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Veganuary and Chocolate

By Cocoa Runners  ·  10th January 2021  ·  Tastings, The World of Chocolate

Many people attempting Veganuary each year ask us: “Can I still eat chocolate?” Well, great news – you absolutely can! In fact, most of the chocolate in our library is vegan.

Dark craft chocolate, so long as it isn’t a flavoured bar with a non-vegan ingredient, is perfectly fine for Veganuary. Be careful buying dark chocolate from the supermarket, though, as lots of it isn’t actually vegan – read on for more.

WHAT IS VEGANUARY?

When we started to research Veganuary we were amazed to find that it has “only” been around since 2014.  And the term veganism is new(ish), being first used by Donald Watson in 1944, although its roots go way, way further back – to Pythagoras and the world of Ancient Greece.

Veganuary was set up by Jane Land and Matthew Glover from their kitchen in York, and launched in January 2014.  It’s very much focused on vegan food, giving veganism “a go”, supported by loads of recipes (see here for some of ours), food suggestions, product guides and starter kits (see here for our chocolate boxes) and is an interesting means to start the year differently.

According to Wikipedia, over 500,000 people have “sign(ed) up for the Veganuary challenge in 2021 and of those people there were 125,000 from the UK (… this is up from 2017 when) … 50,000 participants had signed up as of 4 January”. Veganuary is now also going international with the US, Germany, Sweden and many other countries signing up (intriguingly, Texas claims to have had “the second highest number of US sign ups”). See below for details.

SO IS THE HISTORY OF VEGANISM THAT RECENT?

Veganism as a term dates back to 1944, according to the Vegan Society.  It was defined by Leslie J Cross initially as “[t]he principle of the emancipation of animals from exploitation by man” and later clarified  “to seek an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man”.

But the spirit of veganism and vegetarianism go FAR FAR further back.  The UK Vegetarian Society dates back to Ramsgate in 1847.  And in turn Vegetarians date their history back at least as far as Pythagoras (yes, the same Greek who was a father of geometry was also an early advocate of avoiding animal products).

See this article for more information.

WHAT ABOUT VEGANUARY AND CHOCOLATE?

Most people think that chocolate during veganuary is just about avoiding milk chocolate.

But many supermarket “dark” chocolate bars, despite not having “milk” in their description, may not be suitable for vegans. 

For example, many cooking chocolates have “butterfat” to give them a rich mouthfeel – see this well known cooking bar label’s ingredients:

And the same is true of many other (non-cooking) mass-produced “dark chocolate” bars.  In the past, many dark chocolate bars were “filled out” with whey powder and other bulking agents (whey powder is a by-product of making cheese – and now used by bodybuilders and athletes).  Because of these uses, whey powder is becoming more expensive, and many mass-produced confectionery makers are switching to using more vegetable fats and palm oils.  And at the same time Mars now has gone the full circle, using the same old whey powder to launch “Protein Enhancement” extensions to some old favourite brands

Bottom line: it’s another good reminder always to check the ingredients (and source of beans) of any chocolate bar

At the same time you can have vegan milk chocolates.  These chocolates are made with “vegan” milks like coconut milk or oat milk instead of cow, sheep, or goat milk, and are perfectly fine to have during Veganuary.

IS THE PROCESS OF MAKING VEGAN MILK BARS ANY DIFFERENT?

There aren’t any great differences in how you craft milk or vegan milk chocolate bars.  In both cases the maker will add dried milk or dried coconut milk when they’ve ground the beans and are starting the conching process.

IS THERE AN INCREASE IN THE AMOUNT OF VEGAN BARS AVAILABLE?

Yes – there are a host of great makers; all of our 100+ makers craft bars that are great for vegans.  And then the likes of Marou in Vietnam, Raaka in the USA, Forevever Cacao, Solkiki, and Chocolate Tree based over here in the UK – they all do some great coconut milk bars.

ACADEMY OF CHOCOLATE

In addition, we are DELIGHTED that so many of our makers won awards at the recent Academy of Chocolate 2020 – and so we’ve built a box to celebrate a few of these winners (Qantu, Firetree, Morin and Chapon). Even though it’s not Vegan (it contains a milk and white bar), it’s still a great way to banish those January Blues.

And a HUGE thank you, and congratulations, to Sarah Jane, Silvija and the AoC team for tasting and judging thousands of bars in such challenging times.

Please see here and below for more details

VIRTUAL TASTINGS

We’re also continuing and extending our range of Virtual Tastings in January and February; please see here and below for some of the highlights

  • Chelsea Physic Garden – we are doing a special Tasting on the 22nd January exploring the contribution of their founder, Hans Sloane, to drinking chocolate and more.  And as an added bonus, we are donating £3 per tasting box sold to their Glass House Campaign.  See here and below for more details
  • Cooking with Craft Chocolate – on the 29th January; the positive feedback from our post Christmas inaugural Tasting has encouraged us to launch these as a monthly new tasting; join us to taste some great bars, explore the history of cooking chocolate and a live demonstration of how ANYONE (even Spencer) can make a chocolate mousse in under ten minutes with just two ingredients – craft chocolate and water. See here and below for more details
  • Valentines Day – we are going to host our own tasting on Saturday 13th February with a focus on Valentines and chocolate (bring the standard tasting box – but wear and/or drink “pink”), plus we are delighted to be doing a bunch of wine inspired tastings that we’ll write more about next week (See the calendar for more details)
  • Wine — we’ll write more about this next week, but we are hugely encouraged by the success of our Corporate Wine Tastings (see here for more details), and excited by our upcoming tastings with 67 PM (15th), Hedonism, Bordeaux Wines and the Wine Society

KIDS

We are also planning a schedule of “kid” focused tastings and  other activities.  From later this month we are re launching a school’s programme and also planning a range of kids/family public events. Please sign up here if you’d like to be among the first to hear more about these.

In addition, don’t forget that we’ve a range of great kids activities such as a our “Chocolate Home Make a Bar Kit” (see here for the product and here for some inspiration)

Wishing you all a great 2021 – and hope to see as many of you as we can both virtually, and — sooner rather than later — in person

Spencer, Simon, Lizzie, Harmony and James

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