Land is East London’s up and coming chocolate maker.
Currently a one-man show, Land is the brainchild of Phil Landers. Phil worked for BBC radio for a number of years before discovering cacao on a trip to Central America.
On his return, Phil quit his radio career and started working as a shop assistant for Paul A. Young, all the while experimenting and making chocolate at home. Phil then joined Mast’s London flagship workshop before starting out on his own in early 2016.
We spoke to Phil from Land about his chocolate, his vision for the future and why he hates foil..
What’s your background? Why and how did you get into chocolate?
Originally from Leeds, I moved to London when I was 18 to work for the BBC to work in what is my other passion, Radio. I spent 5 years working across BBC Radio 2 and 6 music and also Radio 4 comedy. I took a break from the BBC to go travelling around Central America and it was here where I came across a very enthusiastic cacao farmer who told me all about this magical seed which turned into chocolate. I spent a couple of days on a farm in Nicaragua and then also Guatemala and by the time I got back from travelling I knew what I wanted to do.
I quit my BBC career and walked into Paul A Young to plead for a job even though I had no experience whatsoever. I had to start from the bottom but luckily Paul gave me a chance and I was a sales assistant for his Soho shop for a year and a half. While I was there I tried to learn from Paul and everyone in the kitchen, it’s where I learnt to taste chocolate properly and also temper by hand (very badly).
I also started making chocolate at home using various bits of DIY chocolate making equipment and bringing it into work for Paul and the team to try. I then heard about Mast brothers moving to London and was fortunate to get a job as a chocolate maker with them. I spent a year learning making chocolate the Mast way and then in February 2016 I found an old furniture making workshop in Bethnal Green and turned it into what is now the Land chocolate workshop.
What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?
I want to showcase the versatility of single origin chocolate and to inform and educate people about a side to chocolate which enough people still don’t know about. As well as ensuring the quality of the chocolate is the best it can be, I’m also equally committed to helping build an ethical trail in terms of sourcing and buying beans so that the most important people of this whole process (the farmers) get what they deserve (recognition and a fair price).
When did you start your company — and with whom? How many are there of you?
I got the workshop in February 2016, but the first bars weren’t released until October 2016. I actually made my first bean to bar chocolate on my original travelling excursion to central America back in 2013….It did not taste good. Land is also a one man team which is me, Phil.
Where do you want to go next? New bars? New beans? New markets?
I’m always looking at new origins, hopefully I will release two new origins this year. Living in East London and being surrounded by endless exciting artisanal producers I actually get most excited when my chocolate is used in other things. I’ve been talking to several local bakeries, restaurants, breweries etc about getting Land chocolate utilised and incorporated into different food and drink areas so watch this space.
How did you source your beans?
My first experience of discovering fine cocoa was travelling around Central America, so I’ve got a personal soft spot for this part of the world. I went out to Nicaragua last year to source the beans I wanted, and then also a very brief visit to Honduras. Before I knew it I had the beans I needed for my first collection.
What inspired your choice of wrapper/mould design?
Working at Mast made realise the importance of making sure the consumer knows when they pick up your bar of chocolate that it feels and looks like something which is premium and special. I wanted it to be an equal measure of aesthetically pleasing to the eye but also inform my customers about what they’re about to eat.
I have an irrational hatred for foil wrapping. I understand the nostalgic behind people’s joy of chocolate in foil wrapping but when you’ve wrapped several thousand bars by hand the novelty quickly wears off. It also doesn’t keep chocolate as fresh as heat sealing so I’m spending a lot of time looking for a foil replacement which still feels and looks premium but is quick and easier to wrap with, whilst also prolonging the freshness of the chocolate. If anyone has any bright ideas please let me know.
What is your favourite food? Wine? Other chocolate makers?
My favourite chocolate maker is Duffy, he’s been a massive help since I started making chocolate at home back in 2013/4. He supplied me with my first cocoa beans when I was working at Paul A Young and anytime I’ve asked him for help he’s always willing to oblige. I love his approach to chocolate and most importantly he was the first bean to bar chocolate I tasted which made me realise what chocolate can and should taste like.