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Chocolate Tasting

Chocolate Tasting With Lucocoa

By | Tastings, The World of Chocolate, Uncategorized | No Comments

On Tuesday 16th May we hosted our monthly Chocolate Tasting Evening at Prufrock Coffee. This time we did something a little different. Lizzie from Cocoa Runners invited Ama of Lucocoa to share the stage with her and talk about her experiences of chocolate making.

Among the guests was Terese Weiss. Terese is a bean-to-bar expert and currently on the Teacher Training Programme at the International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Training (IICCT). If you’ve taken one of the IICCT’s courses in the UK you might just have had the good fortune to have been taught by Terese.

After attending the event, Terese was kind enough to write an account the evening which we are delighted to share with you below.

A ‘Hakuna Lucocoa matata’ kind of chocolate event

An evening of learning, tasting and a meeting a chocolate maker – 16 May 2017

When was the last time you met the maker and personality behind a product you eat pretty much daily?  Living in a big town like London, that in itself is rather uncommon, even in a time when specialty and craft are increasingly celebrated.  That is what made the most recent Cocoa Runners’ ‘meet the maker’ event so enticing and intimate: to hear and taste the story with the maker – in this case Lucocoa, aka team Ama and Andy.

To make an unusual start, let me tell you that as a professional interpreter, this would be my favorite kind of assignment.  What’s there not to like?  A relaxing yet informative evening with guided tastings of 14 quality chocolates and peppered with entertaining tidbits.  (Who by the way knew that the UK chocolate market is bigger that the book and music industry combined!). But why is that relevant to interpreting – and how is that the reason the Cocoa Runners’ gig is one to keep looking out for.  Well, hear me out.

Interpreters are often regarded as semi androids, a hidden button somewhere is switched on, A language goes in, B language comes out.  Not quite so.  Language is just the top of the iceberg.  We look below and listen for meaning, intention and delivery – how well they align… or not.  I have interpreted many good and not so good presentations, so I can tell you: Cocoa Runners’ event was aligned, like a string of cocoa beans.  They speak fluent chocolate, no interpretation needed.

The evening was mainly hosted by Cocoa Runners’ staff Lizzie who did a deft job in giving sizable insight into the world of chocolate.  Although we covered a lot, (beyond the tasting itself – recognising quality, ingredients, the surge of the craft bar, how it is made and personal stories about every sample and maker, the size, shape and make up of the industry as a whole – and much more), I didn’t feel overwhelmed.  And that on a hot Tuesday evening after a long day’s work.  It takes a skilled and knowledgeable presenter to do that – and probably some of the most visual and entertaining slides I have long seen, which kept the evening light and engaging.  Who would have thought that a picture of chicken nuggets or a baby donkey could perfectly exemplify just about anything chocolate.  If you don’t believe me, go see for yourself!

Lizzie was seconded by Ama in a gentle duet, partly to hear Lucocoa’s story, partly to get a maker’s perspective.  If you don’t know Lucocoa, they are London’s first bean-to-bar maker, having set up in 2014.  She and Andy still juggle day jobs and have turned their spare room into a small chocolate factory, (doesn’t that sound like pure bliss), although plans to upscale elsewhere are on the horizon.  Ama’s background as a nutritionalist and the couple’s discovery of the Amazonian ‘super food’ lucuma fruit, (looks like a cross between a tennis ball and a granny smith) gave birth to Lucocoa’s name and signature ingredients: coconut sugar and lucuma powder.

There was something quite disarming in Ama’s ‘down to earth-ness’ and admittance of the teething problems she and Andy went through as new kids on the chocolate block.  Like how they leaned the hard way to navigate import and export, having travelled and found the beans they wanted to buy from a local woman in Belize and thinking it would just be a small matter of shipping them back to the UK.

We tried 4 of Lucocoa’s bars from Belize, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala showing us a fan of different flavors – and a delicious ‘natural blonde’ white bar.  However, for Ama it seemed more important to tell the story behind the bars, about the 3 different women, (Minni, Idelsa and Yasmira), who grow the beans, how they met and their relationship.  Aptly, the range is called ‘celebrating our women farmers’.  The direct trade and connection is, as summarised by Lizzie, exactly ‘what we love about craft chocolate’ namely ‘that you get really close to the individual farmer’.  The emerging availability of beans from these and other unique origin growers is also what is makes the craft market and Cocoa Runners’ library boom these last few years – and what you get a select taste of at their events.

Listening to Lizzie and Ama it mostly felt like a couple of friends were sitting me down and telling me about their jobs and area of expertise.  There was no lecturing, no sleek marketing spiel, just nice people and a good atmosphere, with a pile of fine chocolate samples.  Indeed, what is there not to like?!

 

You can find out more about Lucocoa’s chocolate here.

You can find out more about the ICCTT here.

Craft Chocolate London

Craft Chocolate Makers in London

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The London craft chocolate scene is booming.

When Cocoa Runners started in 2013 there were no small-batch craft makers in London. Back then you could pretty much count all of the UK’s bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers on one hand.

Fast forward less than four years and London has now got a growing handful of dedicated and talented craft chocolate makers. While fantastic small-batch chocolate makers are also appearing in cities such as Manchester and Sheffield, London truly is the capital of British craft chocolate.

