Calling out to all chocolate lovers: Why you should buy a lot of good chocolate (but not in the supermarket)

Who could have imagined this situation? Just a few weeks ago when everything seemed possible, evident and bright. The idea that the world would be paralysed by something so small as a virus, seemed outrageous. But the impact is there and it’s huge. Economically, the biggest hit is taken up by local shopkeepers, restaurants, coffee bars, specialty shops and the little fruit and veggie shop around the corner. Also, chocolate makers and chocolatiers in the specialty segment are struggling. Many of them have opened an online webshop to deliver chocolate. 

Newsflash, a big chunk of them will not survive this crisis.

The Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (FCCI) is a renowned organisation in the world of chocolate. Recently they conducted a research into the impact that the corona virus has on 150 small chocolate businesses worldwide. The results are very concerning:

  • All companies mentioned that the virus has a significant impact, with half the sales or more being lost.
  • 80 percent will either have to close their shop, or expects to face severe financial difficulties.
  • Most have shut down their production, sent staff home, closed their shop and canceled events, with no reimbursement of costs incurred or loss of earnings.
  • Those who can afford it, are investing now in setting up an online ordering system for the delivery of chocolate.

Tip: Watch the video here where Carla Martin, the Director of the FCCI, discusses the results of the their study in more detail.

Most of us buy chocolate in the supermarket. Nice, cheap, convenient and fast. And although it makes my cacao-heart sing when I see how fast the chocolate shelves are getting empty…we really should not feel sorry for the Nestlé’s, Tony’s or the Côte d´Ors (Mondelez) of this world. Having plenty of fat on their bones, they will survive this crisis just fine.

So I have a thought..why not try buying your chocolate online? And when you do, go for quality. Why? To cheer you up. For a warm blanket of comfort and sweet indulgence. As a present to yourself, or to send it to someone you care about.

Although it makes my cacao-heart sing when I see how fast the chocolate shelves are getting empty, we really should not feel sorry for the Nestlé’s, Tony’s or the Côte d´Ors of this world. They have plenty of fat on the bones and they will survive this crisis just fine.

What is quality chocolate?

Just like with wine, coffee and beer, as a consumer you have many choices. Take wine for example. You can go for a cheap, somehow do-able bottle of wine for a few bucks. Or, if you’re looking for something more, you’ll treat yourself to something special. You have this choice in chocolate too, although you can not find it in most supermarkets in the Netherlands.

There is a higher segment that many people are unfamiliar with – it’s called craft chocolate.

The difference between industrial chocolate and craft chocolate lies hidden in the taste, the time that it takes to make and the choice for quality ingredients. You can’t always see it, but you can certainly taste it. The maker buys the cacao beans directly, sometimes even from the farmers themselves and pays a fair price. It can take a week or so, to fine grind the cacao into a smooth chocolate. After this, complex flavours of (i.e.) wood, red fruits and spices can be tasted. Obviously there is a different price tag to this type of chocolate. A good craft chocolate can cost between €3.50 and € 12 for 80 grams. The price ceiling is much lower than in wine.

If you are not convinced yet, I dare you to take on a small experiment. Buy yourself a good craft chocolate. Here you can find a list of several online craft chocolate shops in the Netherlands. Some offer generous discounts, or even free delivery costs. If you don’t know what to choose, I am giving you 10 of personal recommendations below. Next step, buy one of your old favourites from the supermarket. Taste one after the other. Close your eyes for a second, go inwards .. and just let it melt. You’d be the judge. Idea: make it into an online tasting with your friends.

Dear chocolate lover; we do not know how long this will last and it creates uncertainty. But let this also be an opportunity to re-think our relationship with food. Especially something we love so much like chocolate. Where does it come from and who has made it? As a consumer you have a lot of influence by the choice you make. Especially now. Please, dear chocolate lovers, treat yourself to a good craft chocolate. I promise, a world of taste will open up to you. Plus, somewhere in the world you will help a craft chocolate maker, and the cacao farmers who supply them, to stay afloat.

Stay healthy and positive.

With love, Marika

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My craft chocolate recommendations

I have many chocolate favourites, but for the purpose of this article I choose to focus on a few of them that are available on the Dutch market. There are several other great webshops to choose from, find a list here. And if you’re looking into this from overseas, here is a list of craft chocolate shops in the UK, made by Chocolate Ectasy Tours.  Or, scroll the web looking for craft chocolate makers in your region to support them. Make Mine Fine is an initiative in the US to support chocolate makers from the US. Another great initiative from the US took place by Uncommon Cacao and the FCCI: an online chocolate festival with tastings, factory tours and talks by chocolate makers from many countries. The festival is called Stay Home With Chocolate. Find more information, including several of the videos here. 

Sweet Carambole – handcrafted bonbons from heaven

The flavours, spices and ingredients are carefully selected by this Russian chocolate maker from Amsterdam. Her bonbons are covered with the finest craft chocolate and the filling is a magnificent surprise. Because bonbons are fresh products, you can’t keep them as long as a regular chocolate bar. But don’t worry, as this will not happen anyway. Buy these bonbons to treat yourself, or as a gift to someone you really care for.

