Tickets are £35.00. Two sessions are available: 6:15pm – 7:30pm and 8:00pm – 9:15pm
Location: Gaucho Piccadilly, 25 Swallow Street, London, W1B 4QR
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.
Last year we decided to stick our neck out and make a few predictions on what might happen in the world of Craft Chocolate, you can view the original post here. So now it’s the end of January 2019, we’ve decided to review the accuracy of our 2018 predictions – and make some new ones for 2019.
For 2018 we did OK to middling. Maybe a B+? In terms of accuracy we had 2 “sort ofs”, 3 “not really”, and 6 “definitely happening”. But most of the “definitely happenings” were safe no brainers … so this year we are going to be a bit bolder and avoid the “safe” (ie obvious) predictions.
(Note: We defined Craft Chocolate as “the pursuit of the unique tastes conjured from small batches of the best beans”)
Verdict: Sort of. Thank you Prufrock, Curators, Colonna and Smalls, Out of Office and ~50 more speciality coffee stores for your support. But given there are thousands and thousands of speciality coffee shops in the UK and proper drinking chocolate is in less than a few hundred, we’ve a long, long way to go
2. Chocolate boards will become a mainstream rival to cheese boards.
Verdict: Not really. We sold out of our boards. And thank you Andrew Edmunds, 67 Pall Mall and a host of other stores for making “chocolate boards” a reality on your menus. But still lots of opportunity
3. Bloggers and journalists start to do more debunking of crazy chocolate myths and raise awareness of some of chocolate’s “darker” sides.
Verdict: Not really. Some great stuff on deforestation in 2017 … but why, oh why, has nobody debunked the likes of “RAW”, “Ruby Chocolate” and so much else?
4. Speciality beans become even more “special” as farmers and makers experiment with fermentation, drying and bean genetics
Verdict: Definitely happening. Hat Tip to Mikkel Friis Holm, Arnauld Stengel (Erithaj), Chris Brennan (Pump Street Chocolate), Mark Schimmel (Krak) and Nate Hodge (Raaka) for their pioneering work on different fermentations.
5. New bean origins emerge to delight and enthuse.
Verdict: Definitely happening. We’ve been delighted by new beans and bars from Mexico, Costa Rica, Uganda, etc. But this is all somewhat dampened by the relatively low penetration of speciality beans; speciality beans remain a fraction of overall cocoa production – we don’t really have the speciality coffee equivalent of “geisha” and cocoa remains predominantly a commodity crop.
6. New maker regions continue to emerge.
Verdict: Definitely happening. Thailand, Korea, Norway, Estonia and Uzbekistan are a few of the new countries where we met with new makers for the first time in 2018. But as above, craft chocolate remains a tiny fraction of world chocolate – far smaller as a percentage of overall sales and consumption than e.g., coffee, beer or spirits.
All too often the consumer still buys on price – and whereas they’ll pay a premium for speciality coffee, their craft beer or artisanal gin, they don’t realise that spending just one or two pounds, euros or dollars more will lead to a quantum difference in chocolate quality and the lives of the cocoa farmer.
7. Dark Milks become more and more popular
Verdict: Definitely happening. But can someone please tell Cadbury’s that 40% is (or should be) the “norm” or “standard” for a milk chocolate and that Dark Milks need to have over 50% cocoa solids? (Dairy Milk contains less than 20% cocoa and Cadbury’s Dark Milk contains 40%; ICA competitions for Dark Milk specify a minimum of 50% cocoa)
8. Craft White Chocolate also becomes far more accepted
Verdict: Definitely happening. Thank you Olly Murs for your support on Sunday Brunch, and hat tip again to Pump Street, Chocolarder, Akesson, Chocolat Madagascar, Dormouse and many more for craft such great white, craft chocolate bars
9. Sugar continues to be a confusing topic
Verdict: This was an (obvious) cheat — definitely happening. It’s still hard for consumers to make sense of all the “guff” surrounding sugar. Too many consumers still believe that e.g., coconut sugar or lucuma is “better” for them (hint: there is no science to back up these claims). Stevia is still being added to chocolate and ruining what might be great beans and bars. Too many consumers still lump all chocolate into “if it has sugar it must be bad” without realising that most breakfast cereals and many low fat yogurts have way more sugar than most craft chocolate bars gram per gram. Part of the problem is being able to work out how much sugar you are consuming (hint – a 375ml can of coco cola has 12 teaspoons of sugar, a single portion low fat vanilla yogurt has over 5 teaspoons of sugar whilst an average dark chocolate bar (65g at 70%) has less than 4 teaspoons of sugar; and most consumers won’t eat a full bar of dark chocolate at one sitting). So maybe take the initiative and say “x teaspoons of sugar per serving”?
10. Customers start to read the label.
Verdict: Not really. It’s not always obvious — see above for sugar. We’re hoping that some of this will change – for example the average consumer doesn’t understand the difference between “use by” and “best before”. But we also need to make this easier for consumers — we’ve not yet agreed common “best practise” for labelling inside the craft market (e.g., specify not just the country of origin but also the co-operative and/or single estate, etc.)