More and more artisan makers are appearing in London. Each of these makers has a unique style but they all share a desire to craft the best possible chocolate straight from the bean.

In small workshops spaces, or even their spare rooms, they use the smallest number of ingredients possible to make chocolate with distinct flavours. The focus is not on flavourings or novelty ingredients but on the complex characteristics of the cocoa beans.

Discover the incredible pioneers crafting small-batch chocolate in London…

Lucocoa

ama andyThe first maker to officially launch in 2014 was North London’s Lucocoa, founded by Ama and Andy. As they recently told the Times, Ama and Andy have two objectives. First they want people to eat purer, better chocolate with good simple ingredients, and to that end their bars never contain anything more than five ingredients: cacao beans, cocoa butter, coconut sugar, milk and lucuma (a Peruvian superfood). More than that, Lucocoa is trying to encourage people to savour chocolate as one would a fine wine.

For International Women’s Day this year, Ama from Lucocoa has created a series of chocolates celebrating the achievements of female cocoa farmers and growers. We’ve partnered with her to bring you her International Women’s Day Limited Edition Belize dark chocolate bar.

The special wrapper depicts Minni Forman, Managing Director of Maya Mountain Cacao in Belize. Minni is key to all aspects of Maya Mountain’s operations. She oversees everything from Maya Mountain’s research farm to its post-harvest facilities and relationships with local farmers. Ama has used beans from Minni and Maya Mountain to craft this special bar.

DISCOVER LUCOCOA

Damson

Damson ChocolateNext is a maker very close to our heart. Before launching Damson Chocolate, Dom Ramsey was a prolific chocolate blogger and founding member of the Cocoa Runners team. In his very first year, Dom received two awards for his chocolate at the Academy of Chocolate Awards, as well as a prestigious ‘One to Watch’ Award.

Based in Islington’s Chapel Market Damson describes itself as ‘fanatical about quality’. Crafting bars in its modest Islington kitchen, every stage – from roasting the beans to wrapping the bars – is carried out with meticulous attention to detail. In celebration of the local area Dom even created a special dark chocolate, the Angel Bar.

DISCOVER DAMSON

Land

Land ChocolateBased in Bethnal Green, Land is London’s latest exciting chocolate arrival. Land was founded in 2016 by Phil Landers. Phil was previously a radio producer, but looking for a change, he went travelling around Central America where he discovered cacao.

Returning to London with his new-found passion, Phil trained with well-known chocolatier Paul. A. Young and then American chocolate makers Mast. Branching out by himself Phil is now crafting his own beautiful single-origin bars in an old furniture maker’s workshop. Currently a one-man show, he does everything himself, from hand-sorting his beans to hand-wrapping his bars.

His packaging is as stylish as it is informative. On the back you can discover exactly where the beans for each bar have come from. Focusing on South and Central America, Phil is keen to explore lesser-known origins and create bars with more unusual profiles.

DISCOVER LAND

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How to taste chocolate

How To Taste Chocolate

By | The World of Chocolate | No Comments

We believe chocolate and wine have a lot in common. As with the finest wines, in order to really get the best out of our craft bars you need to know how to taste chocolate properly. It’s not just about  satisfying your sweet tooth, but uncovering the complex flavours of the cocoa beans that have been lovingly coaxed out by the artisan chocolate maker.

Just as the altitude, climate and soil will affect the grapes in a fine wine, the same factors can affect the flavour of the cocoa beans in your chocolate bar. Combined, these different environmental factors are known as the ‘terroir’. The finest wines are created when the finest grapes are in the hands of a talented vitner (or wine maker).  And the same is true for chocolate. When the best cocoa beans are given to a skilled maker who takes the time to hand craft every stage from bean to bar, you find yourself with a chocolate that deserves to be savoured. And in order to truly savour these fine bars you first should learn how to taste chocolate!

There’s just one problem for the chocolate aficionado in training. While whole books have been written about how best to enjoy a fine wine, very little has been written about how to enjoy a bar of chocolate.  Most of us reach for a chocolate bar for a mid-afternoon pick me up and end up eating it without much thought.  But when a maker has taken the time to directly source their beans, and painstakingly draw out their flavours, we think the same care should be taken when eating it.

Here at Cocoa Runners, we spend our lives running around the world, trying to find the very best chocolate bars. We have tasted a ever-growing number of chocolate bars. Of the thousands we’ve tasted we only choose the very best to put on our site. So after years of practice we wanted to share our top tips on how to taste chocolate.

Before you read on remember, eating chocolate should always be a pleasure and never a chore. We want to help you get the most out of your fine craft chocolate, but don’t overthink it!