Order here

Original BeansEsmeralda’s Milk, 42% Ecuador

A classic favourite. It just always goes! This comforting, soft, yet complex milk chocolate has notes of honey and white flowers, very typical of an Ecuadorian cocoa from the region of Esmeraldas. Original Beans places great emphasis in protecting the nature, wildlife and the culture of the places they source cacao from. For every bar they sell, a tree is planned in the Amazon.

Order here

Bonus: in April you get a 20% discount on the entire range of Original Beans in this web shop.

Chocolates El ReyIcoa 34% white chocolate

Cacao experts all agree: Venezuela is a special country when it comes to the many flavours of cacao. This company is renowned for making chocolate, so both the beans and the chocolate comes from Venezuela. Be prepared to lose yourself for a second if you try this white chocolate with an aged whiskey or a dark rum. Order this as a bar, or in pastilles – handy for cooking (or snacking). Did anyone say ‘white chocolate mousse and dried passion fruit’ tonight?

Order here

Bonus: 30% discount on this bar and the 2kg bag with pastilles.

Krak Chocolate70%, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

This Dutch chocolate maker from Ermelo (the East) has mastered the skills of making chocolate from bean to the bar. This specific chocolate is a full-bodied, a strong chocolate with cacao flavours that give a punch and are followed by fine notes of molasses, leather and citrus. In addition, you will find flavours of bread, biscuit and cashew nuts. Such a complex chocolate. Also try his other bars, the Cuban one is special!

Order here

Chocolate makersDominican Republic 75% with cocoa nibs

In terms of value-for-money (and we know Dutch people love that) this is absolutely the best you can get in the country. The chocolate is made in a factory that has zero CO2 output, located in the port of Amsterdam. The cacao beans are selected carefully and arrive at times even by sailboat. This 75% from the Dominican Republic is my favourite, but if I’m in the mood for something stronger, I’ll choose the Congo bars (milk or dark).

Order here

Chocolate TreeMilk, Chilique, 70% Piura Peru

Friederike and Alastair Gower of Chocolate Tree. Credit: Emma Martin Photography

Few chocolate makers are so passionate about ethics and paying fair prices for cacao farmers as this Scottish chocolate-making couple of Chocolate Tree. They travel around the world in search of beans that fit their vision and high standards for quality. Piura, in the Northern part of Peru, is a special region. Desert-like and dry, not the most obvious cacao-producing area. You can buy this chocolate in a milk or pure variant. If you’re up for something more unique; check out the white chocolate with raspberry and bergamot, or a big favourite to many: the dark chocolate with nibs dipped in islay whiskey. Last but bot least: try their new Venezuelan dark chocolate bars, made with the ultra rare Porcelana cacao from Venezuela.

Order here

Bonus: The Highfive Company offers a 20% discount on the entire chocolate range (including discounted items) till the end of May.

MarouArabica coffee Lam Dong 64%, Vietnam

Coffee and cacao meet in the steaming jungle of Madagui Districy in Vietnam. This chocolate is just so full of spicy flavours, as all their bars are. I have never tasted chocolate that combines so well with whiskey, wine, rum, coffee or tea. Their range of chocolate is made from cacao from the different cacao growing regions in Vietnam. So, if you want to know the impact that terroir has on the flavour, buy their entire range. This chocolate never disappoints.

Order here

Friis HolmDark milk 65% Nicaragua

No frills or tricks for this Danish chocolate maker, it’s not needed – just the simplicity of using the very best cacao beans from Nicaragua, combined with his fine skills as a chocolate maker. A dark milk chocolate is a big trend in chocolate, and this one is a great example of how good it can be. It is soft yet sturdy. Complex, but accessible. Like the chocolate maker himself! You’d buy this chocolate if you are not looking for any risks or complicated flavour profiles, but just a very, very good chocolate.

Order here

MetropolitanSicilian orange or lime peel dipped in 70% chocolate

One of the most famous chocolate shops in Amsterdam is without doubt that of Kees Raat in the Red-Light district. He’s got the best chocolate ice and brownies, but that’s for after the corona crisis. It’s possible to buy his handmade chocolates online now. I’m a fan of his candied Sicilian orange peels overlaid with dark chocolate. Have it with a cup of tea, or a glass of white wine for a nice summer feeling.

Order here

ZotterGhana 72% organic

If this is the first time you’re trying craft chocolate, then this is a great one to buy. Accessible, affordable and simply delicious. The Austrian chocolate maker Zotter is a household name in the craft chocolate world. Their range consists of a few hundred bars. This Ghana bar tastes like licorice, praline, herbs and notes of cherries and lime. Try also the hand-scooped bars for a lot of chocolate comfort. Giving this chocolate as a present to someone is like saying: I care for you.

Order here

Bonus: The Highfive Company offers a 20% discount on the entire chocolate range (including discounted items) till the end of May.

Red Ape Dark chocolate – Congo Virunga 68%

There is a lot of passion behind this bar and a strong determination to work with the most ethical ingredients. This chocolate is made with cacao planted on the outskirts of the Virunga park in Congo. The sugar comes from the other side of the world, the Arenga forest in Indonesia. Both ingredients, cacao and sugar, meet in this well balanced chocolate bar. Good for you, good for the apes!

Order here

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