There’s a bean-to-bar chocolate revolution happening and it’s changing the world’s perception of what chocolate can be.
Also known as ‘craft chocolate’, the bean-to-bar chocolate movement is all about making chocolate from scratch, on a relatively small scale, using the highest quality ingredients possible. Most mainstream chocolate companies fall into two categories - huge industrial companies who mass-produce cheap chocolate, or small-scale chocolatiers who buy pre-made chocolate (known as couverture) from the huge industrial companies. This situation results in a major lack of chocolate diversity and quality - there may be a lot of different chocolate brands, but there aren’t nearly as many different types of actual chocolate. The vast majority of the world’s chocolate is made by just a handful of multinational corporations.
For a long time it was considered too difficult, time-consuming and expensive to make chocolate from scratch in small batches. However, whilst it’s less efficient than mass-production, it enables chocolate makers to produce a much higher quality chocolate, especially when working with special varieties of cacao. Craft chocolate makes cacao the star of the show - highlighting its flavour profile, rather than masking it with lots of sugar, milk and unnecessary additives. Chocolate can be as complex, nuanced and beautiful as fine wine or a good single malt whisky.
In the mid-nineties, Scharffen Berger Chocolate in California coined the term ‘bean-to-bar’, and they sparked a craft chocolate renaissance that has become a globally-recognised movement. It’s still early days, and craft chocolate accounts for just 5-10% of global chocolate production, but it’s the fastest growing sector in the industry. Craft chocolate is heading in the same direction as craft beer, but it’s probably twenty years behind that comparable culture.
The bean-to-bar movement was predominantly based in North America until around 2010, but at that point we started seeing more and more craft chocolate makers popping up in all corners of the globe. Australia was quite an early adopter of craft chocolate, with Michelle Morgan of Zokoko Chocolate in Sydney setting up in 2007, and a few others shortly after. However, it’s really in the last ten years that we’ve seen the movement become fully established. There are now almost forty craft chocolate makers based in Australia, roughly four times the amount there were ten years ago. The Australian bean-to-bar chocolate revolution is officially in full swing.
20 Australian Bean-to-bar Chocolate Makers You Should Try
There’s a lot of fantastic craft chocolate produced in Australia, and a strong chocolate identity starting to emerge. Australia is a relatively rare example of a country with a big chocolate industry that also grows cacao, and there’s also easy access to cacao from the Pacific Islands. This enables Australian chocolate makers to work with bean origins that are rarely seen in other parts of the world.
Here are some Australian bean-to-bar chocolate makers worth checking out…
Atypic Melbourne, VIC
Beautifully designed bars that focus on Pacific Islands cacao. Be sure to visit the factory at South Melbourne Market, where you’ll find a wide range of chocolate treats available.
Bahen & Co. Margaret River, WA
Jacqui and Josh Bahen came to chocolate with a wealth of experience in winemaking. This informs their approach to chocolate - focussing on the finest beans, traditional machinery and elevating cacao terroir.
Birdsnake Chocolate Melbourne, VIC
Birdsnake Chocolate in Melbourne’s inner north, makes delicious chocolate with transparently traded cacao. Look out for their fun collaborations, innovative treats and funky wrappers.
Cailo Chocolate Perth, WA
Small-batch chocolate made with beans from Solomon Islands and West Papua. Be sure to check out Cailo’s unique flavoured bars, including native Australian ingredients such as lemon myrtle and ooray plums.
Charley's Chocolate Mission Beach, QLD
One one Australia’s finest ‘tree-to-bar’ chocolate makers, meaning that they make chocolate with cacao from their own farm. Don’t miss an opportunity to taste the Mount Edna single origin bar - a true taste of Queensland.
Cuvée Chocolate Melbourne, VIC
Elegant stone-ground chocolate that tastes even better than it looks. From the exquisite packaging to the wonderfully nuanced flavours, everything about Cuvée Chocolate is steeped in finesse and quality.
Elements Chocolate Perth, WA
Sisters Penny McGrory and Hayley Clarke founded Elements Chocolate during lockdown in 2020. They make small batches of single origin chocolate with Australian bush food inclusions.
Gabriel Chocolate Yallingup, WA
Western Australia’s first bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Gabriel Myburgh creates a large variety of single origin and flavoured chocolate bars. If you’re in the Margaret River Region, make sure you visit the factory for a decadent hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookie or chocolate gelato.
