Two years ago, I was hired as Executive Director of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA), the only organization focused 100% on supporting fine chocolate professionals. The 300+ members include fine flavor cocoa growers, chocolate makers, chocolatiers, suppliers of ingredients, packaging and equipment, pastry chefs, educators, marketers, and specialty retailers. FCIA members are dedicated to improving quality cocoa and chocolate products, representing the top tier of the market. They tend to be innovative, creative, and passionate about their products.
So, what is fine chocolate? FCIA defines it in terms of flavor, texture and appearance, as well as how its limited ingredients, high cocoa and low sugar content, are sourced and processed. A more complete description and list of our corporate company members can be found on our the FCIA website. In simple terms, if the chocolate has superior flavor, is ethically sourced, and has cocoa listed as the primary ingredient, you are probably eating fine chocolate.
As part of our COVID-19 response, our association launched Make Mine Fine to showcase our members who offer online sales of fine chocolate and chocolate-making equipment to consumers. To date, nearly 100 companies are listed on the site and more are being added on a continual basis.
Where does fine cocoa grow? Cocoa quality depends on genetics, terroir, and post-harvest practices such as proper fermentation and drying. The majority of fine cocoa is farmed by small-scale producers in Latin America, 20 degrees north and south of the equator. It is important to note, however, that fine cocoa can also be found in Southeast Asia and parts of Africa. Cocoa farmers typically grow other tree crops and food crops on their landholdings. We have added a section to Make Mine Fine — Learn About Cocoa — that highlights the unique flavor qualities and history of cocoa in a variety of producing countries.
How is fine cocoa sourced? Fine chocolate companies are committed to sourcing the best quality cocoa and pay premiums to farmers. They also support sustainable farming practices and seek more direct relationships with their supply chain providers.
In future posts, we will introduce you to some of the farmer groups and companies who are helping to bring you some of the finest chocolate products in the world.