Fine Single Origin Chocolate
The world of fine chocolate is a wonderful one full of glorious cocoa bean types such as Criollo, Trinitario, Sur del Lago, Arriba & Carenero Superior, all grown in "The Cocoa Belt" of equatorial countries up to 20 degrees either side of the equator, each creating chocolate with very different, complex flavour notes which are also influenced by how it is grown, harvested & processed... similar to wine & quite fascinating.
We only source fine single origin chocolate made with fine cocoa beans as listed above, pure cocoa butter (& no vegetable fats, which usually includes palm oil, which have no place in fine chocolate) and cane sugar. Fine chocolate accounts for approximately 15% of world cocoa production with the bulk of cocoa being produced (mostly in West Africa) of lower quality bulk 'Forestero' cocoa beans.
To date, we don't make chocolate from beans, we are chocolatiers working with couverture chocolate to make all our creations. To use a baking analogy, we are the bakers, rather than the millers.
Where possible, we work with "beyond fairtrade" or Raisetrade chocolate, ie: chocolate produced from bean to couverture chocolate in its country of origin. Why is this important to us? Producing in country of origin adds more value to the local economy as they are exporting an added value finished product vs low value commodity dried cocoa beans, even fairtrade dried beans. It raises the value of their exports which benefits their economy in terms of employing higher skilled labour, creating a local supply chain for things like packaging and generating higher tax revenues amongst other things.
However sourced, all our grades are of clear provenance, traceability and integrity, all have unique flavour notes & all contribute to our sole aim of delighting you with the resulting taste sensations.
Our chocolate comes from...
Madagascar - Sambirano
Madagascar has built a reputation for growing fine cocoa beans that produce delicious chocolate. We work with a 67% criollo & trinitario bean dark chocolate with hints of red berry fruits, liquorice & coffee as our house dark chocolate for many of our dark chocolate creations, and also for baking cakes & chocolate chip scones for our cafés. This chocolate, whilst processed in Belgium for us, is fully sustainable as it is part of the Cocoa Horizons sustainability programme. Whilst most of the issues of child labour, exploitation and corruption are in West Africa, where Cocoa Horizons have many projects to help improve productivity of cocoa farmers, support communities & improve the opportunities for children to go to school, we are contributing to their work whenever we buy this high quality Madagascar chocolate. Improving the sustainablility of growing cocoa for the hundreds of thousands of cocoa farmers and their families in West Africa is a long term project for everyone in the cocoa industry given the number of issues that need to be addressed. Whilst it has got better in some respects in the 18 years that we have been in in the industry, there is still much work to do done and we are doing our small bit to help support the work of this programme.
We also work with Chocolaterie Robert, a Madagascan chocolate company established in 1940 making all their Raisetrade chocolate from tree to bar on the island. Bursting with red berry fruit notes, gentle acidity and a wonderfully smooth mouthfeel, we work with their grand cru de sambirano 70% dark chocolate for ganaches (the centres of many of our chocolates that are a blend of cream and dark chocolate), bars and to make all our house hot chocolates in our cafes in our Chocolate Houses. We also work with their fabulous low sugar 65% milk chocolate (which we call Madagascar 'Mega Milk' & it won a 2 Star Gold Great Taste Award in 2018), 85% 'Mega Dark' & 100% 'Totally Dark' for both ongoing items like bars and also seasonal gifts including Easter Eggs and Christmas Baubles. We also work with their wonderful Cashew 'Milc' chocolate made with local cashews instead of dairy milk, so is perfect for vegans as it has a wonderful creamy flavour with soft nut notes on the finish.
All Chocolaterie Robert chocolate is also soya-free.
Co-founder Claire visited Madagascar in May 2016 and visited both the Chocolaterie Robert factory in Antananarivo & also their cocoa plantations in the Sambirano valley in the North West of the island, so we have a direct relationship with the team in the factory there and the supply chain is extremely short - the deliveries are sent from the Robert team in Madagascar by sea to a specialist importers in Sussex who pop the chocolate in one of their vans to deliver it to us! We were also one of the first UK chocolatiers to work with their 65% Mega Milk chocolate and the Cashew Milc chocolate. The Robert team also make special blocks of the 70% just for us to flake into our hot chocolate.
Click here to read Claire's blogs to find out more about her trip to Madagascar and how cocoa is produced from tree to Chococo.
Venezuela - Sur del Lago
We are also huge fans of Venezuelan chocolate and over the years have worked with ethically sourced carenero superior bean origin chocolate made from cocoa bean to couverture chocolate in Venezuela by El Rey, an independent company who pay above-market prices for their cocoa beans from the Aprocao co-operative. Supply from El Rey has been tricky in recent years, but we have been able to source another delicious milk chocolate from Venezuela that is made to our own recipe for us as our house milk chocolate that is also very high in cocoa solids at 45% (& therefore relatively low in sugar) and is also soya-free. We work with this milk chocolate for most of our filled milk chocolates, milk chocolate novelties, seasonal items and studded slabs. It is also offered as a hot chocolate option in our Chocolate House cafes.