11. More and more customers will enjoy more and more craft chocolate “experiences”.
Verdict: Sort of – depends on region. A few examples in the US, great stuff by Dandelion in Japan, Fu Wan in Taiwan, Mirzam in Dubai, etc. But e.g., no one in Europe is doing anything like Napa Wineries YET (hint: we are hugely excited by Mike Longman’s plans for Chocolarder in Cornwall .. but still daunted by the many hours by train it will take for us to get there when his new operation opens)
2. The craft chocolate industry starts to develop some co-operative and standard definitions and best practises on labels. This should be a no brainer – but all too often, craft chocolate makes itself hard to identify and distinguish. Let’s at least start by being proud of the farm, estate or co-operative where the beans are grown and put this on the FRONT of the bar. And on the back label let’s say where the bars are crafted. Check out this blog post for more suggestions (and do have fun trying to work out where big chocolate mass produce and make their bars … hint, not all Belgian and Swiss chocolate is actually made there …)
3. Customers start to understand the difference between “use by” and “best before”. Sadly it may well be that we in the UK will take the lead here when the looming disaster of Brexit makes Brits really grateful for craft chocolate that is beyond its “best before” as it may well be the only stuff we can buy. More seriously, this is an extension of helping customers understand labels. For more on “best before” versus “use by” please see our blog from last year. Basically, “use by” means there is an ingredient (e.g., milk, a preservative or stabilisers) which goes off; “best before” means there is nothing that “goes off” but that the quality may (and I stress may) decline after that date (some dark chocolate bars, provided they stay in “temper” age like great red wines).
4. We become more geeky about flavour, mouthfeel and texture. Consumers are invariably blown away by the flavours in craft chocolate – and more often than not, amazed by the role of smell here (both retronasal and orthonasal). Texture is another dimension that intrigues customers, comparing stoneground to different grinds and conches. Next up will be more studies on bitterness and astringency (no they aren’t the same … see an upcoming post for more details), and on the role of “mouthfeel”
5. 100% craft chocolate bars continue to fly off the shelf. We’ve always known that 100% bars are great sellers online (it’s relatively easy to search for them). But we are also increasingly encouraged by customers reaction in store and at shows to tasting 100% bars. To quote from Harmony, who has done dozens of samplings in various stores, “when sampling in stores and events, most people who are interested in 100% have only dealt with mass brands and they are quite blown away when trying small batch 100%s. These people are pretty dedicated chocolate consumers and they are amazed that 100% bars don’t need to be bitter etc., it needn’t just taste like ‘cocoa powder’ or be dry and astringent. People will eat this because they genuinely enjoy it rather than for purely ‘health’ reasons”.
6. Craft Chocolate continues to get better at pairings with other craft / speciality foods and drinks. Again, this as a forecast is patently obvious and self serving – but we really believe that these pairings and tastings deserve more exposure and is really ready to be pushed out more and more. At Canopy Market last year we were fortunate to have experts from beer (Steve Taylor), wine (Charles Metcalfe), Sake (Peter McCombie) and Cheese (Karen Gaudin) to help us match craft chocolate to their speciality wares – and the customer reactions were FANTASTIC (thanks again to all our experts). And thanks to the likes of the SCA (speciality coffee association), Square Mile and Colonna we’ve learnt more and more about the similarities and complementarities between speciality coffee and craft chocolate. And we really hope that these pairings can be pushed further, more often and into new areas (we’re already planning rum and whisky pairings – and more suggestions welcome)
7. Craft Chocolate Tastings become even more popular. So this is a bit of a plug too. Nearly years ago, Lizzie and I started to do monthly Craft Chocolate Tastings at Prufrock Coffee (thank you again Prufrock). We’ve now done these all over the world – inside start ups in Silicon Valley, in Dubai, with wine clubs and speciality stores, with university departments (Oxford, UCL, etc), for corporates (they make great team building opportunities), etc. We’ve fine tuned the format, content and bars so that we are now really proud of our tastings. And we are now expanding them (e.g., see the website for ones we are doing Wholefoods for Valentines, our planned ones with Out of Office in Milton Keynes), etc. Many other people also do Craft Chocolate tastings – Duffy, Kathryn Laverack, Tristram etc. – and we are honoured to be able to support them with bars, content, etc. And we’d more than happy to share the tools and help more people set up their own tastings – or to come to you if you are a corporate, would like some special family do, etc. Or just check out upcoming events here.
8. Asia becomes more and more important. We’ve already seen India emerge as a great source of beans – and craft chocolate aficionado’s are emerging here. Japan now has twice the number of craft chocolate makers than the UK, France and Germany combined. How long before China wakes?
9. We move “beyond the bar” and see new formats of craft chocolate emerge. One of the questions we ask all our makers is why do they (just) make bars – and most are intrigued (or stumped) by this. Bars are an amazing format. Easy to put on a shelf. Easy to transport. And bars have been made and sold for over a 150 years (Fry’s made the first one back in the 1840s). But they aren’t always the easiest format for consumers. Cinemas some time ago worked out that bags of chocolate buttons were easier to share in the dark. For cooking couverture lots of new formats have emerged. And there surely is some room for craft makers to think of different formats for different occasions beyond mini-bars and squares
10. Debunking of myths. So if nobody else is going to cry “BS” at the likes of raw chocolate, we’ll write a blog on this. In the meantime, continued praise to the likes of Andrew Baker, Sharon Terenzi, Hazel Lee, Judith Lewis, Estelle Tracey, Clay Gordon, Dom Ramsey and Simran Sethi for their great pieces..
To paraphrase Original Beans, we wish you a year full of (speciality) beans
Spencer, Simon, Lizzie, Harmony @cocoarunners.com
We’ve teamed up with Whole Foods Market UK to bring you an in-store monthly Craft Chocolate Focus, where every month we’ll be showcasing a new theme.
Having kicked off the New Year with 100% chocolate, for the month of February we’ll be taking a slightly sweeter and fruitier turn, focusing our attention on MIA chocolate. The Craft Chocolate Focus on MIA has been finely tuned with Valentine’s Day and Fairtrade Fortnight on the horizon.
MIA stands for ‘Made in Africa’, an acronym that neatly sums up everything this maker stands for. The team behind MIA believes that there is truly exceptional food and drink being crafted in Africa from locally sourced ingredients.
Madagascar has a rich heritage of cacao growing, and an ever increasing number of chocolate makers are choosing to make chocolate on the island too.
When it comes to MIA’s ethical supply chain credentials, this chocolate maker partners with Proudly Made in Africa. The MIA factory and cocoa farmer relationships are audited according to the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code, which is one of the highest audit standards globally used by various fair trade schemes.
