• May 17

    Introducing Uppers & Downers…

    By Lizzy Cuddy  ·  Uncategorized

    If you’re in London this weekend, join us on Saturday at Uppers & Downers, afestival of coffee beers in Hackney.

    Uppers & Downers began in 2013 as a conversation between Good Beer Hunting’s Michael Kiser and World Barista Champion Stephen Morrissey about the lack of creativity and sophistication in coffee beers. Fast forward five years and Uppers & Downers has grown into a series of immersive and collaborative coffee/beer experiences.

    Last year, Uppers & Downers made the leap across the pond for it’s first eventin London, and this year the event has grown to feature more brewers, moreroasters, and more chocolate!

    We’ll be setting up shop in Mick’s Garage in Hackney Wick, on Saturday May19th from 12pm – 5pm.  This awesome venue is just a stone’s throw from theOlympic Park, and the event promises to be lots of fun for both coffee and beer fans alike.

    Tickets are priced at £45, and this gets you admittance to the 5-hour event, and includes a glass, small swag, and as many shots of espresso and 100ml pours of coffee-beer as you’d like to enjoy!   To buy tickets, click here…

  • May 01

    Chocolate in Berlin – some thoughts on the World Cocoa Conference 2018

    By Spencer Hyman  ·  Uncategorized

    Last weekend I was invited to the World Cocoa Conference in Berlin to speak at one of the “warm up” sessions of the Fine and Flavour Forum.  So first and foremost, I’d like to thank Martin Christy for inviting me, and congratulations to Martin and Maricel for arranging a raft of great speakers and topics on Sunday.

    Having said this, my overall impression for the World Cocoa Conference was one of bemusement and concern.  I was expecting delegates to have passion and enthusiasm for our “product” (i.e. chocolate, food of the goods).  And I was hoping to taste lots of chocolate.  I did taste a couple of great chocolates (spoiler alert Fu Wan’s new tea infused bars are awesome), and I did manage to listen to (and even speak with) a few forward thinking individuals (thanks Carla for the intro to Volta’s Anthony Rue, good to finally meet Nick Weatherill of ICI, and I enjoyed meeting Starbucks people too).  But there was hardly any chocolate to taste (two small bits of milka in the delegate bag) and my overall impression was that at best most delegates didn’t really take pride in, believe in, or aspire to create (or taste) great chocolate (hint – take a look at the tag line on the delegate bag below from BASF – “we create chemistry”).  Delegates and participants all too often seemed overwhelmed by the problems of their world and industry – deforestation, climate change, poverty, child labour, blight, consumer mistrust, health concerns, to just name a few.  Unlike attending speciality coffee fairs, wine shows, craft beer shows or even craft chocolate shows there was no sense of passion, pride or purpose.

    My panel, made up of Jorge Redman, Mikkel Friis Holm Luis Mancini and me, was on lessons Chocolate can learn from Speciality Coffee.  We all agreed on many similarities – Mikkel focused on the importance of taste and consistency and Luis did a great job of noting the similarities of farmers and craft makers working together with both beans.  We also acknowledged the huge boost that speciality coffee stores and baristas have had in promoting speciality coffee.  We were all envious of the relative ease by which consumers can “upgrade” their daily habits of making morning coffee and visiting better coffee stores.  By contrast craft chocolate isn’t an easy substitute for the mid-afternoon sugar rush realised with supermarket bars.  We were optimistic on how craft chocolate can work with speciality coffee stores to sell bars and better drinking chocolate.  But with hindsight what I wished I’d said (or rather shouted) was something along the lines of “come on guys, wake up smell the coffee” – look at what the (speciality) coffee industry has done for consumers, farmers and themselves over the last decade.  Sure speciality coffee may only be 8-15% of coffee sales – and craft chocolate is still less than 1% (definitions and statistics are slippery, but these seem “directionally accurate”).  My impression of folks within both the mass and speciality ends of the coffee industry is that they have a sense of purpose and pride for their product and industry.  They believe coffee can (and should) taste great.  They can get customers to appreciate and enjoy coffee.  They can improve some farmers lives.  They can and should plant forests, work with local governments and associations.  This is in marked contrast to Big Chocolate.

    Unfortunately, I only was able to stay for Monday, and so I only heard the keynote speeches and some sessions on deforestation and sustainability.  But what I learnt was pretty dispiriting.  I’m not sure that this was the intention of the conference, but I came with the clear message that if you eat cheap chocolate and confectionery, or consume cheap chocolate as an ingredient in cakes, biscuits, you are

    1. Encouraging massive deforestation (rainforest canopy in the Cote D’Ivoire down from 24% to less than 4% in the last couple of decades, and cocoa the number 1 culprit; see http://www.mightyearth.org/chocolatesdarksecret/)
    2. Contributing to climate change on a global and local level (Mighty Earth has some powerful analysis showing how deforestation in Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Peru and Ecuador are playing havoc with local weather and water)
    3. The end point of a supply chain that pays farmers less than half of what they need to live, beggars their families and gives them very little hope (although it’s better to be in Ghana or Cote D’Ivoire than war torn Liberia).

