Interview – Russ from Grim Reaper

What got you interested in chocolate?GR2

As a trained pastry chef it was part of my City and Guilds qualification. I always wanted a spicy chocolate and none were available via retail shops, so I created my own.

When did you first make chocolate?

1990.

How was your first attempt at making chocolate?

5 stars… seriously, it didn’t go well!

How and from where do you source your beans/ingredients?

I don’t use beans now, I use Belgian pellets as we make over 20k bars a year, along with pepper sauces, oils and so on, it’s got a little too big to do. However the compromise hasn’t affected the quality, and it allows us to remain fully competitive with 3 bars for £10.

Anything you are particularly proud of about your products?

We have over 70 industry awards for our products, I guess that speaks for itself seeing as we didn’t start trading until 2010. We are known in USA/Canada/South Africa/Australia/EU and further reaches of Europe/Asia, but not so well known here! Probably most proud of our branding images.

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What’s your best selling product?

Evil One Hot Sauce and The Raven Hot Sauce are equally best sellers.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Creation of Purgatory, took two months of failures to get it right on attempt 56.

What are your ambitions for the future?

To grow the company by gathering more wholesale clients.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate?

Dark – 70%.

 

You will be able to purchase Grim Reaper products, from chilli chocolate, to oils and sauces at the Exeter Chocolate Festival. If you can’t wait until then to get your hand on some, you can buy online by clicking here.

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Interview – Kate, founder of Choc Ami

What got you interested in chocolate?

My interest stemmed from an early age. I’ve always loved eating it (I’m a girl; can’t help it)!

When did you first make chocolate? And how was your first attempt?chocami_kate2resize_54796

I first made chocolate when I was 10. My mother had an hotel and I remember making a ghastly concoction which contained an industrial amount of cheap catering chocolate  melted and mixed with lemon juice. It was absolutely disgusting!

How and from where do you source your beans / ingredients?

I source my ingredients from various suppliers, as long as it’s ethically traceable and sustainable.

Anything you are particularly proud of about your products?

My customers are testament to my products as they return time and time again.

What’s your best-selling product?

Definitely my bespoke truffles. They are to die for.

What achievement are you most proud of?

The constant development of my truffle recipes.

What are your ambitions for the future?

My main ambition is to get my name out there and build my business further.
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What’s your mission statement?

All of my chocolates are hand crafted in Dorset and made in small batches for exceptional quality and taste.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate?

My favourite chocolate is definitely Equateur 76% single estate.
You can buy Kate’s handmade chocolates at the Exeter Chocolate Festival. But if you can’t wait until then to get your hands on them, you can buy them from her website by clicking here.

Interview – English Spirit Distillery

What is your chocolate product? 

Our Chocolate Chilli Vodka Liqueur is our main chocolate product at the moment: although this year we have also made up limited edition batches of Chocolate Rose vodka liqueur (liquid Turkish Delight), Chocolate Mint vodka liqueur (liquid After Eight) and Chocolate Orange vodka liqueur (liquid Terry’s Choc Orange). We’ve also made Cocoa Gin for Hotel Chocolat, and a Chocolate Spiced Rum for another of our clients.

What got you interested in chocolate? 

It’s an amazing flavour loved by all – but there aren’t really many good liquid versions available. So it was our mission to make a fantastic chocolate alcohol – using the powers of alcohol and chemistry to extract different flavours that you wouldn’t usually get when eating it by the bar! 

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When did you first make chocolate liqueur? 

About six years ago we released our first chocolate vodka liqueur, “Chodka” – which was lovely and we ran a few batches of – but we have since moved on to a different recipe!

How was your first attempt at making chocolate? 

Making Chodka was OK as even by then we’d had plenty of experience with distilling the vodka ourselves from sugar beet (we never import any of our alcohol base spirits from elsewhere, like the vast majority of other vodka producers in the UK). However, we did attempt to make a chocolate cream vodka liqueur…the chocolate was very nice but we couldn’t stop the cream from separating in the bottle, so we’ve parked that one for now.

How and from where do you source your ingredients? 

We produce the key ingredient – the vodka – ourselves: distilled from scratch from East Anglian sugar beet, which gives the vodka smoothness, a nice mouthfeel, and an undertone of cream soda. Then we select cocoa flavourings that match the vodka perfectly; add a small amount of chilli into the still for some nice warmth to wrap up the flavour: and bolster the whole taste experience with a touch of English sugar.

Anything you are particularly proud of about your products? 

