Bean to Bar Berlin 🍫
Why craft chocolate hasn’t taken over the German capital…yet
Located in the heart of Europe lies the multicultural metropolis of Berlin. Only a few cities have experienced as many profound changes within such a short period of history as the German capital. Home to a population of nearly four million, the city today thrives on the diversity of its people, each as unique as the next yet unified by their pride in the term “Berliner”.
If you’ve ever walked the streets of Berlin on a hot summer’s day, you’ll know that time runs a little slower here. What you may find are friends catching up over an ice cream served by their local Italian gelateria whilst dangling their feet into the Spree river to cool off. A warm breeze that rustles the countless trees growing in the city will carry with it a whiff of exotic spices from the endless Turkish döner kebab shops. And in the distance, you might hear voices happily murmuring away from German beer gardens where families are enjoying a meal together. Look a little further, however, past the blissful aura of this seemingly comfortable lifestyle, and you’ll find a the entrepreneurial buzz that’s long taken hold of Berlin like a silent revolution.
Over the last few years, Berlin has established itself as a centre for craft movements in industries such as beer and coffee. Now, a new craft movement eagerly waits on the sidelines, ready to be unleashed within a city already addicted to the food: chocolate. A movement that prioritises quality ingredients, transparency and innovative recipes seems like an obvious winner, yet growth has been surprisingly slow. Moritz kleine Bornhorst, founder of Theyo Berlin, explained to me why this transformation is occurring so slowly: “We don’t really have a versatile and innovative food culture in Germany as in other countries,” he said. “For centuries, food had always been seen as something pragmatic, with the sole purpose of filling your stomach.” Moritz tells me that another reason why changing the perception of chocolate in Germany is so difficult is because of the disconnection from its origins from an early age. “Kids eating Milka chocolate every day think that chocolate comes from a purple cow. The product has been completely detached from its roots, the cocoa bean.”
Yet, if craft beer is making its mark in a country that’s still governed by beer laws dating back to 1516, surely chocolate can too. Eager to learn more from those at the forefront of Berlin’s imminent chocolate revolution, I went to speak to Belyzium, currently the only bean-to-bar maker in Berlin. They agreed with Moritz, explaining that “changing the status quo and perceptions is always a challenge.” However, Belyzium is dedicated to its cause of “chang[ing] the way the chocolate business works, by setting an example.” Belyzium is confident that craft chocolate will follow the same trend as beer has in Germany in recent years. “Many unique beer styles have effectively disappeared. And the situation has been similar across the food industry for decades. Now we see the tide reversing — people are becoming more and more aware of what they have been missing for years, and have come to support and appreciate craft products.”
Despite the movement’s slow start, the change is undeniable. Over the last four years we have seen more and more craft chocolate on the shelves of chocolate shops in Berlin, elsewhere in Germany and in other European countries,” says Belyzium. “We’re still years behind the US, but it is moving in the same direction.” Moritz too can see the change, telling me: “You can find traditional chocolate manufacturers picking up on the bean-to-bar movement as well as completely new players.” Yet he says the greatest challenge remains that “too few people know about these talented makers”.
Still, optimism lingers in the air for craft chocolate lovers in Berlin. Moritz tells me that he’s “confident that the number of craft chocolate makers will increase rapidly in the coming years as well as people’s awareness of just how awesome chocolate can taste when you produce it from bean to bar without faking the taste with any additives”. He adds: “Like in London and New York, there will also be specialist chocolate cafés and chocolate-centred food festivals.” Belyzium agrees, stating: “The craft chocolate industry in Germany will definitely expand.”
In a city where a fascination for unique and interesting foods is strong, the question isn’t if craft chocolate will take over Berlin, it’s a matter of when. Craft coffee took a few years to arrive and be fully embraced in the German capital, and it’s likely that craft chocolate will follow a similar path. For now, Berliners can obtain their chocolate bars from speciality shops around the city. One day, however, Moritz predicts: “You will find good craft chocolate products in major supermarkets and concept stores. But the trend will not only affect Berlin, but also Munich, Hamburg and Cologne, with many up-and-coming local manufacturers.”
This story is from Issue One of Cacao Magazine. Read more stories like this: www.readcacao.com