Interview – John from Cacoa Elora

What got you interested in chocolate?IMG_20190921_103323_resized_20191004_062109133

I started off working with other people’s chocolate, Belgian then single origin. And then I came across a few bean to bar makers which got me thinking it would be great to make it from scratch and have more influence over our products. We still do it on a small scale although every minute at home seems to be taken up with chocolate making these days.

When did you first make chocolate?

January 2017.

How was your first attempt at making chocolate?

Pretty good although we seed tempered at the time and until we switched to marble hand tempering we kept having difficulties. After making a few whites we stopped out of frustration, as the grinder was just not wanting to behave itself.

How and from where do you source your beans?

We do notice that makers are precious about their sources but wherever possible we get as direct as possible or use traders who support growers. As we work across a large range of origins we buy in smaller quantities too which has also been a challenge. We are, for example, the only UK maker working with beans from St Vincent & the Grenadines, and one of the few who rates Ugandan beans.

Anything you are particularly proud of about your products?

We won a Great Taste Award for our St Vincent. Meeting the lead actress from Line of Duty one time doing a food and craft market. Combining being a maker with a full-time job and of course featuring in Andrew Baker’s recent book Bean to Bar A Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Britain.

What’s your best-selling product?

Our Almond Dark Milk 70g bar, the 74% Ugandan dark and our 80% Colombian Huila dark.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Keeping going despite Brexit and the economic downturn.
IMG_20190826_104015_resized_20191004_062109535

What are your ambitions for the future?

To move production out of our kitchen and to get stocked in a number of exclusive outlets alongside other makers.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate?

After ours I like Omnom’s chocolate from Iceland, chocolate by Fris Holm Denmark, and from the UK – Tosier, Bullion, Seed amongst the bean to bar makers.

You can buy from Cacoa Elora at the Exeter Chocolate Festival. But if you can’t wait until then to get your hands on some, you can buy online by clicking 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.

Salcombe Dairy – From Ice Cream to Bean-to-Bar Chocolate!

History

Salcombe Dairy has been making artisan ice-cream in South Devon for forty years – and celebrated this milestone birthday in June 2019. The alchemistic factory has been at the heart of the town’s meteoric rise in popularity as Devon’s most stunning holiday destination. Still based on Island Street where all of the ice-cream is made, Salcombe Dairy is well known for deliciously indulgent ice-cream made only from natural ingredients, as well as a range of natural sorbets. Salcombe Dairy has been proudly making scrumptious ice-cream in this beautiful place since 1979, using local cream combined with the best recipe ingredients we can source locally and around the world – to create one of the Great Taste top fifty foods in Britain.
shutterstock_59732917

Awards

Salcombe Dairy’s ice cream, sorbets and now chocolate have won more than sixty Great Taste, Taste of the West and Food & Drink Devon awards. That’s a lot of trophies! Blush. The secret to our success is staying modest and always striving for perfection – for example it took us over a year to perfect the recipe for our new Salcombe gin sorbet, and a new product is never launched until the entire production and tasting team are 100% happy with it!

Ethics

We’re a small company with a big heart. We have a very loyal team of workers livin’ the dream of working in an ice cream and chocolate factory in Devon…so when you eat our products you know that they have been made in Salcombe with love and care – using cream from the local farm. All of our chocolate and ice creams are made in a factory which is entirely nut free, palm oil free and egg free. We will never use any artificial ingredients – everything we make is 100% natural. That’s probably why customers have been asking for our ice cream consistently for the past forty years!
We are striving to leave a lighter footprint in the beautiful part of the planet we work in – and are always trying to source less single use plastic packaging and consumables, and more reusable and recyclable and now compostable packs.

