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Puchero

About the Founders

Born in a small town named Susa, not far from the Italian Alps co founder of Puchero, Marco, spent most of his childhood on the ski slopes. After studying for a year in upstate New York he moved to France to begin his finance career.

Still a far reach from the world of chocolate, his profession brought him to London where he met his now wife and co founder of Puchero, Paloma. Together they travelled for a year around south east Asia, where the idea – to become a speciality coffee roaster – began.

Getting introduced to Micheal Gomez Wood, who was running a philanthropy NGO based in Vietnam and Laos, Matteo and Paloma quickly picked up his knowledge from years of working with coffee roasters.

Getting their hands on some Laos coffee, they began their journey to becoming speciality coffee roasters.

About Puchero’s Chocolate Making process

After 3 years of coffee roasting, Marco and Paloma decided to venture into the world of craft chocolate. This transition turned out to be harder than expected – Marco admits the roasting process is much harder than with coffee – to retain the natural fruity, nutty and floral notes requires a very delicate roast.

Roasting was not their only challenge, tempering the chocolate also took a lot of trial and error. Luckily this process taught the team at Puchero the skill of mastering craft chocolate and has allowed them to produce a huge range of delicious chocolate bars which champion the natural flavours of the cacao beans they use.

 

I adore bringing out the different taste nuances of each bean when I create a new batch of chocolate”.

Luisa, of ‘Luisa’s Vegan Chocolates’ fame, shared with us some of her story, and how she’s working hard to make superb craft chocolate which taste better, and helps build business and community.

The Background

Prior to embarking on an exciting exploration of craft chocolate, Luisa was a fashion and textiles teacher

Even as a teacher, Luisa was never far from chocolate, with a bar always on standby in her bag.

When my eyes were opened to the world of single origin chocolate and all the incredible nuances that can be present purely from beans, I felt like I was missing out on a whole world that I yearned to discover”.

Upon igniting a passion for chocolate and chocolate making, Luisa began a journey that led her to leave her teaching career, and start up her own business. What began with Luisa alone, making chocolate in her own kitchen, has grown organically into a thriving small business, with premises and employees. Luisa shared her pride in it being a family concern too; “we are a female-led and mum & daughter run business”.

After a year of making chocolate, Luisa realised that there was a space in the market to explore plant-based alternatives to milk chocolate. Now, Luisa and her team have developed a range of alternative milk chocolates which they call their “better-than-milk range”. Their ‘Hazolate’ and ‘Casholate’ bars are flagships for the range.

Now, Luisa’s Vegan chocolate shop, based in Sneinton Market, Nottingham, is the UK’s only 100% plant-based, bean-to-bar shop.

Building Business and Community

Like many craft makers, Luisa values building direct relationships with farmers and other stakeholders in the chocolate supply chain.

They’re currently developing a relationship with Jamaican farmers after a chance encounter with the family of a member of the Jamaican embassy in their shop. “It’ll be fantastic as we have a great Jamaican community in Nottingham”.

And elsewhere in Nottingham, they’re working alongside a number of other small businesses on interesting collaborations including a local coffee brewery and a beer brewery, to bring out a coffee and malt chocolates. Luisa’s Vegan Chocolates also supplies chocolate to Michelin Star chefs.

They’re even getting in on the science! They won a project with The University of Nottingham and Innovate UK to explore “micrological changes that happen in the fermentation box can affect the fine flavours in cacao beans”.

Working with Farmers

Luisa’s work, building relationships with farmers has had some real impact. She tells us about one of her proudest achievements: “I was most proud of working with 3 wonderful women from Colombia on an innovation & female empowerment project, alongside the University of Nottingham. These farmers wanted to move away from producing commercial cacao, and elevate their product into the super premium market. My job was to visit and survey the farms, build relationships with the farmers, as the plant science team collected scientific data to see what microbiological changes occur during cacao cultivation and fermentation. We used their cacao to make chocolate, from the 1st to the 3rd crop, and gave feedback, and suggested improvements that could be implemented on the biodiversity side. Vast improvements were made with the cacao, and in turn the chocolate got significantly better as the crops went on, backed up by our taste testers (our customers)”.