    More worryingly no one was proposing any viable solutions.  There was an appeal to “cathedral thinking” (i.e. thinking of the future for your grandchildren) and a truly bizarre story from a Canadian guest speaker about New College, Oxford planting a forest in 1378 so that when the college hall (sic) was rebuilt in the 1970s they could harvest some trees planted in 1378 by the great, great grandparents of the current new college forester (I’m not making this up).  There was some talk of “responsible partnerships” and Simran Sethi showed what can be done by the likes of Tony Chocolonely in the world of sustainable production.  But much of the time I had to pinch myself when I heard more and more appeals to government, and in particular the EU, to “do something”.  There were lots of interesting statistics – and the chart from the ICCO showing that whilst the world weighted price of 1 KG of chocolate has held constant or even marginally increased from $14.22 to $14.7 between 2013 and 2017, the price of 1KG of cocoa beans (nearby futures contract New York) has decreased from $3.20 to $2.04, pretty much summed up the challenge. For Big Chocolate,  chocolate / cocoa is a commodity product and Big Chocolate isn’t interested in fine flavour or taste.

    Unlike other commodity products such as, for example oil, governments, farmers and traders in cocoa growing countries find it really hard to co-ordinate on a local or international level.  Despite two countries controlling 65% plus of world cocoa (Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana), their governments are not incentivised and indeed often relatively powerless to impact prices. The majority of the cocoa growing comprises a myriad of small cocoa farmers, traders, loan sharks, etc. who operate on the edges, and often outside, the law (check out all the cocoa being farmed illegally in national parks).  I’m no expert here, but I can sympathise with the argument that it’s far easier to e.g., monitor sweatshops producing garments than certify these supply chains.  It can be done in chocolate.  Divine have done this in Ghana, Ritter explained what they are doing, and there are lots of initiatives in Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, etc. and NGOs like the ICC who have laudable plans.  And coffee shows that there are alternatives to OPEC like structures.

    But as long as the priority of Big Chocolate is to purchase cocoa as cheaply as they can, and for as long as the people they buy from are so fragmented and so desperate, it’s hard to see how things are going to change.  Many (most?) cocoa farmers in West Africa make less than a dollar a day (the UN believes the minimum living income is $2.50).  And despite these low wages and incomes, people are still desperate for any work – there are stories of workers literally swimming through crocodile infested rivers and shark infested seas to work on illegal cocoa plantations for these wages in deplorable conditions.  So even though it’s great to hear that “Big Chocolate” is trying to create “traceable supply chains”, “sustainable farms”, etc. we’ve heard this many times before and I’m not optimistic.  For as long as they see cocoa as an ingredient where Big Chocolate companies and Traders believe their shareholder obligations mean they need to beat prices down as low as they can, it’s hard to imagine them creating a “Bournville” or “Hershey Town” in Africa.  At the moment, demand for cocoa is pretty flat … but poverty struck farmers see no option but to produce more cocoa. Intriguingly, or rather more worryingly, the ICCO seems to realise that pressuring Big Chocolate hasn’t, and may well not, work (see their summary document from the conference – https://www.icco.org/about-us/icco-news/387-berlin-declaration-of-the-fourth-world-cocoa-conference.html )

    So instead the ICCO is now arguing that governments, and in particular the EU, “take action”. One keynote speaker even argued that because government taxes took up 15% of the $100bn spent on chocolate globally, governments should use this to subsidise farmers wages and pay more for cocoa beans (I may have misunderstood this … but checking with a few others in the audience, this was their impression too).  Mighty Earth made a similar plea for the EU “to get involved” and “take action” (everyone did seem to realise that Trump wasn’t as obvious a lobbying target).

    I was initially sceptical of the power of the EU “to get involved” and “take action” until I did a little more research on an issue raised in one session on Sunday – Cadmium.  I’m still researching this – and would love to hear from anyone who can shine more light on the subject.  I came away from the conference really worried about prospects for Peruvian, Columbian and Ecuadorean chocolate in the EU.  From the 1st Jan 2019, the EU is bringing into force new guidelines on the maximum amount of cadmium many products can contain.  And chocolate is a special case.  https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/chemical_safety/contaminants/catalogue/cadmium_en

    Here is what I’ve gleaned

    • Cadmium is really, really not got news for humans (causes kidney failure, is carcinogenic, etc.)
    • According to EU studies, we are already eating too many foods with too much cadmium (especially if you are a vegetarian smoker (read the above article!)
    • So the EU want to limit the amount of cadmium in lots of products, and in particular chocolate (I’m not sure why chocolate has been singled out – and if anyone can advise, I’d love to hear). From Jan 1, 2019 new “maximum” limits for chocolate bars are being imposed … which are very low, and sound very problematic for quite a few regions
    • Some countries’ soils contain lots of cadmium and this can pass into the cocoa harvested – and in particular Peru, Ecuador and Columbia seem to be exposed. Other countries’ soils contain far less cadmium and aren’t at risk (Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, etc.).  Worryingly cadmium is also “highly localised” so it can be in a corner of one field and not the rest.  It can be in one part of the valley but not the other.  The good news is that the soils and cacao trees can be treated.  But given how hard it can be to get farmers to prune trees, and given how they mix batches during fermentation, treatment is going to be very tough

    In the US there were similar efforts to label, and put limits on, cadmium in chocolate – especially in California.  However, these initiatives appear to have been met with some labelling compromises and “further studies”.  The Peruvian, Ecuadorean and Columbian governments are all making desperate lobbying efforts to stall the EU’s plans.  But there isn’t a lot of time left, and a lot of Ecuadorean, Peruvian and Colombian cocoa farmers and makers are about to get thrown under the bus.