  1. Look at the bar. Carefully take the bar out of its packaging and take a long hard look. Is it shiny and glossy, or does it have a dusty white powder on the surface?  The white powder is the fat in the bar, that has risen to its surface.  This normally happens when a bar has melted and reset, and is a sign that it hasn’t been properly stored.  This is particularly true of dark chocolate. While a little bloom on the surface shouldn’t affect the flavour, you might need to let it melt in your mouth for a little longer.
  1. Break off a piece.  What sound does the bar make and how does it feel when you break it? Does it break with a nice clean snap, or does it crumble?  As well as a wonderfully glossy finish, a well tempered bar should break with ease. A snap that is either too brittle or too soft again suggests that bar either wasn’t stored at the correct temperature or the bar wasn’t properly tempered. Tempering is the process by which chocolate is melted and then set into a chocolate bar at just the right temperature.
  1. Hold the bar for a second.  Does it start to melt?  Artisan chocolate bars contain cocoa butter, and this melts quickly at body temperature.  Most mainstream bars start to crumble and flake into a sticky mess instead of melting smoothly.  This is because of a trick used by many mainstream chocolate makers. They separate the cocoa powder from the cocoa butter and sell it off to the cosmetics industry for use in moisturisers, lipsticks, etc, then replace it with cheaper fats that don’t have the same wonderfully smooth melt.
  1. Smell the bar.  Can you smell citrus, berries, nuts or something else?  As we’ve said, tasting chocolate is like tasting a fine wine. When tasting wine, its standard practice to swirl you drink round in your glass before inhaling deeply.  A good proportion of the flavours in any food or drink comes from their aroma.  A wealth of aromas are released the moment you unwrap a craft chocolate bar. In the same way that swirling your wine helps to release the aroma, holding the piece in your hand (see above) will begin to heat the chocolate slightly, releasing it smell.
  1. Put a piece on your tongue and let it melt, taking care not to chew.  As it melts, different layers of flavour will reveal themselves.A rich Dominican bar might start with a roasted, chocolate ganache note that develops to leave an earthy finish. Or the initial berry notes of a Madagascan chocolate transform into a citrus note.
  1. Enjoy. Eating chocolate should always be a pleasure. These tips on how to taste chocolate should help you get the most out of your artisan chocolate. If you can’t taste the flavours other people have described then don’t worry, as taste is subjective. And remember, the more chocolate you taste, the more your palate will develop.

All told, there are over 400 distinct flavour compounds in chocolate, more than enough to keep even the keenest cocoa bean interested. Not only is taste extremely subjective,  it’s influenced by everything you’ve eaten and drunk throughout the day.  The same chocolate eaten by itself will taste very different when it is matched with a suitable fine wine.

Now you know how to taste chocolate, take a look at how artisan chocolate is made. See our page about it here.

Whittard Tea & Chocolate

Welcome Whittard

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Earlier this year we were delighted to spend time with the expert tea tasters from Whittard, tasting their fine loose leaf teas and sharing some of our favourite bars.  It was fascinating to learn so much about  the origins of different teas, and all the care and attention that goes into preparing the perfect cup.  Perhaps it was inevitable that we would eventually find ourselves trying out different pairings of teas and bars.

Along with the fantastically knowledgeable Bethan Thomas, Tea Buyer & Manager at Whittard, we presented our three favourite combinations at the Chocolate Show London in October 2016. We were delighted to share our pairings and hear other people’s notes on the teas and chocolate. You can also discover each combination for yourself. Read on to find out more. Mao Jian & Marou Ba Ria, £18

Mao Jian & Marou Ba Ria £18

Whittard Chocolate and tea 1For those looking for a more robust taste to their green tea, this famous variety from China’s Hunan Province might be just the ticket.

The elegant blue-grey leaf takes its colour from the silvery buds picked early in the spring, while the infusion itself produces rich, roasted notes and a vibrant nutty complexity. There’s even a floral sweetness to the finish, far from the bitter, tannic taste which you might associate with lesser green teas.

The name itself is a reference to the quality of the leaf: ‘Mao’ refers to the youthful, downy quality of the barely opened buds, while ‘Jian’ refers to the peaked tip of the young leaves, delicately picked and gently rolled by hand.

Ba Ria is a rich and fruity chocolate, made with beans from the Bà Ria province of south eastern Vietnam. This bar is a sublime and intense chocolate experience that tastes as good as it looks. This is the kind of chocolate that makes you look twice at the ingredients to see where the intensely fruity flavour is coming from. Of course, there are no added flavours, and the deep, red fruit notes in this chocolate come entirely from the south Vietnamese Trinitario cocoa beans.

When tasted together, they transform the separate flavours in a most unexpected way.  Whittard’s tea expert said “We’d always considered our Mao Jian as a typically ‘nutty’ fired green tea, but it transformed into something altogether more floral when set against Marou’s intense 76% Vietnamese dark chocolate.”

Keemun Mao Feng & Solomons Gold £18

whittard chocolate and tea 2Keemun Mao Feng – aromatic notes of sweet plum and smoked pinewood.

This smokey pairing brings together a Keemun from China and a dark chocolate from The Solomon Isles.

One of our most prized Chinese teas, we’ve sourced this exceptionally high grade of Keemun from Anhui Province, the home of Chinese black tea. While ‘Keemun’ refers to the region of ‘Qimen’ where this tea was first produced using specialist techniques learnt in AnHui, ‘Mao Feng’ gives a clue to the superb quality of the young spring leaves. Skilfully picked and processed by hand, the result is an extraordinarily smooth, plummy sweetness, tinged with a subtlest touch of Lapsang-style smokiness.