We’ve never entered our Chocolate Chilli Vodka Liqueur in for an award before: but we’re fairly sure it’s the only chocolate flavoured alcoholic product in the UK to be produced with the distillery’s own alcohol, as opposed to imported from somewhere else. So we’re proud that this is truly artisan!

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What’s your best-selling product? 

Our best selling liqueur has traditionally been our Old Fashioned English Toffee Vodka liqueur – but the Chocolate Chilli Vodka Liqueur is not far behind in popularity! We’re making a name for ourselves across the country with both.

What achievement are you most proud of? 

We’re proud of quite a few things: being one of the first small batch distilleries to open in the UK; the first distillery to make rum here in the UK; our master distiller having arguably more varied distilling experience than anyone else in the UK; having worked with nearly 100 brands to create bespoke craft alcoholic products for them; but possibly most importantly, distilling all of our alcohol from scratch (and not importing base spirit): an extreme rarity in the UK, but truly artisan and well worth the effort.

What are your ambitions for the future? 

We’re opening a distillery (and visitor centre) at Treguddick Manor in Cornwall in Spring 2020, which will run alongside our current distillery at Great Yeldham Hall in Essex. Ultimately our founder and Master Distiller Dr John Walters wants to open a chain of visitor centres, shops and distillery kitchens around the country (to celebrate the best of England) within the next 10 years. We want to show people what real artisan spirits have to offer as an entirely new form of flavour cuisine.

What’s your mission statement? 

To make the best spirits money can buy: at a price people can afford.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate? 

At the distillery we all love chocolate – we eat it and drink quite a lot of it! We would probably favour milk chocolate, especially for our own product, as the creamy taste lends itself well to the sugar beet base spirit, as well as the nice mouthfeel and sweetness also provided by the sugar. Good dark chocolate is also gorgeous but we haven’t gotten around to making a batch of something with that in yet!

What other products do you do? 

Vodkas, gins, rums, brandies, sambuca, single malts, things that only we have invented like a Cucumber Spirit, eau de vies, and plenty of liqueurs – all distilled entirely from scratch to a quality standard not found anywhere else. (We believe our distillery produces the world’s widest variety of spirits and liqueurs distilled under one roof!

Where are you based? 

We started at The Old Salt Depot in Cambridgeshire, have been based at Great Yeldham Hall in Essex for the last 4 years, and have been based at Treguddick Manor in Cornwall for the last 2 years (where we are opening our second distillery, visitor centre, shop, kitchen and botanical garden in Spring 2020).

 

English Spirit Distillery will be at the Exeter Chocolate Festival, but if you can’t wait until then to get your hands on their products you can buy them on their website by clicking here.

Interview – Bryn from the Dartmoor Chocolate Company

What got you interested in producing confectionery?Major_Series_06

I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but there’s also a long family history of working as confectioners, sugar-boilers and the like, stretching back at least five generations.

Originally, my forebears came down from Scotland to work at Tate & Lyle around the turn of the 20th century, their son (my great-great-grandfather) served in the Great War as a cook – there’s a much loved family tale about how he cured a horse carcass and made it edible to feed the men in his section of the trenches, with his commanding officer remarking that ‘it was the best piece of boiled ham he’d ever had!’

After the war, he set up a sweet shop in Canning Town and produced his own wares. After him, the tradition dulls a little – just some very tasty homemade fudges and so forth. Now I’m hoping to follow in their footsteps. It wasn’t until about three years ago that I developed an interest in producing sweets, chocolates and ice creams. A friend passed away very suddenly, which led me to re-evaluate what I was doing with my life. I decided to make the most and live more, so I started cooking more and taking sweets & treats into work for colleagues. The feedback was very positive and I quite enjoyed making things, which led to S’mores, truffles, banoffee bites and by the summer there was ice cream and all sorts!

After sixteen weeks of making sweets and ice creams, I’d put together quite a range. People had started to suggest I make a business of it, so I came back to the family home in Dartmoor, pitched the idea to a local cafe – I’d use their facilities at night and work the hours off when needed, sell some wares through them and the rest online. Just two months after, I applied for the apprenticeship that had just opened up at Badgers’ Holt.

The next year was a mixture of long nights of working on sweets, long days of working in hot kitchens and balancing a business with chef training. Several fairs, shows and competitions later, I’m here.

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When did you first make confectionery?

About three years ago now. I started off working in the small kitchen in my flat, scooping and rolling ganache in cocoa powder after work to make something nice for my colleagues.

How was your first attempt at making confectionery?

