As part of Regent’s Street ‘Show in the Dark‘ an evening celebrating international arts and culture, we teamed up with Gaucho to host a craft chocolate and Malbec wine pairing masterclass.
At this tasting, we’ll go under the hood of over a dozen craft chocolate makers and their bars, looking in detail at the intricacies of cacao genetics, harvest, fermentation, vintages, and roasting, and examining how each stage of cacao production can affect the flavour of a bar. These chocolates will also be paired with a number of Gaucho’s best Argentine Malbecs to show you that dark chocolate and red wine really is a marriage made in heaven.
Guests of this Master class can enjoy 25% off food while dining on A La Carte after the event with their booking confirmation. Gaucho advise to make a reservation.
The dates for our next series of craft chocolate tasting evenings in London have been announced!
We will be continuing to hold our monthly events at Prufrock Coffee in London’s Leather Lane, close to Chancery Lane and Farringdon Stations. There’s still time to buy your ticket for our next tasting, which will take place on Wednesday January 23rd, at 7.30pm. Subsequent tastings will take place on Wednesday February 13th, Wednesday March 13th and Wednesday April 10th. The tastings last for approximately one hour, and the doors open promptly at 7.15pm.
Buy your ticket today and join us to taste over a dozen different craft chocolates while learning more about cocoa origins, the crafting process, and emerging trends across the industry as a whole. This the perfect opportunity to ask the questions you’ve always wanted to ask and to meet like-minded craft chocolate lovers (and maybe even a maker or two!).
And if you want to treat a friend, you can purchase a gift voucher for a pair of tickets that can be used at any of our monthly tastings at Prufrock in the next six months.
New dates announced for our ever-popular craft chocolate tasting evenings.
While the sun might be shinning at the moment, Autumn is sneaking round the corner.
Once the weather begins to cool, we always find ourselves yearning for the comfort of a little extra craft chocolate. So we invite you to join us at our new series of craft chocolate tastings, held at Prufrock Coffee.
You will be able to taste around 14 different craft chocolates while also learning more about the cocoa origins, crafting process, and industry as a whole. This the perfect opportunity to ask the questions you’ve always wanted to and meet like-minded craft chocolate lovers.
Our chocolate tastings are fun and informal events, generally designed around a particular theme. From passionate craft chocolate insiders, to those just discovering ‘bean-to-bar’ chocolate, we welcome a range of guests at our events. This is seated tasting, accompanied by a presentation and guidance
And if you want to treat a friend, you can also purchase a pair of tickets that can be used at any relevant tasting in the next 6 months.
Tickets cost £25 each or £45 for a pair. All tickets include a small glass of wine on arrival and water will of course be provided.
We hold our tastings at Prufrock Coffee, 23-25 Leather Lane. Events start at 7pm so we advise you arrive a few minutes beforehand. If you have any allergies or intolerances please let us know in advance and we will do our best to accommodate you.
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 as keen about bean-to-bar chocolate as we are and is 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 favourite 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 titbits. (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 flavours – 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 making 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.
There are many parallels between great chocolate and great wine. For both you need great ingredients – the finest grapes or the finest beans. For both, you need craftsmanship and time. The end result are tastes and sensations that inspire, enthuse and tantalize.
From the start of Cocoa Runners we’ve been keen to learn from the wine industry. We’ve held joint tastings (and indeed were doing one at Bath with Wine Gang today and another with Decanter next weekend). We’ve invited wine luminaries to “curate” a selection of their favourite bars – most recently Joanna Simon and Decanter Magazine, and we have more exciting collaborations to come.
And with Corney and Barrow we’ve now taken this one step further. With the support of Rebecca Palmer and her buying team we’ve matched six wines to six chocolates in two unique collections: a four bar, four bottle hamper and a two bar, two bottle hamper. Creating these collections was a real joy, not least as – to quote Rebecca – “more often than not the best matches were the least expected”!
Perfect for sharing with friends, as gifts or simply for indulging yourself, we hope you will enjoy these two collections as much as we do!
It’s one thing to say that quality wine can only be produced from quality grapes and similarly with for incredible chocolate you need incredible beans, but it is quite another to take the time and develop the skill to actually create such incredible chocolates and wines..
