bean-to-bar chocolate in Montreal

In the previous post, I introduced you to a few fabulous chocolatiers who are offering French-style sophisticated chocolate in Montreal. In this post, I’d like to introduce you to a few bean-to-bar chocolate makers who are making chocolate bars directly from cocoa beans they have sourced themselves.

bean-bar-montreal

Van Hien Dao on the left, is the Chocolate Factory Director, and Gaii Kim on the right is the chocolate maker at the Usine Cacao 70 factory at 751 Richardson Street in Montreal.

bean-to-bar chocolate in montreal is on the rise

Cacao 70 is by far the largest of the three bean-to-bar producers I will feature in this post. Cacao 70 started out as a drinking chocolate shop in Montreal, and has now grown to nearly 20 locations across Canada, with plans to soon break into the US and Asian markets. Not bad for a company that was just launched in 2011 in Montreal by co-owners Bing Tang and Ying Zhi Wang, both originally from China.

bean-to-bar-montreal

There was a feeling of joy in the Cacao 70 chocolate factory. Who wouldn’t be happy working with chocolate all day? And this just may be the cleanest chocolate factory I have ever visited. Congrats to the Cacao 70 team for that, as chocolate is SO messy to work with!

Cacao 70 uses the franchise model to attract entrepreneurs into its family. The factory location is corporate owned, and is at present, the only Cacao 70 location doing bean-to-bar. The rest of the locations are franchises, and are working with couverture from Valrhona and Callebaut. “Ultimately, the goal is for us to be able to provide all chocolate for Cacao 70 franchisees. But right now, we can only meet our own supply needs,” says Van Hien Dao, who oversees all operations at the factory.

bean-to-bar-montreal

Cacao 70 is making their bean-to-bar chocolate with organic cocoa beans that they buy from the El Gallo farm in the Dominican Republic.

“One of our missions is to showcase the different origins of chocolate,” says Van. “Right now, we’re working with Hispaniola beans from the Dominican Republic. We really like the flavour notes we get from these beans, and purchase them from a cocoa cooperative that sells us fermented beans.” The beans are roasted and processed in the Montreal factory.

bean-to-bar montreal features the art of collaboration

Collaboration is king in the world of chocolate. Cacao 70 was fortunate to have help from Daniel of Cacao Prieto of Brooklyn, New York, in setting up their factory location and guidance in purchasing the right equipment to best suit their needs. The factory just opened in May, 2017, and received 17 tonnes of cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic to get them started. I really enjoyed the 70% dark chocolate bar infused with coffee. Cacao 70 also makes a 45% milk chocolate and a 34% white chocolate.

bean-to-bar-montreal

Adrien Arnoux of Rica Chocolat in Montreal shows us the cocoa bean sorter than he built.

On a much smaller scale, there is daily collaboration in the Mile End neighbourhood of Montreal that exists between two small bean-to-bar companies that share the same space and chocolate-making equipment. Rica Chocolat, a new bean-to-bar maker (founded in 2016) shares work space and equipment with Chocolats Monarque, a more established company run by Daniel Haran–who has been making chocolate since 2009. Both companies share the goal of being transparent in their operations in order to produce socially responsible chocolate.

“We’ve seen there is a way to adopt the business model we envision into the world of chocolate, and be successful for ourselves, and for the farmers we buy from,” says Adrien Arnoux of Rica Chocolat.

bean-to-bar-montreal

Adrien Arnoux of Rica Chocolat shows a block of chocolate that he is aging before it is remelted and made into individual chocolate bars.

Adrien and his two partners each take time in Daniel’s chocolate workshop to make Rica chocolate. The chocolate is aged in blocks for a couple of weeks before it is remelted and made into individual bars.

bean-to-bar-montreal

Rica Chocolat of Montreal uses cocoa beans grown in the Upala region of northern Costa Rica–the inspiration behind the name Rica Chocolat.

Rica Chocolat makes a number of different chocolate bars with cocoa from the Upala region of Costa Rica. The key is all in the roasting process. “It’s so easy to burn the smaller beans,” says Adrien, who made his own bean-sorting machine so that only beans of the same size are included in any given roasting. I love the smooth texture and intense cocoa flavours in the Rica bars–especially the 65% Crรจme bar that is roasted at two different temperatures and boasts creamy cocoa notes with a hint of lime (tilleul.) I also love the Sauvage (Wild!) bar #15 that boasts woody, hazelnut, and tobacco notes. I adore chocolate with those natural smokey notes. Keep your eye on the Rica Chocolat website to see where their chocolate is bering sold.

