When you think of the phrase "Tree to Bar" ...

Voting has Ended

If the poll questions do not appear, click on "Poll Open for Voting" to see them and vote.

Some people think that if a "bean-to-bar" chocolate maker wants to call themselves a "tree-to-bar" chocolate maker that they must own at least one cacao farm.

Other people think that if a "bean-to-bar" chocolate maker works directly (on the farm) with farmers, providing technical assistance in helping them improve their agrictultural and post-harvest practices, that they can call themselves "tree-to-bar" chocolate makers.

What do you think the definition of a "tree-to-bar" chocolate maker is? If you have any other thoughts on the topic, please add them - you don't need to vote to comment.

In order to call themselves a "tree-to-bar" chocolate maker, a "bean-to-bar" chocolate maker must own at least one cacao farm.
A "bean-to-bar" chocolate maker that works directly (on the farm) with their farmers providing technical assistance to improve agricultural and post-harvest processing capabilities can call themselves a "tree-to-bar" chocolate maker.
Neither of the above matches my idea of what it means to be a "tree-to-bar" chocolate maker. (Please let everyone know what you think in the comments after voting.)


Tao Watts
04/19/16 11:04:28AM @tao-watts:

I have to agree with Paul Johnson of Caribean's...Tree to Bar means to me that the person(s) making the chocolate have also cultivated, harvested, fermented & dried the cacao before processing it into chocolate.  Paul is one of the few people I know who actually does this in his Chocolate Forest in Puerto Viejo, CR.  

03/27/16 11:01:19PM @tonny:

"Tree to Bar" is still a "Bean to Bar" chocolate; however, it simply provide an additional piece of information to the customer that the chocolate is manufactured by the grower of the cacao trees (farmer). From an industry point of view it does not necessary reflect or provide any assurance of a better quality chocolate. It is really not an upgrade to the "Bean to Bar" standard.

I vote number 3 for the following reasons:

1) Number one is partially correct however, I do not think it is only about owning "at least one single farm" but it should be that every single bar should be produced end to end by the owner/grower/farmer.

2) Number 2, in the marketing message of most bean 2 bar makers, I see almost everyone claiming that they are providing technical assistance to the farmers about growing and fermentation techniques; it is really hard to measure the significance of their contribution to a multi-thousand year agricultural process.

Thomas Snuggs
03/24/16 12:52:50AM @thomas-snuggs:

I picked option two but it really doesn't mean much to me or most other people that eat chocolate. Well, maybe it matters to some as marketing can be very powerful. I make bean to bar and I label my chocolate as such.  Most people are surprised that I can even do this in my home. If I did not tell them, they would assume I make bars from pre-made chocolate. My 2 cents.

Alek Dabo
03/18/16 04:15:16PM @alek-dabo:

For me the difference between "Bean to bar" and "tree to bar" is the fermentation. Ownership of land is irrelevant, if someone is "on the ground" checks the maturation of the pods and controls the  fermentation and of course the rest of the chocolate process, s/he can be called "Tree to bar". Similar to winemakers who select the grapes, before buying them to make their wine.

Those who buy dried fermented beans to make their chocolate are "bean to bar", and those who buy cacao liquor and mix it with butter and whatever they like, are chocolate makers. 

Rosen Trevithick
03/17/16 07:54:05AM @rosen-trevithick:


I'm new to this forum and very excited about it.

If I bought 'tree to bar' chocolate, I would expect the chocolate maker to have gathered the beans him/herself, but not necessarily own or work at the farm, but I imagine my opinion is rather relaxed compared to some.


Ning-Geng Ong
03/12/16 10:52:11AM @ning-geng-ong:

When I read tree to bar, I would think that the minds behind the same company will have been involved starting from tending to the trees, genetic selection, grafting, deciding on planting distances, pruning, and deciding on many other things that happen on the farm level. Visiting the farm and harvesting the pods occasionally just does not parallel the same depth of involvement.

This can be done of course, technically without owning a farm. But who wants to put in the amount of work if they don't have a stake, and on the other hand, the farm owner has to come to trust his trees to someone who is interested to get their hands on beans.

The distinction is important not because it is easier or harder for some outfits, and there's plenty to be proud of being bean to bar. It is to acknowledge and give credit to the guys who actually can pull it off and exert their influence from tree to bar.