Comparable to a fine Burgundy in the tea-tasting world, this is the sort of tea connoisseurs dream about. We’d recommend using slightly less leaf, brewing lightly and drinking without milk to bring out the notes of plum, black pepper and smoked pinewood.

Perhaps one of the most interesting chocolate phenomena, this ‘smoked chocolate’ note is something we are seeing more of. There are a number of cocoa-producing islands in the South Pacific and many of the bars that hail from them have a similar profile. At the same time, each different plantation and islands’ own micro-climate has a huge impact on the beans’ flavour. So far Solomons Gold has the most pronounced smokiness  of any bar we’ve tasted.

This is a seriously intense and savoury dark bar. The chocolate has little to no fruit but instead is infused with a seriously smokey aroma. The flavour is not so much nutty or roasted as a big blast of wood smoke.

Imperial Puerh & Pacari Sea Salt & Nibs £12

Whittard Tea & Chocolate 2Imperial Puerh – Strong and earthy, yet clean and refreshing.

This pairing brings together a fine Puerh from China and a dark chocolate from Ecuador.

Our Imperial Puerh is a particularly fine variety from the home of puerh tea, Yunnan Province in China. Unlike many lesser quality puerhs which tend to be heavy and musty, this is a clear-tasting and richly flavoursome tea, substantially full-bodied without a hint of heaviness. You’ll find the earthy notes are beautifully balanced by a fresh, clean sweetness, and the result is surprisingly refreshing.

There’s no tea quite like puerh. It’s the only tea to be fermented alongside the usual oxidation process using healthy microbes and microflora: the bacteria required for a healthy digestive system. As a result, puerh has long been viewed as an aid to digestion and weight loss – over the centuries, it has been claimed to reduce cholesterol, combat ageing, reduce the risk of heart disease and help with circulation, to name but a few of the reputed benefits. However, a good puerh is far more than just a medical brew.

The unroasted dark chocolate has an earthy green flavour and unusual grainy texture. The Ecuadorian nibs give a satisfying crunch bar and further bring out the wooded vegetal notes in the chocolate. The hints of salt give a distinctive contrast, refreshing the palate.

Ecuadorian cacao is known for its earthy profile, and tasting this alongside the highly aromatic yet earthy Puerh makes for a satisfying and somewhat savoury pairing.

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New Craft Chocolate As Seen On Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch

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On Sunday 10 October, Cocoa Runners co-founder Spencer returned to Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch to share four of the newest & most exciting craft chocolate bars in the Cocoa Runners Library. Click here to buy the full collection or read on to explore the individual craft chocolate bars for yourself.

 

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Original Beans – Cru Udzungwa 70%

Original Beans Cru Udzungwa

First is a brand new addition from Original Beans. Its Cru Udzungwa dark chocolate has been crafted using beans from the edge of Udzungwa Mountain National Park in Tanzania. Locals grow the cacao trees in special village gardens. This gives locals a good source of income and thus supports local communities and their stewardship of Udzungwa National Park which is home to a number of endangered species, including African elephants.

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Georgia Ramon – Philippinen 80%

Philipinen Black 80

 

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Next is a Georgia Ramon’s Philippinen 80% bar. Cocoa Runner’s first German maker, the company was founded by Georg Bernadini and his partner Ramona Gustman. Georg has worked in the chocolate industry for over 20 years and has now put his years of knowledge and experience working for others to good use. The beans are sourced directly from the Puentespina family in the Philippines.

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Luisa Abram – 70%

Luisa Abram 70%

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Then travel to the Amazon with Luisa Abram’s 70% dark chocolate bar. Luisa and her father Andre travel up through the Brazilian rainforests and up the Amazon river looking for rare cocoa beans and long-forgotten or undiscovered varietals. They buy their beans directly from the local communities who harvest, ferment and dry the beans. These are then shipped down-river to Luisa’s workshop where she transforms the precious cacao into incredible chocolate!

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Chocolat Bonnat – Javan Dark Milk

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Finally we have a decadent Chocolat Bonnat Javan Dark Milk from one France’s oldest chocolate makers. Chocolat Bonnat has been crafting chocolate in Voiron, France for over 130 years. The company is currently headed by the sixth generation of Bonnat chocolatiers Stephane Bonnat. Javan cacao has a particularly fine flavour and the island’s cocoa trees are believed to trace their roots all the way back to Venezuela.

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Click here to buy the full collection or discover the individual craft chocolate bars for yourself.

Menakao Cocoa Nibs

What Are Cocoa Nibs?

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There has been a lot of buzz about cocoa nibs recently, but what exactly are they?

Everyone knows that craft chocolate is made directly from the cocoa bean. But did you know that these cocoa beans are a delicious treat all by themselves?

Cacao nibs are pieces of fermented, dried, roasted and crushed cacao bean. Once roasted, winnowed and cracked the nibs are generally made into chocolate. But these crunchy bits of cocoa nib can also be eaten just as they are. This is ‘chocolate’ at its purest – no added sugar, no milk, no flavourings and almost no processing. And just like the chocolate they are turned into, cocoa nibs have been shown to have many different nutritional benefits.