This is an amazing example of what a dedicated craft chocolate maker can help to achieve. One of the farmers, Carmen, commented: “in Colombia, farmers are not traditionally well paid for their work or product. The gains we have had are much higher than what we used to get before we started this process with Luisa”. And the increased income that Carmen is no able to take in, from selling fine flavoured cacao to Luisa, is enabling her son to go to college.

Presenting the Product

Packaging, and how the bar presents itself to consumers, are important considerations. And Luisa takes these very seriously: “We wanted something simple but bold, and the most important thing was to have 100% plastic-free, biodegradable and compostable packaging for all our bars. Our packaging is simple, with pops of colour that reflect the bright, punchy flavour notes within the chocolate. It also biodegrades in normal bins rather than needing an industrial setting, which is great”.

And, in keeping with the family spirit behind the business, Luisa tells us “My daughter Isabella learned how to use Illustrator so she can make tweaks and create new labels herself, too!”.

Moving Forward

Luisa’s passion for the craft, and the growth of the business is marching on. And Luisa is looking to continue sharing her amazing chocolate, and advocating for better chocolate: “My teaching background is still part of me, and I tend to keep people into the shop until they can leave understanding the differences between a chocolatier and chocolate maker, and the fundamental differences craft chocolate can make to cacao growing communities”.

I love telling people about the story of our chocolate, but making it fun and accessible to everyone, not only how it’s created here but also on the farms. I like to open people’s eyes to craft chocolate and want people to share a little bit of the passion I have”.

I must admit that we love it when people come into the shop not being fans of dark chocolate, but leave with a handful of them, never knowing it could taste so good”.

Luisa and her team work to a simple, impactful motto: “Great Beans Make Great Chocolate”, and we couldn’t agree more!

If you want to explore their bars, check out which Luisa’s products we have in stock below, and keep an eye out for future lines which we hope to bring you!

 

Jordi Roca is a renowned chef, restauranteur and pastry maker, based in Girona, Catalonia. You may have seen him in his own episode of Netflix’s ‘The Chef’s Table’. He’s a trailblazing and inspirational culinary figure. He took the time to talk to us at Cocoa Runners about the Casa Cacao project which has been growing in the past year.

The Background

Jordi has been on a journey of discovery with chocolate. He describes his relationship with chocolate as a chef: “I understood chocolate as an ingredient and not as the magic result of an agricultural process, harvesting, fermentation, drying and making chocolate”.

But this all changed: “When I travelled to Peru in the Amazon region to learn about cacao crops grown by the Awajún native community, then visited Piura, later Ecuador, then Colombia… I understood the world of cacao”.

It was this specific experience, and this community of people that motivated the move into craft chocolate making: “[They] grow cacao in very remote, hard-to-reach areas, where they sometimes carry bags of cacao for 6 days on the way in the jungle to get to the place where it is sold, sometimes at a very low price because it’s the only selling opportunity they have: I was moved by it. Then I committed to helping in some way”.

Inspired by the desire to make chocolate which supports growers, Jordi has broken into the exciting world of craft chocolate, and has come together with chef and chocolatier Damian Allsop, who’s heading up the chocolate making at Casa Cacao.

Jordi’s brother is a sommelier, and Jordi believes there are parallels between these two things: “My brother Josep understands the world of natural wines, where wine resembles the person who makes it, as I think it happens with cacao”.

A Total Experience

Casa Cacao is also more than just the chocolate. They run a boutique hotel and café, where chocolate lovers can immerse themselves in the experience. “Casa Cacao was born from the idea of being hospitable, in my housewe want people to feel it as their home”.

This connection between people and chocolate is important to Casa Cacao, as Jordi explains; “there is no planned marketing strategy, just counting on what we do with maximum transparency. The factory is visible from the street, one of the busiest in the city, precisely to show how we work”.