Non-Dairy

We recognise that vegan and dairy-free connoisseurs still love high quality chocolate and ices! Our range of dark chocolate is dairy free and suitable for vegans as well as being indulgent and sumptuous…and we even make a chocolate sorbet.
p

Chocolate

Our new baby is bean-to-bar chocolate, launched in Spring 2018. We source organic, fairly traded cacao from the Peruvian rainforest and melange the nibs in Salcombe with raw cane sugar before conching, tempering and moulding into chocolate of the highest quality to make outstanding chocolate in a spectrum of flavours our fans rave about. In the 19th Century, Salcombe was a busy trading port for ships carrying fruit, cocoa, sugar and rum. At the mouth of the estuary lies The Bar, a sand spit mentioned in Tennyson’s famous poem ‘The crossing of the bar’ so it seemed appropriate to call our chocolate The Bar, and mirror in chocolate all of our ice-cream flavours for which we are famous.
We’ve already won a Great Taste Gold award for our dark chocolate ginger, and the milk chocolate with Devon sea salted caramel is popular. Chocolate enables us to keep our trusty Oompa Loompas busy during the winter when customers are eating less ice-cream – so it makes us more sustainable as a business too!
p (1)

Feedback

Tell us what you think! We’re looking forward to seeing everyone again at the Exeter Chocolate Festival and are always keen to hear feedback on our chocolate or hear your requests for new flavours!
Lucy and Dan Bly
Email: dan.bly@salcombedairy.co.uk
p (2)

Interview – James from J.Cocoa

What got you interested in chocolate? IMG_0653-38

I have always loved food, cooking and eating, and I have always been interested in how foods are produced and their origins etc, and who doesn’t also enjoy a bit of chocolate? But it wasn’t until I was at a chocolate demonstration at a food festival that I really got drawn down the rabbit hole. It was a demo on how to flavour chocolate, fill chocolates and whatnot, but at the end of the demo someone asked ‘but how do you make the chocolate?’ to which the exhibitor had to admit that she just buys it all in ready made, so this got me thinking, how many companies actually do make their own chocolate? And to my surprise, very very few do. So in my over casual manner I stupidly thought ‘well how hard could it be?’ and so it began…

When did you first make chocolate?

The curiosity all started in 2015, but depends what you mean by chocolate, as my early attempts certainly didn’t replicate any chocolate I had ever seen before. The appearance, taste and texture should probably be described as ‘rough’. It is safe to say making chocolate proved more difficult and complex than I had ever imagined, but I was now hooked and driven to make something at least edible.

chuno milk miniHow was your first attempt at making chocolate?

As mentioned it wasn’t exactly plain sailing and to be fair I had no idea what I was really doing. There was no one that I knew of who actually made chocolate from bean to bar to ask for help or tips so everything has been done with in depth research online, reading history of food books and a significant amount of good old trial and error, with mostly errors, but they say you learn from your mistakes and that I certainly did. My first attempt was made up of unintentionally burning the cocoa beans to a brittle horrid flavoured mess followed by cracking them with a rolling pin, de-shelling with a hairdryer (what a mess that made) and grinding them up in a blender. If I part any wisdom on future makers, do not do the last part. It took me to blow up two blenders to realise that making chocolate in a blender doesn’t work.

How and from where do you source your ingredients?

I start by working directly with the growers or co-operatives to ethically source the highest quality cocoa beans paying a premium of over 5 times the Fairtrade rate. This means that finally the farmers are getting greater recognition, and a true price for the demanding work and time that goes into growing and cultivating the cocoa, enabling farmers to actually make a living from their cocoa instead of just surviving. They can keep their children in schools and re-invest to grow their businesses instead of being forced into selling their cocoa to large confectionery companies at ridiculously low prices. Only Organic ingredients where possible are added to my chocolate, with only 2-3 ingredients in my dark chocolate bars. I never use emulsifiers, strongly believing that for great chocolate, Less Is More.

Is there anything you are particularly proud of about your products?

I am immensely proud that my chocolate has come a long way in the 4 years since seeing that demonstration and its very humble, chaotic beginnings. What started as curiosity, turned into a hobby and became a full business. My bean to bar chocolates are internationally award winning, collecting an award for every bar created and entered so far. Including winning Gold at the 2018 international chocolate awards.

molding 12

What’s your best-selling product?

My hand painted giant Easter eggs. They are all individually decorated in different colours and slightly different designs so that every one sold is unique to that person enjoying it, packaged in my zero waste own design boxes. However that’s only seasonal, in general the best selling chocolate variety is the new coffee milk chocolate. This is the one that collected gold in 2018 and flies out as soon as I make a batch. It is enjoyed by cafes, restaurants and bar customers alike for its truly natural and subtly blended flavour.