For every sale of MIA chocolate, it contributes to MIA’s ‘1 for Change’ programme. This programme is MIA’s commitment to investing 1% of its sales towards projects in Africa to help save local endangered species or to improve a community’s livelihoods.
With “Fairtrade Fortnight” fast approaching, you may notice that there is a vast number of ‘ethically-traded’ or ‘direct-trade’ products on the market that do not carry the Fairtrade certification. And at Cocoa Runners, we’re very often asked whether our chocolate is “Faitrade”. However, the answer is a little more complicated than you might expect. Very few of our craft chocolate makers are Fairtrade-certified, yet all are committed to a ‘fair’ way of making chocolate and many in fact go above and beyond the guidelines of Fairtrade.
When it comes to fair-trade labels, Brett, the co-founder of MIA, believes that like in any industry, competition is good for everyone involved: fair trade labels, ethical brands and consumers. Brett continues: “in part because competition keeps everyone on their toes and in a state of constant improvement, but also because the concept ‘fair’ can take varying forms depending on the industry and the company’s focus.”
MIA’s brand mission is to produce high-quality and ethical products from start to finish in Africa. This means paying cocoa farmers fairly for quality beans as well as partnering with a local and entrepreneurial chocolate-making team to make MIA bars. Part of MIA’s choice for this equally challenging and rewarding business model was its passion for the people and continent of Africa.
Beyond its ethical stance, MIA chocolate is simply delicious. Whilst we love the chocolate by itself, naturally, we also recommend using the chocolate for flavour pairings or to cook with. Why not pair the 100% bar with some whisky or tannic red wine, or cook up some fruity, fudgy brownies with MIA’s 75% Madagascan chocolate?
Dates to look out for to sample MIA chocolate in February in-store are:
2nd Feb at 16.00-19.00
5th Feb at 12.00-15.00
11th Feb at 12.00-15.00
14th Feb at 16.00-19.00
3rd Feb at 15.00-18.00
9th Feb at 16.00-19.00
3rd Feb at 11.00-14.00
9th Feb at 12.00-16.00
9th Feb at 12.00-15.00
7th Feb at 12.00-15.00
10th Feb at 15.00-18.00
2nd Feb at 12.00-15.00
10th Feb at 11.001-14.00
You can also join us for a very special Chocolate & Wine Masterclass at Whole Foods Market where we’ll be showcasing and pairing a few of the MIA chocolate flavours. Tickets available here.
We’ve teamed up with Whole Foods Market UK to bring you an in-store monthly Craft Chocolate Focus. Every month we’ll be showcasing a new theme, and what better way to bring in the New Year than with 100% pure cocoa chocolate with no added sugar.
Yep, that’s right, for the month of January we’re dialling up the intensity and focusing our attention on 100% cacao bars. 100% cacao bars are made using nothing but cocoa beans. They are intense, powerful and they’re an excellent way to experience the pure taste of the cocoa bean.
With no added sugar, flavourings or vegetable fats, the only ingredient is cocoa mass, cocoa butter and the natural sugar of cocoa (cocoa after all is a fruit, so it contains 2-5% sugar).
If you’re new to 100% cacao, don’t be put off by the idea that it will be astringent and bitter. It’s true that the flavours can be intense but 100% cacao bars are generally not nearly as astringent and mouth puckering as you might expect.
Much of the mouth-puckering bitterness and astringency that you find in mass produced high percentage dark chocolate is down to how the beans are crushed, pressed and even treated in chemical solutions as they rush to make the maximum amount of chocolate in as little time as possible. On the other end of the spectrum you can find our wonderful craft chocolate makers, who take their time to coax out the awesome flavours of their fine flavour cocoa beans with careful grinding, concheing and blending.
If you head to any Whole Foods Market UK branch (Kensington, Piccadilly, Richmond, Stoke Newington, Camden, Clapham Junction and Fulham), you’ll find our craft chocolate makers’ 100% bars centre-stage of the chocolate aisle.
Dates to look out for to sample the 100% chocolate in-store at Whole Foods Market include Wednesday 16th Jan. 4-7pm in the Piccadilly store and Friday 18th 12-3pm in the Camden store. We had previously held our demos on the 8th January at Kensington and 11th at Clapham Junction.
An absolute must-try for the 100% lovers. Menakao’s bar packs quite the punch in comparison to the more mellow 100% bars of Oialla and Pump Street. This award winning dark bar is an intense 100% Madagascan dark chocolate.
Unwrap the chocolate and you are instantly hit by a strong fruity aroma. Delicious and inviting as this may be, don’t be fooled into breaking off a great chunk as this chocolate has a serious intensity! The initial berries have a citrus edge, leading to a powerful and sharp finish. A roasted note is mixed with the fruits, which reminds us a little of strong filter coffee.
The baristas at Climpson’s Coffee often use this 100% for “palate training” and find it ideal for baking.
This 100% Criollo bar is both an exceptional and rare example of terroir. In 2018, these Åkesson’s Criollo beans were awarded Heirloom Cacao Preservation (HCP) status.
Wonderful berry notes burst forth from this smooth textured yet incredibly intense chocolate. This is accompanied by a natural sweetness that you might not expect to find in a bar with such a high percentage of cacao, complementing the citrusy tartness.
Crafted from beans from Hacienda Limon plantation of the Los Rios province in Ecuador. Possessing an intense cocoa flavour, this bar has a low acidity and earthy taste thanks to its long conch yields. It’s buttery and rich, which makes it ideal for baking.
This bar is crafted exclusively from cacao from the Alto Beni region of Bolivia. Bolivian cacao is known for its honey like profile, and these notes are certainly present in this bar. It has a remarkably even melt, and a richness derived from the flavour of the beans and the rich, fudgey texture of the bar.
