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I was a little perplexed a few months ago while doing a joint chocolate and wine pairing event. The neighbor next to me, a chocolate maker whom shall remain nameless, kept on informing the patrons that they were not re-melters. She made it a point to inform people that their chocolate company actually makes chocolate from the bean. Her insistence on giving out this piece of information and using such a degrading term as 're-melter' didn't sit well with me. By using such an adjective, it belittles the craft of truffle-making and bar blending.

I would love for this young company to go up to a guy like Recchuiti and say, 'Hey man, sit back, you're just a re-melter.'

I make it a point to inform my customers of who's chocolate I use. I do not pretend to be a chocolate maker. This company in question, however, fails to see how they may lose business by the use of such a derogatory word. Do they plan to only make a living my selling direct to the end user (chocolate consumer), becuase I would never endorse any chocolatier to do business with such a company.

What are your thoughts?

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I have to agree completely with this. "Re-melter" certainly doesnt suggest the skill or craft on the part of the chocolatier. Using that sort of terminology when describing your competition is derogatory. While it is important to point out what you do differently to make your product unique, I usually find that doing that by speaking negatively of your competition really makes you look bad.
Lastly, Im not convinced that anything coming out of a universal should be considered artisan or craft. If a company hires out the roasting (did I misunderstand this part?), and the nib grinding, then throws that into a universal??? If thats your model fine, but you shouldnt then run down the competition by calling them "re-melters".
Also, it doesn't hurt to consider how consumers will take your caricaturing of the competition. I have a choc fridge brimming with Patrick Roger, Amedei, Regis, my husband's Domori and endless amounts "experimental" (read never tried) bars. And I like it all: bars, bon bons, confections, whatever as long as its dark. As an educated (read obsessive) high volume consumer, if I heard or read that re-melter nonsense, not only would I not purchase, I might dissuade friends from doing so as not to reinforce such marketing behavior. As consumers, the pocketbook is one of the only weapons you have.

In non-profit work we have a saying: saving the world doesn't entitle you to be an jerk to everyone around you. Although my friends and I just call it the f**king tacky factor, because when you see it you say, "Well, that's just f**king tacky."
It was certainly never our intention at TCHO to cause anyone offense, especially since, with the imminent introduction of our TCHOPro line of technical chocolates, people who buy couverture are also our customers. Our point was simply to differentiate ourselves by pointing out that we are so utterly obsessed by chocolate that we made the fundamental (and perhaps fundamentally insane) decision to integrate backwards to source, and then control every step of the process to making finished chocolate -- bean to bar.

Obviously, that there are but a handful of companies in America that do what we do doesn't make us better or worse than most of the other good people who work with chocolate, just different. Apple makes computers; Intel makes their chips. Both companies understand the value they contribute to computing. If Intel was describing themselves, they would rightly say they don't use chips, they make chips. And if Apple was describing itself, it would rightly say it doesn't make chips, it uses them to make great computers. Is one "better" than the other?

On "arrogance" -- again, please don't confuse our pride in what we've accomplished with any sense of "superiority." We are a small, young company, and we have spent the past three years engaged in the very difficult endeavor of building a business with a supply chain that spans the developing world, a pier full mammoth machinery, and the daunting task of creating from scratch original formulations for extremely demanding consumers. We are a little start up competing in a very brutal arena with some of the biggest, most established transnationals in the world, and we realize every day that our success is anything but assured -- the last thing we feel is arrogant. On the contrary, I feel incredibly humble and insecure in the face of our manifold challenges.

To Hallot: we roast on location while we finish our own roasting facility here in SF. That means we buy the beans directly from producers, take possession of them, develop roasting profiles in our lab for that particular batch of beans, contract for transport to a roasting facility -- three of the four we use were designed and built by our co-founder Karl Bittong -- and then either Karl or Timothy or both are physically on location. for however long it takes, to direct the roast using the roasting profiles we created. We don't think of this as "buying" liquor, as if we were selecting some finished product off the shelf from a producer. Actually, we think of this as manufacturing liquor under very trying circumstances -- out there in the world, rather than in our nice, safe factory. Believe me, we wish our facility was finished here in San Francisco, if for no other reason than it would vastly simplify the logistical, travel, and manufacturing obstacles.

