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!
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.
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.
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.
Now we are through January and semi recovered from the Holidays, we’ve decided to stick our necks out with a few predictions for 2018. We plan to dive into each of these predictions in more detail in the upcoming months, so apologies if we are a little briefin some cases. We’d also like to warn you that these predictions vary between the “wishful” ones (i.e. it’d be really nice and not too hard to imagine), the “safe” forecasts (where we are arguably cheating as we already have plans in these areas), and then afew “pessimistic” notes where we’d love to be proven wrong
Before we start, we thought we’d kick off with a first pass stab at a simple definition of “craft chocolate”. As with everything else in these posts, please let us know yourthoughts.
“Craft chocolate” is the pursuit of the unique tastes conjured from small batches of the best beans”
1 We will see an upgrade to “proper” drinking chocolate, especially in speciality coffee stores
The key driving force here is speciality coffee stores finally realising that if you aregoing to serve proper coffee, you can’t really serve a form of hot chocolate that is theequivalent of instant coffee. So, hopefully their customers will no longer just be served alkalalinised cocoa powder with sugar, loads of added ingredients, e numbers, vegetable and palm oils, etc.
This trend is encouraged by more and more makers launching craft drinking chocolate (ie powdered, shaved or buttoned versions of their own chocolate bars), and a fewmakers are even pressing their own powder (Pump Street, Chocolarder, Akesson, Chocolat Madagascar, Askinosie to name but a few …) so you can also enjoy great drinking chocolate at home too
2 Chocolate boards will become a mainstream rival to cheese boards
Okay, so this is a little bit more wishful. But there are some restaurants now offering “chocolate boards” (e.g., 67 Pall Mall, The Ten Cases and Carluccios) and more andmore craft chocolate fans are sharing their passion for fine bars at the end of meals inthe evening. Try it for yourself with one of our boards with their “breaking bars” (https://cocoarunners.com/shop/craft-chocolate-sharing-board/)
3 Bloggers and journalists start to do more debunking of crazy chocolate myths and raise awareness of some of chocolate’s “darker” sides
3.1 Great stuff by the Guardian and Mighty Forests on deforestation (See Guardian Online) … and next on child labour?
3.2 Call out the nonsense claims of RAW chocolate. RAW food fans believe thateating food that isn’t heated above 42 (or sometimes 45) degrees celsius is better foryou. This isn’t always true; for example, cooking tomatoes increases their antioxidant properties. But for some foods it may well be true. However there is no evidence thatso called “raw” chocolates are “better” for you (despite the number of makers claimingthat the chocolate they are selling in health food stores is “RAW” and therefore “super healthy”). More interestingly, none of these “raw” chocolate makers can explain howthey can ferment, or dry, the beans they use without the beans going above 45 degrees. Indeed, the “father” of raw chocolate, Santiago from Pacari, openly admits that hecan’t guarantee the beans in his “Raw Bars” don’t go above 50 degrees (he just notesthat “ all the cocoa ingredients are minimally processed and kept at low temperaturesto maintain the antioxidants and complex flavour profile of our carefully selected cacao”). And whilst Santiago’s bars are carefully cleaned, please also remember thatmakers roast their beans not just to bring out different flavours but also to kill off bacteria and pathogens that may be in the unroasted beans.
