You may have heard about the research on chocolate and that it can be healthy. However, much of the chocolate Americans consume is mostly sugar, fats and fillers with very little actual cocoa components. Which means, that chocolate you are eating is probably not a positive contribution to your diet.
If you enjoy chocolate, there is good news! You can now find good chocolate that is actually made from the cocoa beans. Bean to Bar shops can now be found in almost every state, and some states have multiple Bean to Bar factory/shops. Over the past few years, we have enjoyed seeking out these shops as we travel and sampling each shops’ single origin chocolates.
Nutrition Facts: Chocolate made with 70-85% of cocoa beans, will typically only have 3 ingredients, cocoa (bean/nibs) sugar and cocoa butter and will be high in the following nutrients based on 100 g serving.
Fiber: 11 g (44%)
Protein: 7.9 g (16%)
Iron: 12 mg (67%)
Magnesium: 230 mg (58%)
Phosphorus: 311 mg (31%)
With its diverse nutrition profile, including phytochemicals, the consumption of natural chocolate can have positive health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol, preventing cognitive decline (3), reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems (2, 4) and in athletes it may also boost oxygen availability (1). Eating chocolate can also improve satiety and result in less of a desire for sweet foods (5).
Most commercial chocolates have gone through a Dutch/alkali process to reduce the bitter flavor cocoa beans can have, which greatly reduces the phytochemical content. Bean to bar chocolates do not use this processing – rather they develop just the right technique of roasting, winnowing and conching that allows the unique flavor of the cocoa bean to be tasted.
Tasting Bean to Bar chocolates is a fun experience! Cocoa beans are grown all around the world and each bean, based on where it grows, soil conditions, what grows around it, and the length of fermentation, will have its own unique flavors. Each flavor profile is complex. When you first place the chocolate in your mouth, you can immediately taste certain flavors, but as the chocolate melts in your mouth, those flavors will develop and change and you will finish on a different note than when you started.
Bean to Bar chocolate also makes an amazing hot chocolate. Most Bean to Bar shops will sell hot chocolate in their stores or you can make your own at home with one of the chocolate bars.
While you will pay much higher for a Bean to Bar chocolate than a commercial chocolate bar, the trade off is a rich complex tasting experience, a chocolate that actually provides great nutrition value and as a result you will eat much less at a time. Our bars can last us a couple weeks to a few months as we usually only enjoy a square or two a day.
I have found a relatively inexpensive option in local grocery stores. The brand is Theo and they have a great taste and a simple ingredient list.
If you enjoy chocolate, look for a bean to bar chocolate and find the flavor profile that appeals to you. A square of chocolate or cup of hot chocolate can be a healthy part of your balanced diet!
- Gonzalez-Garrido JA, Garcia-Sanchez JR, Garrido-Llanos S, Olivares-Corichi IM. (2017). An association of cocoa consumption with improved physical fitness and decreased muscle damage and oxidative stress in athletes. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. Apr 57(4):441-447.
2. James I Dower, Johanna M Geleijnse, Lieke Gijsbers, Peter L Zock, Daan Kromhout, Peter CH Hollman; Effects of the pure flavonoids epicatechin and quercetin on vascular function and cardiometabolic health: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 101, Issue 5, 1 May 2015, Pages 914–921.
3. Nehlig A. (2013). The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. British journal of clinical pharmacology, 75(3), 716-27.
4. Taubert D, Roesen R, Lehmann C, Jung N, Schömig E. Effects of Low Habitual Cocoa Intake on Blood Pressure and Bioactive Nitric Oxide: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA. 2007;298(1):49–60. doi:10.1001/jama.298.1.49
5. Sørensen, L. B., & Astrup, A. (2011). Eating dark and milk chocolate: a randomized crossover study of effects on appetite and energy intake. Nutrition & diabetes, 1(12), e21. doi:10.1038/nutd.2011.17
Bean to Bar Locations we have tried and love!