    I’m very grateful for the chance to attend the conference.  And as I said at the outset, I wish I’d taken my chance to rant during my speech and have participants from Big Chocolate taste some really great craft chocolate that Martin’s International Chocolate Awards, the AOC and indeed our monthly subscription boxes celebrate.  But hindsight is frequently 20:20.   Next time!

    Looking forward, I’ve come back worried about the potentially disaster that EU Cadmium regulations will have for many Peruvian, Colombian and Ecuadorean farmers and makers without anyone really noticing (as a side note, it’ll be interesting to see how “raw” chocolate handles this given that so much of the liquor from which it is processed comes from Ecuatoriana, a single large Ecuadorian factory.  Perhaps “raw” consumers will now examine these raw bars, and the fiction of raw chocolate’s health benefits, a little more).  At a minimum it’d be good to have more time for cocoa growers and farmers to work out how to test for cadmium.

    Above all I’ve come back even more unimpressed by “Big Chocolate”.  Big chocolate is bad for the farmers, bad for local forests and bad for the planet. Consumers – correctly – are mistrustful of Big Chocolate and their processes.  And Big Chocolate knows this – and I’m really not surprised why Big Chocolate is so embarrassed and why it has no pride, passion and plans for Theobroma Cacao, the fruit of the gods.  There is almost a case to be made for a cocoa blight, like Witches Broom, to strike and help raise prices through a shortage – and force big chocolate to think more long term, force a restructuring of the industry etc.  But short term this would be terrible for the already beleaguered farmers and their families in West Africa.

    Instead, I think we have to learn more from, and follow in the footsteps of, speciality coffee, artisanal cheese, and craft beer.  In the UK more is spent buying chocolate than purchasing either books or music. But this chocolate expenditure isn’t, yet, the subject of much enthusiasm; Big Chocolate is unsurprisingly reticent of its supply chain and processes.  By contrast, craft chocolate lovers and makers are enthusiasts.  We celebrate the cocoa bean and the bars craft chocolate makers create.  We know craft chocolate tastes better (a LOT better).  We know craft chocolate is better for you (has less additives, you’ll savour it more and scoff less – so hopefully eat less of it, etc.).  And direct trade is clearly far better for farmers and the planet.  We know just have to persuade more and more consumers, and who knows even some members of “Big Chocolate”, to try craft chocolate and pick up our passion, purpose and pride.  To that end, we’re working to create some Craft Chocolate Fairs – the first at Kings Cross Canopy Market over the weekend of May 11-13th, and then another at Square Mile Coffee Roasters from October 19-21st.  For more details see cocoarunners.com/events/ – and hope to see you there!

  • Apr 27

    This Month’s Box – April 2018

    By Lizzy Cuddy  ·  Uncategorized

    As spring is finally beginning to make itself felt here in the UK, we have selected four chocolate bars full of a wonderful mix of flavours that we are sure will bring a little sunshine to your taste buds.

    And as the season changes, what better way to celebrate than with a mixture of the old and the new? This month we have some truly fabulous new bars from makers we’ve come to know and love of the years, and who prove to be perennially popular in our Cocoa Runners Library. We also have a new maker to introduce who we have been speaking to for some time and are delighted to finally be able to give you a taste of his delicious chocolate.

    Of course we at Cocoa Runners are always looking to improve and increase our chocolate selection, and it’s not always possible to include every single new single-origin bar in our monthly box. So if you like the bars we’ve selected for you, we urge you to check out the maker’s other bars and everything else that’s new on site. And of course if you’re looking for a recommendation, simply drop us a line via email, or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and we will be happy to help!

    We hope you enjoy this month’s selection.

    Utopick

    We first met Paco Llopis of Utopick at the Salon du Chocolat in Paris two years ago. Since then we’ve been chatting, exchanging chocolate and working hard (particularly Paco, his team and his business partner/wife Juanas Rojas) to bring you this bar.

    The beans for the bar we’ve chosen began their journey in the north of Guatemala, in the tropical rainforests located in the natural park that surrounds the pristine paradise of the cenote Lake Lachuá. This is a bountiful region, also producing harvests of fragrant cardamom and coffee. When it comes to the cacao, there is a particularly rich range of varietals, which give the chocolate its wonderful blend of flavours.

    The Qeqchi Maya families that live in the region cultivate cacao beans in a rigorous Transparent Trading model, which secures prices for the cacao for producers that are even higher than Fair Trade, whilst ensuring responsibility and accountability at every stage of production.

    You can try Utopick’s Dark Chocolate from this month’s box here, and find the rest of Utopick’s bars in the Chocolate Library here.

     

    Blanxart

    Next we’ve a new bar from Barcelona-based Blanxart. A few years ago, we tasted a bar from Blanxart which blew us away with incredibly ‘chocolatey’ flavour (there is no other way to describe it). Since we introduced this bar to you it has become one of our most popular dark chocolate bars. And now the artisans at Blanxart have come up with a new twist on this old favourite. This bar is a darker, more intense version of the Dominican Republic 70%, using a new recipe and slightly different beans, giving a similar yet highly distinctive flavour.

