release of endorphins and pleasurable opium-like neurochemicals, making you as happy as you are when you fall in love. And given how stressful the Christmas period can be, we feel chocolate has never been as important before.
Which is why this seems like a fitting time to introduce you to the lovely people behind Lucocoa Chocolate. With what seems like a new ‘healthy/better for you chocolate’ hitting the shelves every day, it gets harder to distinguish the good from the bad, and the ‘actual healthy’ from the ‘it says it’s healthy’ - not to mention then having to choose a flavour. So we met with Ama, the founder of Lucocoa, to discuss the logistics of all things ‘chocolate’, and how to navigate the shelves.
WHAT’S BEAN TO BAR, AND IS IT BETTER THAN ‘REGULAR’ CHOCOLATE?
To put it simply, there are two ways to make a chocolate bar: most commonly, using a pre-made ‘base’ from companies such as Varlhona, or, much less commonly, creating your own chocolate from cocoa beans, using traditional methods and a process that takes up to a week. Lucocoa were the first London-based company to create bean to bar chocolate (They have a mini chocolate factory in their flat and it’s seriously cool). They import the cocoa beans, roast them, grind them, winnow the beans (remove the skin), and then refine and conche (a process that evenly distributes ingredients) all under one roof in North London. It’s a labour of love but means the chocolate is made with the highest quality ingredients and minimal processing, creating a richer flavour and keeping more control over the quality.
SO WHAT ABOUT THE ACTUAL BEANS?
Lucocoa work closely with their growers, and distributors, sourcing their beans from various locations including the Dominican Republic, Belize, Guatemala and Madagascar. Basically, different beans have different notes depending on what they’re grown around - Cuban beans will have notes of tobacco for example, whereas beans from the Dominican Republic have sweeter notes of red fruit. A good chocolate company knows this, and tends to have a selection of high quality bars based on different beans - or infuse each with accentuating flavours. Forastero beans are the most common, in over 95% of chocolate, so try to look for chocolate that uses others - Lucocoa use the top two tiers of cacao Criollo and Trinitario which only make up 15% of the cacao population and have the best flavour profile.
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH SUGARS?
For taste, and a silky texture, chocolate is traditionally made with cane sugar but natural sugars can be used if you know how to. A lot of ‘healthy’ or dark chocolates still contain cane sugar, and it’s often listed as the first ingredient (meaning sugar is the highest % ingredient), so always check the label. Like in Lucocoa, you should look for a sugar such as coconut sugar, and it should be at least the 2nd ingredient on the list.
CAN CHOCOLATE BE ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS?
Organic ingredients are important. Unfortunately there’s not much that can be done about air miles, but it’s always important to read about how a company treats their farmers, or where they source their beans from. Lucocoa pay over the ICE (intercontinental exchange) + fair-trade for their beans, to ensure the wellbeing of the farmers and their families, but many companies forgo this in a bid to keep the price down. Personally, we’d rather pay a little extra and now we’re helping others improve their quality of life.
Small-batch, craft chocolate has the most love, care and attention put into it. Chocolates makers have brought back what was a dying trade, and it’s something that should be celebrated. While chocolatiers create amazing flavours and designs, for pure, high quality chocolate: bean to bar is the winner.
Available across London, including Whole Foods, Harvest, Raw Press + Eat 17.
All their bars are gluten, wheat + refined sugar free. All but their 'natural blonde' are dairy free - their natural blonde contains just a little milk powder.
This is in no way an ad, we just love Lucocoa, their chocolate, their founders and the reason behind everything that they do - and wanted to share with you all.