If you’re considering switching from combini-bought chocolate to bean-to-bar slabs, it’s a no-brainer. The latter is healthier, has a richer flavor, and is expertly crafted. We’ve rounded up three excellent spots in Tokyo to try out bean-to-bar chocolate, and offered up three types of delicious chocolate teas for those who can’t get enough of the sweet stuff.
Green Bean to Bar
The story: Chocolate lovers may have already heard of Chloe Doutre-Roussel. Based in France, she’s a renowned expert on all things chocolate, is the author of “The Chocolate Connoisseur”, and has long been at the forefront of the bean-to-bar trend. This bean-to-bar speciality café was founded in collaboration with her, and now has two branches in Japan: the first in Nakameguro, Tokyo; the second in Fukuoka.
Why we love them: They purchase well-fermented and dried cacao beans from select growers around the world. Then they sort, roast, crack, winnow, grind, refine, conch, temper, and wrap all by hand – if you’re skeptical about their process, you can observe each step at the shop, or attend a workshop. Lastly, most of their bars only have two ingredients: cacao and organic sugar.
What to try: “Discover the world of bonbons chocolate” from the tasting menu.
The story: Known simply as Todd and Cam, the founders of Dandelion describe their journey from chocolate lovers to bean-to-bar factory and café owners like this: “Our friends watched as we experimented with growing cacao plants in our apartments, pan roasted beans in the oven, and ate our way through the chocolate shops of the world.” They first opened up in San Francisco, and expanded to Tokyo in February 2016.
Why we love them: They personally visit all the farms they collaborate with to see how they work. Once they receive the beans, they do as many as eight to 16 tastings before deciding on a profile for each new batch – but generally, their focus is on the pure flavor of the bean, which means they don’t add things like cocoa butter or lecithin. And of course, their packaging is oh-so-beautiful.
What to try: Their menu changes frequently, but you’re always likely to be able to order a cup of their delicious House Hot Chocolate.
Minimal Bean to Bar Chocolate
The story: After opening their first shop in Shibuya in 2014, Takatsugu Yamashita and Kosuke Tabuchi created a stir in the local bean-to-bar market. Their chocolates have become so popular that in June 2016 they opened a branch in Ginza called Bean to Bar Stand.
Why we love them: They have a knack for creating an amazing array of flavors – including “fruity”, “nutty,” and “savory” – without chemical additives. “The flavor just comes from the beans,” says Yamashita.
What to try: Can’t decide what to buy? Try their free samples of cacao beans, nibs, ground nibs, and chocolate.
With these three healthy drinks, even teatime can turn into chocolate time…
Tea Boutique Cacao Tea
Tea Boutique is one of the product lines of Japan Greentea, a company that’s been in the tea business since 1969. Their Cacao Tea is made with only cacao shells and chicory, and offers a rich, aromatic chocolate-y blend. Buy it from Amazon or a variety of stockists listed on jp-greentea.co.jp.
English Tea Shop Chocolate, Rooibos & Vanilla Tea
Originally from the UK, English Tea Shop has a branch in Japan selling a range of delicious, organic blends. Our favorite is the Chocolate, Rooibos & Vanilla, which includes cacao nibs and vanilla pods. Buy it from Amazon.jp or stockists listed on www.etsjapan.co.jp.
Teapigs Chocolate Flake Tea
This beautifully packaged teatime treat by UK brand Teapigs is made with black tea, cocoa beans, chocolate flakes, and natural flavor. Besides drinking it straight, they recommend trying it with milk or cream or as an iced tea. Buy it from Amazon.jp or www.teapigs.co.uk (international delivery available).