    When it comes to chocolate, Blanxart has years of experience to help them craft its bars. Making chocolate since 1954, today Spanish maker Blanxart remains faithful to its origins; is uses the same logo and its production is overseen by fourth generation master chocolatier Xavier Cordomi. Like his forefathers, he has passion for chocolate and a meticulous eye for detail. The high quality of Blanxart’s chocolate is a reflection of this constant search for improvement and the many hours of training its staff put in.

    You can try Blanxart’s Dark from this month’s box here, or you can find the rest of Blanxart’s bars in the Chocolate Library here.

     

    Franceschi

    Next we have a dark chocolate from one of Venezuela’s oldest and most renowned chocolate families. he Franceschi family has been growing and exporting Venezuelan cacao since 1830. On the family’s farm in the Paria Peninsula of Venezuela, they grow a number of rare Criollo varietals. These are genetic strands of cacao unique to Venezuela but famous across the world for their unique and delicate flavours. Thanks to its farm and links to other farmers, Franceschi is doing a lot of work to protect these rare varietals.

    The Canoabo bean used in this bar is a Criollo varietal, which originates from the south of the Maracaibo lake, in the foothills of the Andes. It is from this region that Criollo varietals have propagated to the humid coastal areas, with Venezuela today boasting more than thirty different types of Criollo. So, when Franceschi proudly declare Venezuela the birthplace of extra fine cacao, offering the broadest range of flavours and aromas, it is a claim far from lacking in substance.

    You can find Franceschi’s Dark from this month’s box here, or you can find the rest of Franceschi’s bars in the Chocolate Library here.

     

    Chocolarder (milk)

    For the milk chocolate aficionados, we have a wonderful new treat from Cornwall’s Chocolarder. Chocolarder is the creation of former Pâtissier, Mike Longman, who began his bean-to-bar journey after committing to make as many of his own ingredients as possible.

    Starting out in his kitchen, Mike now operates out of a small factory in Cornwall, and is currently crowdfunding to help him build a larger workshop and café space. Mike is dedicated to sourcing unique and exciting local inclusions ranging from wild gorse flower, to the Cornish sea salt used in this bar. Mike is dedicated to a production process that is truly transparent and sustainable, both economically and ecologically

    You can find Chocolarder’s milk bars here, or you can find the rest of Chocolarder’s bars in the Chocolate Library here.

     

    Pralus (dark)

    And for those who like to keep things dark, we’ve a beautiful bar from French chocolate experts Pralus, made from some of the finest Madagascan beans.

    The sleepy, picturesque commune of Roanne in the Loire valley provides the romantic backdrop that you might expect for the workshop of a legendary chocolatier and chocolate maker. Founded in 1948, Pralus originally earned international repute under celebrated pâtissier, Auguste Pralus, whose ingenuity concocted the enchanting creation of the Praluline, a brioche strewn with nuts caramelised in rose sugar. It was a creation that earned him the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France and the French Order of National Merit. But when son François took over the family establishment in 1988, the spirit of innovation burned brighter still, as an initial interest in chocolate came fully to fruition when François became one of France’s first bean-to-bar chocolate producers. Today, Pralus’ single origin chocolate adventure has even extended to its very own plantation amid the tropical climes of Madagascar, where the beans for this bar were grown!

    You can find Pralus’ dark bar here, or you can find the rest of Pralus’ bars in the Chocolate Library here.

     

  • Apr 23

    Craft Chocolate Takeover of Canopy Market

    By Lizzy Cuddy  ·  Uncategorized

    This May, we are collaborating with Canopy Market, the weekly independent market at King’s Cross, to host a one-off celebration of all things cocoa for a weekend of total sensory pleasure. From the 11th – 13th of May, Canopy will host a dedicated chocolate market packed with the best craft chocolatiers, tastings, talks and demonstrations, all under the market’s beautifully restored Victorian glass and steel roof.

    With a focus on bean-to-bar producers, visitors will be able to try rare, single-origin chocolates and meet the international chocolate specialists themselves, some of whom are bringing their wares to Canopy Market all the way from South America. The line-up, curated by Cocoa Runners, purveyors of the world’s finest craft chocolate, will include the award-winning Pump Street Bakery, who hand-make small batch chocolate in Orford and from Caracas, Venezuela (one of the world’s most famous growing regions and considered the cradle and homeland of cocoa itself), Franceschi Chocolate will bring their rescued heritage Criollo and Trinitario cacao varieties to London.  Former Formula 1 engineer Duffy will be bringing his internationally renowned craft chocolate bars from Lincolnshire.

    True cocoa aficionados and chocolate lovers will also be able to discover and enjoy rare and unusual filled chocolates crafted from single origin cacao and raw cocoa nibs, the crushed cacao bean and the very best, velvety drinking chocolate.

    A series of chocolate tastings led by the chocolate producers themselves will give visitors the opportunity to learn about and try a range of chocolate, as well as explore its versatility with sessions on themes such as chocolate and beer and chocolate and wine pairings. Jenny Linford will be speaking about the role played by time as The Missing Ingredient in craft chocolate.  Matt Lindley will be speaking about craft chocolate makers in the UK and his new book, Bean to Bar Britain, while Ruth Spivvy, Founder of Wine Car Boot will be hosting a chocolate and wine pairing session.  Brett Beach from MIA will be speaking about the opportunities (and challenges!) of crafting chocolate at origin and Pablo Spaull will be leading us on a chocolate meditation.