The bar itself is delicate to hold, and the packaging has a Scandinavian minimalism that many admire as being simply “sophisticated”.
Rich and buttery, crafted from cacao of Madagascar. It’s smooth, buttery and embodies a hefty roasted profile, the signature style of French chocolate maker Pralus.
MIA stands for ‘Made in Africa’, an acronym that neatly sums up everything this maker stands for. The bar has many of the jammy notes that are so typical of Madagascan cacao, with a slightly roasted finish. Also, do keep an out for our February Craft Chocolate Focus of MIA at Whole Foods.
We were delighted to welcome Original Bean’s first ever 100% bar into our Library mid 2018. This is an intense 100% dark chocolate with a very pleasant and perfectly smooth melt. There is a sherbet like sweetness amongst the Peruvian cacao, and the melt and finish of this bar is clean and bright.
This chocolate had been crafted in Scotland, with Ali and Friederike working carefully to reduce the acidity of these cocoa beans from Belize. The touch of added cocoa butter yields a smooth melt. The flavour of this 100% is just fantastic and highly approachable.
This winter we’re teaming up with Pure Grenada to bring a hint of spice to Canopy Market in London’s King’s Cross. From November 30 – December 2nd we will be joined by a capsule collection of chocolate makers, each of whom will be showcasing craft interpretations of Grenada. bars.
Under the Canopy you’ll discover single estate craft chocolate makers such as the Grenada Chocolate Company, Duffy’s, Dormouse and Pump Street Chocolate to present a selection of the finest single origin bars available today. We’re also delighted to announce that Pure Grenada has helped to secure an amount of cacao for Dormouse and Duffy’s to produce limited edition bars that will only be available at the market.
Over the course of the weekend the market will play host to tastings and workshops. Duffy and Dormouse will be presenting their limited edition bars, and sharing the inspiration behind their creations. Grenada Chocolate Company and Pump Street Chocolate will each also be sharing the stories behind their unique ties to the island known to so many as the Spice of the Caribbean.
Grenada is well known in the craft chocolate community for it’s annual Chocolate Festival, held on the island in May each year. We are honoured to be joined at Canopy by Magdalena Fielden, founder of the Grenada Chocolate Festival and all round champion of Grenada chocolate. She will be with us for the weekend, sharing stories of the festival. In addition, Hazel Lee will be presenting Canopy’s first Taste With Colour workshop in which participants will user watercolours and her innovative colour map to explore the flavours in Grenadan chocolate. We will also be joined by Steve from Bottleshop and Karen Gaudin for chocolate and beer and chocolate and cheese pairing sessions.
Full details of the talks that are being held across the weekend can be found in our Events Directory.
The market itself is totally free to attend, but you’ll need to sign up in advance if you’d like to attend any of the workshop sessions.
Friday 30th November
5pm – Chocolate & Cheese Pairing, £10
6pm – Chocolate & Rum Pairing , £10
Saturday 1st December
12 noon – Taste with Colour with Hazel Lee, £5
1pm – Duffy & Dormouse Showcasing new bars, crafted from Grenadian Beans, £5
2pm – Welcome To The Craft Chocolate Revolution, with Cocoa Runners, £5
3pm – Pump Street Chocolate Grenadian Tasting, £5
4pm – Grenada, Spice of the Caribbean, with Magdalena Fielden £5
5pm – Chocolate & Beer Pairing with Bottleshop, £10
Sunday 2nd December
12 noon – Chocolate & Coffee Pairing, £5
1pm – Welcome To The Craft Chocolate Revolution, with Cocoa Runners, £5
2pm – Duffy & Dormouse Showcasing new bars, crafted from Grenadian Beans, £5
3pm – Grenada Chocolate Company Tasting, £5
4pm – Grenada, Spice of the Caribbean, with Magdalena Fielden £5
Full details of the talks that are being held across the weekend can be found in our Events Directory.
Friday November 30th, 12-8pm
Saturday December 1st, 11am – 6pm
Sunday December 2nd, 11am – 6pm
The Craft Chocolate Takeover at Canopy Market,
West Handysdie Canopy (outside Waitrose),
This Chocolate Week, we are collaborating with Canopy Market, the weekly independent market at King’s Cross, to host a celebration of all things cocoa for a weekend of total sensory pleasure. From the 19th – 21st of October, Canopy will host a dedicated chocolate market packed with the best craft chocolatiers, tastings, talks and demonstrations, all under the market’s beautifully restored Victorian glass and steel roof.
With a focus on bean-to-bar producers, visitors will be able to try rare, single-origin chocolates and meet the international chocolate specialists themselves, some of whom are bringing their wares to Canopy Market all the way from South America. The line-up, curated by Cocoa Runners, purveyors of the world’s finest craft chocolate, will include the award-winning Pump Street Bakery, who hand-make small batch chocolate in Orford and from Caracas, Venezuela (one of the world’s most famous growing regions and considered the cradle and homeland of cocoa itself), Franceschi Chocolate will bring their rescued heritage Criollo and Trinitario cacao varieties to London. Former Formula 1 engineer Duffy will be bringing his internationally renowned craft chocolate bars from Lincolnshire.
True cocoa aficionados and chocolate lovers will also be able to discover and enjoy rare and unusual filled chocolates crafted from single origin cacao and raw cocoa nibs, the crushed cacao bean and the very best, velvety drinking chocolate.
A series of chocolate tastings led by the chocolate producers themselves will give visitors the opportunity to learn about and try a range of chocolate, as well as explore its versatility with sessions on themes such as chocolate and beer and chocolate and wine pairings. A full lineup of talks will be confirmed in early September. Access to the market is free of charge, and you’ll be able to buy tickets to any presentation (priced from £5) on our site from early September.