Alek Dabo
03/18/16 04:26:09PM @alek-dabo:

Hello Ning,

Thanks for your comment. You are right about the ownership "on principle". But in most countries where cacao is grown the legal system is such that actually owning - paying to buy the land - is in fact not a guarantee of ownership and control. For that reason many cacao producers only own a post-harvest center (sorting-fermentation-drying-packaging) with or without a small cacao plot and give away seeds and grafting material and assistance to small local farmers who will inevitably sell their harvest back to the only processing center nearby. 
In Madagascar, small growers argue that their ancestors were buried on the land to claim it. In Haiti, corrupt politician virtually grab land without any regard to ownership documents etc...
Because of that, many real "tree to bar" do not own their plantation, and not even the processing center.

Clay Gordon
03/20/16 02:21:17PM @clay:

Alek -

The issue of proving actual land ownership is huge in many countries. I was working on a project in Panama a couple of years ago and in the end it fell through because the current "owner" of the farms could not prove clear title to the land. The buyer decided that it was too risky to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements only to have someone "discover" that a great-great-great-grandfather actually owned the land and could therefore take possession of it, and not have to reimburse the buyer for either what they paid for the land or the value of the improvements they made.

This is a problem all over the world.

Alek Dabo
03/20/16 03:46:21PM @alek-dabo:

Clay -

I can't agree more. This is something all the "International Development Community" (USAID, DIFID, AFD, EU etc...) should work on, rather than, well the other goals they throw money at. I personally saw land stealing in Ecuador, Bolivia and Madagascar. 

I am currently working with a Haitian company which only had a drying and packaging center in the "Far West". Now that they want to make their own chocolate, they are adding fermentation capacity and in order to improve quality they give seeds and grafting material to whoever has cacao trees in the area. Despite being a 100% Haitian century old business, they would not buy land.
Even Mondelez is doing this in the DR in order to rejuvenate the trees and increase production - using the same variety - simply by having younger trees instead of the 40 to sometimes 60 Year old ones which produce 300Kg per hectare on the good years.

A major issue indeed.

Ning-Geng Ong
03/20/16 12:13:30AM @ning-geng-ong:

That's where I would make the distinction for "tree to bar" -- control over planting, and not just harvesting.
I mentioned before that this is a logical distinction for me and is agnostic about the ease or difficulty of pursuing such labels.

Also, I use the word "just" loosely in my first sentence not to diminish the act of harvesting, but to distinguish between the two.

"Pod to bar" would an apt label for me, for control of post harvest processes starting with harvest, pod cracking, fermentation and drying.

03/11/16 01:58:29PM @eg:

I agree with others above: we might expect an educated consumer to assume that "tree to bar" means that the maker has been closely involved from start to finish with growing, grafting, fertilizing, harvesting, fermenting, etc the trees and also managing the farm in general. Makers who visit farms and buy beans in person or help with a harvest/ferment cycle cannot and should not call themselves "tree to bar" makers. Aong with @Stephane-Bonnat, I think the tree-to-bar cycle is wildly mysterious to most consumers, even hard-core chocolate coinnosseurs and chocolatiers. The phrase sounds cool, but it doesn't mean much to most people, and it's really just leveraging the "eat local" movement in the consumer's consciousness to sound better than the adjacent chocolate bar. 

"Know your farmer" is my favorite catch-phrase from the local and conscientious eating culture, and I think it's a worthy ambition for eaters and makers alike. It's certainly more accurate to what I see most makers doing, even when they call themselves "tree to bar". I think there's great value to respecting what a farmer does, and to not trying to become the farmer too.

All of that said, if I were to collaborate closely with a farmer on growing/fermenting practices, especially through more than one growing cycle, I think I might feel justified in calling my work "tree to bar".


stephane BONNAT
03/11/16 03:13:16AM @stephane-bonnat:

Hi to all. 

If I have to be rude, let's rock.  No so long ago, a chocolatier was a person transforming cocoa into chocolate (and believe me, it's already a full time job) and eventually making chocolate bars. His clients/friends/partner who was using the chocolate to make recipes or chocolate bonbons but wasn't touching the beans, was called a confiseur.

Tree to bars just means nothing to me and is not bringing any specific information to the customers. It is so unusual and improbable that it can be registered (I checked). Some Japanese brands tried to use this explainantion/label last january at the Isetan's Salon du Chocolat and almost all customers were lost in understanding.

Every single cacao bean comes from a tree so, what are the bars made from cacaos I buy out of our devoted areas? Boat to bar, harbor to bar???  Who will check the truth of alegations? We already can see pictures of so-called chocolatiers proudly standing in plantations where they arrived in helis, buying a couple of bags and selling tons of chocolate.