    Access to the festival is free of charge, and you can buy tickets to any presentation (priced from £5) at Cocoa Runners on Eventbrite.

    Craft Chocolate Stall Holders
    Aztec Gold (Friday only)
    Chocolarder
    Dormouse (Saturday & Sunday)
    Duffy’s Red Star
    Forever Cacao (Friday only)
    Franceschi
    JCocoa
    JK Fine Chocolates
    MIA
    Pump Street Chocolate
    Tosier

    Cocoa Runners and the IICCT will also have stalls across the weekend.  The chocolate special will take part alongside the regular market, featuring street food from Arancini Bros, Growlers and The Big MELT, a craft beer bar, English Wine and Italian Natural wines, artisan food producers and craft traders including Earl of East London’s hand-poured scented candles, unique handmade jewellery from Nabi London and Turkish hammam towels at Pur London.

     

  • Mar 23

    The March 2018 Collection

    By Lizzy Cuddy  ·  Uncategorized

    The chocolate makers in this month’s box have chosen cacao fromspecific regions with unique micro-climates. Here cacao beans growwith flavour profiles that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

    First is a new bar from Luisa Abram. Luisa is dedicated to finding Brazil’s rarest cacaos, mostly grown by remote Amazon communitieswho can only be reached by boat. This new dark is no exception anduses cacao from the Rio Jari region collected during the 2017 harvest.

    Next Chocolate Tree has used cacao from a single Venezuelan region. The bean grown here is Venezuelan Porcelana, a varietal unique tothe country which is hugely prized by chocolate makers worldwide.

    Then, Rob Anderson from Fresco is one of two chocolate makers inthe world to have these beans, grown by a new association ofsmallholder farmers in the Polochic Valley. It is a delight to be able toshare this with you.

    Finally we want to introduce a new craft maker Lapa-Lapa. Founder Pieter-Jan is a Belgian now living and making chocolate inNicaragua. He is currently just using one type of bean, Rugoso, whichgrows in the jungles of Matagalpa.

    We hope you enjoy this selection.

    LUISA ABRAM – RIO JARI 2017 HARVEST

    The dark chocolate has a green, almost earthy aroma. However on first bite, sharp notes along with strong honey and hazelnuts are revealed. The richly indulgent cocoa finish is topped by a toasty malted touch.

    The cacao used in this bar is a wild cocoa grown in the Rio Jari region, and formed part of the 2017 harvest. Luisa Abram, the founder and namesake was our first Brazilian chocolate maker. Luisa, her father Andre, and the rest of her family all pitch in. To make her bars, Luisa uses wild cacao sourced from small cooperatives in the upper basin of the Amazon. To the beans she adds nothing but a little organic sugar, giving the true flavour of Amazonian cacao.

    Try this single origin bar from Luisa Abram today

    CHOCOLATE TREE – AMBANJA MADAGASCAR

    A sweetly milk chocolate, whose wonderful

    flavours linger on the tongue. Typical berry flavours of Madagascan cacao are blended with sweeter touches of caramel and fudge. The milk gives a rich creamy texture.

    Ali and Friederike of Chocolate Tree craft all their bars in their workshop just outside Edinburgh. They are dedicate to working as closely with their suppliers as possible. In 2015 they went to Madagascar to visit Bertil Akesson who owns the Ambanja farm near the Sambirano River in Madagascar. Working closely with the people growing their cacao ensures that they are paid a fair wage. This kind of rainforest agriculture also promotes biodiversity.

    Try this milk chocolate bar from Chocolate Tree today

    FRESCO – POLOCHIC VALLEY, GUATEMALA; A COCOA RUNNERS EXCLUSIVE

    A dark chocolate bar with a perfect slow and smooth melt. The mellow bar opens with hints of rich, fudgy brownie. Gradually notes of dark plums and raisins rise through, creating an intensely fruity finish,

    Fresco is one of just two chocolate makers to use these rare Guatemalan beans. The beans are grown by an association of 500 smallholder farmers in the Polochic Valley, one of the hottest micro-climates in Guatemala. As well as cacao they grow coffee and produce honey. The Valley is right next to La Reserva de Biosfera Sierra de las Minas, a forest reserve, which the farmer association is also responsible for protecting.

    Try this exclusive bar from Fresco today

    LAPA-LAPA – RUGOSO NICARAGUA

    This powerful dark bar balances acidity, bitterness and sweetness. It has notes of sharp berries and stone fruits which blend in the finish with tropical wood, smoked tea and aromatic tobacco. An intense chocolate that lingers on the tongue.

    Belgian Pieter-Jan’s lifelong passion for chocolate had taken him far from home. Seeking out the best cacao to make the best chocolate, he found himself in Nicaragua where he now makes his bars from local beans. The name Lapa-Lapa comes from his Nicaraguan legend about a mysterious being called the Lapa-Lapa. This individual roams the jungles and hills of Nicaragua every night searching for the best quality cacao.