4 Speciality beans become even more “special” as farmers andmakers experiment with fermentation, drying and bean genetics
4.1 This one is a fairly safe prediction. The likes of Mikkel Friis Holm have been atthis for some time with their double and triple turns and single variant beans withIngemanns. Ditto Oialla, Original Beans and many more with Alto Beni. And Pitch Dark tried out different fermentations in Ecuador. But we are seeing more and moremakers experiment here. Chris Brennan with new yeasts. Arnaud of Eritaj with teas. Mark from Krak is getting in on the fermentation act too. And we look forward tosharing with you more of these bars in our monthly boxes
4.2 BUT before we get too excited, we need to remember that these innovations will bea small percentage of what is already a small percentage of “speciality cacao”. Most cacao in the world is from ‘Universal Clones’ – CCN 51 being an of quoted example -which is grown primarily because it is disease resistant and faster to grow. Theseclones are not grown for their flavour. We lag way behind (fine) wine and (speciality) coffee, with their fascination with fine flavour beans and their extraordinary quality control. As Martin Christy notes, “you could probably take 2 hands and list most ofthe places we know of in the world that are growing single varieties”
4.3 Nevertheless, every journey starts with single steps. The sustainability reports ofTaza, Marou, Original Beans, Koko Kamili, Omnom and others evidence the way thatmakers and farmers are working together to develop high quality, speciality beans. Similarly, the Heirloom Cacao Project is doing an amazing job of promoting thediversity and distinctiveness of speciality beans (and they would now require Martin tohave three hands with their latest accession of heirloom beans from Madagascar andTanzania)
5 New bean origins emerge to delight and enthuse
Again, this one is a fairly safe prediction. Following on from Kokoa Kamili showing usthe amazing potential with Tanzania, Taza with Haiti, etc. a host of new regions arebeing explored. Expect to see more and more bars from the South Pacific (and not just Papua New Guinea but the Solomon Isles, Fiji and more). Mexico is clearly due for arenaissance. Togo is one to savour as demonstrated in our last box. We also have high hopes for India – as Mirzam in our December box showed
6 New maker regions continue to emerge
6.1 More great makers are emerging from countries where cocoa is grown. Peru is astandout here with Shatell, Cacao Suyo, Marana and more to come. Columbia andCosta Rica next — and closely followed by Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador will all be coming forward with new makers. And there are more surprises instore; not just India but perhaps China (Fu Wan is already growing and crafting fromtree to bar in Taiwan), and more.
6.2 And then we look forward to showing casing a bunch of new makers from all overthe world – South Africa, Spain, Estonia and Uzbekistan. And now that Modica (Italy) ismoving to “bean to bar” and not “reassembly”, Taza finally may have some European competition for stone ground craft chocolate.
7 Dark Milks become more and more popular
We define a dark milk as being a milk bar that contains more than 50% cocoa. Incomparison a Dairy Milk and Galaxy each have around 20% cocoa content, Hershey’saround 10% and the majority of our milk bars have over 40% cocoa content. Hat Tipto Martin Christy to responding to Lizzie’s suggestion to create a dark milk categoryfor the ICAs – and expect to see more fantastic bars here. And who knows, Cadburymay even use the “Cadbury Dark Milk” Trademark registration they made early last year
8 Craft White Chocolate also becomes far more accepted, spurredon by more and more makers experimenting with their own presses
Kudos to Askinosie, Chocolat Madagascar, Akesson and Pump Street for pioneeringthe way here.
9 Sugar continues to be a confusing topic
Sorry this is a bit of an obvious statement and prediction. Sugar is clearly a magical additive. Without sugar (and salt) low fat processed foods wouldn’t work. And sugar isclearly addictive. And it’s clearly in all chocolate (even 100% bars have some sugarfrom the cocoa fruit). So all forms of chocolate are being hammered by the anti-sugar brigade. Diverting attention by promoting the benefits of alternative sugar is just that — a diversion. The evidence that e.g., coconut based sugars or other alternative sugarsare somehow “healthier” doesn’t stack up. Moreover most (all?) of these “alternative” sugars overpower the chocolate. What we need to do is accept that sugar, like manyother things, needs to be enjoyed in moderation. One key difference is that while most consumers expect to eat a mass market chocolate bar in one go we would hope most consumers savour a craft chocolate bar and enjoy it over a few evenings. Expect alonger post here on “the bliss point”. And don’t expect an easy answer
10 Customers start to read the label
10.1 Again, this is sort of a wishful one .. but one that is at least directly under ourcontrol
10.2 The difference between instant coffee and coffee beans, or fruit juice concentrateand “fresh” juices is easy to see. Unfortunately a chocolate bar is, well, a bar, whetherit’s mass processed or crafted. Fortunately labelling helps a bit here. But we have to get customers to read the label (hint: if there are more ingredients that cocoa mass, cocoa butter, sugar and milk think again – and (to paraphrase Michael Pollan) if there are anyingredients that your grandmother wouldn’t recognise, put the bar back …).