Our 45% house milk chocolate is made with fine cocoa beans from the Sur del Lago region of Venezuela. This is one of the oldest and most interesting regions growing cocoa in the world. In fact, Venezuela likes to lay claim to be where theobroma cacao tree originated. Colombia & Ecuador will say the same mind! It is generally agreed amongst scientists that originated in the NW reaches of the Amazon basin which extends into all these countries, but the genetics of cocoa are for another page...back to Sur del Lago - It is located in northwestern Venezuela, in the tropical lowlands south west of lake Maracaibo. This region offers very favourable climate conditions to cocoa farmers for the cultivation of high quality cocoa as they are surrounded by tall shade trees (cocoa does not like direct sunlight and is a small shade loving tree), constant tropical heat and sufficient water. Sur del Lago is harvested from fine flavour Criollo and Trinitario trees and is known for its mellow, spicy flavour and the region gives both its name to the beans as well as being its location! We love the fact that over thousands of years many different varieties of cocoa trees have been brought to this region which nowadays serves as a genuine melting pot of natural, genetic crosses of different types of cocoa trees which result into beautifully rounded chocolate flavours.
Another interesting cocoa fact for you - 'theobroma cacao' is the scientific name for the cocoa tree species. It was named by the Swedish botanist Carl Linneas in 1753. Theobroma means 'food of the gods' in greek, and cacao is derived from the Nahuatl (Aztec language) word xocolatl, from xococ (bitter) and atl (water). We think he came up with a splendid name and would quite agree with him!
We work with several types of chocolate produced in Colombia by a local company Luker Chocolate which is another example of Raisetrade chocolate supporting the local economy as it is exporting value added products. They are fully committed to sustainability with a local programme to transform the country's cocoa growing regions. There are 38 thousand cocoa-producing families in Colombia that were, in the past, victims of the country’s armed conflict and are subject to poverty and exploitation by the cocaine trade. Luker is focused on contributing to change in these regions in order to improve the quality of life of the farmers and their communities and to help them return to growing theobroma cacao (cocoa) and coffee rather than coca (from which you extract cocaine). Using 'fino de aroma' fine cocoa beans, their 100% chocolate is totally pure - no added sugar, soya lecithin or vanilla. We use this chocolate to make our 100% sugar-free hot chocolates in our cafes as it is very robust and once blended with milk, creates a deliciously deep drink which is vegan-friendly if made with any plant milk.
Our House white chocolate is also from Luker and is both aromatic & more flavoursome, (with hints of mild cocoa, flowers & dried fruits), than most other white chocolates as, unusually, it is made with undeodorised natural cocoa butter. Please be aware that this particular chocolate does contain soya lecithin.
By the way, to simply explain why white chocolate is white, it's because it only incorporates cocoa butter which is c50% of every cocoa bean. When roasted cocoa beans are crushed, they form a paste & when that paste is pressed, the fat, or cocoa butter, is extracted. This is white & has the melting properties of chocolate whilst what is left, cocoa powder, has the colour & flavour of chocolate - you need the two to get the full chocolate experience! Hence we don't make a huge amount of white chocolate products.
Better known as the Isle of Spice, as nutmeg is one of its major exports, there is also an expanding cocoa industry on this Caribbean island, driven primarily by the efforts of Mott Green, the founder of The Grenada Chocolate Company. Mott sadly died in 2013, but his team of local people led by Edmund are building on his legacy & make their chocolate from locally grown organic trinitario cocoa beans in a tiny solar powered factory in the north of the island & then sail it across the Atlantic each spring by a Brigantine sailing ship! We would describe their chocolate as being Raisetrade & definitely "beyond fairtrade" - they are hugely ethical (they describe themselves as "a cocoa-growing and chocolate-making cooperative producing single origin chocolate from tree to bar").
We used to work with Mott's chocolate to make various chocolates but after his death, were only able to secure bars for sale in our shops and online. More recently, we have been able to stock it again as Chantal Coady & James Booth, the original founders of Rococo, now the Chocolate Detective, who have supported the Grenada Chocolate Company for many years have been able to get some shipments in to the UK. Supply is intermittant though, so there may be times when we are out of stock as we wait for another batch to come in from the team in Grenada.
We also stock a range of chocolate drops made with cocoa beans grown in different countries including;
Tanzania: an intense yet soft, fruity chocolate with 75% cocoa solids and a clean smooth finish. Tanzania is a very small cocoa producing country compared to West African countries and this chocolate is made with trinitario beans from cocoa farmers with small holdings, of average 200 trees each, in the Kyela district in the south of Tanzania. This chocolate is soya-free. We serve this as one of our menu of single origin hot chocolates in our cafes. This chocolate is also contributing to the Cocoa Horizons sustainability programme in West Africa.
Ecuador: a smooth 71% dark chocolate made with the 'arriba' bean with a delicate cocoa taste plus hints of floral flavour notes and earth on the finish, characteristic of this bean type from this region.
Uganda: An intense & robust 80% dark chocolate with a rich cocoa taste & slight earthy notes from Bundibugyo region of West Uganda, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. We make a vegan-friendly truffle with this chocolate and also serve this in our cafes as one of our hot chocolate origins. It is also very popular as chocolate drops for both eating & cooking with. This chocolate is also soya-free.