What achievement are you most proud of?

One of my greatest achievements is not only ethically sourcing ingredients but also sustainably producing and packaging my chocolate. At J.Cocoa I make a specific pledge to the environment to protect our planet, after all, this is the only planet with chocolate on it! I have reduced the businesses waste to an absolute minimum. Any packaging from deliveries either gets reused, repurposed or recycled. Nothing gets wasted throughout production, and I have designed most of my machines and equipment which have then been built here in the UK from recycled stainless steel, and everything is either powered manually or by electricity.

Packaging is the biggest issue when it comes to waste, particularly plastics. So I set about designing my own zero waste chocolate packaging that was still functional, hygienic and protected my bean to bar chocolate. It took me the best part of a year, but it eventually all came together. My single origin bars are packaged in fully compostable starch-based wrap, inside a totally glueless recyclable acid free card box, all of which is produced here in the UK minimising fuel usage. My hot chocolate stand up pouches are re-sealable and also fully compostable. My shipping boxes are custom fit to the bars minimising movement and the need for excessive protective packaging. Though in circumstances where this is needed I either use paper, compostable pellets, or simply re-use protective packaging from deliveries I have received. The boxes are then secured with fully recyclable tape.

I am most proud of persevering with making chocolate too. It has brought many highs bars twistand lows and it is no easy product to produce. It is a very complex time-consuming process, and by changing one small aspect within it will yield a completely different end product, which at times has been a nightmare. But I do it because I love it, and I want others to enjoy what I make.

I am proud to use the chocolate as an avenue to implement real change particularly in cocoa growing countries which also happen to be some of the poorest regions on earth and historically taken advantage of.

What are your ambitions for the future?

Looking to the future I want to carry on making chocolate, sounds obvious but it is a tough path to walk. I also want to continue increasing the range of chocolates I make, working with more amazing growers and invest in fully renewable energy sources such as solar panels, rain water storage with purifier and wind generators etc to eventually become totally sustainable and continue to form a business and product that creates a big taste impression whilst leaving no imprint on the planet.

What’s your mission statement?

To produce the most delicious bean to bar chocolate in a fully ethical and sustainable manner, to use the chocolate as an avenue to implement real change economically and environmentally. To enjoy making something that brings joy to others.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate?

Very difficult, I love so many different chocolates dark, milk, white, filled, bars etc. There’s so many really amazing chocolate makers and chocolatiers. Some of my favourite go-to chocolates are basically anything from Zara’s chocolates, Eponine and Fifth Dimension, the triple chocolate truffle from JK chocolates is incredible! Chocolarder’s Sambriano Dark bar is one of my all time favourites and bars from Dormouse and Solkiki are too brilliant to name just one. And that’s to name just a few!

Tempering the chocolate 2

You will be able to try James’s award-winning chocolate at the Exeter Chocolate Festival! But if you can’t wait until then, you can order direct from the website by clicking here.

Interview – Samuel Brook

What got you interested in chocolate?fullsizeoutput_d24

I’ve always had an affinity for pastry work and chocolate, whether it’s been making things with it, cooking or eating. As my career has developed and I have learnt more about chocolate, the different types there are and the different flavour profiles that they have, my appreciation and enjoyment for chocolate work has only increased.

When did you first make chocolate?

I have not made bean to bar chocolate yet. But making individual handmade chocolates with different and intricate designs is fast becoming one of my favourite things. The phrase I hear most often is ‘they look like marbles or shells’ or ‘they look too good to eat’.

How was your first attempt at making chocolate? 

The first attempt went well, but then it’s easy when someone is teaching and helping you. Since then it has taken a lot of practice to get to the stage where I’m happy with the way that my chocolates look and taste.

CW0fbgO4Sl2EDh748hyULAHow and from where do you source your ingredients?

I use Valrhona chocolate, because there is no comparison. There are so many different types and flavour profiles, which then offers me so many options when it comes to making chocolate and truffles. Matching the chocolate to the correct flavour enhances the end result which makes the chocolate more enjoyable.

What achievement are you most proud of?