10.3 Above and beyond the ingredients, makers can also help consumers by movingbeyond specifying the cocoa percentage (which can be misleading with e.g., 100% bars being bulked out with cheaper cocoa mass rather than cocoa butter) and country oforigin. In addition to not requiring makers to say whether or not their cocoa has been “dutched” (ie processed in an alkaline solution). EU law doesn’t require makers to saywhere a bar (or drinking cocoa) is made. So we suggest looking for details of where, how and who crafted the bar – and the details of the estate, farm and harvest details tounderstand bar provenance. Again, we are planning a longer post on this subject soon
11 More and more customers will enjoy more and more craft chocolate “experiences”
11.1 To date craft chocolate has “lagged” behind other craft movements in “theatre”. For example speciality coffee shops provide a fantastic means for consumers to try speciality coffee whilst also appreciating the care and attention required to make great coffee (especially if they have their own roastery in the background). Similarly thelikes of Neal’s Yard in artisan cheese are masterful in giving consumers theopportunity to try and experience a huge range of cheeses. The same is true forbreweries in craft beer, wineries and artisan gins / stills. Napa valley has made anindustry out of this — with many wineries receiving over fifty thousand visitors year (most of whom spend lots of $$$), and selling all their wines on allocation or at thecellar door. Sadly, very few craft chocolate makers have been able to build similar experiences — although Zotter, Dandelion, Marou, Soma and Pump Street aretrailblazing this route. And we hope that we will in 2018 see the emergence of a fewother means to “experience” craft chocolate in even more powerful ways
11.2 The first and most obvious means are more customer tastings. These can be simple “try before you buy” and go all the way up to formal tastings and pairings. And wehope that 2018 will see the emergence of a many other means to “experience” craft chocolate in even more powerful ways; Omnom’s new facility in Iceland is worth atrip to Iceland and Dandelion’s new project in San Francisco will be a “must visit”. And who knows, perhaps we’ll even see some small batch craft chocolate fairs emerge (hint: watch this space)
11.3 In addition, we’d love to encourage more visits to both makers and plantations. For some time now, we’ve been making ad hoc introductions between members of ourmonthly Craft Chocolate Tasting Club to makers and growers for them to visit on theirtravels. And we hope that 2018 could be the year when these introductions go onefurther with a formal programme.
As ever, thanks for all your support.
Over the past few months we’ve already started planning the delicious surprises you will discover in 2018. We are very excited to help you dive deeper into the expanding world of craft chocolate. We want to start the year as we mean to go on – bringing you incredible chocolate from rare origins, innovative new makers and world-famous artisans. We genuinely believe that the Cocoa Runner’s Monthly Collection is the best way to try the most exciting and delicious craft chocolate. This year we want to delight you and your taste buds at least as much as last year.
To begin the New Year in style we have a very special Cocoa Runners exclusive from Fruition. Crafted just for us, Brian and Dahlia worked closely with the farmers at Ingemann in Nicaragua to source the cacao. Next we have a bar from new Danish maker Oialla. We first met the team at Oialla through our mutual friend Friis Holm and have been working over the past six months to be able to bring you this bar.
Then we have a rare bar from Chocolat Madagascar. The dark chocolate has been crafted using cacao beans grown on a single plantation in Madagascar, Domaine de Vohibinany. Finally we finish with a rare origin bar from Zotter. Joseph Zotter has managed to seek out cacao from the West African state of Togo.
We hope you enjoy this box and wish you a New Year full of chocolate and happiness!
We are truly delighted to bring you this wonderful Cocoa Runners exclusive bar from Fruition. The smooth, dark chocolate that reveals layers of intense flavour mixed with sweetness. Strong honey notes leap out from the first bite. This develops into a richer caramel flavour, with hints of walnuts.
