Everywhere you look there is a large range of chocolate available as confectionary and for cooking (couverture). Which is good - which is bad? Not easy questions to answer in the chocolate industry, much of which is still wracked with dubious labour practices and where the vast majority of chocolate is produced by a small number of processing conglomerates from which the familiar brands buy their materials. What makes the best chocolate? The answer to this is quite straightforward and similar to most other foods: use the very best raw ingredients and don't add anything else that cheapens or disguises the content. Chocolate should only be cocao, cocao butter and raw cane sugar (and milk for milk chocolate of course). No need for emulsifiers, lecithin or vanilla, all of which are signs that the product is compromised in some way. At BakeryBits, we want to offer the best ingredients without compromise. Original Beans is a Swiss-based chocolate company that produces only organic chocolate bought directly from individual smallholder farmers, all based in biodiversity hotspots, paying well above the Fair Trade premium generating funds for training and planting seedlings to extend the local rainforest. The local farmers are trained in cocao plantsmanship, harvesting, fermenting and drying the beans. Together with the specific variety of the bean, the farmer and nature account for 75% of the quality of the finished chocolate. The remainder comes from the exact recipe and the way that it is finished in the factory, including the roasting and conching. Conching is a process of kneading, grinding and heating to develop the subtle flavours of each specific bean variety. Longer conching tends to yield more complex flavours and a smoother texture. lady with cocoa beansOriginal Beans has four varieties, taking its cocao from four countries, from regions where their rainforests are under environmental strain. Each bar (or bag) sold pays for the grower to plant a sapling to extend the local rainforest. Original Beans is naturally proud to have a very solid base of top chefs including more than a dozen Michelin-starred restaurants.

CRU VIRUNGA 70% is the first chocolate directly traded from DRC Congo, according to the UN one of the poorest and most vulnerable places on Earth where there is constant exploitation, conflict and insecurity. The stunningly beautiful Cru Virunga National Park in North Kivu is the second largest rainforest in Africa, a World Heritage site and home to the last mountain gorillas in the world.  For decades, Virunga Park has been trapped in a vicious cycle of migration and deforestation leading to rampant deforestation. Original Bean is making a significant difference through reforestation and protection. Over the past 5 years of the Virunga cacao project, more than 15,000 farmers have registered as cacao producers.  With seven individuals per household, Virunga cacao has an impact on more than 100,000 people. doubling incomes and slowing deforestation.

ESMERALDAS MILK WITH FLEUR DE SEL 40% comes from the Pacific Rainforests of Ecuador using the indigenous Arriba cacao rather than the hybrids many chocolate companies are planting for faster yields.  It has an exceptionally high cacao content for a milk chocolate of 40% which gives it an incredible moreish richness with a sophisticated salted caramel taste with hints of honey and summer fruits. No wonder food writer Rachel Koo judged it the best milk chocolate she’d tried in the Observer Food Monthly and said it was simply impossible to just eat one square.

Men carrying cocoa beansBENI WILD HARVEST 66% is a special chocolate coming from wild bean cacao trees on the world’s only “chocolate islands” of mesmerising beauty in the Beni Savannah in the Bolivian Amazon. The delicate wild beans that taste as near to the original cacao as one is ever likely to taste with tropical fruit and jasmine nuances are harvested by boat (some still carved out tree trunks with rudimentary oars, though most are now mechanised) on the Bolivian Amazon and can only be harvested when it floods - and only by indigenous tribes who keep the location of this very rare cocao bean a secret.

PIURA PORCELANA CRIOLLO 75% was a breakthrough discovery for Original Beans. One of their trusted agronomists was contacted by farmers from a remote village in the Piura River Valley in the Peruvian Andes who realised their unripe cacao pods were unusually pale. It was discovered to be a new source of Porcelana Criollo (so-called for the translucent smooth, whiteness of the cacao pods and the unripe cocoa beans within), the rarest of the rare and considered the finest among chocolate connoisseurs for its perfect balance of fruit and acidity with tantalising, complex, fresh yet delicate taste and long-lasting melt with notes of raspberry, apricot and yuzu. This is the first new source of cocao beans ever found outside Venezuela. Original Beans has brought this extremely rare bean from the verge of extinction and is now actively growing stocks.