Many of you are really deeply into chocolate world and your knoledge allows you to sort out what's right or wrong but the final customer is often lost when he must make a choice. We of course have to adapt to the desire of people wanting to reach us into the fantastic world of cacao and chocolate but I'm not really sure that we need to deeply classify every move we make. Thanks to the work (passionate, I must admit) of many of you, chocolate is now more and more deeply known. If we want it to stay true, it must be as understandable and simple as possible.  

To end it here, I also have a confuse feeling that I can't clearly explain (my English is not that good). The idea turns around the concept of: can you be cheating to people if you pretend to do something under a concept you invented? I know that Clay, Eri and a very few people visit and check the chocolatiers ateliers and many plantations before writting anything but what about the other???? 

03/09/16 07:41:09PM @sabrina512:

"Tree to Bar" reminds me of, "Farm to Table" - but a little different -  if I saw this on a bar wrapper I would think, the pod was picked, opened ... the chocolatier handled the whole process rather than starting with the ready bean. With Farm to Table, I think the cook sourced the imgredients localy. 

Very cool new ad phrase! Not many people can do this. You may be pioneering something here :-)

Clay Gordon
03/09/16 06:54:22PM @clay:


There are very few chocolate makers who grow their own cacao whose factories are located on the farm. This is where I think we're trying to stuff 100 kilos of industry into a 65 kilo sack - I think the problem is the sack ... the terms we're using.

For me it's a bit like "single-origin." The single-origin can be an entire country or it could be one estate - or it could be a region/province. I prefer to use the more generic term "origin" and then add a descriptor that identifies how "single" the origin is. It can get clunky but at least you can be precise and unambigous.

I don't have a good answer for you except to acknowledge that you are a "single-origin-est" example of what I would call a farm-to-bar chocolate maker - all activities take place on the farm from the tree to finished product(s). I prefer farm-to-bar over tree-to-bar, by the way.

And - as I have mentioned elsewhere, I don't believe a chocolate maker has to own the land or the trees to be entitled to call themselves farm-to-bar. It's like the origin discussion for me - how "single" is the origin?

Paul Johnson
03/09/16 04:57:19PM @paul-johnson:

I chose third option because tree to bar means the same person making the chocolate also harvested, fermented and dried the beans from his or her own cacao trees.  Not only do they have to own the trees but should also be working their own farms.  Also the chocolate should be made right in the farm or we need to create a new term for chocolate like mine that is made right on the same farm as the cacao is grown.

David Briceño
03/04/16 04:25:02PM @david-briceno:

I think there's a great difference between providing technical assistance and guidance to farmers and owning and managing a farm. 

I do own a cocoa farm and i'm a professional in agronomy, i also provide assistance to nearby farmers. I'm selecting and grafting "wild" and "accidental" cocoa plants for their individual flavor profiles and arranging this newly selected "clones" by their agronomical, floral, fermenting and roasting compatibility, thinking in producing my own chocolate bars in the future.

That could be tree to bar, because i'm working from everything that means managing a cocoa tree and every agronomical practice in my farm, to make an interesting chocolate bar.

I don´t say that is impossible for an outside chocolate maker to understand that level of complexity on every farm that person sources, but it is very unlikely for a average bean to bar chocolate maker to get the most of a farm that he rarely visits and obtain an "improvement" worthy enough to be called differently.

Riadh Falvo
03/04/16 04:00:30PM @riadh-falvo:

I chose the 2nd option. I think it would be difficult for most of us to weigh in and purchase a farm, perhaps cooperatively or collectively one day and that would be something to aim for (another topic perhaps), however I like the idea of the "tree-to-bar" maker being someone who is hands on and has followed and worked the entire process alongside the farmers.

Thanks for all your work and for starting many discussions!

Option 2: A "bean-to-bar" chocolate maker that works directly (on the farm) with their farmers providing technical assistance to improve agricultural and post-harvest processing capabilities can call themselves a "tree-to-bar" chocolate maker.

Clay Gordon
03/04/16 01:14:48PM @clay:

Eri -

What is "it" that would create confusion?

Eri Ikezi
03/04/16 01:04:00PM @eri-ikezi:

I frankly think it would create a confusion for the consumer at large but what do I know.

Carlos Eichenberger
03/04/16 12:19:11PM @carlos-eichenberger:

I believe that to call yourself "tree to bar" you must at least be the leaseholder of the farm, if not the outright owner.  In any case, the whole operation must be under one administrative and ownership umbrella.