Cocoa nibs naturally contain a significant amount of fibre (about 9g per ounce) as well as magnesium, potassium and more calcium than cow’s milk. Cocoa beans are a plant-based source of iron. On top of this cacao contain high levels of flavonoids, particularly epicatechin which studies have shown to have a beneficial impact on cardiovascular health. Of course all this can also be said of chocolate, but without any added sugar or milk cocoa nibs are the best way to get these benefits.

It’s not just about eating something that’s good for you however, it’s about eating something that tastes good. Cocoa nibs have a slightly nutty texture, comparable to cashews or macadamia nuts. The nibs aren’t as bitter as you might expect as the flavour is less intense and generally fruitier.

Our Madagascan nibs by Menakao have a particularly pronounced fruity aroma with a roasted undernote. Sharp citrus mixes with orange and cranberries. The profile is similar to Menakao’s dark bars but with a raw, unprocessed edge: the same flavours are present but haven’t been focused and refined as in a bar.

So what to do with these delicious and diverse cocoa nibs? Nibs are a wonderfully versatile cooking ingredient that you can use in both sweet and savoury dishes. Below we highlight some of our favourite ways to use cocoa nibs.

  1. Start your day with a crunch. Add a sprinkling of cocoa nibs to your morning porridge, giving it a little more texture and a roasted chocolatey note. For a deliciously fruity breakfast, why not use Menakao’s roasted nibs and add in a handful of dried fruit to bring out the beans’ own flavours.
  2. Bake to perfection. Described by some as ‘nature’s chocolate chip’ cocoa nibs can be added into cakes, cookies, biscuits, brownies, muffins and more! Cooking will soften the nibs a little but they’ll still retain some of their crunch. Remember that while the nibs are bursting with intense flavours, they’ve none of the added sugar that chocolate does. So you might need to adjust your recipe accordingly.
  3. Top everything. Don’t stop at porridge and baked goods. We think a liberal sprinkle of cocoa nibs can improve any number of dishes from your superfood smoothie, to yogurt and granola, to rice pudding or pancakes.
  4. Be bold. Chocolate might be regarded as a sweet treat, but nibs don’t have to be. Just like nuts and seeds cocoa nibs make a great addition to salads.
  5. A simple snack. Instead of munching on dried fruits or nuts, why not try a handful of cocoa nibs to keep you going throughout the day. Keep a little sachet by your desk for when you need a sugar-free chocolate fix.

How do you use cocoa beans? Let us know your favourite recipes.

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/02/cacao-nibs_n_3695571.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoa_bean#Health_benefits

Georgia Ramon

Meet The Maker: Georgia Ramon

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We are really excited to have welcomed Georgia Ramon, our first German craft chocolate maker to the Chocolate Library this month. Based in Bonn, Georgia Ramon is the brainchild of Georg Bernadini and his Partner Ramona Gustmann.

Georg is already a well know figure in the chocolate world – he has been working in the industry for over twenty years, and been involved with the bean-to-bar movement since 2005. We asked him a few questions about his latest chocolate venture and the vision he and Ramona has set out for Georgia Ramon.

  1. What’s your background? Why and how did you get into chocolate?

I stems from an Italian family of restaurant proprietors. I started my career in 1984 as apprentice at a German patisserie in Bonn.

In 1987 I worked for few month in Munich at Kreutzkamm (very famous for Stollen and Baumkuchen). In the same year I moved to Paris where I worked for five years at a German/Austrian Patisserie and in the meantime also in a 2 Michelin star Restaurant in Toulouse.

In 1992 I established the Confiserie Coppeneur together with Oliver Coppenur. In 2005 we started our Bean-to-Bar project. I was responsible for the whole project starting with sourcing machines and cocoa beans, but also for recipes, production, design and marketing.

In June 2010 I retired as partner of the Confiserie Coppeneur.

In 2012 I published my first book Der Schokoladentester followed from the second edition, this time also in English, in September 2015. (The English edition The Chocolate Reference Standard is available for sale on Cocoa Runners here). In 2016 I write one or two new books (with chocolate recipes), but this time not self-published.

When I was working in Paris my dream was to establish my own company. The choice was between a patisserie or to specialize in gelato or chocolate. Chocolate seemed to me to be the best choice. Chocolate was always my favorite sweet so I didn’t take long to think about my choice.

  1. What mission have you set for making crafting chocolate?

I saw the new revolution of craft Bean-to-Bar in USA, but also in many other countries. Only few new projects started in Germany. I wanted to bring this wonderful craft to the mind of German consumers. I was tired about the mediocre and bad chocolate produced from the industry. Also I like to go new ways. There are already many, many single origin chocolates. The market doesn’t need the 75th Akesson Madagascar-chocolate bar…

Of course we will always produce also single origin bars, but I also would like to create new tastes, like our Brokkoli chocolate (our number one seller). Actually I’m working on a tomato and on a stinging nettle chocolate. It’s a thrilling time as we are able to make every day tasting at the counter of our own shop. So we get feedback every day.

My main focus is to use the best ingredients as I can find and not to make any compromise in this!