Good Boy Chocolate Melbourne VIC
Creating modern craft chocolate, inspired by Italian heritage, Good Boy offers some of the most unique bars in Australia. The Native Paperbark Smoked Dark Chocolate is a must-try.
Hunted & Gathered Melbourne, VIC
Based in the hipster-industrial suburb of Cremorne, Hunted & Gathered makes bold chocolate using minimal ingredients. The impeccable design perfectly reflects this bold, minimal and highly-refined approach.
Jasper & Myrtle Canberra, ACT
Created by Li Peng Monroe and her partner Peter, Jasper & Myrtle’s chocolate is exclusively made with cacao from Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. This internationally award-winning chocolate is made ethically and sustainably, with total transparency and a healthy dose of love.
Just Sydney, NSW
The bean-to-bar arm of Jen Lo’s Meltdown Artisan. Jen is an exceptionally talented and creative chocolatier who started producing bean-to-bar chocolate in 2021. Be sure to try Jen’s fun inclusion bars, such as the Tanzania 70% Cherry & Croissant Dark.
Living Koko Melbourne, VIC
Highly ethical and sustainable chocolate (and cacao products) made with beans from Samoa and Papua New Guinea. Living Koko works directly with farming communities in the Pacific in order to boost local economies and help develop sustainable farming practices.
Metiisto Craft Chocolate Toowoomba, QLD
Australia’s most awarded chocolate and some of the best chocolate you will ever taste. With exceptionally smooth texture and beautiful flavour development, Metiisto sets the bar very high indeed.
Ratio Cocoa Roasters Melbourne, VIC
If you visit Melbourne, make sure you go to Ratio Cocoa Roasters in Brunswick. The factory layout and design is stunning and if you book in advance you can take a factory tour - or just pop in for a delicious single origin hot chocolate.
Silver Street Chocolate Sydney, NSW
A relative newcomer to Australia’s craft chocolate scene, Silver Street Chocolate currently offers four impeccably-designed single origin bars. The company’s focus is showcasing the work of cacao farmers, via the medium of chocolate.
Spencer Cocoa Mudgee, NSW
Chocolate maker Luke Spencer is an agronomist and ex-viticulturist who fell in love with chocolate. Luke sources cacao directly from small farming communities in Vanuatu - where he visits every year - and transforms it into deeply satisfying chocolate in his bespoke factory in Mudgee.
South Pacific Cacao Sydney, NSW
A collaboration between highly-experienced chocolate maker Jessica Pedemont and Brian Atkin, Chief Cacao Officer for Solomon Islands-based Makira Gold. Jessica and Brian collaborate to showcase the full potential of Solomons cacao and have a positive impact on rural farming communities.
Two Lost Pilots Perth, WA
Two Lost Pilots was founded in 2020 by pilots Brett and Brad, after their world was turned upside down by Covid. They offer a small but excellent range of silky-smooth and rich bars that offer big and bold flavours. Make sure you try the wine-infused Dark & Red bar.
Zokoko Sydney, NSW
One of Australia’s original bean-to-bar pioneers, Michelle Morgan has been making incredible chocolate since 2007. This is world-renowned chocolate with an incredible texture and stunning flavours. Not to be missed!
Why does it matter?
As mentioned previously, the vast majority of the world’s chocolate is produced by just a handful of huge industrial chocolate companies, and these companies make chocolate as quickly and cheaply as possible. Just like cheap coffee, the cacao beans are very heavily and quickly processed, then mixed with lots of sugar and other additives, so that very little of the natural flavour shines. This results in very little variety and quality in mainstream supermarket chocolate.
Bean-to-bar craft chocolate is bringing back diversity in chocolate and introducing people to a whole new world of flavours. Most people only think of chocolate as one specific flavour, but it can taste like hundreds of things, just like all the different flavour notes in different types of wine. Wouldn’t it be boring if all wine just tasted like ‘wine flavour’? Well that’s been the case in chocolate for many years, until the bean-to-bar renaissance!
This is just one of many reasons why it’s important, fun and exciting to support craft chocolate makers. If you’re new to the movement, or if you haven’t yet discovered some of Australia’s best chocolate makers, go forth and explore this new world of chocolate delights.