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chocolate, chocolate makers, Chocolatiers

Chocolatier vs Chocolate Maker

We talk a lot about chocolate makers and chocolatiers at The Chocolate Tour, but aren’t they the same thing? Well, no.

The craft chocolate industry is very young, so the need for distinction between the two is relatively new. Until recently if you were an artisan who worked with chocolate you’d almost certainly be a chocolatier. So what’s the difference between a chocolate maker and a chocolatier?

Chocolate maker

While big players (Callebaut, Valrhona, Whittaker’s) have been making chocolate for a long time, the assumption until recently was that you had to have industrial-scale machinery to make chocolate that was worth eating. So chocolate making didn’t happen at an artisan level until quite recently.

Luckily for us, over the last 15 years or so, the perception that you have to have a big company and big machines to make good chocolate has been repeatedly disproved. Craft chocolate makers often start out in a shed or garage, working with repurposed equipment and small batches of beans to create chocolate with distinctive characteristics.

Most craft chocolate makers use single-origin beans, and many strive to achieve an ethical supply chain – something which has historically been lacking in the trade of cacao. This can be via direct trade (where the chocolate maker buys from the farmer), via farmer co-operatives, or via other Fair Trade or equivalent channels. As well as helping ensure a fair outcome for the grower (obviously very important!), this focus on the origin illuminates the different characteristics of beans from different areas.

The chocolate making process also allows a lot of room for variability, and therefore control of the flavour of the chocolate itself. For example, the chocolate maker can control the roasting process, the length of conching, and of course the ingredients and proportions. All of this means that chocolate made from the same beans by two different makers can taste markedly different – which is a big part of the fun.

Chocolate makers you might see in our boxes include Hogarth (here’s a video clip that shows some of their setup), Ocho and Wellington Chocolate Factory.

Chocolatier

Chocolatiers work with couverture chocolate to make new and delicious treats – they don’t make the chocolate themselves (well, some do – but then they are both chocolatier and chocolate maker).

Chocolate is a tricky medium to work with, and so being a chocolatier is not a lesser art – just a different one. Chocolatiers can create all kinds of treats, from classic filled or dipped chocolates to beautiful enrobed bars and nuts, and every artisan has their own focus.

Melting chocolate is pretty easy, but tempering – the process that ensures the proper crystalline structure forms as chocolate cools – is not. And of course that’s before we even think about the invention and refinement of all the flavours, fillings and concepts that are required to create an excellent chocolate confection.

In New Zealand, most chocolatiers use couverture from international suppliers like Callebaut, Valrhona and Cacao Barry. Some craft chocolate makers can also provide chocolate for molding, but as yet I’m not aware of any local chocolatiers featuring New Zealand craft chocolate in their products (tell me if you hear of any!). Each particular couverture chocolate has slightly different characteristics and craft chocolate is likely to be trickier to work with, and will probably have more prominent flavours in the chocolate itself.

Chocolatiers that we work with include Honest Chocolat, Little Blues Chocolates, chocolatier mirams, and Baron Hasselhoff’s, among many others.

 

So that’s the difference between chocolate makers and chocolatiers. And here’s a little confession from me – I only recently learnt the importance of this distinction myself. I knew both terms but had missed some of the nuance – so now that I know the difference I thought I’d share with you.

Did you know the difference? Have you tried your hand at either process?

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chocolate

The Chocolate Dictionary

With this month’s focus on the cacao bean, there’s some chocolate jargon popping up around the place. I thought it might be good to have a bit of a glossary here; I’ll add words in from time to time as they come up, but we’ll start with the basics.

Bean-to-bar: Made in small batches, from raw ingredient to finished product by the same artisan. Often these producers source beans directly from farmers, enabling them to ensure an ethical supply chain (see Direct Trade).

Cacao bean: The all-important pod from which chocolate is made. The three most commonly referenced varieties are Criollo (rare but fine), Forastero (common and robust), and Trinitario (a hybrid of Criollo and Forastero).