  1. When did you start your company — and with whom?  How many are there of you?

With my life partner, Ramona (Gustmann) we started in May 2015. Now we have a full time pastry chef and 3-4 part-time staff.

  1. Where do you want to go next?  New bars?  New beans?  New markets?

The first step is to establish our brand in the traditional market as a high quality craft Bean-to-Bar brand. We still work to optimize our way to produce chocolate. The feedback of our customers is even better than I dreamed. They love our chocolate and this is quite satisfactory.

Of course we will create new bars. New flavored bars, but also new origins. There are so many origins to discover that I refuse to limit myself to work only with few origins. I know that some customers, especially re-sellers, wish to have a kind of stability in the selection. But this is not always possible.

For example: we started with a quite rare organic Ghana cocoa bean from the ABOCFA-Cooperative since the beginning of our company. Two weeks ago I got the information that we cannot anymore buy this beans as the cooperative sold the whole harvest to one customer in Netherlands. Our Ghana chocolate is the bestseller from our origin range, but we cannot anymore produce this chocolate. So we have to find a new origin. And I’m seriously when I say to all chocolate lovers: buy this bar before it is sold out! You will hardly find this quality made from Ghana cocoa beans, especially in organic quality!

I also want to develop our range of strange and new tastes like tomato and stinging nettle. Somebody wrote last week on Instagram in context to our broccoli-chocolate something like ‘Nobody need this kind of chocolate’. This is a quite big error and nonsense! If we don’t continue to experiment with any kind of ingredients, ways to produce a chocolate etc., where is the legitimacy existence of creativity and also of craft bean-to-bar? How can we progress and develop new products if we don’t try to go new ways? Also, why is chocolate in dishes (as mole) OK, but not vegetables in chocolate? It don’t make any sense to me. Why coffee or matcha is OK in chocolate, but not broccoli, tomato or stinging nettles? Sorry, but this kind of opinion and also of inconsistency I don’t understand.

New markets: This is not our main focus at this time. Before thinking about new markets we would like to get enough and good partners in the traditional market.

  1. How did you source your beans?

Our beans from Maranon (Peru) and Philippines are directly traded. Our Belize beans are fair traded beans which we buy through the importer of the TCGA-Cooperative, Mr. Patrick Walter. But we are in direct contact with the cooperative in Belize. The fair trade and organic Ghana cocoa beans we sourced from Josef Zotter and our Dominic Republic beans we buy from a local dealer who I know now for more than 10 years. For us it is important to know the traces of the beans. From where they come, who produces them, how are the conditions where the people work etc.

  1. What is your favourite food?  Wine?  Other chocolate makers?

My favourite food? Oh, many… and I’m happy that Ramona agrees with me in almost all of my favourite foods. First of all, of course, chocolate in all variations. But I love also all other kind of fine food. Pastry/Desserts (especially Japanese pastry in European style) Cheese, fish, seafood, fine salami, olive oil, bread.

Wine is not really my favourite beverage. I like good wine, yes. But I prefer often to get a delicious IPA craft beer or craft beer generally. I love a nice Rhum and my favourite cocktail is definitely: Cacacha + fresh cocoa pulp and a hint of lime served on a cocoa plantation in Brazil (I had this wonderful experience with my friend Diego Badaro/AMMA). For food I’m/we have quite simple tastes. The quality of the ingredients has to be good and the cook not the worst. In this case you will always be happy with what you get.

I have some chocolate makers which are definitely my favourite makers (in no order): Rogue Chocolatier, SOMA, Sirene, Metiisto, Zotter, Domori, A. Morin, Pump Street Bakery, Patric Chocolate and of course Fruition.

For assorted chocolates I love especially Es Koyama, Demarquette, Le Chocolat de H, Nobile Cioccolato, William Curley, Patrick Roger and Wild Sweets.

Vive La France! A Celebration of French Chocolate

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There’s only one way we at Cocoa Runners could celebrate Bastille Day and that’s with some decadently delicious French chocolate. We’ve created a special collection just for the occasion, stuffed with some of the best craft chocolate bars from l’Hexagone.

As we you dig in to these truly exceptional bars we thought we’d take a look at some of the reasons we love the French chocolate so much. You can read on to find out more, and if you want to taste as you go, you can buy our limited edition Best of France collection here.

Tradition & heritage

We talk a lot about the recent chocolate revolution. Over the past decade there has been a huge resurgence in craft makers as people rediscover the forgotten craft of chocolate making.  France is perhaps the only place where this isn’t the case, because in France this craft was never lost. Makers such as Bonnat, Pralus and Cluizel have been crafting chocolate from the bean for longer than almost anyone else.

Take Stephane Bonnat. The sixth generation chocolatier still crafts his bars in the same workshop that Felix Bonnat opened in 1884. Some of the original machinery is still in use, while others have been designed exactly as they were. Bonnat still follows traditional methods and much is done by hand. But innovation also has its place – alongside this Bonnat has also custom-designed other modern machinery to compliment the traditional.

Dedication & craftsmanship

The French chocolate tradition isn’t just about history, it’s about perfection that can only come from obsession.

Francois Pralus’ love of the Madagascan bean, has led to him buying a plantation there. Not only does this mean he can control every stage of the chocolate making but also how the beans are grown, fermented and dried.