They also publish a ‘Casa Cacao’ book: Sales of this help support the Helvetas Foundation; a sustainable development NGO which supports the Peruvian cacao growing community which brought Jordi into the world of chocolate making in the first place.

Beans and Bars

Casa Cacao source their beans from several different growers. They’re of course particularly proud of their direct trade with the Awajún community in Peru, and they have been investing in their centre for fermenting and drying beans at source. But they also source beans from a range of other producers, and they partner with Original Beans for several origins.

Beyond the cacao, Casa Cacao are also creating innovative recipes for their chocolate: “We also make chocolate that we have left macerating the cocoa beans with whisky; The Macallan Double Cask 12 Yr; for six months to then dry and make incredible chocolate with an acquired very elegant aroma”. And it’s worth mentioning their wonderful milk chocolates; with organic milk from goats and sheep, whose fur patterns form the design of their packaging.

Interestingly, Casa Cacao make their packaging by recycling the waste products of the cacao fruit. “It has a poetic point because the packaging of the bars is made with the natural packaging that had the cacao beans”. The packaging was designed by Xavier Roca, a friend of Jordi’s, at Run Design in Barcelona.

Favourites and Inspirations

We asked Jordi about his favourite food; and he was quite clear! “My mother’s casserole rice; no doubt”. But we  also wanted to know which other chocolate makers he likes; “Dandelion; they have certainly been an inspiration. The chocolate of Alain Ducasse, the cacao farmer Mayumi Ogata who discovered to me the complexity of the fermentation of cacao and the community of the Arhuacos of Colombia, also the farmer Andrés Guzmán of Hacienda Victoria… and so many more”.

Where Next?

We also asked Jordi where he wants to go next, and what the future development plans are: “I would like to visit Venezuela at some point, although we have good friends there who have discovered their land with their cacao. Africa too; I’ve never been”. With a focus on origins, and connecting with growers, it’s exciting to think about how Casa Cacao might develop. But, as Jordi himself says; “at the moment we are well in Girona”.

If you want to explore their bars, check out which Casa Cacao chocolate we have in stock below, and keep an eye out for future lines which we hope to bring you!

 

Reine Astrid is named after the beloved Queen Astrid, Swedish princess and wife of King Leopold of Belgium, who died in a tragic car accident in 1935. In the same year, Fernande Gobert, daughter of a master chocolatier from Lille, established a store in Paris to sell her father’s chocolates. Fernande was so moved by the death of Queen Astrid that she applied to the Belgian court to rename her chocolate enterprise in honour of the young princess: A La Reine Astrid was born.

Fernande Gobert retired in 1975 after a hugely successful 40 years, having opened a second shop shortly after her first. She passed the reins to Miss Granjean, who expanded the brand’s international reputation before handing over the shops to Geneviève Salmon in 1998. Geneviève opened stores in Tokyo, Bucharest, Moscow, and Hong Kong, then sold the brand and its stores to the current owner, Christophe Bertrand.

Christophe started his career in event management, then turned to chocolate and worked for La Maison de Chocolat for eight years. He acquired Reine Astrid in 2012, making it his mission to develop further the company’s high-quality, fine-flavour, and ethical chocolate while supporting cocoa bean producers and increasing their local revenue.

Cameroon and Haiti

With this in mind, Christophe has established farmer cooperatives in both Cameroon and Haiti.

The cooperative in Haiti was established in 2010 with the help of Hauts de Seine, and after significant investment in equipment and education, the farmers have tripled their cocoa income – in part by dealing directly with chocolate makers instead of the larger cocoa supply chains.

And in 2017, Christophe built on this success by establishing a cooperative in N’Kog Ekogo, a 75-family village in Cameroon. The farmers’ growth has been immense: from 2 tons of beans in 2018 to 40 tons in 2020. Reine Astrid has also helped to organise the rebuilding of the village school and the building of a warehouse, and funded Covid-19 masks and PPE during the pandemic.

For his Peruvian beans, Christophe sources directly from a cooperative that he has known for a number of years and meets with regularly.