I was surprised when I entered Rica’s chocolate workshop and saw the Nahua cocoa beans, as I visited Juan Pablo Buchert of Nahua Chocolate when I was in San Jose, Costa Rica, and know that he is a big supporter of sustainable chocolate. The world of artisanal chocolate is indeed a small one!

Daniel’s Chocolats Monarque also has a strong sense of place as the inspiration behind his company that is named for the monarch butterfly. “I was inspired by the Zorzal Bird Refuge in the Dominican Republic and its importance to the eco-system and the monarchs,” says Daniel. Daniel makes a wonderful Oko Caribe bar of cacao grown in the northeastern region of the Dominican Republic that features the fruity acidic notes in chocolate that I so love.

bean-to-bar-montreal

The Oko Caribe bar made by Chocolats Monarque of Montreal is truly delicious, and one of the best dark chocolate bars I have ever tasted.

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Who wouldn’t like a tap that dishes out liquid chocolate? This one belongs to Daniel Haron of Chocolats Monarque, an excellent bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Montreal.

Daniel is very passionate about his connection to the world of chocolate. “I had a mid-life crisis and wanted to get out of the tech field,” says Daniel, who is originally from a small fishing village on the island of St. Pierre and Miquelon–a French territory off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. “I think I can make more people happy by making good chocolate.” And that he does.

If you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it (and tasting all this delicious chocolate) please share this post so that more people can learn about bean-to-bar chocolate in Montreal. ๐Ÿ™‚ And if you’re not already subscribed, please join the smart subscribers who have beat you to the punch! Thanks so much, and may your day be filled with smiles, happiness, and just the right amount of chocolate!

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Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

60 Responses

  1. What a wonderful and committed endeavor. I hope to visit when I’m in Montreal for the WITS conference next spring!

  2. Josie
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Doreen,
    It amazes me how many bean-to-bar companies are cropping up all over, changing the face of chocolate in the world. How lucky for you, your travels, and your taste buds!
    ~Josie

  3. Phoenicia
    Twitter:
    says:

    Good on Cacao 70 for progressing their business to this level in six years. It must have taken time and dedication for them to reach this level. I most certainly gravitated to the photograph of the team member holding a tray of chocolates and of Adrien holding what looks like a mammoth slab of chocolate with my name on it!

  4. TammyJo Eckhart
    Twitter:
    says:

    This a very cool connection between Rica and Nahua. Yeah, the grower-chocolatier world is small.

    • Hi TammyJo. Indeed, chocolate artisans who really take their craft seriously seek out the best beans from around the world. And that circle of growing regions is not that large, so you soon see the same names cropping up, as in the case of how many international chocolate makers are making bars from the beans grown by Oko Caribe in the DR.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…bean-to-bar chocolate in MontrealMy Profile

  5. I’ve enjoyed chocolaty treats from Cacao70. Quite delicious. A very enjoyable read and full of fresh insights about Cacao70.

  6. “Bean to bar” is a new term for me in regards to chocolate…like “farm to table” or “fin to fork” in the food world. Love it! I am amazed at how truly international chocolate production is and how many countries were mentioned just in this post. Thanks for expanding my horizons in the world of chocolate!

  7. Linda
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’d like to see a bean to bar shop in Boise. But even more, I’d love to see a chocolate drinking shop! I need to plug that idea around here, starting with this post. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. I’d especially love to try some of that coffee-infused chocolate at Cacao 70. I’ve pinned this post for my next trip to Montreal

  9. Donna Janke
    Twitter:
    says:

    All three sound like interesting companies. I love the collaboration. I think I’d enjoy the hint of lime in the chocolate.

    • Hi Donna: A hint of lemon or lime in dark chocolate can be great! I LOVE the lime with almond bar from ki’Xocolatl of Merida, MX., and also the lemon-lime infusion in the bar from Paul de Bondt of Italy. You’d be surprised at how dark chocolate showcases unexpected flavours!

  10. Doreen — I hadn’t heard the term “bean-to-bar” before. Always something new to learn. I wonder how Cacao 70 maintains its standards among its franchisees if each store sources its own chocolate.

    • Sorry if I wasn’t clear on that, Jeannette. Cacao 70 in Montreal is only making bean to bar chocolate for its factory location. All the other locations are making chocolate from couverture supplied from Valrhona in France, or Callebaut. They hope to change that as time goes by.

  11. I have never looked at chocolate the same since meeting you, Doreen! It is such a fascinating industry, art really. I’m happy to share your posts because I don’t think most people have a clue how complex this industry is. Thanks!