    Try the Lapa-Lapa bar today

  • Feb 23

    The February 2018 Collection

    By Lizzy Cuddy  ·  Uncategorized

    Welcome to our February 2018 Collection.

     

    Every month we want to continue to bring you the best selection of new, world-class craft chocolate bars, so that you can delve deeper into the world of artisan, single-origin, and small-batch chocolate. This month we’ve selected three bars from some of the exciting makers in our Library and we also have a new maker to introduce you to.

     

    Beginning with the new, we would like to welcome MIA chocolate to Cocoa Runners. MIA stands for ‘Made in Africa’ and the bar not only uses Madagascan cacao and local ingredients, it is crafted the country too. MIA has just launched so we are really delighted to share these bars with you.

     

    Next we’ve a dark from Belvie. Marc and Jannie of Belvie work with farmers across different Vietnamese provinces to create the best possible chocolate. Like MIA, Blevie makes its bars at source, but in Vietnam not Madagascar!

     

    Then we’ve a bar from Domori. The Italian chocolate maker was one of the first to start sourcing its own beans and crafting its bars according to each origin’s flavours. Today Domori is renowned throughout the world.

     

    Finally we finish closer to home with a bar crafted in the UK by Pump Street. The cacao comes all the way from Ecuador to Orford in Suffolk where Chris, Joanna and Rob have crafted it into their signature buttery chocolate.

     

    We hope you enjoy this month’s selection.

    MIA

    We have known Brett Beach for years, since he was one of the founding partners of Madecasse. Late last year we met up with Brett to find out more about his new adventure. He is still committed to creating delicious chocolate at source and giving back to the local communities as much as possible. Brett has started a new food company which, although he has kicked off with a chocolate, he hopes to extend to other craft foods made at origin.

    MIA stands for Made In Africa. Just launched at the end of 2017, the company is dedicated to sourcing ingredients and making its chocolate at source to help local communities. On top of this MIA has created its own African community programme 1 for Change. MIA is donating 1% of all sales to the programme which is investing in local development projects to improve the whole community’s livelihood.

    You can try MIA’s Madagascan Dark Chocolate from this month’s box here, and find the rest of MIA’s bars in the Chocolate Library here.

     

    Belvie

    We began working with Belvie last year, after we received an email from Jannie out of the blue. While the number of craft chocolate makers is still growing, it is always a pleasure to discover new bars. And when the bars taste as good as Belvie’s and the beans have been as carefully sourced, our pleasure only increases! And when Belvie’s talent was recognised at the Academy of Chocolate Awards 2017 who can blame us for being truly delighted.

    Marc and Jannie of Belvie have always described themselves and being ‘chocolate addicts’. In the beginning, they made their own chocolate just at home until they wanted to share their passion with the rest of the world, and that is when Belvie was born. Their chocolate is a combination of Belgian technology, in-depth chocolate knowledge, incredibly self-sourced beans form Vietnam and their love for chocolate. The chocolate bar included in this box won Gold at the Academy of Chocolate Awards 2017.

    You can try Belvie’s Lam Dong Dark from this month’s box here, or you can find the rest of Belvie’s bars in the Chocolate Library here.

     

    Domori

    Domori have become something of a household name in chocolate, and particularly in its native Italy. Since Gianluca Franzoni started the company it has grown and grown, selling an ever-increasing variety of chocolates and confection. But despite this success, Domori has stuck to its roots and continues to work with individual farmers and growers to produce its range of single-origin bars.

    Domori’s Tanzanian bar uses cacao from the Kokoa Kamili cooperative in the Kilombero Valley. Before founding Domori, Gianluca Franzoni spent three years in Venezuela. Here he worked with the cocoa harvests, studying the different cocoa varieties and trying to preserve some of the rarest varieties cocoa beans. This passion for quality beans and natural ingredients is the core of Domori’s philosophy.

    You can find Domori’s Tanzania Dark from this month’s box here, or you can find the rest of Domori’s bars in the Chocolate Library here.

     

    Pump Street Chocolate

    One of the first people to start crafting chocolate from the bean in the UK, Pump Street are now making a name for themselves across the pond too. Still based in Orford, Suffolk, Pump Street is always experimenting with new flavour inclusions and origins. And we are always excited to see what the team will come up with next.

    The father and daughter team of Chris & Joanna Brennan set up Pump Street Bakery originally as a sourdough bakery in 2010. Four years ago they began experimenting with craft chocolate, partnering with Rob Sledmore (an ex-Tank commander). Pump Street has won numerous awards in the UK and across the pond. For this bar, Chris sourced the cacao from his friend Samuel von Rutte.  Sam runs the Hacienda Limon farm in the Guayas Basin in Ecuador and is famous for his studies of the genetics of Nacional Arriba cocoa beans.

    You can find Pump Street Chocolate Ecuador bars here, or you can find the rest of Pump Street Bakery’s bars in the Chocolate Library here.

     

     

  • Feb 20

    International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Tasting: Chocolate Tasting Courses 2018

    By Lizzy Cuddy  ·  Uncategorized

    The International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Tasting has created a one-of-a-kind, 3 Level educational programme for chocolate lovers. The courses are an intense excursion to develop an understanding of fine chocolate and its flavour possibilities. Begin with Level 1, your foundation in one day. Move onto Level 2, a three day course building on your knowledge. Finally, Level 3 courses are held in cocoa growing countries, with the opportunity to literally learn in the field. Develop the skills to evaluate, appreciate and really enjoy fine chocolate; these courses are perfect for anyone with a passion for the new world of fine, craft and origin chocolate.