Christophe’s Bars

Christophe’s range of bars come in newly redesigned 1920s-inspired packaging intended to honour Reine Astrid’s unique story. He tends to stick to 75% cocoa percentage as the ideal ratio for enhancing the beans’ natural flavours.

Pacha de Cacao is the creation of Dutch cocoa and chocolate entrepreneur Marika van Santvoort. She founded the company to solve a problem with waste in the cocoa supply chain, which she observed working as an advisor on sustainability in the cocoa industry for years.

Marika shared with us some of her story in the chocolate world, and her thoughts and feelings about the exciting new world of cacao pulp juice.

The Background

Marika’s studies were in Psychology, International Affairs and Human Rights. Her studies led her into working with several high-profile NGOs, before going into the field, in Africa, to work on projects struggling in post-conflict areas with complicated politics, particularly Rwanda and Cameroon. After living for some time in the country, it was in Cameroon’s Southwestern region where she first began engaging with cacao farmers.

Marika was involved in cacao sustainability projects in Africa, before returning to the Netherlands where she established her cocoa bean trading company, Gaia Cacao, which sources directly from farmers in South and Central America. She was also integral in the creation of Chocoa; an Amsterdam-based chocolate festival which has become one of the industry’s major annual events. She has worked extensively as a sustainability advisor in the cocoa and chocolate sector, mainly with trading companies, supporting them to include more sustainability into their business strategy, and setting up projects in origin countries.

It’s fair to say that Marika’s wealth of knowledge and experience makes her a true cacao expert, and she has been focused on making the cocoa supply chain more sustainable, transparent and fair for the past 8 years.

Using Cacao Pulp

Marika founded Pacha de Cacao in 2020, but the idea had actually emerged several years earlier, in 2017, when she was working in Ecuador. She noticed an Ecuadorian cacao farmer eating the pulp from the cacao fruit, and spitting out the beans. She asked him about it and he explained how cacao pulp gave him “good energy“. She had seen similar things earlier in Cameroon, and it led her to a realisation that this pulp need not be a waste product, but instead had potential not only to be an interesting thing for use consume, but to be valuable additional income source for farmers.

Pacha de Cacao has been developed over the last few years, with manufacturing processes more or less created from scratch. Marika works closely with two farms in Ecuador to source the pulp at the moment the cocoa pods are opened. It gets pasteurised, filtered, frozen and shipped to Amsterdam where it is made into the final juice for bottling.

Pacha de Cacao

The name ‘Pacha de Cacao’ uses the Quechua word for soil, or earth, ‘pacha’; together with the Spanish words ‘de cacao’, it essentially means “world of cacao”. Marika explains some of the thinking behind the naming: “We wanted to create a strong link to Pachamama, the female goddess, Mother Earth, who is an important concept in most of the Latin American cultures. We believe in giving back to Earth, connecting to it, and we do so by bringing this ancient old tradition of using the cacao pulp into modern day society“.

Marika wants to help people discover the amazing potential of cacao fruit, in a way which celebrates an ancient cacao farming tradition, but also generates additional income for contemporary farmers. See below for more details on the Pacha de Cacao juice product, and place your order to explore this amazing new flavour experience.

We’re having a lot of interest in this exciting new product, so if we don’t currently have any bottles in stock, please join our waiting list and we’ll let you know as soon as we have more available.
Please click here and provide your email address: https://forms.gle/BqvvcPGaKiGzYe9x9

Armin Untersteiner and his wife Katya Waldboth live together in Northern Italy, in the German-speaking region of South Tyrol. Together, they founded Karuna Chocolate in 2018 and have been growing ever since. Armin took the time to share their story with us at Cocoa Runners, and talk.

The Background

South Tyrol is certainly an interesting region; it’s traditionally home to wine making and apple growing, but Armin and Katya and pioneering the local chocolate scene. “Our products have been welcomed overwhelmingly well locally and we have scaled up significantly in no time” says Armin.

Armin had spent much of his working life selling and repairing musical instruments, but always passionately pursued cooking as a hobby. But his hobby evolved into a vocation “Step by step I started cooking for events and at some point, I manged kitchens at festivals”.

