I'm on a journey to explore the world of American craft chocolate

The Life and Times of CHOCOLATE, Part 3

If you missed them, check out Part 1: How Chocolate Is Born and Part 2: How Cocoa Beans Become Chocolate.

Until a few years ago, I never thought about what was in a chocolate bar. Chocolate, right? Turns out there can be all sorts of ingredients, from cocoa beans to soy lecithin to nasty preservatives in the industrial stuff.

That’s why Ecole Chocolat and I put together a four-part series about where the heck chocolate comes from called "The Life and Times of Chocolate." So far we cartoonized how chocolate is born and how cocoa beans become chocolate, and this month we’re tackling what’s in a fine chocolate bar. We hope to tell the story as simply as possible, and while we may not capture all of the nuances of the bean-to-bar process, we hope people remember the image.

So without further ado, here it is! The primary ingredient in a fine flavor chocolate bar is cocoa beans. “Fine flavor” means high-quality cocoa with more nuanced flavors (usually from the Criollo and Trinitario families, if you want to get nerdy about it). Almost all craft chocolate fits into this category. Then to varying degrees there’s cocoa butter and sugar and, in some cases, vanilla, all skipping around like they’re in the most delicious musical ever.

As I hinted above, not all fine chocolate includes added cocoa butter and/or vanilla. In fact, the American craft chocolate revolution was founded on two-ingredient chocolate: chocolate made using only cocoa beans and sugar. Now many makers add cocoa butter and some even measure in some vanilla. There's also fine milk chocolate, fine white chocolate, and fine chocolate with inclusions like sea salt and almonds.

But rest assured that fine chocolate does not include anything beyond these ingredients in their base chocolate recipe: You won't find vegetable oil or additives like PGPR (yuck). That's part of what makes it stand out so much from the crowd as something delicious and worth eating.

 Stay tuned for Part 4 of this cartoon series next month!

(Thanks to Fernanda Frick for the awesome illustration.)