    These courses take place around the world, and the IICCT currently has confirmed dates for upcoming courses in London, Copenhagen and Amsterdam.  A full list of upcoming dates is below, but to find out more about the course structure and content, and to book your spot on a course near you, please visit the IICC website today.

    Upcoming Courses

    Level 1, Copenhagen

    March 15, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/level-1-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-15-mar-2018-copenhagen/

     

    Combined Level 1 & Level 2 , Copenhagen

    March 15, 2018 – March 18, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/combined-level-1-level-2-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-15-mar-2018-copenhagen/

     

    Level 2, Copenhagen

    March 16, 2018 – March 18, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/level-2-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-16-mar-2018-copenhagen/

     

    Combined Level 1 & Level 2, London

    March 22, 2018 – March 25, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/combined-level-1-level-2-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-22-mar-2018-london/

     

    Level 1, London

    March 22, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/level-1-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-22-mar-2018-london/

     

    Level 2, London

    March 23, 2018 – March 25, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/level-2-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-23-mar-2018-london/

     

    Combined Level 1 & Level 2, Amsterdam

    April 13, 2018 – April 16, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/combined-level-1-level-2-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-13-apr-2018-amsterdam/

     

    Level 1, Amsterdam

    April 13, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/level-1-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-13-apr-2018-firenze/

     

    Level 2, Amsterdam

    April 14, 2018 – April 16, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/level-2-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-14-apr-2018-firenze/

     

    Level 1, London

    May 31, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/level-1-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-31-may-2018-london/

     

    Combined Level 1 & Level 2 , London

    May 31, 2018 – June 3, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/combined-level-1-level-2-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-31-may-2018-london/

     

    Level 2, London

    June 1, 2018 – June 3, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/level-2-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-1-jun-2018-london/

     

    Combined Level 1 & Level 2, London

    August 30, 2018 – September 2, 2018For more details:

     

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/combined-level-1-level-2-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-30-aug-2018-london/

     

    Level 1, London

    August 30, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/level-1-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-30-aug-2018-london/

     

    Level 2, London

    August 31, 2018 – September 2, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/level-2-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-31-aug-2018-london/

     

    Combined Level 1 & Level 2, London

    November 8, 2018 – November 11, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/combined-level-1-level-2-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-1-nov-2018-london/

     

    Level 1, London

    November 8, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/level-1-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-1-nov-2018-london/

     

    Level 2, London

    November 9, 2018 – November 11, 2018

    For more details:

    http://www.chocolatetastinginstitute.org/course-events/level-2-certificate-in-chocolate-tasting-2-nov-2018-london/

  • Feb 18

    A Taste Of Madagascar

    By Lizzy Cuddy  ·  Uncategorized

    Today we present you with a chance to taste three single origin craft chocolate bars from Madagascan maker Menakao for just £5.95, or six for £10*.

    Make it many of the chocolate lovers who join us at our tasting evenings remark that they think they’re such great value. They loved being able to taste a little of a lot of bars, before buying a whole bar without having the chance to taste it first. We love hosting tasting events and sharing new bars with chocolate lovers, but we know that not everyone can join us in London (and so we are trying to do more outside of London in Manchester and beyond, but even then it’s never going to be feasible for everyone).  This made us sit up and think: how can we do to bring this taster experience to you to enjoy at your leisure, in your home?

    With that in mind, we have curated two taster boxes, each contains a selection of taster bars from Madagascan maker Menakao. These individually wrapped, petite bars are just the size to enjoy with a coffee, and make the ideal gift to give that friend who you’ve been meaning to introduce to the world of craft chocolate.

    Menakao is a very special maker in that it crafts the beans in the country they are grown. It is unusual in that it not only uses Madagascan cacao, but also crafts its bars in the northwest of Madagascar. Its bars are superb examples of Madagascan dark and milk chocolate, simply bursting with sharp red berries and citrus.

    We love Menakao’s plain milk and dark chocolate bars. In addition Menakao also makes some outstanding flavoured chocolate bars. These bars showcase the distinctive flavours that can be achieved when Madagascan cacao is combined with locally sourced inclusions. Inside these collections, you will have the chance to try bars with peppercorns, chilli, Arabica coffee and fleur du sal.

    We hope you enjoy.


    Menakao Craft Chocolate Taster Box | £5.95

    This box featuring three taster bars from Menakao is an excellent introduction to the world of craft chocolate, with a particular focus on Madagascan chocolate.

    Inside this box you’ll discover three craft chocolate bars from Menakao. A plain dark chocolate bar, a bar with pink peppercorns and a bar with Arabica coffee, cocoa nibs and sea salt.

    BUY NOW

     

    Pair of Menakao Taster Boxes | £10

    At just £10 this pair of boxes is exceptional value. The first box contains a plain dark chocolate bar, a bar with Pink Peppercorns and a bar with Arabica coffee, cocoa nibs and sea salt. The second has a plain dark chocolate bar, a bar with bird chili and one with cocoa nibs and salt.

