Chocolate may very well be the greatest invention anyone has ever come up with. It’s literally proven to reduce stress, make you more relaxed, and improve overall happiness. With all the glorious things you can make with it, what’s not to love? Even a simple chocolate bar can deliver a great sense of satisfaction and euphoria. While munching on one of those tasty chocolate bars, have you ever wondered who the magnificent genius is behind them? Well today I’m going to introduce you. Chocolate connoisseur Robert Steinberg and winemaker John Scharffenberger founded SCHARFFEN BERGER Chocolate Maker in 1997, America’s first contemporary artisan chocolate manufacturer.

Steinberg created the company out of his passion for fine food, with a goal of delivering high-quality chocolate from the best beans nature has to offer. With Scharffenberger, they perfected an immaculate blend of of cacao, cocoa butter, and sugar to produce a variety of artisan bean-to-bar chocolate bars. Each of these bars are made with cacao beans sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms in countries all over the world, lending a complex blend of flavors that range from fruity, to nutty, to spicy, to earthy, and more. Additionally, SCHARFFEN BERGER Chocolate Maker is the first chocolate manufacturer to clearly label their chocolate bars with the percentage of cacao inside of them.

Robert Steinberg unfortunately passed away in 2008, but I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to interview John Scharffenberger, who was just named one of the “Legends of Chocolate” at New York City’s Big Chocolate Show earlier this month, as well as try some of SCHARFFEN BERGER’s tasty chocolate bars myself (they are AMAZING btw). Read on to discover the story behind this authentic chocolate bar company and how they make their chocolate taste so, so delicious.

Coming from a winemaking background, what sparked your interest in creating artisan chocolate?

"I consider myself a food technologist. When I first started, the only thing I knew was wine making. However, this paired very well with chocolate making because it emphasized the importance of taste buds. Wine making and chocolate making are not so different. It’s basically a food technology that takes an agricultural product and makes it into something edible."

How does SCHARFFEN BERGER chocolate bars differ from other typical chocolate bars? What makes it better?

"We are famous for our dark chocolate. Although dark chocolate is made by a lot of chocolate makers, our recipe is simply cacao, cocoa butter and sugar. We really like the simple flavor profile of a good dark chocolate, which delivers a lot of interesting flavors from the cacao. This creates a dark chocolate that is low in sugar but high in complexity. Complexity brings satisfaction and enjoyment to the taste buds and that’s how we got our start!"

Lauren Kruchten

Can you describe the process of how you make your chocolate bars and what goes into each of them?

"The process in a nutshell is choosing the right beans. We get samples of beans from all over the world, which we taste to ensure we’re getting the best flavors. Once we have the bean, we portion it out, roast the bean so the flavors are brought out, then take the shells off by putting them in a winnower to bash the beans until the shell breaks off and only the nut seed is left. This is what we make the chocolate with. Most of our products use a blend of beans, not a single bean. So then all the necessary beans are mixed together and ground down in several stages to the perfect texture. To conclude, the chocolate is put in a tempering machine which makes the chocolate harden in a uniform way."

What makes your chocolate bars so delicious?

"What makes them delicious is the chocolate makers who choose the beans properly and take care of them from start to finish."

Lauren Kruchten

How has your company had a positive effect on cacao farmers and sustainability?

"We were probably the first chocolate makers in the United States to actually use individual beans from individual farms. We were able to pay much higher prices for our growers and farmers so they were able to sustain themselves. Now, over 160 chocolate companies follow our model! We opened up the channel of communication and allowed much more equal pay for farmers."

What are the best wine and chocolate pairings, in your opinion?

"Tawny Port would be my choice of wine for pairing."

How does it feel to be hailed a “Legend of Chocolate?”

"It was definitely nice to get the recognition, knowing we started this! It’s so interesting to talk to other chocolate makers today and see how many of them actually came to our factory years ago and took our tours. Imitation is a wonderful form of compliment and we see that in other chocolate makers to this day! We definitely feel like we set a high bar for quality and are very proud to have done this and be acknowledged for it."

To buy SCHARFFEN BERGER chocolate bars, baking chocolate, and/or tasting squares, visit their website. Do it. Trust me. This is some of the best chocolate you will ever taste!

I received SCHARFFEN BERGER products free of charge, however, all opinions are my own.