Katya studied for a masters in ‘peace and conflict’, which led to an opportunity to live and work in South India. On moving to India, Armin found employment as a field manager, organising cultural activities and field trips; one of these led him to find cacao trees in Tamil Nadu, and an interest in cocoa and chocolate was piqued. “It really caught my interest and so I started researching about cocoa and chocolate. By chance I found an article about the American craft chocolate scene and that those guys make chocolate with Indian stone mills, a common household appliance in South India. The very next day I got myself a stone mill, some nuts and cocoa beans that I have been sourced locally”.

Armin’s journey is a familiar one for many craft chocolate makers; “starting off as a hobbyist chocolate maker, getting more and more passionate about it, researching a lot, going through trial and error endlessly”.

Four years later, in October 2018, the couple founded Karuna Chocolate, and have enjoyed ever growing success since.

Crafting Chocolate

Karuna sample beans from a whole range of speciality cocoa traders before sourcing. For some of their chocolate, they use Chuncho cocoa, which they now use after a sourcing trip to Peru with Original Beans. They’re now producing a range of bars, with beans from Dominican Republic, Tanzania, Belize and Mexico.

The packaging of Karuna’s chocolate evokes India, and includes cacao fruits and leaves. These patterns were drawn free-hand by Armin’s brother Lorenz, and Karuna use the same design for the moulding of their bars also.

Armin says that they’re looking at developing some new bars to share with people, but their focus is on refining the excellence at their core, as he puts it; “about finding/defining our own style”.

Looking to the Future

Armin says that he’s driven by sharing his enthusiasm with others: “When I discovered craft chocolate, I was so excited about it that I have set my mission to share the joy and beauty of it. The stories, the ethics, the flavours etc. I can talk chocolate for hours and I love when people come over for a factory tour and start to understand what`s all about. Well, we simply want to make good chocolate, improve our skills and get people excited about craft chocolate”.

If you want to explore their bars, check out which Karuna chocolates we have in stock below, and keep an eye out for future lines which we hope to bring you.

 

Latitude, a Uganda-based craft chocolate maker, was founded in 2016 by American Jeff Steinberg. Jeff shared some of his story with us at Cocoa Runners, and explained what he and the team at Latitude are doing.

The Background

Jeff has a background in development economics and the impact evaluation of social sector interventions in Africa, and saw the opportunities for Ugandan people in the craft chocolate world; “I was captivated by the idea that a company could sustainably put cash into the pockets of thousands of rural African farmers every day“. He saw the potential that Uganda had; “we saw a gap in the market to do for Ugandan cacao what our friends have done for Rwandan coffee; re-define an origin“.

Latitude started from humble beginnings, but have been driven by passion from the start. Jeff explained; “ultimately, having seen a gap in the market for quality Ugandan cocoa, we found our way to the sector through a willingness to learn, experiment and the crazy idea that we would buy 25 metric tons of cacao and figure out what to do with it. Learning how to source and ferment cacao takes a lot of trial and error and it’s quite expensive to send samples to the US for critique. So, to shorten our feedback loop, we decided to start making chocolate at origin. When it’s your own chocolate that is your only source of dark chocolate, you learn to improve quickly. Soon enough we’ve got ourselves a proper factory!“.

The name ‘Latitude’ refers to their origin, in the small Ugandan town of Kasese, which sits on the equator, at ‘latitude-zero’.

They’ve come a long way; from only 3 people (including Jeff), they’ve grown into a thriving Certified B Corp, run by 25 full-time Ugandan staff. But the mission at the heart of Latitude has stayed the same: They want to bring the unique flavours of Ugandan cacao to the world, creating amazing chocolate, but ultimately have a positive impact on the community in Uganda. And there are a lot of angles to that: “We are quite literally building an industry from scratch, not only establishing a new reputation for Ugandan cacao in the marketplace, but training a workforce of young chocolate and confectionary professionals in our community. Our bottom line is (and always will be) quantified by how many households we work with and what we are doing for them“.

