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Craft confectioners unite to preserve chocolate traditions

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 08-Dec-2008

Five US-based chocolate producers have collaborated to found Craft Chocolate Makers of America (CCMA), a body to represent issues facing the craft end of the chocolate industry.

Although the founding members are competitors on the US market, they came together at the Slow Food Nation festival in San Francisco in September. There they found they were united in their commitment to good-quality, sustainably-sourced cocoa – something which they all seek to preserve.

The group comprises Amano Artisan Chocolate, De Vries Chocolate, Patric Chocolate, Taza Chocolate and Askinosie Chocolate, all of which are small-scale artisan manufacturers producing chocolate directly from the cocoa bean.

“While we may be competitors in one sense, we are also friends, and we have created the Craft Chocolate Makers of America as a way to coordinate with each other on issues such as cocoa supply, chocolate quality, and machinery and other technical solutions,” the group said.

“Most importantly, however, we have created the CCMA to promote and protect American craft chocolate making and craft chocolate for future generations of craft chocolate enthusiasts.”

Direct sourcing

All the guild founders travel to South America to source cocoa beans and have formed links with small-farm cooperatives. Shawn Askinosie, of Missouri-based Askinosie Chocolate said: “By working directly with the farmers I am able to more closely connect the farmers who make this possible with the people who love the chocolate, ultimately making a positive impact on everyone involved.”

The group says that it intends to organise events to raise awareness about the craft.

The CCMA has stipulated stringent criteria for prospective members: they must produce chocolate from bean to bar in one facility; use between two and 200 metric tonnes of cocoa beans per year; and be less than 25 per cent owned by non-craft chocolate producers.

All members must also use ‘traditional methods’ of chocolate production, which involves using fermented cacao, batch roasting, winnowing to remove as much cocoa shell as possible, tempering and depositing chocolate.

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