But this raises an interesting, larger question. Where should we draw the line over what constitutes bean-to-bar? Say thirty percent of dark chocolate is sugar, and sugar directly contributes not just to the sweetness but the flavor of the bar. Does anyone believe that a bean-to-bar manufacturer isn't because they buy refined sugar, instead of refining it themselves? Is Scharffen Berger not a bean-to-bar manufacturer because they contract out the manufacture of their milk chocolates? What if you contract molding and wrapping? Virtually nobody ferments, so is anyone really a "bean-to-bar" manufacture? What about growing -- if you were making wine, growing your own grapes would be another measure of the care and control you take in making your product. By that measure, there would be very few "bean-to-bar" manufacturers, indeed.
Dear Louis,

Thank you for taking the time to explain all of this in detail. I appreciate it. It certainly clarifies the situation.

Very best,

Alan
All sounded good until your last paragraph... straw man arguments make you less sympathetic.
Sorry. No amount of explanation is going to transform an ugly word to something else.
Robert --

Actually, I don't think that they are straw man arguments.

I've been giving this topic a whole lot of thought in the last couple of weeks as I've talked with other chocolate makers and chocolatiers and what we're beginning to finally discuss are some important differences in our attitudes about chocolate and other gourmet foods and beverages.

I think that a lot of the confusion stems from how new chocolate as a "serious" gourmet food is. We're still working on developing the vocabulary - and the target is moving while we're doing it. The world is a lot more complex than our current language to describe it. We can either ignore the changes and force the world to fit the existing pigeonholes or we can work on finding better ways to talk about what the changed reality is. 10 years ago bean-to-bar was adequate. Today it no longer is.

I certainly feel the need to revisit some of the "accepted" definitions and rewrite them because they are clearly not working any more.

:: Clay
But they are starw man arguments... in the last paragraph, everything before that is good.

Arguments involving sugar, packaging, and grapes are all straw men. Each is a bad, not quite on-point argument that is propped up and easily defeated in response to their own bean to bar-ness being called into question. This is the very definition of a straw man.

Had the terms "cane to bar," "manufactured & packaged by," or "tree to bar" been used, these would not have been straw men. But since the arguments were instead used to attack "bean to bar"... on the other hand, the question of fermentation is an excellent one, true from a technical perspective, if you buy fermented, roasted beans, you're still "bean to bar" technically.

I too agree that many of the industry terms need to be reviewed and formalized, an I applaud TCHO on several fronts, especially their efforts to democratize chocolate tasting, but efforts to clean up the lexicon must be free of fallacy.
I get your point, and with regards to your production - if Tcho was going to use that model permanently, then I would say that it would be stretching it to use "bean to bar" as a marketing tool. However, since it is only a stop gap measure, then it makes sense. In any case I wish you guys only the best.

Your post does, however, bring up another issue that begs definition. You call Tcho a small young company. Young certainly, but any of us who have had to bootstrap our chocolate business would probably take exception to selling yourself as small. How many of the chocolatemakers here could afford to have a "pier full mammoth machinery" or that great San Francisco location? The photos on your site of all the people brainstorming your products... Those are luxuries that most of us cant afford. You guys are well funded and will be able to buy into a market that the rest of us struggle to get into.

I recently mortgaged all of my business and personal assets so that I could afford to convert completely to bean to bar. If my business fails the result is personal bankruptcy. Most of the makers here have their lives invested in the business. Im sure that by Wired Magazine standards, you consider yourself small, but lets be real here.
Hi Everybody,

Brad Churchill here from Choklat (www.SoChoklat.com).

I've spent the last little while reading the various exchanges with regard to the topic of "re-melters", and would like to add my own 2 cents for what it's worth.

4 years ago I began researching how to make my own chocolate, because as a consumer I learned that all of the chocolatiers I purchased from locally here in Calgary, bought bulk chocolate, melted it down, wrapped their name around it and called it "their chocolate". Personally, I felt lied to, and vowed never to purchase another chocolatier's confections again.