Sourcing Their Beans

With a local focus at the heart of everything they do, it’s no surprise that Latitude work very closely with local growers in sourcing beans for their chocolate. They have over 1000 small-holder farmers, about half of whom are women, growing on anywhere between 1 and 5 acres, contracted to supply organic-certified beans.  Latitude sets up bi-weekly collection points, walking distance from the farms. On the same day of harvest, beans are weighed, and paid cash on delivery. All of this means farmers not only receive a premium price, but reduced costs of transport, labour, materials, and processing, as well as reduced risk of theft and spoilage. All of this means that Latitude have full traceability to farm-level.

Making Their Chocolate

Latitude also operate their own fermentary, which means that they’re able to control the fermentation and drying processes, to reach their desired flavour specifications.

Latitude’s packaging is designed by New York-based freelance graphic designer Paulina Ho. “From the first conversation we knew this was the perfect collaboration. When it comes to this packaging, we’re most proud of two things: 1) the way in which our story and team/farmers are represented in an authentic way and 2) the character and vibe Paulina has captured in the illustrations is absolutely totally perfectly emblematic of the brightness of life in Uganda“. Their packaging depicts emblematic animals and plants from Uganda, connecting the person who receives the bar with its origins. And their paper wrappers not only evoke some childhood nostalgia, but, as Jeff explains: “the idea that we could create 10-15 more local jobs by hand-wrapping the bars was a nice cherry on top“.

Innovations, and Making a Difference

Jeff and the team has faced some huge challenges in driving the craft chocolate sector in Uganda, but they have some amazing achievements. Jeff explains how he is most proud of the team of people which have come together in Uganda, a country where there is not an established tasting pallet for dark chocolate: “In most cases, bitter is not a common (or preferred) flavour here. Uganda is the largest producer of coffee on the continent, yet still the majority of the population drinks tea (with an extraordinary amount of sugar and milk). Our team of chocolate makers does a weekly tasting based on either what was produced in the past week or what they are seeking advice / feedback on. We’ll also occasionally throw in chocolates from other makers when we can. To be at the level they’re at now in terms of the observations and understanding after starting from zero (they would never even eat a piece of dark chocolate!) is really remarkable“.

And it’s not just flavour where Latitude has had a big impact; their processes and initiatives are having very real impact on farmers’ lives. “We have fully digitized our supply chain so that all individual cacao purchases from farmers are electronically registered, farms are GPS mapped, and all lots of cocoa are fully traceable down to the kilogram. On top of this, we offer farmers insurance (life, disability and health) as well as access to an innovative set of microfinance offerings: financial literacy training, consumption loans to help farmers cope with low income in the offseason, and an interest earning lockbox savings account“.

They plan on keeping up the pace, expanding and innovating, developing new bars and growing their sector. “Moving forward our big picture goal is to provide a premium cacao market and these standard Latitude benefits to 5,000 households by 2024“.

Inspirations

We asked Jeff about his food inspirations, and particularly about which other chocolate makers he likes: “There are too many good ones. I admire and am really inspired by what Raaka does. Obviously, the transparency and inside of the wrapper was an inspiration for us, but the level of flavour creativity is off the charts, and all with awesome scale and impact. I also have to say that I would probably like to be buried with 1 box of praline from Hasnaa Chocolats & 1 box from Svenska Kakaobolaget. Both are doing really amazing tasty things“.

If you want some inspiration, check out which Latitude chocolate bars we have in stock below, and keep an eye out for future lines which we hope to bring you.

 

The idea for Cuna de Piedra began on March 14th, 2019, when Enrique Perez (a food processing engineer and consultant) and Vicky Gonzalez (designer and brand strategist) spoke on the phone about a dream they shared. They dreamed of making a meaningful product, a product that would raise Mexico’s international reputation as a country of bountiful natural resources and high-quality workmanship.