It was rather delicious and a little messy. That was what sparked my interest in researching chocolate and sugar based confectionery. The next step was creating a shell for the ganache, then getting the tempering perfect for that delicious ‘snap’ when you bite into it and next on to all manner of flavours, fillings and refining of techniques. I still can’t believe it all started just a few years ago in a small kitchen in Dorset.

How and from where do you source your ingredients?

I always strive to use the best quality ingredients I can. The better the starting materials, the finer the resulting product will be. That’s why all the chocolate I use is sourced from Callebaut – they have a great range with plenty of variation.

My dairy ingredients are sourced from producers in the South-West. I’m currently using the most local items I can get from supermarkets, but I’m working on getting a trade account with a commercial fruit, vegetable & dairy supplier that works closely with Devon farmers to supply some of the best ingredients I’ve ever seen.

As far as fruit-based ingredients go, I either use essences from Uncle Roy’s, a fantastic group based in Scotland, who use all-natural ingredients as much as possible. Where possible, I’ll use real fruit, fresh from the grocer. However, sometimes you need something stronger for that ultimate fruity-zesty hit, in which case I’ll turn to Major International, who are arguably one of the cornerstones of the culinary
sector…and, of course, the sugar comes from Tate & Lyle.

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Anything you are particularly proud of about your products?

I entered the Major Series earlier in 2019 with a display of truffles and a couple of croquembouche, earning a silver medal. I had to work on the day of the judging and results, but was told that the judges were impressed with what they’d seen and tried. Had I used different fillings, instead of just ganaches, I’d have been given a gold medal. In any case, they were pleased to see a driven self-starter and asked me to come back next year in February to see how the judging is done and hopefully to learn a few things about being the best I can in making confectionery.

I’ve also had two senior members of the Craft Guild of Chefs compliment the quality of my truffles, which is a high accolade in my books.

What’s your best-selling product?

By far it has to be the chocolate truffles – I’ve had people travel from as far as Italy to come and try them. The second best would be the Scottish Tablet, with my largest single order being fifteen kilograms.

What achievement are you most proud of?

I couldn’t pin it down to just one. It’d have to be a tie between the silver medal earlier this year and contributing towards the Taste of the West silver award at my workplace.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I’d like to take the Dartmoor Chocolate Company on as a full-time venture and grow the business to a size where I can take on one or more people to share in the fun of making these goodies. Currently, I offer chocolates, fudges, sweets and ice creams – I’d love to branch into cakes, pastries and all manner of desserts and supply as many businesses as I can in the region. I also want to keep learning as much as I can about this field, partly to keep improving the quality of my wares and partly because I find it strangely fascinating.

Major_Series_Prep

What’s your mission statement?

The Dartmoor Chocolate Company was founded to make all manner of delicious sweets and treats for people. The aim is to make people happy. To be able to provide something good for everyone, at a fair price. But it’s about more than providing good quality wares and service. It’s about keeping the traditions of the confectionery industry alive – producing things by hand where possible, in the old ways. Free of unnecessary artificial ingredients and preservatives. It’s about using that skillset to provide people with a bespoke range insofar as possible. If you’d like a certain product in a different style or flavour, you should be able to have that – without the exorbitant price associated with many organisations who offer custom options. It’s about making sure that people and businesses alike can have delicious, high-quality products just how they want them. It’s about making life sweet.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate?

I’m a terrible chocolate fiend, I love all kinds. That said, I must confess that I do love a bar of Dairy Milk now and again. Callebaut makes gorgeous Belgian chocolate, but sometimes you can’t beat the sweets you grew up with.

You will be able to get your hands on Bryn’s handmade chocolates and treats at the Exeter Chocolate Festival. If you would like to contact the Dartmoor Chocolate Company before then, click here.

Interview – Helen from Harth Truffles

When did you first make chocolate?IMG_4607

The first truffle we ever made was to showcase a chocolate tart from our restaurant in Bath. We attended a handful of local festivals to promote the restaurant in the early days of taking it on and felt we needed something tangible to show people our food. After receiving some lovely feedback and having quite a few people interested in buying them, we decided to set up a separate project focused solely on chocolate.

What is your mission statement?

Chocolate should be an indulgence and something to be savoured. Having a small amount of something delicious should be a treat and the beauty of our product is that you only need a small amount to get your fix! We truly believe in only using the simplest and finest of ingredients and working as responsibly and sustainably as possible. It also needs to look pretty!

Where are you based and what do you love most about the area you work in?