Once the cocoa beans have been harvested farmers must then ferment and dry the beans, further developing the chocolate flavour. Unlike wine, chocolate is rarely made in the same country the beans are grown in. Once fermented and dried, the beans are sent to craft makers all over the world. These small batch chocolate makers then roast, winnow, grind and conch the beans before tempering and molding the chocolate into bars. With each step the maker draws out the bean’s flavour profile, subtly altering and enhancing it to craft unique and delicious chocolate bars.
With wine everything starts in the vineyard, you need great grapes to make great wine. And then each harvest, called a vintage, is unique and its fruit needs to be handled differently. The grapes need to be picked at just the right moment. As with cacao, the grapes too need to be fermented. And then, depending on the style – for example white, red, sparkling, fortified etc. – they can be pressed, macerated, aged in barrel and blended before finally being put into a bottle. Throughout all these stages, art and science meld as the winemaker transforms this humble grape into unique and delicious wines.
When it comes to wine, most people are familiar with the concepts of vintage and terroir (the region the wine comes from). Most people would find it strange indeed to buy a bottle that didn’t specify, not just a country of origin (e.g. France), but also a region (such as Bordeaux or Cotes du Rhone).
In chocolate this idea has yet to reach the mainstream. At Cocoa Runners we pride ourselves that all our craft chocolate bars are single origin – or a recognised blend of cacaos (such as Fruition’s Dominican and Peruvian blend). One of the most remarkable examples of ‘terroir’ in chocolate is Marou. Samuel and Vincent, the French founders source all their cocoa beans, and make their bars in Vietnam. They have effectively divided the country into regions of ‘terroir’ each of which provides the beans for one of their dark bars. Simply tasting and comparing pieces their Dong Nai and Ba Ria is enough to show the huge impact bean origin has on taste.
Again with wine, most people will be able to tell you not simply whether they prefer red or white, but whether they favour Pinot Noir or Merlot. Cacao strains are far harder than grape varieties. The trees are naturally promiscuous, interbreeding very easily so that a single tree can have 6 or 7 different genetic strands with pods and beans of several different varieties.
This is an area of huge debate and research, with people going to huge lengths to assure genetic purity. Pascal Wirth and Niklaus Blumer of Idillio for instance genetically tests his beans. In the case of Original Beans’ Beni Wild Harvest, or Cacaosuyo’s Piura Select, the remote, isolation of the cacao crop helps to assure their ‘purity’. On the whole, we think there are many other factors than can influence a bar’s taste without delving into the complexities of cacao varietals and debates around ‘heirloom cacaos’. At the same time, if you compare the taste of of Bonnat’s Madagascar Dark with its Madagascar Criollo the difference between various cacao strands is immediately apparent.
Another familiar point of reference when buying one is vintage. Every year, the unique conditions around every harvest subtly alter the profile of the grapes, making the wines some harvests (indicated by the vintage) far better or worse than others. Chocolate vintages is a concept that only starting to be explored by makers and growers, such as Duane Dove of the Roxborough Estate in Tobago. In most regions where cacao is grown, there are two harvests a year – one in the wet season one in the dry season (in some countries, such as Hawaii, the number of harvests is even higher) – which adds another layer of complexity.
As chocolate makers continue to innovate and experiment in their quest for better bars, new beans and even more exciting flavours we look forward to seeing what they do next!
Which is why we were particularly thrilled to discover Barre Infernale from Pralus. Something of a cult classic in the chocolate world, these bars have been one of Pralus’ best kept secrets for some time. Weighing in at a mighty 160g each, they look more like a gold bar than a traditional chocolate bar. And once you unwrap the wrapper, you’ll discover so many layers of texture and flavour.
Each bar has a crisp artisan chocolate shell made from Pralus’ chocolate. While the brave (and hungry!) may take a bite, we recommend slicing the bar for a striking surprise. As beneath their artisan chocolate surface, there lies an unexpected treat.
