Chocolate Purveyors is a blog series where we connect and discuss everything chocolate with both makers and enthusiasts. This discussion is with Philipp Kauffmann, founder of Original Beans Chocolate.

Since 2008, Original Beans has ventured into remote rainforests to source the world’s rarest cacao beans and transform the cultures of chocolate, food, and luxury. Original Beans founder, Philipp Kauffmann, represents the 7th generation in a family of recognized nature explorers and conservationists who coined the term “sustainability”. Philipp gave up his job at the United Nations in New York to grow Original Beans as a leading brand for a world in which we regenerate what we consume. For each bar purchased, Original Beans plants a tree with their initiative, One Bar One Tree.

Philipp Kauffmann

Photo Credit Original Beans

Do you remember your first experience with real chocolate? What was it?

My first big candy chocolate experience was handed to me by my Viennese grandfather: Milka chocolate rounds in silver aluminum wrapping, stocked inside a carton tube. I remember every little detail of those privileged moments which, to this day, encapsulate a deep, intimate memory of my grandfather. I think such fond memories of childhood are one reason why so many of us hold on to big candy against all better knowledge. In comparison, my first craft chocolate experience, a classic Cluizel bar, pales in emotional depth. It did hit me though, in a very different spot: my here-and-now sense of aliveness. As we put it at Original Beans: let’s live life full of beans.

What is the inspiration for the name Original Beans?

Original Beans is about tasting and preserving the earth’s rarest cacao beans and their origins. I had witnessed and worked with coffee growers, the craft coffee people, and the SCAA during my years in New York after 2003 and knew something was set to happen in chocolate. So we went ahead and defined a mission, brand, and business model to bring chocolate to similar depth and height as craft coffee.  I wanted to create something ‘original’ in the field of chocolate making that influenced our ethos, our farming, manufacturing, production, and marketing.

Can you describe the One Bar: One Tree initiative?

In 2008, when we developed the plans, then beans and supply chains, then products for Original Beans, one thing was as obvious as it is today: to move from the viciousness of big candy to the virtuousness of craft chocolate requires internalizing all the costs of environmental destruction, farmer exploitation, and consumer obesity, which big candy never pays. The main challenge for craft then is how to justify higher prices. We found that growing trees as a required, monitored, and traceable element of our way to go about chocolate is a win-win: it makes perfect sense to growers and customers alike.

Original Beans

Photo Credit Original Beans

What sparked your interest to create a sustainable chocolate company?

My DNA. No kidding. In my family, I follow seven generations of conservationists leading the agenda of sustainable forestry, each at their time. The first of them, Georg Ludwig Hartig, was Chief Inspector of Forests for the Prussian king and one of the earliest modern authors defining the term sustainability. He wrote in essence that we should take care of nature in such a way that future generations can enjoy her as we do today. That was in 1795!!

At Original Beans, we like the term regeneration to define our work and mission: to regenerate what we consume. Imagine: each Original Beans chocolates heals the climate, restores soils, empowers farming communities, leaves no trash, and makes people healthy with delicious dark chocolate. You can buy this today!

Do you have a favourite terroir to work with?

No. We have so far committed ourselves to eight origins, eight of the earth’s rarest places, cacaos, smallholder communities, traditions, animals, rainforests. We are committed, as are our growers and everyone in our supply family, to making the very best we can from all and for all. Any of the rainforest chocolates we have brought to the market took at least two years to develop, and the work is never ever finished. We don’t take shortcuts. For instance, we uphold a fully traceable one-to-one integrity for our products. We don’t blend, we don’t cheat. So what happens, if the harvest is low, different, sloppy, in crisis? Well, in essence, our Bean Team has to be in with the growers to prevent that from happening.

Original Beans
Photo Credit Original Beans

What chocolate are you eating from other makers these days?

Since we share our Sourced As Original Beans cacaos with colleague craft makers, we get to taste more and more chocolates from beans we know intimately. I find that super exciting and very inspiring: what Standout Chocolates of Sweden have made from our Chuncho beans, or Hasnaa in their Dark Milk from our Arhuaco cacao, or Casa de Cacao in Girona from the Piura is amazing. It really shows how far craft chocolate is coming.

What challenges do you face when sourcing cacao?

We face so many challenges!  I compare it to a time travel back to times of feudal agriculture: small farmers marginalized and exploited by overlords of globalization, forced to encroach on their own communities and nature, with broken governments, broken infrastructures, broken trust. Direct trade to us means eliminating the opportunism on all sides that is the key hallmark and advantage of the commodity markets. A beautiful thing happens when trust returns, the most efficient market force of all. And with it a value chain that deserves its credentials.

Who is the Bean Team and what is their role at Original Beans?

Should we call them the white cacao knights in my imagery of the feudal cocoa industry? Our Bean Team consists of three international Bean leaders and an upcoming equippe of local cacao sourcerers who make sure we help growers and nature to do what only they can do: produce great cacao. The Bean Team is also responsible for the One Bar: One Tree program and all our local community and conservation projects, from funding Arhuaco schools to running an anti-Ebola campaign in Virunga.   

Original Beans Chocolate
Photo Credit Original Beans

How can we all help promote craft chocolate?

For those of us making chocolate: make great chocolate and don’t settle for less. Only a great product is worth the higher price.

For those of us consuming: kick your sugar habit, train your bean buds.

What is the inspiration behind the packaging designs?

Our packaging designs represent the heroes, the spokes being, of our origins, and their preservation which we are deeply committed to. As authentically and respectfully as we can, we depict them. In the case of humans, such as the indigenous Arhuaco and Zoque, and the Femmes de Virunga, we have the designs approved by the communities. In the case of our animal heroes, we review the designs with conservationist colleagues. In the sujet, drawing, and color choice we try to distill the essence of a character for this cacao, chocolate, and place. The earthiness of Virunga’s gorillas, the harmoniousness of Arhuaco culture, the silkiness of the frogs in the Esmeraldas’ cloud forest, and milk chocolate.

What does the future hold for Original Beans Chocolate?

In the near future, i.e. the coming weeks, we will launch the world’s first garden-compostable couverture pack. As with the retail packaging in 2012, it’s taken us 16 months of intense work. Like the packaging of our retail bars, it’s made from regenerative wood pulp. Contemporary chefs and hoteliers are acutely aware of waste streams, including food waste, and we wanted to support their amazing progress with a break-through innovation. The new material we developed is one-third more expensive, but we have decided to absorb those costs and empower everyone ready to make a conscious choice and become part of regenerating what we consume.

Original Beans
Photo Credit Original Beans

We want to thank Philipp for taking the time to answer our questions, and we hope you learned more about Philipp and Original Beans Chocolate.

You can shop the entire Original Beans collection on our website.

To get started with craft chocolate, start with our Kekao Box. We search the world for the finest chocolate bars and bring them right to your doorstep monthly. From rich dark Peruvian chocolate bars to new start-up chocolate bars on the come-up, you never know what you'll get inside the box! Each month we will curate 4 to 5 premium specialty-crafted chocolate bars. 

If you want to just try a couple of bars, check out our online chocolate store.

If you have any questions regarding this blog, our Kekao Box, or premium specialty-crafted chocolate bars, feel free to contact us! Keep up with us by subscribing to our newsletter or following us on Twitter, and Instagram.

December 02, 2022