We’re based in a small rural village called Ubley in The Mendip Hills. What I love most about our peaceful location is how beautiful the views are. We can see both Blagdon and Chew Valley Lake from our upstairs window and I feel very lucky to have the countryside all around us. It feels like a little pocket of calm.

When did you set the business up and what inspired you?

We started Harth back in 2017 in between having our two boys. We also own a Vegan
Restaurant in the heart of Bath and Harth developed from a chocolate dessert we used to sample in the form of a truffle at various festivals to showcase the restaurants’ food. Our customers showed an interest in buying them, and so Harth was born. Our inspiration has always been to create food simply, using the finest ingredients. As with the restaurant we work with incredible seasonal plants rather than using substitutes to replace animal products. The same can be said for our chocolate. We add no preservatives or additives and believe all things can be enjoyed in moderation.

Harth

What do you love most about what you do?

Making chocolates is a gentle process and requires patience and calm. This is something that feels a world away when being a full time mum, so the contrast for me is a welcome one. I also enjoy meeting new people at the different markets we do. Everyone has a story and it’s fantastic meeting other traders and hearing their creative journeys as well as getting to see and enjoy their products.

What is your favourite product and why?

I love our Fireside truffle. For me, it is the perfect balance of flavours and conjures up beautifully my favourite time of year, Autumn. I love food that strikes a memory or a feeling and this truffle always makes me think of sitting round a campfire, quietly enjoying the evening sunset. I also love watching peoples reaction when they try it. I like seeing them go through the transition of flavours and tasting something they didn’t expect. When the warmth of the Cayenne sings through at the end, I like seeing them smile as if they’ve just experienced something completely new.

How/where do you source your ingredients?harth2

We choose to use Chocolat Madagascar who responsibly source their cocoa from the
Sambirano Rainforest in Madagascar. Farmers are paid fairly for the quality of the rare cocoa harvested and the beans are crafted in to fine chocolate in the local factories, which helps to raise the skills, values and ultimately contributes to the Madagascan economy. Chocolat Madagascar pride themselves not only on the craft of their product but on providing sustainable wealth at source, whilst reducing the impact on the environment.

For our truffles we use 100% cocoa solid chocolate, which contains no sugar. Because of this we are also able to use our own blend of sugars, including an organic, unrefined cane sugar, and completely control the sweetness of our product. For our peanut butter caramels we use an incredible sugar called Panela, made sustainably in Columbia from freshly harvested cane juice.

What are you proud of and what are your ambitions?

I am extremely proud of how far we’ve come with Harth as it has been a side project and grew organically from the resources available to us from our restaurant. In between having children, Harth has grown to be something special which I hope will inspire our children to see both of their parents putting something they truly believe in, out in to the world for people to experience. The beauty of Harth is it could take us in many different directions, depending on what products we create and how they fly. I believe as long as we stay true to using great ingredients and putting ourselves in to our product, then Harth with continue to grow. It has a long way to go, but only time will tell what that direction may be.

Harth Truffles will be at the Exeter Chocolate Festival, but if you can’t wait until November to get your hands on some of their scrummy vegan truffles, you can buy direct from their website by clicking here.

Interview – Kate from the Mallow Tailor

What got you interested in chocolate?

It’s no secret but Janet and I (Kate) who run The Mallow Tailor love chocolate and art, so wanted to combine these together to make something really special. How many times do we all buy something that looks great and tastes disappointing, or tastes great but looks unappealing? Having experienced this ourselves, we set our benchmark very high to ensure our chocolates not only look the part but also deliver on taste. Never having made chocolates (apart from truffles occasionally for friends), we started right at the beginning and learnt how to mould chocolates, developed our fillings and added an artistic twist and since then we’ve not looked back. Chocolate has always been our indulgence of choice, but now it’s our best friend.

When did you first make chocolate?

I first made boozy chocolate truffles about 8 years ago and have been making marshmallow for friends for 15 years. I am an awful cook, so would entice friends over with my sweet treats rather than my usual burnt offerings. Janet on the other hand is a great cook but had no experience of making chocolate or marshmallow. Between us, we made our first batch of moulded chocolates in December 2018 and then spent 4 months perfecting our technique and fillings and launched our business in March 2019.

The Mallow Tailor - Marshmallow chocolates range

How was your first attempt at making chocolate? 