People’s reaction when they taste some of my patisseries is something to be really proud of and happy with, and is without doubt the most rewarding part of my job. Achieving 2AA rosettes with my first review when I was in my first head chef job. I am yet to put forward my chocolates or patisseries for any awards.

What’s your best-selling product?

Chocolates and Macarons – gift boxes and wedding favours

What are your ambitions for the future?fullsizeoutput_d62

My goal is to open a patisserie shop, a real French style patisserie. Hopefully in Exeter, where I would serve brunch, afternoon tea and sell chocolates, macarons, patisseries and if the time allows, real viennoiserie, made and baked everyday.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate?

Valrhona Bahibe 46%. It is a milk chocolate with a slightly increased amount of cocoa and it has a brilliant balance between the two profile of milk and dark. It is also the chocolate that I use for Millionaire’s Shortbread, which is the reason I am where I am and where my career began.

You can find out more about Samuel and his business ‘Pretty Little Pastries’ here.

 

Interview – Seed Chocolate

What got you interested in chocolate?SEED LOGOS White on Blue

I have always had an avid interest in chocolate from the very moment I trained as a pastry chef in my teens.  It wasn’t until recently, that I started to really think how chocolate was made, from the raw ingredients & the chemistry within cocoa.  This has guided me to become a bean to bar chocolate maker.

When did you first make chocolate?

Just under three years ago.

How was your first attempt at making chocolate? 

It actually went really well.  We haven’t hit too many hurdles luckily.  Our biggest challenge was the heat of the summer of 2018, damn that was a learning curve!
It’s all down to the preparation of your ingredients & sourcing the right equipment.

seed1How and from where do you source your beans?

We currently source our variety of cacao from Peru.  We have a great relationship with the smallholder supplier.  We are very proud to source our cacao directly from these small farms & cooperatives.
We get sent samples from all around the equator.  It’s a real privilege to us that they believe we can make a great end product with their harvest.
We are looking into new origins from Central America & Asia for future cacao varieties.

Anything you are particularly proud of about your products?

We are very proud that in our first full year (2018), we received five awards for three of our chocolate bars from The Academy of Chocolate & Guild of Fine Food.  We were also awarded Specialist Food & Drink Retailer 2018 by The Taste of Staffordshire.

What’s your best-selling product?

Our Toasted White Chocolate bar always sells out.  This is more than likely because it has been ranked top four (in the white chocolate category) in the world, by The Academy of Chocolate.  It’s is the only non-vegan bar we create regularly due to demand.

What achievement are you most proud of?seed2

I am just happy we have grown organically whilst keeping our identity & ethos of creating great single origin chocolate from the finest ingredients we can get our hands on.  It’s hard as I have a fractured spine.  But the rewards do push me forward.  We have met so many lovely people on our adventure so far in the chocolate making world.

What are your ambitions for the future?

We have a few secrets up our sleeve for the future, but our main objective is to get our packaging onto the next level.  We aim to have all of our packaging home compostable by 2020.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate?

Dark chocolate all day long!  The flavour notes you get from different varieties is mind blowing. And unroasted cacao is a great snack food.
******
I can vouch for their toasted white chocolate being absolutely delicious! If you want to get hold of some before November, you can visit their website by clicking here.

Ethical, Educational and Delicious

At the Exeter Chocolate Festival our mission is to share our passion for, and educate others about the fine quality, bean-to-bar, ethically produced chocolate being made right here in the UK.
Over our two day celebration of chocolate, you will be able to discover some of the UK’s most passionate and talented chocolate makers who are dedicated to working directly with cocoa farmers to ensure the best quality product.
This direct trade provides traceability, and means the farmer is paid a fair price for their beans, therefore supporting small farms to grow.
Dark chocolate is naturally vegan and gluten-free, but you will also be able to find a range of milk chocolates to suit all dietary needs.
We have something for everyone – exquisitely indulgent brownies, handmade truffles from local chocolatiers, you can even treat yourself to a chocolate cocktail. Rest assured you will only find it at the Exeter Chocolate Festival if it meets our strict criteria of being made from bean-to-bar, is ethically produced, fine-quality or is locally made.
Alongside the chocolate sellers, we will be bringing you a full programme of talks, demonstrations and workshops. Plenty for connoisseurs and families alike.