Fruition is a small batch bean to bar chocolate workshop located in the Catskill Mountains of New York, and run by husband and wife team, Brian and Dahlia. Bryan and Dahlia at Fruition worked in partnership with the team of cocoa bean experts at Ingemann in Nicaragua to find just the right Chuno cacao. Chuno is a very rare cacao exclusively found in Nicaragua. Chuno has been internationally awarded Heritage Cacao status thanks to its fine flavour.
We’ve been speaking to the team at Oialla for over six months that to make sure you get to try this delicious and sustainable chocolate. Oialla is a Danish chocolate maker, with a very particular focus. All Oialla’s chocolate bars are crafted from Bolivian ‘wild’ cacao beans. The cacao has grown wild in the rainforests of the Beni province since anyone can remember. The cacao grows on small islets, which in the wet season become islands and can only be reached by boat!
Oialla goes the extra mile when it comes to bean sourcing. The team works closely with local growers at source who harvest, dry and ferment the beans. Once these necessary and precise steps have been expertly completed by the farmers, the cacao is sent to Denmark by boat. Here Oialla crafts the beans into delicate and aromatic chocolate with a wonderful hint of honey.
You can discover Oialla’s full range of bars in the Chocolate Library here.
This dark chocolate is the first to be crafted from a newly cultivated, single estate in Madagascar. It is rare to find such a buttery dark chocolate bar with such a multitude of complimentary flavours. We noted hints of mushroom and truffles, along with bright green olives. Finally enjoy a hint of effervescent citrus.
Domaine de Vohibinany is located on the east coast in remote rainforest areas. This is the region where the Indri, largest Lemur of Madagascar resides. Access is by river and boat. The climate and soil are very different, as the rainy season is longer and higher humidity in the air. All these factors work together to create a particular ‘terroir’ which gives this specific Madagascan chocolate such a distinct flavour.
You can discover Chocolat Madagascar’s Dark from this month’s box here, and the rest of Chocolat Madagascar’s bars in the Chocolate Library here.
We have been working with Joseph Zotter and his team for many years now. His bars never disappoint, and this is no exception. This slightly lighter dark chocolate bar has a sweet and delicate flavour. The bar has a double cream taste which then reveals gentle touches of malted biscuits. We detected a hint of cinnamon on the finish.
Made in Austria by Joseph Zotter, this chocolate bar was the first ever bar to be made exclusively with organic and fair trade cocoa from Togo. Joseph Zotter was to able find these beans with the help of Gebana. The organisation supports 1750 small farmers and together they have started the project for fairness and environmental protection. It is a very important initiative and signifies a small revolution, which Zotter is very keen to support.
January is often a time of year for cutting back; but you can still enjoy delicious craft chocolate without breaking your resolutions.
100% cocoa chocolate bars are made using nothing but cocoa beans. With no added sugar, flavourings or vegetable fats, the only ingredients is cocoa (sometimes with a touch of added cocoa butter).
The result is chocolate that allows you to discover the pure taste of the cocoa bean and how the artisan maker has revealed and honed its flavours. Crafting 100% chocolate isn’t easy, but when done properly the complexity of flavour is like no other chocolate bar.
If you’re new to 100% chocolate, don’t be put off by the idea that it will be bitter. It’s true that the flavours can be intense but 100% cacao bars are generally not nearly as bitter as you might expect. Much of the mouth-puckering bitterness that you find in mass produced high percentage dark chocolate is down to how the beans are crushed, pressed and even treated chemical solutions as they rush to make the maximum amount of chocolate in as little time as possible.
By contrast craft chocolate bars are made completely differently, as the artisan tries to give true expression to his cocoa beans. The maker does this by coaxing out all the beans’ flavours as they roast, slowly conche, refine, temper and even age the bars.
That being said, we know 100% chocolate is not for everyone. So with that in mind, today we present three collections – two of which have 100% cacao chocolate, and a third with a little more variety of intensity, with bars range from 85 – 100%.