Pralus’ continued fascination and dedication has also led him to seek out numerous different beans from around the world and develop bars that capture the flavour of each. Always looking for new challenges he currently uses 16 different origins while Bonnat sources cacao from a staggering 35 different plantations worldwide. Each origin is treated with individual respect. Each presents a unique challenge as makers try to craft the beans into the best possible bar.

Adventure & innovation

As craft chocolate took hold, the number of makers in the USA the number of makers has grown exponentially. In France, where respect for tradition and continuity are so important, we haven’t seen the same frenzy of newcomers. But we there are still some new players. Two of our recent discoveries are Chocolat Chapon and Ara (Sabrina & Andres hail from Venezuela but chose to begin their chocolate enterprise in France).

French chocolate makers also aren’t afraid to innovate.  Patrice Chapon has created a single-origin mousse bar. Instead of choosing a different flavour of ice cream to devour on a hot day, you can choose a chocolate mousse made with beans from various origins. Patrice even has his own mousse bar that can be seen driving around Paris.

And when it comes to true chocolate innovators, look no further than Bertil Akesson. The son of a Swedish diplomat, Akesson grew up in France (which is where he now makes his chocolate). Bertil was a key part of the new chocolate revolution. He was one of the first people to start selling high quality, Madagascan cocoa beans to small makers around the world (including others in France such as Bonnat and Ara).

Renown & inspiration

France’s chocolate tradition is an inspiration for many other makers. Whether they are buying beans from Bertil Akesson or remembering the taste of Bonnat from their childhood.

One of the key concepts for craft chocolate is ‘terroir’, a term borrowed from the French wine industry. A fundamental element to the cacao’s taste, terroir refers to the environmental conditions where the cacao is grown. Marou is one maker who has taken this to heart and exported across the world to Vietnam. Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou, the company’s French founders, craft all their bars in Vietnam and source the beans for each from a different Vietnamese province or terroir.

Rich Buttery profile

Last but by no means least, one thing we truly love about French craft chocolate. Just like their ‘patisserie pur beurre’, French craft chocolate is often butter-rich. Here the butter in question is cocoa butter. This is the natural fat present in the cocoa bean and is what makes real chocolate melt so delicious in the mouth. Adding additional cocoa butter to your bar creates rich, dense and ever so smooth texture we have come to love from many French makers.

And if you want to taste for yourself, why not try our limited edition Best of France collection?

 

Discover the Best of France collection

 

Sunday Brunch Grand Prix

British Chocolate Grand Prix – As Seen On Sunday Brunch….

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On Sunday 10 July we took Tim Lovejoy, comedian Joy Lycett and guest host Kathryn Ryan on a tasting flight of four on the UK’s finest craft chocolate makers.

To celebrate the British Grand Prix we bring you four of our finest British craft chocolate makers. While British bean to bar chocolate may not be as well-known as British racing green, we think all four of these makers are winners. And it’s not just us – each of these incredible British artisans has won countless awards with its chocolate bars.

To begin we journey to Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire where Duffy Sheardown has crafted a very special bar exclusively for the Grand Prix. Before changing lanes and become the UK’s leading milk chocolate maker, Duffy was an engineer for Formula One. Not only that, he helped manage the team that broke the land speed record.  He has designed a special wrapper to commemorate this huge achievement. Unwrap the unique packaging, take a bite and savour a little bit of history.  Kathryn Ryan chose this sweet, creamy milk chocolate as her pick of the bars.

Then veering south we travel to Dorset where Solkiki are pioneering vegan artisan chocolate that is good for people, animals and the planet and tastes even better. Ever a fan of vegan chocolate, Joe couldn’t wait to try this bar. Next zoom over to Edinburgh and discover a brand new bar from the Chocolate Tree made using rare Colombian beans. Joe couldn’t get enough of the green, earthy notes of this bar. Finishing close to Cocoa Runners HQ, we head to Damson’s craft chocolate factory in Islington where Dom Ramsey crafts his bars. Tim picked this as his favourite bar – he loved the rich, berry notes of this Tanzanian cacao!

These four British chocolate bars (two milk and two dark) all taste different. Savour the bars and you will be amazed at the difference bean origin and the maker’s style has on the texture and flavour of the bars.

THE BRITISH CHOCOLATE GRAND PRIX COLLECTION

 

TDuffy Panama limited edition grand prix barhe first bar taste was Duffy’s Limited Edition Land Speed bar (Tierra Oscura milk 40%). As you bite into the soft milk chocolate inhale the sweet and fruity aroma. Hints of caramel and butterscotch swirl through dark cherries. A liquorice note rises through the sweetness to give a tingling finish.

Duffy sources the cocoa beans for his chocolate directly from cocoa farmers and co-operatives, ensuring a higher price for the farmer and a better quality product. For this bar he has used Directly-Traded fine cocoa beans bought directly from Dorothy (the farmer) in Panama.

solkiki maranon mylkNext up was the Solkiki Maranon Mylk 60% chocolate bar. This ‘milk’ chocolate bar is completely dairy free and instead uses coconut milk to create a sweet chocolate with a silky texture.