Before we started making chocolates professionally, we had both given up our present careers so knew there was a lot riding on getting it right. We initially attempted to dip marshmallow and salted caramel into melted chocolate which was challenging to say the least, the product tasted great, but we realised we would struggle to scale this up. Our first attempts at moulding chocolate were frustrating with not achieving the right shell thickness and chocolates not coming out the moulds – we learnt so much more from what we’ve got wrong rather than what we got right.

How and from where do you source your ingredients?

We only buy high quality ingredients and source locally where we can. We use Callebaut chocolate which is one of the best chocolates in the world. We make our salted caramel filling with Welsh dragon butter and double cream, and flavour with Halen Mon Sea Salt – these local ingredients make the texture and flavour something else. Our marshmallow is infused using loose tea from our local tea emporium in Brecon. We are very lucky living in Wales as there are so many great products you can buy and we try and reflect this in our chocolates. We don’t use any preservatives or artificial flavours in our products so what you taste is 100% real.

Anything you are particularly proud of about your products? 

We are a very young company but have drawn in much interest and received endorsements from food professionals and fantastic reviews from customers. We provided wedding favours for our first wedding job which created quite a storm (in a positive way!) which was a very proud moment for us. We’ve also exhibited at the Royal Welsh Show and have been successful in getting a place at the Abergavenny Food Festival so a lot to smile about in 5 months!

The Mallow Tailor - Sea Salt Caramel chocolates range resized

What’s your best-selling product?

Our Caramallow in milk chocolate is our best selling product, along with our Salted Caramel in dark chocolate. Our Caramallow is made up of 2 layers of marshmallow with salted caramel on top which people love. Our salted caramel chocolate is a firm favourite with our vegetarian customers.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Producing chocolate and marshmallow in a sustainable way, without giving on quality and taste. I’m also very proud of our website, having designed and built it.

What are your ambitions for the future?

We want to be well established in and outside of the UK and to be successful in supplying our products to at least one of the prestigious UK retailers. Our production is currently done at home, so would like to expand our manufacturing capability away from home and build a team of great chocolatiers/mallow makers.

What’s your mission statement?

To be an internationally recognised artisan that makes the one of the best artisan chocolates and marshmallow and to be a company that people really enjoy dealing with.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate?

Oh god, there are so many! I love the Little Welsh Chocolate Company’s milk chocolate and orange bars of chocolate – they are super smooth and the orange works perfectly with the milk chocolate. Janet loves Lindt chocolate and enjoys the pick and mix counter (too much!) – her favourite filling is orange. So it looks like orange wins here eh?!  Maybe we should develop some orange chocolates, there’s an idea…

The Mallow Tailor will be at the Exeter Chocolate Festival with their range of filled chocolates, but if you can’t wait until then to get your hands on some you can order from their website by clicking here.

Interview – Amanda from Langley’s Rocky Road

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What got you interested in chocolate?

At birth I think – I have always loved chocolate.

When did you first make chocolate?

I started to make my product when I adopted my 2 children and it quickly became a family favourite, always made on special occasions and a firm favourite at the office.

How was your first attempt at making chocolate?

Like a beginner, awful now I look back but also a really important part of my journey.

How and from where do you source your ingredients?

I love to use local ingredients where I can, there is nothing quite like Cornish seasalt and combined with lime (a childhood flavour) makes for my surprise flavour.

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Anything you are particularly proud of about your products?

I have come into the industry as a complete beginner, I love the reaction that I get from my customers and the lovely comments always make everything worthwhile.  I love the thought that I am inspiring my children to be entrepreneurial and to do what they love.  The seven Taste of the West awards in my first year of trading have been the icing on the cake.

What’s your best-selling product?

Lime & Seasalt has now overtaken my classic Orange.  I love this as it is a flavour inspired by my Dad and his loves, so has real meaning for me.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Actually starting my business – it was hard to leave my career as a Solicitor where I had been Managing Partner of a firm which I have seen through a merger of 4 practices.  To change to doing something so creative was a big decision but I love what I do, the challenges and rewards.

What are your ambitions for the future?

To develop as a business – I would love to grow and to be able to pass my passion on to other people.

What’s your mission statement?

As a small business its really simple – to produce the best product I can to delight my customers.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate?

One of the things I love about chocolate is its diversity – so I don’t have a favourite and it very much depends on my mood.  I love to try new flavours and to be surprised!  My most recent delight was a Ruby Chocolate with a lemon centre – delicious!

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Amanda will be at the Exeter Chocolate Festival in November, and at the Torbay Chocolate Festival next April. But, if you can’t wait that long to get your hands on some of her award-winning Rocky Road, you can buy on her website by clicking here!