Metro Morning

Soma chocolatemaker unwraps mystery behind chocolate industry

There isn't much mystery when it comes to consuming chocolate — see it then eat it. But when it comes to making it, things tend to get a lot more mysterious.

Authentic producers roast their own beans, co-owner says

Cocoa beans are used to make chocolate and they come from places such as Africa, South America and the Caribbean. (CBC)

There isn't much mystery when it comes to consuming chocolate — see it then eat it. But when it comes to making it, things tend to get a lot more mysterious. 

In one recent scandal, the Brooklyn-based Mast Brothers were accused of dishonest practices and duping their customers into buying expensive chocolate bars. A blogger is alleging that in 2007, Mast melted down mass-produced chocolate made by Valrhona and pressed new bars with their own label on it, claiming the chocolate was handmade. 

These are unproven allegations but they highlight the shield of secrecy that surrounds the chocolate-making industry.  

David Castellan is the co-owner of Soma Chocolatemaker in Toronto. He spoke to CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Wednesday about how difficult it is to tell what's in the chocolate people consume. 

When Soma started in 2003, only 11 companies in North America were buying and roasting their own cocoa beans. (CBC)
Castellan said if the company was melting down mass-produced chocolate and passing it off as handmade, it's probably not doing it anymore. But the alleged incident does speak to how hard it is for average consumers to determine what's in the chocolate they eat. 

Cocoa beans are used to make chocolate and they come from places as far away as Africa, South America and the Caribbean. Many companies have factories to roast their own beans, which is something Castellan said you can see on Soma's website to ensure the chocolate is produced authentically.

Seeing is believing

There's also a list of farms online that shows where their beans originated. And farmers play a critical role in the chocolate-making process. Castellan said they really depend on the farmers to be honest about their beans. 

When Soma started in 2003, only 11 companies in North America were buying and roasting their own beans. There are more in the business now and tricks of the trade are usually shared among companies, Castellan said. 

But Mast tended to keep their work under a veil of secrecy, according to Castellan, who said this makes for a very mysterious product. 

So is there a way for you to tell if the chocolate you're buying for the holidays is not what it claims to be? In short, Castellan said no — unless you're a professional taster. 

If you're really curious about where your chocolate comes from, go to Soma's website and look for a video of the beans being roasted. Castellan said that's how you know you've found the real deal. 

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