A collection of four fantastic dark bars that are low in sugar but don’t compromise on taste. Each is at least 80% cocoa, but with a rich, complex flavour and almost none of the bitterness you might expect.
Inside this collection you’ll discover bars from Taza, Menakao, Pralus and Naive.
The Madagascans are growers of fine fruity cocoa beans that lend their incredible intensity to this fine selection of chocolate bars. If you’re new to 100% chocolate, then the Madagascan bean makes an excellent starting point.
This collection includes bars from Pralus, Chocolate Tree, Chocolate Madagascar and Akesson’s.
Luxuriate in darkness with this exquisite selection of bars.
These four distinctive makers will have your taste buds singing from the rooftops with delicious, complicated and surprising flavours.
Compare and contrast the unique flavour profiles of each terroir. With each bar you can taste how the maker has crafted the beans into unique 100% chocolate.
We’re always delighted to hear from chocolate lovers around the world, but over the past week we’ve been bowled over by the number of people who responded to our recent email about the chocolate drinks (both drinking chocolate and tea!) that we shared on Sunday Brunch.
You’ve been getting in touch to asked for top tips to craft the ultimate drinking chocolate. With a chill in the air, it’s easy to see why curling up with a mug of hot chocolate seems like an irresistible treat.
For some people, they key to creating a ‘premium’ hot chocolate is the toppings – whipped cream, marshmallows and sugary syrups. We tend to disagree. Toppings can be great fun, but when it comes to making a truly great drinking chocolate, less really is more. After all, when you add lots of synthetic toppings to a low quality drinking chocolate, all you are really doing is masking the flavour of the drink itself.
We believe that the only two ingredients you need to make a truly exceptional drinking chocolate are top quality craft chocolate and hot milk. What’s more, each drink uses just 25-30g of chocolate, so whilst January is often a time of year for cutting back, a mug of drinking chocolate is a delicious way to enjoy craft chocolate without breaking all your resolutions.
So without further ado, we present our video guide to creating the ultimate drinking chocolate. For our pick of the best couvertures to use to make drinking chocolate, please visit our Drinking Chocolate homepage.
We hope you enjoy!
On Christmas Eve, Spencer returned to Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch (sporting arather snazzy Christmas jumper), to taste a selection of award winning milkand dark chocolate bars with Tim, Simon and guests. As well as tasting thebars, Spencer served up the bars as drinking chocolate along with a chocolate tea made from the shells of one of the bars.
Long before we learned to love eating chocolate, we drank chocolate. And nowthat the New Year has dawned, we can’t imagine a more warming treat than amug of craft drinking chocolate – as you can see from the guests reactions, these bars are amazing both to drink and to eat.
From Swiss maker Original Beans is the Cru Virunga, an ever popular dark chocolate bar made from cocoa from the Virunga National Park. It makes for arich, creamy drinking chocolate and is a favourite in cafes around the country.
Next from Duffy’s in Cleethorpes is the Indio Rojo bar, a full bodied andintense dark chocolate with a fruity edge. Rather than a drinking chocolate, theguests tried a delicate tea made from the shells of the roasted beans fromwhich this bar is made.
Then, for those who love their drinking chocolate with a spicy kick, there’sTaza’s Cinnamon Bar. This stone ground bar makes have all the flavours of theseason in a distinctive round shape.
Finally, we have a milk chocolate bar from Madagascan maker Menakao. Menakao is one of very few makers creating chocolate bars at origin. This milk chocolate makes for a sweet, creamy drinking chocolate with a silky curl ofvanilla. Again, this is another firm favourite amongst speciality coffee stores allover the country
If you’re in the UK, you can watch the show on demand here and taste alongwith them (Spencer is on about 50 minutes into the show).
Welcome to our final box of 2017.
We’ve had yet another fantastic year of craft chocolate – from meeting new makers, to visiting farmers at origin to building even stronger bonds with our incredible craft chocolate community.