Solstice Chocolate: My favorite chocolate! I enjoy all the single origin bars but Ecuador and Vietnam are my favorites. It is also one of the few brands that does a Dark Milk. The dark milk is made from Ghana beans and is my favorite for making hot chocolate and pot de creme. There is now a second Dark Milk made with Boliva beans and is also very good! I hope she continues to make dark milks. (The Coconut and Brown Butter white chocolates are amazing and coconut is great to pair with the India bar). You can pick up bars at Tony Caputos or buy online: http://www.solsticechocolate.com
Ritual Chocolate: They have a shop downtown in Park City where you can buy their bars, watch them make chocolate and enjoy a hot chocolate. You can also find their chocolate and hot chocolate in local Whole Foods stores. Ecuador is my favorite! https://www.ritualchocolate.com
Aggie Chocolate – Utah State University Chocolate Factory: We finally were able to experience their chocolate. They have 2 different single origin bars which were a more acidic in flavor than I like, but good quality chocolate. We really enjoyed the triple chocolate brownie and we have been told the fresh baked chocolate chip cookies are amazing. http://aggiechocolate.com
Fort Collins, Colorado
Nuance Chocolate: Great shop in old town Fort Collins. They offer flight tastings, truffles, hot chocolate, drinking chocolate and a great variety of single origin bars. We love the French hot chocolate and always enjoy a selection of the fresh truffles. Our current favorites include Toffee, Hazelnut and the Raspberry Habanero. http://www.nuancechocolate.com
Creo Chocolate: An amazing family owned shop with great single origin bars, some fun speciality bars, hot chocolate, drinking chocolate and unique truffles and chocolates! The Washu bar has such a unique flavor profile and is amazing! The Raspberry dark, Spicy Dark and Nibs and Sea Salt were also our favorites! https://creochocolate.com
San Fransisco/ Kansas City
Christopher Elbow Chocolate: We stumbled on this shop on a visit to San Fransisco – and we have been to their shop in Kansas City. We went in for their hot chocolates. It was so hard to decide which one to try – they have so many amazing choices. We also had to try their beautiful gourmet chocolates. They also have single origin bars. But our favorites are their peanut butter bars and hazelnut bars – these are amazing in both milk and dark! https://www.elbowchocolates.com
Choklat: We visited their factory in Calgary. We loved their Hazelnut Hot chocolate with blue whip cream, the fresh made to order “huge” truffle balls and their single origin bars! Too bad they do not ship to the US. https://www.choklat.com/site/homepage.asp
Melt: We found this little shop in Nottinghill of London. Their bars are not a true bean to bar – but we did enjoy trying their gourmet chocolates/truffles and a cup of their hot chocolate.
Linden Chocolates: Started by students from Oxford, we found these chocolates in a small shop called Wicked Chocolates in the Covered Oxford Market. They had a number of different options, with samples of each. My favorites were the Dark Milk, and surprisingly, the Coconut, Cinnamon and Carmel White Chocolates.
Chocolates of Glenshiel: We stumbled on this small business Chocolatier as we were driving through the Highlands of Scotland near the island of Skye. Finlay Macdonald makes his chocolates in a little shop on his parent’s land. He was very friendly, let us sample the chocolates so we knew which ones we wanted to purchase. His focus is to use local Scottish ingredients to develop a gourmet chocolate. They are very well done. https://www.chocolatesofglenshiel.com
Highland Chocolatier Iain Burnett: One of our most enjoyable chocolate experiences was stopping at Iain Burnett’s shop in Scotland. We each enjoyed a different flight experience. The depth of flavor of each of the truffles we tried was amazing! So many favorites. If you are in the neighborhood – it is definitely worth a visit to the shop! But you can also order online. Our boys enjoyed sharing a hot chocolate, brownie and chocolate torte. https://www.highlandchocolatier.com
We look forward to finding more Bean to Bar locations and tasting experiences!