Craft Chocolate Stall Holders
JK Fine Chocolate
Pump Street Chocolate
Cocoa Runners will also have a stall across the weekend. The chocolate special will take part alongside the regular market, featuring street food from Arancini Bros, Growlers and The Big MELT, a craft beer bar, English Wine and Italian Natural wines, artisan food producers and craft traders including Earl of East London’s hand-poured scented candles, unique handmade jewellery from Nabi London and Turkish hammam towels at Pur London.
Do I need a ticket to attend the market?
No, everyone is welcome. You’ll only need a ticket for any talk or workshop you’d like to attend.
Are there ID requirements or an age limit to enter the event?
No, everyone is welcome.
What are my transport/parking options getting to the event?
The nearest stations are Kings Cross and St Pancras, but Euston is also a short stroll away.
Where can I contact the organizer with any questions?
If you’ve got any questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you ever found yourself staring at two bars of chocolate and trying to work out why one is £1 and the other over £5? And if it’s really worth spending more? The aim of this post is to help you make an informed choice by giving you some insider tips on what to look for, and what to beware of, on a chocolate bar label.
With many products, you can look at them and immediately see the difference. Roast chicken and chicken nuggets are clearly not the same thing. The same can be said for processed orange squash and freshly squeezed orange juice, processed cheese and artisan cheese. Unfortunately, when it comes to chocolate bars, the difference between industrial, mass-produced chocolate and craft, bean to bar chocolate is less perceptible – marketing tactics carried out by industrial chocolate makers masquerading as ‘artisan’ and better quality doesn’t help either.
To make it simple, we’ve developed a five point checklist that should help you make an informed decision.
When it comes to chocolate, less really is more. If you turn the bar over and look at the ingredients on the back, you’ll realise it’s much easier than you think to identify real craft chocolate. There should be no more than 3 ingredients (4 if you’re buying milk chocolate):
Sometimes it’s even simpler – cocoa beans and sugar
Take a look at this Pump Street Chocolate bar ingredients label and you’ll realise how simple good quality chocolate really is.
If you see ingredients other than these, think again. If you see ingredients that you, or your grandmother, wouldn’t recognise, think REALLY hard about whether you truly want to eat it…
Vegetable fats, E numbers, artificial flavourings, soy lecithin, PGPR, Vanillin and Emulsifiers are all tell-tale signs of generic, mass produced chocolate. Take a look at the ingredients label below of a chocolate bar produced by a well known market leader. You’ll immediately notice a lack of actual cocoa.
However, in craft chocolate, cacao will always take centre stage. Which actually helps explain why some of our chocolate makers often make a conscious decision to use sunflower lecithin. To reduce the viscosity of their chocolate, makers will add sunflower lecithin (rather than add too much cocoa butter) so the true flavour of the cacao bean is not masked.
Furthermore, if you see bars with ingredients that read, for example: raw cacao powder, raw cacao butter, coconut blossom sugar – think twice. It almost resembles what chicken nuggets is to roast chicken, it is simply reconstituted “chocolate”. Cocoa beans should always be the first ingredient, not powder. Likewise, if other fats and syrups have been used instead of cocoa butter and dried sugars, for example using coconut oil and/or agave syrup, it is not real chocolate.
Does the label tell you where the beans were grown and harvested? The key is to look for the name of an estate, farm, co-operative or farmer. Transparency is key.
Be wary if it just says, “percentage X” or “country Y”- that isn’t actually telling you the origins of the beans at all. Also remember that percentage is only an indicator of the amount of cocoa solids in a bar, it is not an indicator of quality.
Bars that give this type of vague information will never be able to provide the same tasting experience as a craft chocolate bar, nor will it provide the same transparency in sourcing of its ingredients, so put it back.
True craft chocolate will proudly tell you the origins of the beans down to the farmer, co-operative and village (just like wine, coffee, cheese, etc.)
Look at these bars from Askinosie, it shows us right on the very front of the label the regions (not just country) where the beans were grown. Askinosie also shows us a picture of the actual farmers who grown and harvest the cacao.
Look for details of the maker, and if you can’t see an address – think again.
Also, don’t be fooled by the “branding” of some countries, for example Swiss or Belgian chocolate. This doesn’t really mean anything, as there is no legal regulation of the use of these terms. Under EU law you don’t need to say where you create (grind, refine and conche) mass produced chocolate, so it’s possible that your “Swiss” or “Belgian” chocolate might be mass-manufactured outside its inferred country.
In contrast, Menakao, for example, produces its chocolate in the same country as where it sources its cacao from – Madagascar. Working like this provides a substantial economic benefit to the communities in the country of cocoa origins, as the cocoa value chains are reduced and enriched.
Don’t be fooled by pretty pictures of sentimental chocolate artisans hard at work…
When learning about how the bar in your hands has been crafted, look for specific details about the process. Craft chocolate makers tend to be very detail orientated and experimental, so our buzz words include:
Check the labels of Fresco, Conexión and Chocolarder. You can see the details of the roast, grind, conche and ageing times, as well as the batch number amongst many other details:
On a side note, one thing to be super sceptical of is if a bar says “raw”. “Raw” chocolate should only be used to refer to cacao beans that have not been roasted (or simply flash-roasted). During fermentation of cacao and during the grinding and conching processes of chocolate making, temperatures will reach well above what is considered “raw”.
The choices you make when buying a chocolate bar have far greater consequences than you might imagine. Whilst mass-produced chocolate has its dark side – multinationals fined over slavery and child labour – craft chocolate, in contrast, paints a very different picture.
Craft makers are keen to share the work they do to help those farming the cacao at origin. Their websites often include transparency and sustainability reports and we’re seeing an increasing number of makers make mention of their efforts on their packaging. For example, buying a bar of Original Beans plants a tree in the rainforest. Or look at Askinosie, who profit shares with its cacao farmers, dependent on the sales of products made with those beans, which in turn encourages farmers to produce the highest quality cocoa beans.