Working at the time as a consultant to Chocosolutions, Enrique discovered that craft chocolate’s values aligned perfectly with his and Vicky’s dream. The values of local empowerment and traceable supply chains, of rigorous processes and attention to detail, and the celebration of fine-flavour ingredients and high-quality craftsmanship – on both the farm and the factory – made craft chocolate the perfect medium for Enrique and Vicky to realise their vision.

They launched their chocolate in November 2019 to great acclaim. They continue to make proudly 100% Mexican chocolate, sourcing directly from farmers in a number of Mexican regions. They’re also keen to source only from farmers and cooperatives who ferment the beans themselves, to keep the full value of the crop in the community responsible for growing it.

We spoke to them earlier the year, to hear more about the process and vision:

What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?

Our mission is to raise the quality of life of everyone involved in the process of our chocolates, from those who grow and harvest the land, to those who consume our bars.

We want to reshape the perception about Mexican products, inside and outside Mexico, and to share the beauty of our traditions to all the corners of Mexico and to the rest of the world.

We make 100% Mexican products, with Mexican ingredients, by Mexican hands, in a country with the longest unbroken history of cacao domestication, growth and consumption. For us cacao is more than a crop; it is deeply rooted in our culture and always associated with community and sharing.

What is the story behind your company name?

Cuna de Piedra literally means “Cradle of Stone”. We used this game on words because Mexico is known for being the cradle of cacao, and the stone is the basis of pre-Hispanic cuisine and is still used. So we wanted to go back to the origins and recognize Mexico and its importance in the history of cacao around the world, but without forgetting its current reality.

Who designed your packaging – and what are you most proud of about your packaging?

Our packaging was designed by Vicky González, one of our co-founders, and Ricardo Acuña at VVORKROOM, a design studio directed by Vicky.

What we are most proud of is that our packaging represents exactly the Mexico we want to show, the Mexico that makes us proud, not the one that exists in the imagination of foreigners or in the movies.

Art is especially important to us – we wanted the central artwork of our packaging to remind us of a pre-Hispanic sculpture that you could find at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. But it is also a tribute to contemporary Mexican artists who work with stone and are doing an incredible job of reshaping the perception of Mexico through their masterpieces, which is in alignment with our mission.

How did you source your beans?

We source directly from growers who own and run their fermentation facilities, so that the value stays in the community. To ensure quality we work hand in hand with our partner Revival Cacao. Revival is a sister company of Cuna de Piedra and it operates separately to sell Mexican beans to other makers around the world.

 What inspired your choice of wrapper/mould design?

We wanted the whole process of discovering the bar to be a surprise, first you see the paper packaging with the artwork, then the shiny foil, and after that, you come across the phrase “Mexico, Cradle of Cacao, From Bean to Bar” which is engraved in a typography that reminds us of the aesthetics of the Anthropology museum in Mexico City. Everything is designed to communicate our respect for Mexico, for the pre-Hispanic era, for art, and above all to maintain this direct communication with the consumer until the end.

 

The Careless Collection

David Crichton is the airline captain turned luxury chocolate maker who was a MasterChef finalist. He is the founder of The Careless Collection, and the creator of a dazzling variety of filled chocolate bars which can take you on remarkable flavour journeys. We spoke with him about his journey into the world of luxury chocolate, and asked him about his motivations and inspirations:

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

I’m a airline captain by trade; been flying for twenty years. Been cooking just as long. Only sweet food I was interested in was chocolate. Everyone loves it, but I also loved the science of it. Very similar to flying in many ways.

When did you start your company, and with whom?

After making a certain dessert based on an idol on MasterChef 2018, people were going crazy for the chocolate dessert I made. Since I was never going to open a restaurant, I decided to make the dessert a shelf-stable luxury chocolate. First sale was May 2019. Just me with a few helpers now and again.

What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?

Mission is simply to push a filled chocolate bar as far as I can. I want people to be taken somewhere else when they eat them. They aren’t just sweets. Good ones are good, but still feel many are one dimensional. Hence I’m always using my strange palate and the fact I’m not actually classically trained, to experiment.

Where do you want to go next? New bars? New markets?