At the heart of each bar is a rich praline centre with whole hazelnuts set within. As one of France’s oldest chocolate makers, Pralus has a strong tradition in making both chocolate bars and filled chocolates. For us, Barre Infernale unites the best of both worlds. So let’s meet the Barres…
Barre Infernale Lait
Creamy, rich and sweet; this is the Barre Infernale for those who like their chocolate a little sweeter. Beneath the 45% shell, lies a nutty surprise. The nuts that lie within the smooth praline centre add a fantastic crunch to this otherwise silky bar. This has proved to be a firm favourite for many within the Cocoa Runners team – we find it almost impossible to have just one slice of this incredibly tempting bar from Pralus.
Barre Infernale Noire is anything but a typical dark chocolate bar. Barre Infernale Noire has the distinctive fruitiness of Madagascan cacao, with a rich intensity. Beneath the smooth surface of the dark chocolate outer lies the praline centre that gives this bar its decidedly nutty finish. The team found this to be the most intense of the Barre Infernales. It has a flavour that lasts and lasts and most of us enjoyed just the one slice. We think that a piece of this Bar Infernale Noire would be perfect with a glass of red wine, or perhaps after a hearty steak supper.
Smooth, intense, fruity, nutty; this bar has it all. As you cut through the dark outer shell you’ll be greeted by a flash of orange. But don’t let the bright colours deceive you – this praline centre is an intriguing combination of citrus fruit and nuts that we find very hard to resist. The Barre Infernale Orange is as striking as it is delicious and would make for a fabulous conversation piece after a meal. Weighing in at 160g, it’s certain a bar that’s crying out to be shared with good friends.
We were delighted to accept Channel 4’s invitation to spread the word about small batch, single estate chocolate on Sunday Brunch this weekend. Spencer appeared on the show to talk about four fantastic bars from the world of small batch, artisan chocolate. He took Simon and Tim on a tasting journey, taking in bars made in USA, UK, Iceland and Ecuador with cacao from around the globe.
Four Fantastic Bars
We shared four fantastic bars with Tim and Simon on Sunday Brunch. First off was Omnom’s Papua New Guinea bar. Made by this quirky company in a disused petrol station on the outskirts of Reykjavik, this bar has much of the smokiness that you’d expect to find in a Papua New Guinean cacao. This is counterbalanced by a lingering sweetness that reminds us of a super sticky barbecue sauce.
Next up was a pair of bars made from Bertil Akesson’s fruity Madagascan beans. First, the bar from Mast Brothers. Originally making chocolate in Madagascar, this innovative new maker is now crafting bars in Shoreditch. With the signature coarse texture of Mast’s bars, this bar is sure to please those who love their chocolate to have a little crunch. In contrast, Pump Street’s 72% Madagascan bar is incredible smooth and creamy in strict contrast to it’s distinctive tang. Finally, they tasted a raw chocolate from Pacari. This maker ensures that the temperature of the beans never rises above 42 degrees during the chocolate making process. The resulting chocolate is wonderfully grassy and packed full of antioxidants.
Try Them Today
Great news! We’ve brought these four bars together into a gift collection that you can buy for just £24.95.
IMPORTANT NEWS: All the sensational bars from the Grenada Chocolate Company, are now back in stock!
This chocolate has an amazing journey. Back in 1999 Mott Green established the Grenada Chocolate Company, one of the first companies to make chocolate in a chocolate growing country.
Along with his partners, Mott worked with small cocoa farmers and as many as 50 factory employees during peak operations, all of whom earned the same salary, and helped launch the “bean to bar” movement.
Sadly Mott passed away almost two years ago, but thanks to heroic efforts at the factory and the support of Chantal Cody (founder of Rococo), Grenada Chocolate Company bars are now once again available.
The factory is run by solar power, and the bars are transported by means including sail boat and bicycle. And not only are they some of the most ethical chocolate bars in the world, but they are completely, and utterly, delicious.
Celebrate with us by saving £5 on the new Grenada Chocolate Company Collection today, by using the code GRENADA* at the checkout. Order before 6th March to take advantage of this offer.
Read more about the inspiring story of the late Mott Green and his wonderful company here.