Chocolate: The finished product, made from cocoa solids, (usually) sugar and (sometimes) extra cocoa butter, milk and other flavourings.

Chocolate maker: Someone who processes cacao into chocolate, e.g large chocolate makers include Valrhona and Callebaut, or closer to home, Whittaker’s; smaller local chocolate makers include Hogarth, Ocho and Wellington Chocolate Factory.

Chocolatier: Someone who uses chocolate to create filled, dipped or otherwise flavoured chocolates. A chocolatier does not make cacao into chocolate (although some chocolatiers are also chocolate makers).

Cocoa butter: The naturally occurring fats from the cacao bean, which give chocolate its magical meltiness, because it liquifies just below human body temperature. Extra cocoa butter is sometimes added to give a smoother finish to chocolate.

Cocoa mass/liquor: Pure liquid cacao – the main ingredient in chocolate. Includes both cocoa solids and cocoa butter in their natural proportions. This is what is referred to when percentages are used to describe chocolate.

Couverture: Fine chocolate, made to be remelted into new products. This is usually what is used for filled and dipped chocolates. Common options include Valrhona and Callebaut; some bean-to-bar producers also make couverture for other chocolatiers to work with.

Direct trade: Means the chocolate-maker sources directly from the farmer, rather than through intermediaries. This means more work for the chocolate-maker but usually results in higher prices for the farmer than Fair Trade agreements offer.

Single-origin: Made from beans from a single geographical location (sometimes a single farm). Most bean-to-bar products are single-origin, and many couverture chocolates are too.

Tempering: The process required to set couverture chocolate properly when making chocolates. This involves heating to a specific temperature to melt, cooling to a lower temperature to allow the correct crystallisation, and then raising the temperature sufficiently that the chocolate is workable but doesn’t lose the crystals that have formed. There are different methods of tempering. Properly tempered chocolate should be glossy, set firmly, and should snap when broken.

There are a few for starters – what chocojargon have I missed?

 

chocolatier mirams meet the chocolatier
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chocolate, Chocolatiers

Meet the chocolatier: Chocolatier Mirams

Chocolatier Mirams is the trading name of Chris Mirams, a Hawkes Bay-based chocolatier who produces exceptional chocolates using top-notch ingredients and stunning finishes. 

He left school at 16 to start as an apprentice at the luxurious Huka Lodge in Taupo. After four years he moved to Melbourne to work as a pastry chef at Gordon Ramsay’s maze restaurant, working alongside Josh Emmett, then in 2012 he moved back to the Hawkes Bay and is now busy working in local eateries there, as well as experimenting and creating with chocolate. Here he tells us a little about what makes him tick. 

What inspired you to delve into the world of chocolate?

I’ve always loved chocolate, but never worked closely with it. So I decided to learn all I could about it. What you can do with it amazes me everyday.

Who is your chocolate idol?

My chocolate hero would have to be Kirsten Tibballs. I was lucky to spend a week at her Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School in Melbourne.

What types of chocolate do you work with?

I use Cacao Barry and Valrhona chocolate for my products. Single origin where possible, if you can get your hands on some double fermented chocolate, I recommend trying it. My favourite chocolate is Valrhona Illanka 63% from Peru.

Are there any other ingredients you hold especially dear?

Pailleté Feuilletine – caramelised crepe flakes. Used in confectionery to add a crunchy texture.

What’s your best chocolate tasting tip?

My tasting tips would be to get ahold of Hogarth’s bean to bar chocolate in Nelson. It’s extremely good!

Editor note: Hogarth’s incredible bean-to-bar chocolate will feature in our May collection, so if you’re keen to heed Chris’s advice sign up for The Chocolate Tour before the 23rd of April. If you’re subscribed already you’ll get to try one of Chocolatier Mirams’ decadent chocolates in our April delivery. For orders email chocolatiermirams@hotmail.com, and for drool-worthy teasers be sure to follow @chocolatiermirams on Instagram.