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Breaking the (Chocolate) Mould

At Cocoa Runners, we champion makers that value quality and provenance, they are committed to their craft and, above all, love what they do. We often emphasise how intricate and time-consuming the chocolate making process is; “bean to bar” simplifies years of hard work. It is no surprise then that our makers put the same level of attention into one of the final stages in creating a bar: choosing its mould.

How Moulds Enhance the Chocolate Tasting Experience

Choosing a mould is also choosing how the chocolate is going to be experienced. Just like how a wine glass rim’s thickness will affect how the wine is enjoyed (see companies like Riedel who design glasses to enhance specific grape varieties), a chocolate mould has the same status. Opting for a thinner bar, for example Franceschi’s Venezuela 70% shareable pieces, will mean that the melt is quicker and the flavour profile presents itself immediately. On the other hand, chunkier bars, for example Pump Street’s signature thick rectangles, will offer a slower melt, various notes revealing themselves more gradually.

Moulds can implicitly influence the eater to share their chocolate or (understandably) be a little more selfish. Bare Bones’ chocolates, with their neat, dividable squares, invite customers to enjoy the bars’ wonderfully clean snap and share with friends and family. Chocolate MakersTres Hombres mini bar inspires the same generosity on a smaller scale, with their tiny 12g bar being divided into 24 even tinier pieces. Whereas Zotter’s butter caramel bar, a uniform slab of almond praline and luscious caramel wrapped in milk chocolate, feels slightly harder to share.

Sensory science can also be considered when selecting a mould. Various visual features, like shapes and patterns, can evoke olfactory or gustatory responses. For instance, a bar with intense citrus notes or a bright, vibrant profile can be echoed through a sharp, perpendicular design. Whereas a profile with more rounded flavours (think whole milk or potato), could be circular with fluid edges. This reminds us of the cross-modal Bouba/Kiki effect, where people generally describe a shape with rounded edges as “Bouba” and one with spiky edges as “Kiki”, see our article on how this works for vanilla for more. Of course, makers can also twist the rules and design a mould that ‘contradicts’ the bar’s tasting notes; a reminder of the creative freedom moulds give.

Another thing to note is that even pouring the chocolate into the mould is a meticulous process. Smudges or water (melted chocolate’s sworn enemy) on the mould can spoil the chocolate at the last hurdle. Since many of our makers hand pour their bars, the mould’s material is another consideration

How Moulds Tell a Story

Craft chocolate makers have fascinating stories to tell. It is impossible to communicate a brand’s story completely: From the initial idea to the bean selection to the chocolate making process. The bar itself is a great tool to begin this conversation. Nods to a makers’ origin story can be engraved upon the finished product, making the bar not only more unique, but also more meaningful. Dick Taylor’s exquisite bar design (see below) references the fact they are, in their own words, “deeply rooted in a background of woodworking and boat building”. Alternatively, Friis Holm’s precise rectangular bars, with their perfectly uniform squares, feels to us like a salute to Danish minimalism.

There is also something satisfying about a mould that proudly references the maker’s name (many of our makers adopt this approach, including Bonnat, Åkesson’s, Ritual, and Duffy’s to name a few). We think stamping a brand’s name, and therefore identity, into the bar, makes it even more personal.

How Two Makers Chose Their Moulds

We had the pleasure of speaking to New Zealand chocolate maker Karl Hogarth about his wonderful mould design, which he wanted to “show commitment”, “make a statement”, and be “instantly recognisable”; an aim he has, without a doubt, achieved. He told us that he had to make a choice between an easily divisible bar or something more unconventional. In his own words, he decided “to take the risk and do something special and unique”.

At first, they planned on inscribing the initial design (see below) onto the bar, to give a shallower engraved effect. However, one of their designers, Danny, envisioned it as a 3D model, with the waves overlapping each other. After creating a CAD (computer aided design) file and sending this to the Chocolate World in Belgium, the mould came to life.

These 3D waves are not only beautiful, but are also personal to Karl, representing his background as a fisherman, sailor, and surfer. It’s also a nod to cacao’s maritime journey to reach Hogarth’s factory in New Zealand (which is coincidentally 60 metres away from the sea itself). Others have commented that the design resembles artwork associated with the Tangata Whenua (Tarn-a-ta Fen-u-a) or Maori people, another link to Hogarth’s proud heritage.

This design is the perfect example of how deep meaning can be quite literally poured into each bar. We particularly love the bar’s thick border: a fitting frame for a work of art.  

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating one of Karuna’s award-winning chocolates, you will have been struck by their intricate bar design. We spoke to co-founder Armin about the decisions behind this mould, designed by his younger brother Lorenz. Armin wished to acknowledge cacao’s origin as well as Karuna’s Indian connection.

The result is a bar with stylised fruits and leaves to reference that cocoa pods come from trees, as well as a traditional Indian paisley motif. Armin commented: “we really loved that it linked to our origin. In the sense where it all begun. In India.” We think there is something apt about referencing the very first inspiration for a business within its final product, condensing years of hard work into something physical. Incorporating the cocoa pod’s origin also reflects another long history of hard work, centuries of growing this extraordinary fruit concentrated into a single pattern. Chocolarder adopt a similar approach, engraving a larger cocoa pod on each of their bars to honour the raw material and their commitment to single origin. 

Final Thoughts

Chocolate is the perfect material to mould. With its just-below-body-temperature melting point, it is easily manipulated, taking just about any shape (see here for some stranger examples!). Moulding, as opposed to enrobing where the chocolate is simply draped over a product, gives the maker great artistic freedom. We hope you can now appreciate how our makers have taken advantage of this freedom, crafting not only delicious tasting bars, but works of art. 

We have also put together an inexhaustive list highlighting some wonderful bars that use moulds to enhance the tasting experience, whether that be visually or gastronomically. We’ve missed out many fantastic bars and their moulds from this list and will have regular updates on this fascinating subject. Since we’re going to be making this a series (including more discussion on decoration and packaging too), it would also be wonderful to hear about your favourite moulds.

Finally, we are delighted that we will be holding an in-person tasting at one of London’s most beautiful settings: Chelsea Physic Garden on the 12th May (just as their flowers begin to bloom). We’ll be tasting 10 delicious craft chocolates, as well as admiring their moulds! Click HERE or below to join in.

Have a great bank holiday weekend!

Hannah

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