Not too long ago, we were fortunate enough to have the extremely lovely folk from Honest Brew along to Cocoa Runners HQ for a chocolate and beer tasting. Time flew by, plenty was consumed, and the Honest Brew Team very much proved that lovers of beer and lovers of chocolate are not, in fact, realms apart. They discussed and debated, and finally decided on an assortment of bars they felt were reminiscent of certain beers. Master Brewer Craig Wilmott explains to us their selection…
As brewers, sometimes we get a bit beer-centric. We obsess over grains, hops, water and yeast as if every crucial decision in our lives depended on them. In some ways they kind of do. When good old Valentine’s Day approaches, however, this reflex can sometimes get us into trouble. Our initial resort is usually to gift our amours with a nice rich chocolate stout – it’s a gift we’d love ourselves, something really coming from the heart. Until, that is, we crawl out of our beer-centrism and realise on proper reflection that not everyone is like us and wants beer for every gift-giving occasion.
So it is some consolation to know that there are others, not altogether unlike us, who are just as obsessed with the little details of another of life’s pleasures – chocolate. Enter Cocoa Runners; the bringers of damn fine bean-to-bar chocolate, and saviours of Valentine’s Day.
Recently team Honest Brew met up with the folks at Cocoa Runners to chat about our respective passions. We learnt about how cocoa beans differ from one country to the next which greatly affects the flavour of finished chocolate. Coupled with this is how the various processes which convert bean to bar – harvesting, fermenting, drying, roasting, winnowing, grinding, conching and tempering – also have their own influence on flavour and texture. It stands to reason then that bean-to-bar chocolate, like micro-brewed beer, will never be identical from one batch to the next. Subtle differences make life worth living (and gifts worth giving) right?
On that note, to help ourselves and you, fellow beer lover, with gift ideas this Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d have a crack at putting the two together. Beer with chocolate can work in certain divine ways – a black forest cake with a Kriek or smoked almonds and dark chocolate with an imperial stout for example – but here we’re talking more along the lines of “If you or your amour are fan of this beer, you’ll surely love this bar of chocolate.”
Team Cocoa Runners gave us several bars to try, each drastically – and deliciously – different from the last, and here’s what we came up with:
Duffy’s Honduras Indio Rojo 72%
This is a rich, light and creamy chocolate which starts with nice dried fruit and finishes with a lingering dry citrus bite. We think it couples well with Beavertown’s 8-Ball Rye IPA.
Duffy’s Sea Salt & Nibs
The addition of cocoa nibs and oak-smoked sea salt makes this a real complex number. It’s only subtly salty, with creamy notes of caramel and a slight bitter finish thanks to the nibs. Give it a crack if you’re a fan of Bristol Milk Stout
Blanxart Filipino Milk 44%
Rich caramel-cream is really at the forefront of this chocolate. Hints of toffee and grain lead us to thinking a good beer to compare this one with is our Straight Up Amber Ale. Munich malt for the win!
Mast Brothers Papua New Guinea
Nothing short of ‘wow!’, it’s the method of drying the cocoa beans with open fires – unique to Papua New Guinea – that lends a powerful smokey flavour to this chocolate. It’s grainy, nutty and smokey qualities are comparable to Beavertown’s Smog Rocket Porter which is, oddly enough, a little sweeter than the chocolate itself.
Marou Bà Ria 76%
Made by two French friends in the beans’ country of origin, this chocolate starts with a rich intensity followed by hints of dark red berries. The finish is grainy and bitter which, coupled with it’s intensity reminds us of Weird Beard’s Decadence Stout.
Madécasse Pink Pepper & Citrus
This is a pretty funky number, with the addition of pink pepper giving a very delicate hint of spice. Adding a touch of tart citrus, we reckon if you’re a fan of Wild Beer Co Shnoodlepip this chocolate will float your boat.
We’d like to thank Honest Brew once again for taking the time to come in and create their selection, and of course for educating us in the world of great craft beers.
TheHonest Brew Collection
You can now try four of these fabulous bars in one place, in our Honest Brew Collection. Curated by Honest Brew’s very own Beer Guru, Craig, this collection includes bars from around the world of small batch single estate chocolate. What’s more, each collection comes complete with tasting notes from Craig, sharing the flavours behind each bar, and the types of beers that also evoke these flavours.
If like us, you love exploring the world of incredible quality food and drink – join the world’s first personalised beer service with Honest Brew. Receive 12 different craft beers each month, matched to your taste profile.
How it works:
1. It starts with a library of unique beers from 50+ leading craft breweries. They’re brewers themselves, and know good beer.