At some point my recreation, transformed into business analysis, and in August of last year I opened "Choklat" - the first company in Western Canada that makes chocolate from bean to bar.

Here in Calgary, the prolific chocolatier/measuring stick is Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut - grandson of the founder of the Belgian Callebaut Chocolate factory. EVERY DAY for the first 6 months we were open I was asked what made our chocolate better than that which Bernard Callebaut makes. EVERY DAY for the first 6 months I had to explain that Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut DOES NOT make chocolate. Some people were offended that I would speak such blasphemy about a local icon - at least until I produced the letter his lawyer sent us, threatening court action against me because I was "making him look bad." Yet, as a business person, I was simply differentiating my product from his, and telling the truth!

I publicly stated that Mr. Callebaut bought his chocolate from one of the largest factories in the world. His lawyer wrote that he actually purchased his chocolate from THREE sources. It was all I needed!

For over 20 years, he has led almost all Calgarians to believe he made the chocolate he used in his confections.

I didn't back down. In fact after I sent him a PFO letter, I continued "educating" the public, and as a result have been receiving many accolades of my honesty and refreshing approach to the industry. People LIKE the truth, and the fact that I've had over 2.5 million hits to my website, and business is growing exponentially is testament to that statement.

As far as I'm concerned, if you are a chocolatier and use someone else's couverture to make your product, that's fine. Be proud of it, and let people know you're proud to use a specific maker's chocolate.

However, if you tell people you make chocolate, and there's no roasters, winnowers, or refiners which you have control over in your process, you better be prepared to be called a liar, and I'll be the first to stand up and point the finger.

As a true "maker" and chocolatier, I can understand another maker's frustration in trying to differentiate their product from the rest of the marketplace. It's tough. Public perception has been skewed for many years.

In the end though, what really matters is how the product tastes to your customer. If they like it better than the next chocolatier's they'll buy it regardless of whether or not you make it from the bean. By controlling 100% of the process, the maker has an edge in being able to make a better quality chocolate than that which every other chocolatier is only able to purchase.

That's my two bits for what it's worth.
I do not think that most chocolatiers ("re melters"??) just melt and re label their chocolates. I need not repeat what I have previously written. which is along the same line as what others have written on this thread. I also do not think that most of us lied. Some do happen to mention the chocolate they use, some do not, but not in order to trick their customers. Some use a few different kinds, some blend to get a certain profile, some don't.

Just like a chef doesn't tell his customers that he raised certain cattle and bred them and fed them this and that. He buys his meats or products and then creates recipes.

If it weren't for us bean to bar would not fair so well.

I can certainly appreciate the amount of learning, effort and thought that went into your baby, and nobody should think otherwise. But, those chocolatiers that you bought chocolate from did not just melt and wrap their name aroundtheir goods and so trick you. Each field deserves its due.

I think it is obvious that chocolatiers do more than just melt. I think most do not trick or lie.
I respectfully disagree about your point about it being obvious that most chocolatiers do more than just melt. Take for example the following:

On Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut's own website you will find the following quote: "...When Bernard is making chocolate, he's in the zone..."

How does it get any more blatant than that?

Given his family history and background in the confection of all people he should know better than that!

Or maybe you can visit www.KerstinsChocolates.com - a well known chocolatier in Edmonton Alberta, and read her first press release where it states that she imports some of the finest single estate varieties of beans from Venezuela, OR... you can even watch a video of how she "makes" chocolate right on her website!!! That's a doosey! Right on local television she proudly pronounces "This is how you make chocolate." while pouring callets into a double boiler!!!

Having done 4 years of in depth research into this industry, I can cite example after example of misuse of the phrase "making chocolate" which ALL contributes to the general public being misled.

Maybe because you and others on this forum have more knowledge of the industry you (and some of us on this forum) are aware that most chocolatiers don't make their own chocolate. However, if you begin asking around (and I've asked THOUSANDS of people), the general public isn't quite so savy.

Having said that, I want to clarify that in no way do I wish to discredit those chocolatiers who make beautiful creations with someone else's couverture while at the same time using phrases such as "the chocolate we use in our confections...." and so forth. There are some. Ganong here in Canada is one of them, and kudos to them for not being misleading.

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