  12. They look delicious Doreen. It’s also interesting to know about many facets of a chocolate from your site. Honestly never thought of chocolates in this way. Just ate them all these years ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Wonderful, and informative article. We love visiting chocolatiers during our travels, and have had the occasion to see a couple bean-to-bar locations. They are always a special treat. thanks for sharing.

  14. We visited several chocolate companies when we were in Central America and fell in love with Costa Rican and Nicaraguan dark chocolate as well as the DR’s. Oh YUM! Loved your question of ‘Who wouldn’t be happy working with chocolate all day?’ Not a bad career at all when you consider all the happiness your labor can bring!

    • Hi Anita. I think it’s partly the intoxicating fumes/aroma of the chocolate that makes chocolate workers high with joy. Just as when you ingest chocolate or have it slathered onto your body in a spa treatment, inhaling it all day long would produce a euphoric effect. A pretty darn sweet way to make a living!

  15. Doreen, every time I read one of your posts I want to run out and buy chocolate. I have some callebaut chips in the cupboard, though, so that’ll have to do. I love how socially and ecologically conscious the chocolate industry is becoming. I’d love to see that happening in more branches of food production.

  16. Michele
    Twitter:
    says:

    How fascinating to see the whole process in action, we seem to focus so much on the end product we are oblivious to the process involved

  17. Jo Castro
    Twitter:
    says:

    Bean to bar – such an amazing and interesting process. When I first came across your blog I thought, ‘how can anyone find enough to write about chocolate for more than a few posts!’ Silly me! Now I know how much there is to find out and what a dedicated follower of chocolate you are.

  18. Debbie Aitkenhead says:

    Had the opportunity to try the Sauvage bar made by Rica Chocolat, when we stopped by to visit Doreen yesterday. Loved the taste of the chocolate as it was not too sweet, but rich and creamy smooth. It was a dark chocolate also which I believe has better health benefits. Thanks again Doreen!

  19. Yum, yum, yum. I want to try them all. I love dark chocolate and these chocolate makers sound so dedicated to their craft. You are so lucky to have found them.

    • I am indeed lucky, Judy. I am just about finished my bar of Oka Caribe from Chocolats Monarque, and I will be very sad as it is delightful chocolate. Thanks for stopping by. If you love dark chocolate, how about meeting me in San Mateo next April for the International Chocolate Fest?

  20. Helen
    Twitter:
    says:

    It was only recently that I learned to appreciate high-quality dark chocolate – it’s the only kind of chocolate I like to eat now! Would love to sample Cacao 70’s.

  21. So nice to see these young bean-to-bar entrepreneurs!

  22. It is amazing how the bean-to-bar movement has grown. It would be worth planning a trip to Montreal just to try all of these places! I love the idea of a drinking chocolate shop, and think I would be in big trouble if I lived near one.

  23. It’s always fun to read about the new businesses starting up or expanding to bring more specialty chocolate to the chocolate lovers in the world. Sounds like Montreal has a lot going on.

  24. Ayngelina Brogan
    Twitter:
    says:

    Very cool, I had no idea this existed in Montreal.

  25. Collaboration is the way to go for smaller operators (from chocolate to craft beer). I enjoyed reading this post and your photos really capture the essence of the chocolate makers. My friend took her girls to Cacao 70 on your recommendation over Thanksgiving and they loved it.

  26. Jackie Smith
    Twitter:
    says:

    We were just discussing how we take things for granted that we eat and drink. . .cases in point drinking wine and eating olive oil. Now that we’ve taken part in the process of bottling wine as volunteers at a winery and then growing and producing our own oil. We recognize the work that goes into them. In reading your blog, I find such a growing appreciation for the process and work it takes to produce a fine chocolate. Great post!

  27. Sebastian Bach says:

    Wonderful and informative article Doreen. I hadnโ€™t heard the term bean to bar before. It is a new term for me in regards to chocolate. Iโ€™d especially love to try chocolate at Cacao 70.

  28. Love the concept of “bean to bar”! And it’s great that chocolate can be produced in a socially responsible way.

  29. What a wonderful post. If there is a constant in your posts about making good chocolate, it seems to start out by getting good chocolate. I can see where, for expenses, a major manufacturer would try to buy the cheapest chocolate out there. I am glad there are chocolate artists who maintain quality, over quantity and profit margin.

  30. karanveer says:

    It is amazing how the bean-to-bar movement has grown. It would be worth planning a trip to Montreal just to try all of these places! I love the idea of a drinking chocolate shop, and think I would be in big trouble if I lived near one.

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