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Is artisan an overused word? Can a chain as large as Starbucks lay claim to the artisan label when it comes to a Starbucks-labeled chocolate?

What does "artisan" mean to you and what characteristics does a chocolate product have to have in order to be truly artisan?

Tags: artisan, chocolate, starbucks.

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To me, artisan invokes that rushed, sweaty, melting scene in the movie Chocolat where a meal is prepared from some semblance of scratch by hand. If sweat isn't an ingredient (albeit omitted from the label in deference to the FDA), it isn't artisan.
Years ago, I studied figurative sculpture at the Scottsdale Artists School with masters from around the world. Given this experience, I'd say that an artisan is someone who creatively conceives, designs and executes a product. In the chocolate world - that would be a confection of sorts. Starbucks will probably "sub out" the work to various artisans and then present it as their own - and since it's mass market - who knows how great the quality will be? Given the quality of the coffee - I don't have great hopes for the chocolate.
What a wonderful description!
I agree with all the above- small batches, hand made rather than machine mass produced, created by one or a few designers that are like artists with flavors, constantly tweaking and trying new combos or designs for choc bars, truffles etc. Mostly I think it means that the choc does not come off an assembly line where the same product is reproduced a million times. Artisans usually have "limited editions" and when they're gone, thats it!
Heres a link to a great article discussing the impact of growing artisan chocolatiers:

Chocolate Zoom is an online chocolate magazine with GREAT info, highly recommended to ck out their archive section of articles on almost anything you can think of related to choc!
I think the one thing that's really out if you call yourself an artisan is automation. I'd say that some level of tradition--recognized or deliberately disregarded or whatever--is also a factor. Whatever craft you do and whatever approach you take, it's bound to be informed by someone who came before you. And an artisanal product should reflect the character of the artisan. If you really wanted to, you could make a Twinkie by hand in your own kitchen, but it would still be a Twinkie. To me, the personal investment factor is a biggie.
It is interesting reading all your comments. I am an artisanal chocolatier and I have to ask myself, what exactly does that mean?

At what point in my own efforts to speed up production will I cross that line? Do I hire more people or buy more machines? It is hard. We chocolatiers desperately need to sell more truffles, in order to stay in business, but we love touching the chocolate, working with our hands, seeing the smiles on our employees faces as they experience the magic of it all.

I think it is possible that the intrinsic love for the chocolate, for the process, for the magic is what will always keep me in the artisanal chocolate business. I may add a few machines to cut high labor cost, but I will always use fresh cream and small batch processes.

To add to the discussion, or further it in some way. I think that when a chocolatier begins to use shelf like extenders, substituting vital ingredients, like cream with corn syrup - they are crossing that line - being more concerned about shelf life than the true nature of the product that they are selling. That is what says "mass market" to me.
This comes straight from Webster's (ARTFL Project):

Ar"ti*san (?; 277), n. [F. artisan, fr. L. artitus skilled in arts, fr. ars, artis, art: cf. It. artigiano. See Art, n.]

1. One who professes and practices some liberal art; an artist. [Obs.]

2. One trained to manual dexterity in some mechanic art or trade; and handicraftsman; a mechanic.

This is willingly submitted to by the artisan, who can . . . compensate his additional toil and fatigue. Hume.

Syn. -- Artificer; artist. -- Artisan, Artist, Artificer. An artist is one who is skilled in some one of the fine arts; an artisan is one who exercises any mechanical employment. A portrait painter is an artist; a sign painter is an artisan, although he may have the taste and skill of an artist. The occupation of the former requires a fine taste and delicate manipulation; that of the latter demands only an ordinary degree of contrivance and imitative power. An artificer is one who requires power of contrivance and adaptation in the exercise of his profession. The word suggest neither the idea of mechanical conformity to rule which attaches to the term artisan, nor the ideas of refinement and of peculiar skill which belong to the term artist.
Now, extrapolate this definition to Chocolate Artisan... You see?! :)
As I was driving yesterday I saw a ad selling McDonald's new "handcrafted" breakfast burritos and I laughed. I see large chains trying to make themselves seem less large and foreboding by evoking sentiments like homemade & artisan. But, as hard as they try, I believe that my customers can easily determine the difference between what I do in my shop with chocolate and what McDonalds does with breakfast burritos.

Besides, if the large chains devalue the terms that we use to describe the artistry of what we do, we're creative enough to describe our awesome-ness in new ways.
Well ....the old dreaded "Artisan " word....

I remember when dagoba got their big line a few years ago that would crank out 500,000 bars a day. I told them that day they were off the "Artisan Roll Call"; now they have been bought by Hersheys' "Artisan Chocolate Division".....go figure...

I feel that if you dont go home at night reeking of cocoa butter and have chocolate stained clothes and cuticles you probably are NOT a chocolate artisan....

I still use the term but I am loathe to do so has come to mean nothing in the marketplace.....

Having visited you at the end of a long day, I can attest to the chocolate stained clothing and cuticles. However, I am loathe to use the term "reek" (which implies malodorous) to anything remotely resembling fine chocolate.

I agree that the term Artisan is overused to the point of near meaninglessness. Your point about Artisan Confection Company as a part of Hershey and the new Starbucks chocolate line (made for [not by] Artisan Confection Company) is a line of "artisan inspired" products.

So what's a better term to use? There is the possibility to change the words people use. For example, we are moving away from the confusing "single-origin" in chocolate to just "origin" which is not only more succinct but a more accurate descriptor.

Even the Fine Chocolate Industry Association is having a problem with this terminology. From their home page, "Our association members are artisans and craftsman[sic]." Craftsman is very close to the dictionary definition of artisan quoted in an earlier reply.

So - do you have a better word or phrase? If you do I'd be happy to start championing it here.

(The FCIA gets it wrong lots of the time. Here is their definition of couverture chocolate (they call it "bulk" chocolate):
Bulk Chocolate used by chocolatiers to make confections. The only difference between eating chocolate and bulk chocolate is that bulk chocolate may contain small amounts of butter oil/milk fat. This assists in the tempering process when making the chocolate into confections. Since almost any confection that is going to be made will have some sort of milk product in it, chocolate containing small amounts of butter oil are still considered fine chocolate.

This is so wrong that it makes me cringe. The difference between a couverture chocolate and an eating chocolate is that couverture chocolates have a relatively higher percentage of cocoa butter to cocoa solids so that when it's melted it has a lower viscosity. The FDA Standards of Identity allow for butter oil and milk fat in chocolate liquor! Butter oil is used as a preservative in chocolates that are sold through mass market outlets because it stabilizes the cocoa butter crystal and reduces the likelihood of bloom - a good thing when it can take six months or more for a product to make it through the distribution system. Milk fats are not necessary in the manufacture of chocolate and the FCIA's reasoning - you're going to be adding dairy anyway, probably - is bad rationalization, in my opinion.
ok. so maybe reek is not the right term when dealing with cocoa butter and chocolate but you got the point. alas that is still not a requirement I suppose.

I do not have another term for what we do.

Chocolate mechanic?
Cacao Wower?
Bar Bitch?
Mould Jockey?
Enrobing Slave?

For now chocolate artisan is workin, but, as you see, it is being usurped by conglomerates and is misleading.. I thought the article in that issue of Cocoaroma where the "ask stan" section dealt with it was pretty good. I'll see if i can copy and paste it here....


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