2. They pick 12 different beers matching your taste profile – and your honesty box is born.
3. Free express delivery to your home or work. Discover new beers every month.
Save £10 off your first 12 beer Honesty Box with code: COCOABREW
That’s just over £2 a beer delivered to your door.
This week we’re excited that the excellent BBC Proms are back. It’s that magical time of year when music takes over for the rest of the summer, evenings are whiled away listening to a whole symphony of different music, and balmy summer sunsets are spent lounging around with a glass of wine and now, the perfect chocolate bar as your date. So, without further ado, we’d like to introduce the very first Cocoa Runners Proms Chocolate Pairings. Surely it can only make those performances those little bit more special, right? The Proms pride themselves on having the highest standard of music, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves as a team to put together our own luxury flight of chocolates to match. Rather than sticking to the Bach, Elgar or Mozart, though, we’ve gone a bit off key and picked the only most alternative acts spicing up the summer Proms’ itinerary…
Prom 8: Pet Shop Boys – 23rd July.
As legends Pet Shop Boys make their Proms debut in this Late Night Prom, they bring with them a brand new sultry mix of electronics, orchestra, choir and more. So obviously, the perfect bar to settle down with would have to be equally funky (and just a little bit cool). Made with organic white cocoa beans from the Piura region of Peru, Cacaosuyo’s Piura Select is certainly something a little bit different and unexpected. After a slow build, this chocolate suddenly hits you with a crescendo of vibrant fruity notes before fading back to a more rounded, woody flavour. It was made to be eaten with music! Created with just two ingredients – much like the Pet Shop Boys’ music – we think this bar is a wonderful illustration of the range and intensity of flavours hidden within the simple cocoa bean. Prom 13: CBeebies Prom – Sunday 27th July. This year marks the debut of the CBeebies Prom, allowing children to sample the sights and sounds of the orchestra for the first time, alongside their favourite TV characters. As the perfect introduction to the finest music, surely we had to pair this with the starting block for any fledging fine chocolate fan – Duffy’s Venezuela Ocumare 55%. The description of the event says “The next generation of classical music fans starts here”. Well, this amazing bar by chocolate maker Duffy, could be considered the best milk chocolate ever produced; it has won awards for the best bean-to-bar milk chocolate in the world from both The Academy of Chocolate and the International Chocolate Awards, and we think it’s a must-have.
Prom 45: Late Night with … Laura Mvula – Tuesday 19th August.
Laura Mvula is now a Proms veteran, having performed during last year’s celebrations. So in tribute to this Brit Award winner and Mercury Prize nominated superstar, we could only pick another award winner – nothing less would do. To complement Laura’s raw talent, we could think of nothing better than Pacari’s Raw 70%. Featuring natural green and earthy notes and smooth texture, it is also the Pacari bar’s intensity that makes it an ideal match for the power of Mvula’s silky tones. Whilst most chocolate is made with roasted cocoa, Pacari never let the beans go above 42°C. And, you know, Laura is pretty cool in the music industry right now, having headlined up and coming jazz festival Love Supreme only a couple of weeks ago. See what we did there? Both Laura and Pacari are showcasing new talents in their respective industries – so pair them together on August 19th for an explosion of all the senses.
Prom 71: Americana – Tuesday 9th September.
Towards the end of the Proms comes our very own encore – Prom 71. September the 9th sees American Night arrive, with New Yorker and Principal Conductor Keith Lockhart taking to the stage. With a huge range of genres; folk, classical, jazz, blues and country music taking guests on an exuberant evening journey, we knew our chocolate pairing had to be something pretty special. Forming a harmonious flurry of excitement and a whirlwind of entertainment, only one of our most outragous bars could join the fun! So we’ve invited Massachusetts’ Taza Chocolate Mexicano Guajillo Chili to the party. Taza are famous for their unrefined & stone ground chocolate, which some may find challenging but we think it is rather playful. Gritty but soft, crunchy and packed full of tiny little flavour bursts, this chocolate is studded with a little extra chilli. It’s a surprise – just like country music at the Proms. We have a sneaky feeling the music will undoubtedly win you over, as will this delicious bar with its sweet & spicy personality, complete with a biscuity texture. One for those of you who delight in the unexpected. Want more? Raid our chocolate library here >>