Cocoa: Why chocolate from the supermarket has little to do with real chocolate – a visit to chocolatiers

They are currently standing in their small chocolate factory for 20 or 21 hours.

Cocoa: Why chocolate from the supermarket has little to do with real chocolate – a visit to chocolatiers

They are currently standing in their small chocolate factory for 20 or 21 hours. Six days a week. You can sleep later. Léonie Mohnert and Corentin Feraud have to work on the mixer and pouring funnel, have to crystallize and thicken, glaze, spray and paint. Easter is a chocolate wedding. At no other time of year are chocolate cravings greater - not even at Christmas.

Chocolate is the Germans' favorite sweet. On average, almost two bars a week, a total of almost ten kilos per year, are eaten per person - preferably whole milk chocolate. Mohnert and Feraud weren't keen on sweets made from cocoa beans for a long time. It was only when they came into contact with the real craft, the real, non-sweetened cocoa taste, that the two pastry chefs developed a passion for chocolate and trained as chocolatiers in France. There they met. That was almost 15 years ago. In 2020 they opened their shop in Hamburg.

Léonie Mohnert and Corentin Feraud make their chocolate and pralines in the French style. The chocolates are smaller compared to the Belgian style and the coating is thinner. And unlike in Switzerland, milk chocolate doesn't play the main role. Every praline, every flavor, she says, matches an emotion. Whether it's classic nougat or a lavender-lemon combination.

“Chocolate is a diva,” says the 32-year-old. If the temperature is not right, the chocolate will not crystallize as it should. This affects the color, taste and consistency. Once you're not careful and the chocolate crumbles instead of melting gently. “As a chocolatier you can’t adulterate,” she says. A single mistake could ruin the entire praline.

The German confectionery industry produced around 230 million chocolate Easter bunnies last year. There are also lambs, chicks, eggs and other Easter goods made from chocolate. For comparison: It took a month for the Hamburg chocolatiers to develop their chocolate bunny "Albert" - starting with working out the shape. Making a bunny filled with hazelnut praline eggs takes two days from start to finish.

The chocolatiers use a total of around five tons of cocoa every year. This is nothing compared to global production volumes. 4.9 million tons of cocoa were produced in the 2021/2022 cocoa season alone. The largest producing countries are Ivory Coast and Ghana. Their share of total production is almost 60 percent. Léonie and Corentin say they are in direct contact with most of the producers of the raw materials used and can trace the bean back to the farmer. They use wild beans from Bolivia, those from Madagascar taste more fruity, those from Peru floral.

The chocolatier's Easter bunny costs 44 euros, and some bunnies can be found in the supermarket for less than one euro - just because of the raw materials used and the import routes taken, this is incomprehensible for Léonie Mohnert. Chocolate is a mainstream product in Germany, but one that could become significantly more expensive in the future. Because crop failures in the main growing countries mean that cocoa is currently more expensive than it has been for decades. Within a year, the price of the beans doubled. The manufacturers also have to react to this - some adjust the price, others adjust the recipe, many adjust both.

“Most people’s taste experience is dominated by industrial chocolate,” she says. The problem: these products have less and less to do with real chocolate. “Because the raw material is becoming more and more expensive, some people are using less and less cocoa for their chocolate,” says Léonie Mohnert. Therefore, many products left only sweetness in the mouth and no other taste. The fact that people still want more and more of it is mainly due to the amount of sugar - "it's addictive." Read the star chocolate test with the chocolatiers and how you can distinguish good chocolate from bad chocolate here.

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