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.

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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 – 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.

lobbs pic

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!