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The Differences: Tree to Bar, Bean to Bar and Farm to Bar

What is the difference between Tree to Bar, Bean to Bar and Farm to Bar Chocolate?

It can be hard to admit to ourselves that we actually don’t know a lot about chocolate. It is hard because we have been eating our whole lives. In fact, we know so little, you could say as a species, we are still figuring out exactly what it is about chocolate folks love so much. That, however is not what this article is about. If you want to read more about the pharmacological reason we may love chocolate, read this article. Take it slow. Chocolate melts quickly but this will be explained very slowly.If you want to read about every good thing in cacao for you, read this article.

Tree to Bar Chocolate Discovering tree to bar chocolate, firstly, means discovering the jungle -- the farms are all equatorial. Tree to bar chocolate is made by companies who have access but not ownership of the fruit in a chocolate orchard. It is common for farmers to sell their goods as it is a known function of the profession. So if your favorite chocolatiers are picking and fermenting their own cacao. You will see them call it “Tree to bar”. This type of chocolate not made by the farmer’s themselves or on the farms, will be made in a facility located somewhere else.

Pictures of Cacao fruiting in Hawai'i.
Historically cacao grows on tree trunks.

Don’t get confused! The makers just described above, do not buy already fermented beans. Nor do they buy already dried and aged or (off-gassed) beans. The will pay for the pods or the wet beans or maybe even work exchange or barter for access to bulk pods. Island Sharks wrote the book on this subject! Did you know, "The Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Tasting Guide", is the only book that covers this subject in depth, and as well as craft chocolate-tasting? Lets get back to the pods and wet beans and lets flip around what we said before we got distracted by an amazing publication.

Bean to Bar Chocolate Craft chocolate makers who do buy already fermented, dried and aged beans are whats known as, “Bean to bar” Chocolate makers.


This is the most common type of non industrial, and non reconstituted chocolate. It is also the most common type of ethical chocolate. You will learn even more from this short video.

As consumers get more discerning and more ethical and just more in number, bean to bar chocolate will be the first type of chocolate to be embraced, as tree to bar and farm to bar chocolate is way less common.

Farm to Bar Chocolate.

Farm to bar, makes the farmers into chefs and chocolatiers. It can be a stretch. Some companies however, do it all including bean to bar and tree to bar. Chocolate companies can offer different origins, and of course, different types of production. Island Sharks has farm to bar chocolate available through Instagram subscription. For their tree-to-bar and bean-to-bar chocolate check out the store! Everything is either tree or farm, to-bar. We don’t want reconstituted industrialized chocolate because it has been 100% relying on child slavery for over 200 years. Again, this is a subject for another article. It is linked here. Oh and also the new revolutionary types of chocolate in this article taste better too. They are made better. They are more holistic. Notably, they have been transported, diluted and shelved for an extremely short period of time comparatively.

These three types of products form the new industry called, “Craft Chocolate”. Its definitions and markets and products are new and require education, distinction and decades of more outreach before the industry grows beyond $100 Million Dollars annually. Try to look for and find all three types of chocolate before becoming loyal to one style or brand.


Explore your tastes. Check out our Chocolate Sommelier School for some guidance!

Hotel Chocolat in England grows cacao and makes it tree to bar.
Explore Bean-to-bar Chocolate

They can all taste different so what you like is important. Tell us in the comments below! When we talk about the taste difference between the 3, we are talking about microbes, wild yeasts and micrometers. The first 2 of the factors are neutralized by “Big Chocolate”, simply by burning the beans. It is a known practice and it is the only reason this author can find, why people think chocolate is bitter at all. Chocolate does not want to be mysterious so hopefully this article has shed some light on the differences between Farm to Bar, Tree to Bar and Bean to Bar chocolate.


Try our bean to bar chocolate made from Hawai'i Cacao grown just down the road from our kitchen.


If you paid attention, you may have extrapolated that reconstituted, industrialized chocolate is not made bean to bar, farm to bar or tree to bar. So, for something strange, new or maybe even comforting, try this up and coming chocolate making made in 3 new styles. The styles are slowly being formalized but will never grow without your curiosity. Are you #cacaocurious? Cacao is what all chocolate is made of and you can read all about it, the base ingredient in all chocolate, here. Island Sharks has made a vanilla bean-to-bar chocolate from Waipi'o Valley Vanilla. It's got no cocoa mass, it's white chocolate, but it does have whole vanilla beans, pod included. Try the Vegan White Chocolate w/ Vanilla Bean-to-Bar Chocolate


A yellow cacao pod on a Theobroma cacao tree.
A beautiful plant full of seeds for chocolate

Update Now let's delve into various types of chocolate! Some individuals refer to it as "artisan" chocolate or "artisanal-chocolate," while others use "small-batch" to describe the chocolate. Now, what do these terms actually mean? Keep reading...Continuing on, it's important to recognize that people frequently coin names for their chocolate, and cacao species excel in every specialized realm. So, if you come across these words, ideally they're being used by a craft chocolate maker, because if you opt for so-called artisanal chocolate that's actually industrial, you might find yourself tasting chocolate that's rooted in the labor of exploited children in West Africa. There's a 70% likelihood of this scenario. Therefore, my advice is to exercise caution with the terms "artisanal", or "artisan", because they're often misappropriated by industrial chocolate producers and have become virtually meaningless. "Small-batch" meaning each batch is distinct, could stem from different harvests or even diverse roasting sessions. Also, the production quantity is limited—usually under 500 bars per batch. In conclusion, small-batch chocolate is almost always child-slave free.

"Micro-batch", describes chocolate that's crafted in quantities of around 500 pounds at a time. It's easier to be slave-free this way.

Conversely, industrial chocolate (which can be farmed by child-slaves) is never:

"Nano-Batch", even smaller than micro-batch, it's non-industrial and often experimental. These batches could yield some of the most unique bars globally—typically around 50 chocolate bars.


"Seed-to-bar", should be self-explanatory. However, it usually doesn't specify batch size. Most professionals refrain from using this term, as it's analogous to "seedling-to-bar." This descriptor doesn't precisely convey the scale of the operation or the chocolate's uniqueness. It's crucial to differentiate between industrial and craft chocolate. For a more in-depth exploration of these distinctions, refer to this highly informative article here. To continue reading this article, remain here. If you're eager to explore chocolate, do share your preferences among these varied types. However, I recommend trying each one first here. Island Sharks meticulously hand-pours these bars, creating a farm-to-bar experience—equivalent to seed and seedling-to-bar. Most individuals may not know their preferred chocolate variety. Is that acceptable? Do you even concoct your own chocolate? Interested in learning how? I, as the author, typically refrain from detailing how to produce chocolate in these diverse ways because I'm engrossed in the process myself! Enjoy this article along with some Island Sharks chocolate so that you can genuinely fathom the distinctions and never forget.


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