We are delighted to say we now have nearly 100 chocolate makers and almost 900 bars in our Chocolate Library. But none of this would ever be possible without you. Our subscribers are absolutely at the core of Cocoa Runners.
It’s for you that we are always on the lookout for new makers, asking questions, and seeking to find out more about the world of craft chocolate.
And so for your ongoing support of Cocoa Runners, craft chocolate (not to mention the farmers and maker that make it possible) we thank you. We hope you enjoy this final craft chocolate selection. We encourage you to take a moment to look back and savour the memories of all the craft chocolate we’ve delivered to you this year.
First for this final box, we are delighted to share with you a bar from Naïve’s new collection. We have been a huge fan of Naïve’s creations, as well as their slow food ethos for years. And earlier this year head chocolate maker Domantas Uzpalis three brand new collections of bars. Each wonderful collection is focused on the ingredients and origins. Domantas has sourced rare cacaos, ingredients from the equatorial region as well as local Lithuanian flavours in order to craft these bars.
Next we have a Brazilian bar from Georgia Ramon. When chocolate-industry insider Georg Bernadini finally decided to create his own company we were delighted. We have been working with Georg for over a year, and his wealth of chocolate knowledge never ceases to amaze us. Georg has sourced this cacao from Fazenda Camboa in the northern Bahia region of Brazil. The Fazenda has been owned by the Carvalho family since 1982 and it is now the largest bio plantation in Brazil as well as paying its farmers an annual premium based on their shared ownership in the annual production.
You can discover Georgia Ramon’s Brazilian bar from this month’s box here and the rest of its bars in the Chocolate Library.
Next, we are very excited to bring you a bar from Mirzam. This is the first chocolate maker we have welcomed from the Middle East. While the climate can be a little tricky, Mirzam’s location in Dubai has many advantages. Here it is at the centre of the ancient roads that connected Europe and Asia. The history and stories of the maritime Spice Route inspire all of Mirzam’s chocolate recipe. It selects the finest ingredients that have traditionally be grown, bought and sold along this ancient trade route.
Finally we finish off with a spicy, festive bar from Jordi’s. The kick of sweet ginger, is the perfect combination of sweetness, intensity and warmth to get you through the cold months. Jordi’s was the Czech Republic’s first ever craft chocolate maker. Based in Hradec Králové, 50 miles east of Prague, Jiri and Lukas first started crafted chocolate in 2012. Their return to traditional artisan techniques quickly generated a huge amount of local interest and led to appearances on national TV.
You can discover Jordi’s Dark Ginger bar from this month’s box here and the rest of its bars (including Sheep’s and Goat’s Milk) in the Chocolate Library.
From everyone here at Cocoa Runners, we wish you a wonderful end to the year. We can promise that 2018 has plenty more craft chocolate discovery and joy instore!
And don’t forget to browse our seasonal gift collections. We have a range of delicious craft chocolate gifts to suit every occasion. No matter whether you’re looking for a little something to put under the tree, a luxury hamper for a dinner party or you want to make someone’s 2018 truly exceptional with a year’s worth of chocolate, we have the perfect presents for you!
Earlier last month we were delighted when Mikkel Friis Holm was awarded twospecial recognition awards for his bars at the World Finals of the International Chocolate Awards, here in London. Mikkel was one of the first makers weworked with, and today we welcome a number of his latest bars to ourChocolate Library.
Mikkel has been involved in the world of single origin chocolate for over adecade. Way back in 2008 he was invited by the Danish government tosupport an initiative to develop Nicaraguan plantations and cocoa. At that time Mikkel was an accomplished chef who had moved into baking, and could see ahuge opportunity to introduce fine, single origin chocolate to his chef friends.