If when you pick up a bar and it costs less than say £3-4, it’s probably remoulded from mass-produced chocolate (maybe even remoulded “Belgian” chocolate), rather than being crafted from bean to bar. At that kind of price, its flavour (or lack of) will more likely come from additives than from being coaxed from rare and awesome beans.
If the price is suspiciously cheap (say less than £3 per 100g), someone must be paying for it somewhere else down the line. But it’s also worth noting that paying top dollar doesn’t always equal top quality.
Beyond our five point checklist, one other set of suggestions for customers and makers (hat tip to Sharon Terenzi) is to make allergen and dietary information super clear. Sadly not all customers realise that, for example, dark chocolate bars are vegan as they don’t contain milk. Similarly, it’s worth reassuring customers if a bar is gluten free. So, if you pick up a craft chocolate bar that, for example, contains just: cocoa beans, sugar and cocoa butter, yes it is DAIRY FREE and yes it is GLUTEN FREE. All plain dark chocolate bars should be dairy and gluten free.
We hope that our checklist has helped demystify chocolate bar labels, and we hope that we have encouraged you to now think twice about what chocolate you choose to buy. If ever in doubt, check our Craft Chocolate Library
If you’re in London this weekend, join us on Saturday at Uppers & Downers, afestival of coffee beers in Hackney.
Uppers & Downers began in 2013 as a conversation between Good Beer Hunting’s Michael Kiser and World Barista Champion Stephen Morrissey about the lack of creativity and sophistication in coffee beers. Fast forward five years and Uppers & Downers has grown into a series of immersive and collaborative coffee/beer experiences.
Last year, Uppers & Downers made the leap across the pond for it’s first eventin London, and this year the event has grown to feature more brewers, moreroasters, and more chocolate!
We’ll be setting up shop in Mick’s Garage in Hackney Wick, on Saturday May19th from 12pm – 5pm. This awesome venue is just a stone’s throw from theOlympic Park, and the event promises to be lots of fun for both coffee and beer fans alike.
Tickets are priced at £45, and this gets you admittance to the 5-hour event, and includes a glass, small swag, and as many shots of espresso and 100ml pours of coffee-beer as you’d like to enjoy! To buy tickets, click here…
Last weekend I was invited to the World Cocoa Conference in Berlin to speak at one of the “warm up” sessions of the Fine and Flavour Forum. So first and foremost, I’d like to thank Martin Christy for inviting me, and congratulations to Martin and Maricel for arranging a raft of great speakers and topics on Sunday.
Having said this, my overall impression for the World Cocoa Conference was one of bemusement and concern. I was expecting delegates to have passion and enthusiasm for our “product” (i.e. chocolate, food of the goods). And I was hoping to taste lots of chocolate. I did taste a couple of great chocolates (spoiler alert Fu Wan’s new tea infused bars are awesome), and I did manage to listen to (and even speak with) a few forward thinking individuals (thanks Carla for the intro to Volta’s Anthony Rue, good to finally meet Nick Weatherill of ICI, and I enjoyed meeting Starbucks people too). But there was hardly any chocolate to taste (two small bits of milka in the delegate bag) and my overall impression was that at best most delegates didn’t really take pride in, believe in, or aspire to create (or taste) great chocolate (hint – take a look at the tag line on the delegate bag below from BASF – “we create chemistry”). Delegates and participants all too often seemed overwhelmed by the problems of their world and industry – deforestation, climate change, poverty, child labour, blight, consumer mistrust, health concerns, to just name a few. Unlike attending speciality coffee fairs, wine shows, craft beer shows or even craft chocolate shows there was no sense of passion, pride or purpose.
My panel, made up of Jorge Redman, Mikkel Friis Holm Luis Mancini and me, was on lessons Chocolate can learn from Speciality Coffee. We all agreed on many similarities – Mikkel focused on the importance of taste and consistency and Luis did a great job of noting the similarities of farmers and craft makers working together with both beans. We also acknowledged the huge boost that speciality coffee stores and baristas have had in promoting speciality coffee. We were all envious of the relative ease by which consumers can “upgrade” their daily habits of making morning coffee and visiting better coffee stores. By contrast craft chocolate isn’t an easy substitute for the mid-afternoon sugar rush realised with supermarket bars. We were optimistic on how craft chocolate can work with speciality coffee stores to sell bars and better drinking chocolate. But with hindsight what I wished I’d said (or rather shouted) was something along the lines of “come on guys, wake up smell the coffee” – look at what the (speciality) coffee industry has done for consumers, farmers and themselves over the last decade. Sure speciality coffee may only be 8-15% of coffee sales – and craft chocolate is still less than 1% (definitions and statistics are slippery, but these seem “directionally accurate”). My impression of folks within both the mass and speciality ends of the coffee industry is that they have a sense of purpose and pride for their product and industry. They believe coffee can (and should) taste great. They can get customers to appreciate and enjoy coffee. They can improve some farmers lives. They can and should plant forests, work with local governments and associations. This is in marked contrast to Big Chocolate.
Unfortunately, I only was able to stay for Monday, and so I only heard the keynote speeches and some sessions on deforestation and sustainability. But what I learnt was pretty dispiriting. I’m not sure that this was the intention of the conference, but I came with the clear message that if you eat cheap chocolate and confectionery, or consume cheap chocolate as an ingredient in cakes, biscuits, you are
More worryingly no one was proposing any viable solutions. There was an appeal to “cathedral thinking” (i.e. thinking of the future for your grandchildren) and a truly bizarre story from a Canadian guest speaker about New College, Oxford planting a forest in 1378 so that when the college hall (sic) was rebuilt in the 1970s they could harvest some trees planted in 1378 by the great, great grandparents of the current new college forester (I’m not making this up). There was some talk of “responsible partnerships” and Simran Sethi showed what can be done by the likes of Tony Chocolonely in the world of sustainable production. But much of the time I had to pinch myself when I heard more and more appeals to government, and in particular the EU, to “do something”. There were lots of interesting statistics – and the chart from the ICCO showing that whilst the world weighted price of 1 KG of chocolate has held constant or even marginally increased from $14.22 to $14.7 between 2013 and 2017, the price of 1KG of cocoa beans (nearby futures contract New York) has decreased from $3.20 to $2.04, pretty much summed up the challenge. For Big Chocolate, chocolate / cocoa is a commodity product and Big Chocolate isn’t interested in fine flavour or taste.