I work six months ahead for each collection. So four new flavours based loosely around a theme. Currently trying to get soy sauce into a caramel. Markets wise; I have secured a few supply contracts to take me to the next level of business. After that we will see what doors open.

What is the story behind your company name?

[On MasterChef] we were tasked with creating a dish for an idol. I chose George Michael, made a mash up of Careless Whisper and Cadbury’s Wispa. I then selected the name carefully so that I wasn’t open to litigation!

Who designed your packaging? And what are you most proud of with it?

A recommended lady locally: Creative Wilderness. I designed the insert, which has led to many sleepless nights. As the bars are trapezium shape, they provided lots of challenges to go in the post. However, when you see the photos from customers at the other end with perfect shiny chocolate bars it makes me very proud.

What inspired your mould design?

I actually wanted a flatter, oblong design looking Wispa bar. They don’t exist, so I went for this ‘confectionery’ bar look, which is a big part of nostalgia for the bar.

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

Beef, wine, cheese, in no particular order. The day you get bored of these, your time is up. Chocolate-wise, I wouldn’t know where to begin, however Amedei and Pump Street are my favourites.

What chocolate achievement are you most proud of to date?

I’m most proud of my beer and biscuit bar, and buttered toast bar. Both needed to be thought about from scratch, with no references to start with. Both are being entered into awards this year [2021].

Is there anything else you want to tell us? Or that you think our customers should know?

Our motto is “the bar that keeps on giving”. I love the way chocolate coats your palate, it’s my job to add flavours and textures around the main chocolate without overpowering it.

My bars are made with Pump Street Chocolate. Organic cream and butter and any other ingredients are used for the fillings.

There are lots of processes involved for various parts. “Toasting” cream, infusing butter for 24 hours, blending couverture to get the perfect balance for one of the shells (what I call dark white).

 

Sandra and Nicolas craft their pure and adventurous chocolate on the Rue du Nil, the “foodista” street of Paris. It is, in their own words, “an independent chocolate; it is natural and rare beans, a fair and bold recipe, a complete and subtle taste.”

Before starting Plaq, Sandra worked in the fragrance industry and Nicolas managed a graphic design agency. They first met professionally, as client and supplier, when during one particularly long meeting Nicolas shared with Sandra his favourite chocolate bar (a big sacrifice!). A few months later they had fallen in love – with each other and with chocolate.

They decided to start crafting chocolate in December 2017, when they realised that the world’s best chocolate was no longer French. They saw makers from Canada and America, in particular, pushing the boundaries of what was possible with chocolate. And their Cocoa Runners subscription box opened their eyes to the Craft Chocolate movement (their words, not ours!). They learned how to make bean-to-bar chocolate from Chloe Doutre-Roussel in her lab in Caracas, and were also introduced by Chloe to their first plantation: Chuao, in Venezuela.

In 2019, they were joined by top pastry chef Celine Lecoeur, and opened their pastry and chocolate shop in September that year. We’ve been thrilled to see the progress Sandra and Nicolas have made in their chocolate bars – and we’re so excited to introduce them as the latest maker to join our Library.

Keep reading below for more on Sandra and Nicolas’s drive and inspiration.

What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?

To make a chocolate that meet our values :

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

To keep testing new beans to reveal our favourite ones; to focus on our Manufacture in Paris; to welcome all chocolate lovers from all over the world; to keep proposing new and original recipes to our customers

What is the story behind your company name?

In French, a “plaque” is the old name for a chocolate bar (now we say “tablette”). So, when we say “from Bean to Bar”, we could say “de la fève à la plaque”. We are back to basics. Our brand “PLAQ” is a “plaque” without its last two letters.

In French, a « plaque » or the verb « plaquer » mean some other things too (non-exhaustive list):

Who designed your packaging – and what are you most proud of about your packaging?

We are packing the chocolate in a responsible wrapping. We love our corporate identity, but we also wish to lessen our waste. On Rue du Nil, you can buy our chocolate, with or without packaging. That is to say, the bare chocolate, with just a glassine (an envelope made of paper, that is plastic and aluminium-free).