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?
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.
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.
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?