Unlike other commodity products such as, for example oil, governments, farmers and traders in cocoa growing countries find it really hard to co-ordinate on a local or international level. Despite two countries controlling 65% plus of world cocoa (Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana), their governments are not incentivised and indeed often relatively powerless to impact prices. The majority of the cocoa growing comprises a myriad of small cocoa farmers, traders, loan sharks, etc. who operate on the edges, and often outside, the law (check out all the cocoa being farmed illegally in national parks). I’m no expert here, but I can sympathise with the argument that it’s far easier to e.g., monitor sweatshops producing garments than certify these supply chains. It can be done in chocolate. Divine have done this in Ghana, Ritter explained what they are doing, and there are lots of initiatives in Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, etc. and NGOs like the ICC who have laudable plans. And coffee shows that there are alternatives to OPEC like structures.
But as long as the priority of Big Chocolate is to purchase cocoa as cheaply as they can, and for as long as the people they buy from are so fragmented and so desperate, it’s hard to see how things are going to change. Many (most?) cocoa farmers in West Africa make less than a dollar a day (the UN believes the minimum living income is $2.50). And despite these low wages and incomes, people are still desperate for any work – there are stories of workers literally swimming through crocodile infested rivers and shark infested seas to work on illegal cocoa plantations for these wages in deplorable conditions. So even though it’s great to hear that “Big Chocolate” is trying to create “traceable supply chains”, “sustainable farms”, etc. we’ve heard this many times before and I’m not optimistic. For as long as they see cocoa as an ingredient where Big Chocolate companies and Traders believe their shareholder obligations mean they need to beat prices down as low as they can, it’s hard to imagine them creating a “Bournville” or “Hershey Town” in Africa. At the moment, demand for cocoa is pretty flat … but poverty struck farmers see no option but to produce more cocoa. Intriguingly, or rather more worryingly, the ICCO seems to realise that pressuring Big Chocolate hasn’t, and may well not, work (see their summary document from the conference – https://www.icco.org/about-us/icco-news/387-berlin-declaration-of-the-fourth-world-cocoa-conference.html )
So instead the ICCO is now arguing that governments, and in particular the EU, “take action”. One keynote speaker even argued that because government taxes took up 15% of the $100bn spent on chocolate globally, governments should use this to subsidise farmers wages and pay more for cocoa beans (I may have misunderstood this … but checking with a few others in the audience, this was their impression too). Mighty Earth made a similar plea for the EU “to get involved” and “take action” (everyone did seem to realise that Trump wasn’t as obvious a lobbying target).
I was initially sceptical of the power of the EU “to get involved” and “take action” until I did a little more research on an issue raised in one session on Sunday – Cadmium. I’m still researching this – and would love to hear from anyone who can shine more light on the subject. I came away from the conference really worried about prospects for Peruvian, Columbian and Ecuadorean chocolate in the EU. From the 1st Jan 2019, the EU is bringing into force new guidelines on the maximum amount of cadmium many products can contain. And chocolate is a special case. https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/chemical_safety/contaminants/catalogue/cadmium_en
Here is what I’ve gleaned
In the US there were similar efforts to label, and put limits on, cadmium in chocolate – especially in California. However, these initiatives appear to have been met with some labelling compromises and “further studies”. The Peruvian, Ecuadorean and Columbian governments are all making desperate lobbying efforts to stall the EU’s plans. But there isn’t a lot of time left, and a lot of Ecuadorean, Peruvian and Colombian cocoa farmers and makers are about to get thrown under the bus.
I’m very grateful for the chance to attend the conference. And as I said at the outset, I wish I’d taken my chance to rant during my speech and have participants from Big Chocolate taste some really great craft chocolate that Martin’s International Chocolate Awards, the AOC and indeed our monthly subscription boxes celebrate. But hindsight is frequently 20:20. Next time!
Looking forward, I’ve come back worried about the potentially disaster that EU Cadmium regulations will have for many Peruvian, Colombian and Ecuadorean farmers and makers without anyone really noticing (as a side note, it’ll be interesting to see how “raw” chocolate handles this given that so much of the liquor from which it is processed comes from Ecuatoriana, a single large Ecuadorian factory. Perhaps “raw” consumers will now examine these raw bars, and the fiction of raw chocolate’s health benefits, a little more). At a minimum it’d be good to have more time for cocoa growers and farmers to work out how to test for cadmium.
Above all I’ve come back even more unimpressed by “Big Chocolate”. Big chocolate is bad for the farmers, bad for local forests and bad for the planet. Consumers – correctly – are mistrustful of Big Chocolate and their processes. And Big Chocolate knows this – and I’m really not surprised why Big Chocolate is so embarrassed and why it has no pride, passion and plans for Theobroma Cacao, the fruit of the gods. There is almost a case to be made for a cocoa blight, like Witches Broom, to strike and help raise prices through a shortage – and force big chocolate to think more long term, force a restructuring of the industry etc. But short term this would be terrible for the already beleaguered farmers and their families in West Africa.