This first trip to origin ignited a passion in Mikkel that has only grown overtime. It was also the start of what has turned into a lifelong obsession withgenetics and fermentation. On this first visit, Friis-Holm noted that whiletaking cacao from a single country could produce great bars, the quality ofthese ‘single origin’ beans would ultimately owe at least as much to thefarmers who processed the beans as it does to the skills of the makers whocraft the beans into bars. With that in mind, he set to working with farmers inNicaragua to conduct a series of experiments in fermentation. For example, he crafts a pair of bars where one uses beans that have been turned twiceduring fermentation, whilst for the other he uses beans that have been turnedthree times. This one simple change makes a remarkable difference to theflavour of the bars.
The arrival of the new bars sees yet another experiment in fermentation fromthis Great Dane. For some time now, Mikkel’s Rugoso bar has been a key partof our Chocolate Library. This week sees the arrival of it’s lesser spotted ‘Bad Fermentation’ doppelgänger. Cocoa beans change colour as they ferment, andthe point where 80% of beans in a batch have changed from purple to brownis often viewed as the ‘ideal’ point for a ‘well fermented’ batch of beans. Incontrast, the fermentation for this batch has been stopped when only 25% ofthe beans have changed colour which gives the bar an altogether livelier character than its more traditionally fermented counterpart.
After fermentation, Mikkel is perhaps best known for his love of cacao genetics. He has pioneered research into the genetics of the Nicaraguan Cacao. As part of this work, he delights in crafting single bean type bars. And todaywe present The Barba, the first of Mikkel’s Single Bean bars to arrive in ourLibrary. It is an exceptionally rare bar, with only around 100 trees growing thisheritage cacao in Nicaragua.
Finally, we present two playful new bars from Friis Holm. Mikkel is perhaps best known for his smooth, creamy chocolate bars, but today marks the arrivalof two of his bars with cocoa nibs. We were lucky enough to taste early prototypes of these bars when we visited the Friis Holm factory in Copenhagenin February. We were sworn to secrecy at the time, and we’ve been countingthe days until we could share these bars.
We caught up with Mikkel and his team when they recently visited London andin Paris. And were delighted to see his bars again win so many awards, including two special awards for his Chuno Triple Churned bars.
We hope you love these bars too!
Today we present you with a rare opportunity to taste some exceptional craft chocolate bars crafted in Taiwan and Japan.
Earlier this year we shared with you a highly limited collection of craft chocolate bars from Cacaoken, a Japanese craft chocolate maker. At the time we weren’t sure when we could obtain more stock, but today we are delighted to mark the return of Cacaoken and at the same time welcome three extremely rare bars from Fu Wan, a new chocolate maker from Taiwan. We have a very limited number of these bars and fear that we won’t be able to secure more until the new year.
As you might recall, Cacaoken is short for ‘cacao laboratory’ in Japanese. It crafts all its chocolate bars in its laboratory in Fukuoka. It sells in coffee stores throughout Japan and also via a caravan that Nakano-san drives around Japan (in which she and her mother, demonstrate how small batch chocolate is crafted) And on top of this it has a farm and research lab in Vietnam. Here Cacaoken grows cacao and experiments with bean fermentation. The bars all use these Vietnamese cacao beans (sometimes blended with Ghanaian cacao).
With such an incredible culture of food, patisserie, desserts and strong respect for artisan tradition, it may come as little surprise that Japan has now embraced bean-to-bar chocolate. One of these Japanese makers is Cacaoken by Yukari Nakano and her parents.
As well as plain milk, dark and white bars, Cacaoken also creates chocolate using local Japanese ingredients. Today we are welcoming three bars Cacaoken bars into our Chocolate Library: Milk Chocolate with Coffee, Milk Chocolate with Sea Salt and White Chocolate.
We were introduced to Fu Wan chocolate by friends in London just a few weeks ago, and we couldn’t wait to introduce you to their bars. Fu Wan is dedicated to sharing with the world the delicious ingredients that Taiwan has to offer, through the medium of chocolate. Fu Wan started its life not as a chocolate brand, but as a resort in Taiwan. Warren Hsu was the executive chef at Fu Wan Resort.