The coconut gives the bar a rich creaminess similar to a classic milk with a cooling finish. The bar has an unusual floral caramel flavour and we also detected a fresh coconut note from the milk. The chocolate’s toffee note combined with the coconut gives the chocolate a delicate panna cotta sweetness. This bar  has just won Silver at the International Chocolate Awards 2016.

The chocolate tree colombia huilaThen Spencer, Tim and the team taste the Chocolate Tree Colombia Huila dark bar. This bar is bursting with layers of complex flavour. Take a bite and rejoice in the intricate notes that overtake you and hit the back of palate.

The bar begins with fresh green spice and just a touch of liquorice before buttery coconut and cream emerge. Underneath discover a sweet floral haze full of rose water and pear drops. We noted just the smallest touch of bitterness before the long lingering finish. A cooling aftertaste leaves behind delicate rose on the tongue.

Chocolate Tree bought the beans for this bar direct from Aldemar Guzman. Aldemar grows his fine flavour cacao in the Huila region of South Western Colombia.

Damson Tanzania Kokoa KamiliLast but by no means least was London’s very own Damson’s Kokoa Kamili Tanzania 70% bar. The beans are naturally fruity with hints of plum and stone fruits. The smooth bar has a well-balanced acidity. The chocolate tastes like a fine red wine in bar format.

Damson has sourced the beans from Kokoa Kamili in Tanzania. Run by Simran and Brian in they buy beans directly from local farmers at above market prices. Kokoa Kamili then ferments and dries the beans at its purpose built workshop. Taking care of these post-harvest steps means that Kokoa Kamili is able to get the best out of the beans and so get farmers a better price. And at the same time farmers can focus on growing and harvesting their beans

 

Buy the British Chocolate Grand Prix Collection

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Father's Day 2016 Header

Father’s Day At Cocoa Runners

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Father’s Day is just around the corner on Sunday June 19th, so we’ve rounded up a selection of our favourite gifts that are sure to make any chocolate-loving dad’s day.

The Whisky Loving Dad – £24.95

Together with Good Things Magazine we’ve chosen four chocolate bars to match with whisky.
As with chocolate, the world of whisky has seen a boom in recent years as a new wave of drinkers have re-discovered the classic spirit. As with chocolate, distilleries both new and old all over the world are creating wonderful whiskys.
With the team at Good Things Magazine, we tasted our way through the Chocolate Library to find some bars the pair perfectly with this fantastically fashionable spirit.

Buy the Whisky Lover’s Collection

The Father’s Day Collection – £24.95

This collection brings together four fantastic small batch craft chocolate bars from makers around the world. This classic collection of milk, dark and textured chocolate is a veritable tour of the world of craft chocolate. The cocoa nibs in Menakao‘s Salt & Nibs bar enhances the fruity notes of Madagascan dark chocolate with a satisfying crunch. Crafted in Barcelona, Blanxart’s 72% Dominican Dark chocolate bar is incredibly rich, and has a ganache like quality.

The Burned Sugar in Omnom’s Dark Milk chocolate bar gives this sweet Icelandic offering a pleasing caramel twist in the tail. Finally, it felt only right to include a bar from Orford’s Pump St Chocolate in our Father’s Day Collection. Chris Brennan set up Pump St Chocolate with his daughter, Joanna. And this earthy Ecuadorian bar is true to the smooth and creamy style we’ve come to love from Pump Street’s award winning craft chocolate.

Buy the Father’s Day Collection

Omnom Sharing Board – £39.95

We spend a lot of time talking about how quality matters more than quantity. That being said, we can’t think of a dad we know who wouldn’t be seriously impressed by this super sized bar.

Created exclusively for Cocoa Runners, Omnom has handcrafted the bar, made from only the finest Madagascan beans, at its small batch workshop in Iceland.

This particular bar is Omnom’s award-winning Madagascar 66% dark chocolate. The wonderfully fruity bar is a perfect example of a Madagascan dark chocolate. Made with beans from Bertil Akesson, it has a balance between acidity and jammy notes that you would expect from Madagascan beans. However, we detect a slight sharpness with hints of cherry instead of the more familiar berry notes.

If your dad is more of a milk chocolate guy, you’ll be pleased to hear that the sharing board is also available with a 500g block of Omnom’s Milk of Madagascar.

Buy the Omnom Sharing board

Tasting Events – From £20

Treat your Dad to an evening spent chocolate tasting in London. Each month we hold a chocolate tasting salon at London’s Winemakers Club where we share a dozen or so craft chocolate bars from around the world with our fellow chocolate lovers.

Get Tickets Here

Chocolate Tasting Courses – From £49.95

Share the gift of craft chocolate with your father for months to come. Treat your dad to 3, 6 or indeed 12 months of deliveries from Cocoa Runners. He’ll discover the world’s best small batch, single estate craft chocolate, receiving a curated collection of four new bars each month, along with tasting notes to unwrap the story behind each bar. He’ll also be one of the first to try the newest makers in our Craft Chocolate Library.

Buy A Gift Tasting Course

 

Order by noon on Thursday June 16th for UK delivery in time for Father’s Day.

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