Instead, I think we have to learn more from, and follow in the footsteps of, speciality coffee, artisanal cheese, and craft beer. In the UK more is spent buying chocolate than purchasing either books or music. But this chocolate expenditure isn’t, yet, the subject of much enthusiasm; Big Chocolate is unsurprisingly reticent of its supply chain and processes. By contrast, craft chocolate lovers and makers are enthusiasts. We celebrate the cocoa bean and the bars craft chocolate makers create. We know craft chocolate tastes better (a LOT better). We know craft chocolate is better for you (has less additives, you’ll savour it more and scoff less – so hopefully eat less of it, etc.). And direct trade is clearly far better for farmers and the planet. We know just have to persuade more and more consumers, and who knows even some members of “Big Chocolate”, to try craft chocolate and pick up our passion, purpose and pride. To that end, we’re working to create some Craft Chocolate Fairs – the first at Kings Cross Canopy Market over the weekend of May 11-13th, and then another at Square Mile Coffee Roasters from October 19-21st. For more details see cocoarunners.com/events/ – and hope to see you there!
As spring is finally beginning to make itself felt here in the UK, we have selected four chocolate bars full of a wonderful mix of flavours that we are sure will bring a little sunshine to your taste buds.
And as the season changes, what better way to celebrate than with a mixture of the old and the new? This month we have some truly fabulous new bars from makers we’ve come to know and love of the years, and who prove to be perennially popular in our Cocoa Runners Library. We also have a new maker to introduce who we have been speaking to for some time and are delighted to finally be able to give you a taste of his delicious chocolate.
Of course we at Cocoa Runners are always looking to improve and increase our chocolate selection, and it’s not always possible to include every single new single-origin bar in our monthly box. So if you like the bars we’ve selected for you, we urge you to check out the maker’s other bars and everything else that’s new on site. And of course if you’re looking for a recommendation, simply drop us a line via email, or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and we will be happy to help!
We hope you enjoy this month’s selection.
We first met Paco Llopis of Utopick at the Salon du Chocolat in Paris two years ago. Since then we’ve been chatting, exchanging chocolate and working hard (particularly Paco, his team and his business partner/wife Juanas Rojas) to bring you this bar.
The beans for the bar we’ve chosen began their journey in the north of Guatemala, in the tropical rainforests located in the natural park that surrounds the pristine paradise of the cenote Lake Lachuá. This is a bountiful region, also producing harvests of fragrant cardamom and coffee. When it comes to the cacao, there is a particularly rich range of varietals, which give the chocolate its wonderful blend of flavours.
The Qeqchi Maya families that live in the region cultivate cacao beans in a rigorous Transparent Trading model, which secures prices for the cacao for producers that are even higher than Fair Trade, whilst ensuring responsibility and accountability at every stage of production.
You can try Utopick’s Dark Chocolate from this month’s box here, and find the rest of Utopick’s bars in the Chocolate Library here.
Next we’ve a new bar from Barcelona-based Blanxart. A few years ago, we tasted a bar from Blanxart which blew us away with incredibly ‘chocolatey’ flavour (there is no other way to describe it). Since we introduced this bar to you it has become one of our most popular dark chocolate bars. And now the artisans at Blanxart have come up with a new twist on this old favourite. This bar is a darker, more intense version of the Dominican Republic 70%, using a new recipe and slightly different beans, giving a similar yet highly distinctive flavour.
When it comes to chocolate, Blanxart has years of experience to help them craft its bars. Making chocolate since 1954, today Spanish maker Blanxart remains faithful to its origins; is uses the same logo and its production is overseen by fourth generation master chocolatier Xavier Cordomi. Like his forefathers, he has passion for chocolate and a meticulous eye for detail. The high quality of Blanxart’s chocolate is a reflection of this constant search for improvement and the many hours of training its staff put in.
Next we have a dark chocolate from one of Venezuela’s oldest and most renowned chocolate families. he Franceschi family has been growing and exporting Venezuelan cacao since 1830. On the family’s farm in the Paria Peninsula of Venezuela, they grow a number of rare Criollo varietals. These are genetic strands of cacao unique to Venezuela but famous across the world for their unique and delicate flavours. Thanks to its farm and links to other farmers, Franceschi is doing a lot of work to protect these rare varietals.
The Canoabo bean used in this bar is a Criollo varietal, which originates from the south of the Maracaibo lake, in the foothills of the Andes. It is from this region that Criollo varietals have propagated to the humid coastal areas, with Venezuela today boasting more than thirty different types of Criollo. So, when Franceschi proudly declare Venezuela the birthplace of extra fine cacao, offering the broadest range of flavours and aromas, it is a claim far from lacking in substance.
For the milk chocolate aficionados, we have a wonderful new treat from Cornwall’s Chocolarder. Chocolarder is the creation of former Pâtissier, Mike Longman, who began his bean-to-bar journey after committing to make as many of his own ingredients as possible.
Starting out in his kitchen, Mike now operates out of a small factory in Cornwall, and is currently crowdfunding to help him build a larger workshop and café space. Mike is dedicated to sourcing unique and exciting local inclusions ranging from wild gorse flower, to the Cornish sea salt used in this bar. Mike is dedicated to a production process that is truly transparent and sustainable, both economically and ecologically
And for those who like to keep things dark, we’ve a beautiful bar from French chocolate experts Pralus, made from some of the finest Madagascan beans.
The sleepy, picturesque commune of Roanne in the Loire valley provides the romantic backdrop that you might expect for the workshop of a legendary chocolatier and chocolate maker. Founded in 1948, Pralus originally earned international repute under celebrated pâtissier, Auguste Pralus, whose ingenuity concocted the enchanting creation of the Praluline, a brioche strewn with nuts caramelised in rose sugar. It was a creation that earned him the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France and the French Order of National Merit. But when son François took over the family establishment in 1988, the spirit of innovation burned brighter still, as an initial interest in chocolate came fully to fruition when François became one of France’s first bean-to-bar chocolate producers. Today, Pralus’ single origin chocolate adventure has even extended to its very own plantation amid the tropical climes of Madagascar, where the beans for this bar were grown!