    BUY NOW

  • Feb 07

    When Coffee Met Chocolate

    By Lizzy Cuddy  ·  Uncategorized

    This Valentine’s Day we are proud to present a very special gift, curated in partnership with the wonderful team at Square Mile Coffee Roasters in London’s Bethnall Green.

    We have harboured a great deal of respect for the work done by the team at Square Mile. Their commitment to sourcing, buying, importing, roasting and delivering the best coffee they can get a hold of is second to none. We are very grateful for everything that they have done to elevate the quality of coffee that we drink in coffee shops both here in London and elsewhere across the UK.

    It was such a treat to spent an afternoon with the team at Square Mile, pairing our single origin chocolate bars with one of their exceptional coffees. The coffee we were pairing to was Square Mile’s Santa Rosa 1900 coffee from Costa Rica.

    The fresh red grape flavours of this coffee are accompanied by hazelnut notes in this elegant and refined returning favourite from brothers Luis Alberto and Oscar Adolfo Monge Ureñas. Grown in the Tarrazu region of Costa Rica.

    Like us, the Square Mile team was equally passionate about great milk and dark chocolate bars, so we initially tried pairing with a host of milk chocolate. But as a group who prefer their coffee black, we found the milk bars overpowered this light, fresh coffee.

    Next, we moved on to a selection of dark chocolates with cacaos from the four corners of the globe. The nutty, indulgent notes of Dominican and Bolivian cacao, and the smokiness of Solomon Isles cacao were delicious, but ultimately not quite the perfect match.

    After a thoroughly enjoyable tasting adventure, the roasters at Square Mile felt that only two origins could be the ideal match for their fine coffee. Only the citrus notes of Peruvian cacao, or the tart, red berry and dried fruit notes of Madagascan cacao would be the top pick to enjoy alongside the Santa Rosa 1900.

    The team at Square Mile ultimately chose the Madagascan Dark Chocolate from Icelandic maker Omnom, and today we are delighted to present a gift that includes a bag of fresh roasted coffee and Omnom’s delicious dark chocolate bar.

    Whether you’re looking for an ideal gift for a coffee and chocolate lover this Valentine’s Day, or just looking for a present from you, to you, this is a very special gift that makes for a delicious and indulgent treat.

    This gift is available for a very limited time for delivery to mainland UK addresses. The coffee is roasted fresh each day right here in London. We would recommend ordering by midnight on Sunday 11th February for delivery in time for Valentine’s Day.

    What’s more, we’re able to offer Free UK Shipping on this gift. Order direct at Square Mile Roasters today.

     

     

  • Feb 01

    Valentine’s Day Gifts From Cocoa Runners

    By Lizzy Cuddy  ·  Uncategorized

    Love is in the air. And no Valentine’s Day is complete without the delicious aroma of craft chocolate.

    At Cocoa Runners we love craft chocolate. We love discovering new beans andbars. We love sharing in the passion of our makers and growers. We love sharing chocolate.

    And we’d love to make your Valentine’s Day even more special by sharingsome craft chocolate with you.

    If you’re in London, treat your Valentine to an evening spent tasting craft chocolate, on Wednesday 14th February at Prufrock Coffee on Leather Lane.  Or if you’re further afield, why not send your chocolate loving Valentine ourValentine’s Day Collection of four carefully crafted chocolate bars, beautifully presented in a craft brown giftbox.

    If you would like to add a little extra indulgence to your Valentine’s Day celebration, our Prosecco and Chocolate gift is just the ticket.  Curated by theteam at Great Western Wine, this gift brings together a bottle of Prosecco Treviso DOC with a pair of single origin craft chocolate bars.

    To ensure that your gift arrives at mainland UK addresses in time for Valentine’s Day, please place your order by noon on Monday 12th February.

    We hope you enjoy!


    Craft Chocolate Tasting Evening, February 14th 2018

    Tickets £25 each, Two for £45

    Join us for an evening spent tastingover a dozen of the world’s finest single origin craft chocolate bars.

    We’ll go under the hood of craft chocolate bars, looking in detail at the intricacies of cacao genetics, harvest, fermentation, vintages, conching and roasting, and examining how each stage of cacao production can affect the flavour of a bar.

     


    The Valentine’s Collection

    £24.95

    This Valentine’s Day we’ve picked four beautiful bars from artisans aroundthe world.  Join us on a romantic voyage of discovery, from the sensual deep notes of Pump Street’s Madagascan dark chocolate to the luscious layersof flavour in Jordi’s milk chocolate bar via the striking emerald  barfrom Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé . Finally dive deep into the Colombian jungle with the rich notes of Zotter’s Colombian dark chocolate bar.

    And not only do these bars taste great, but they also do good – they are all the product of direct trade. We hope you enjoy tasting them as much aswe’ve enjoyed choosing them.


    Chocolate & Prosecco Gift

    £29.95

    Inside this luxury chocolate gift youwill discover a bottle of Fiabesco Prosecco Treviso DOC NV paired withtwo artisan chocolate bars.

    We have teamed up Bath-based wine Merchant Great Western Wines tobring you a chocolate and wine giftlike no other. Together we tried andtasted different wine and chocolate pairings to create a truly exceptional gift.