When the resort opened in 2011, Hsu’s mission was to provide guests with the very best local fusion cuisine. While sourcing ingredients locally, he met a cacao farmer who introduced him to the Taiwanese cacao, grown from grafted Indonesian cacao. Hsu was inspired, and Fu Wan Chocolate was born. The cacao industry in Taiwan is a relatively young industry, with the government encouraging farmers to plant cacao crops in response to the damage done to the land by the over farming of betel nuts.
Warren Hsu is one of only a handful of people crafting chocolate from bean to bar in Taiwan. He trained with expert bean to bar makers, before returning to Taiwan to start crafting bars. Through his chocolate, he is able to share the flavours of his native cacao not only with those who stay at Fu Wan Resort, but with people from across the world.
Fu Wan’s bars have gained a number of awards at their first outing at the International Chocolate Awards, both in the Asia Pacific Regional Awards and in the World Final. And we are delighted to have a small selection of their bars for sale.
We have only a very limited number of these bars for you, and if you’re lucky enough to be able to taste them, we hope you enjoy!
Join us in saying ‘Bienvenido a Maraná!’, the newest Peruvian maker to joinour Chocolate Library.
Peru is know to have a rich history of growing cocoa, however it has been relatively slow to join the revolution in craft chocolate making. Maraná joins only a handful of makers crafting chocolate from bean to bar in Peru.
After a decade in the corporate world, founders Zulema and Giuseppe were insearch of a more fulfilling career. They had come to learn about the growing popularity of Peruvian cocoa as an ingredient, and decided to explore ways inwhich they might be able to use their native cacao to craft chocolate in Peru. They embarked on a journey of exploration, learning in parallel about thedifferent cacao regions and profiles found within Peru, and about the technical skills needed to craft these natural ingredients into world class bars.
Very quickly they decided that their focus was to be on sourcing cacao fromsingle regions, and maintaining close relationships with those involved ingrowing the cacao. For Zulema and Giuseppe, this means more than just giving their farmers a fair price for their beans. They believe that the only wayin which Maraná can grow and improve is if their farmers grow too. When weasked them about this, they said “At Maraná, we value the work of our cacao farmers and seek to make a real impact on theirlives and those of theirfamilies. We work with them hand-in- hand, as partners, implementing fair price policies that ensure sustainable development and sound living conditions. We also organize programs aimed at improving their harvesting and post-harvesting techniques and optimizing the quality of their products, thus allowing them to gain access to markets thatoffer higher prices.”
In order for this to be a sustainable approach, very early on Zulema andGiuseppe decided to source cocoa from only three regions where they areconfident that the cocoa is top quality and the farmers are keen to work inpartnership with Maraná. Rather than producing a generic ‘Peruvian’ chocolate, they produce microbatches of chocolate, made from beans fromeach region. They believe that this micro batch approach would allow them tosource the finest potable beans, and that by focussing on a single region foreach of their bars, they are able to showcase not only the flavours of Peru as awhole, but the flavours of the individual regions. Zulema and Giuseppe identified three particular regions that they wanted to concentrate on from thestart: Cusco, Piura and San Martin.
Through their distinctive packaging, Marana has sought to represent thecultural identity and heritage of their nation with designs that perfectly capture the mystery of Peru’s Amazonian folklore. For example, the San Martin collection is inspired by the mysterious and alluring Amazonian engravings. These present images of everyday life for those living within the Amazon. Theyare then illustrated against the magical and mystical backdrop of their myths. You can see gigantic boas and magical sirens next to jungle farmers andvillagers on these bars.
Their hard work has paid off – not only do their bars taste (and look!) great, but they have also been recognised by a host of international awarding bodies. They received a number of awards in the Latin American leg of the 2017 International Chocolate Awards, and two Silver Awards in the World Finals ofthe International Chocolate Awards in 2017.
We first met Zulema and Giuseppe when they were travelling in Europe earlierthis year, and we’ve been lucky enough to catch up in person again just thispast month in London and Paris – we can’t wait to share more about theirupcoming projects with you too!
We hope you love these bars too!