Deep in the heart of Cornwall, a mere stone’s throw away from the coast, lies Chocolarder HQ. It is here that former Pâtissier Mike Longman ingeniously fashions his own machinery by upcycling and repurposing (you can read more about it in his interview) to craft an extraordinary line of bean-to-bar, single origin chocolate. Indeed, these rugged landscapes replete with natural bounty are the source of outstanding local ingredients for a particularly innovative inclusions line. Base ingredients of cacao and cane sugar arrive at the port of Falmouth following an epic journey on the high seas by sail boat, in a commitment to transportation that is as close to zero carbon emissions as is possible. These top quality, carefully sourced organic ingredients are then transported to Mike’s factory, ready to be crafted into exquisite chocolate.
Central to Chocolarder is an ethos of “ethical transparency” which prevails at all stages right from the bean to the bar. Not only is Mike dedicated to environmental sustainability, but he also makes a meaningful commitment to economic sustainability for to the communities at the origins of the cacao that he sources by building meaningful relationships with them in a direct trade model. But Mike is also on a health mission: less is more when it comes to ingredients (all organic), in the belief that this approach, when combined with diligent sourcing, can produce not only a top-quality tasting experience but also promote health benefits. Indeed, this level of ethical dedication in all stages of production truly affirm Mike’s efforts to make Chocolarder “just the real deal, right from the bean to the bar.”
When Pâtissier Mike Longman founded Chocolarder in 2012, a bean-to-bar adventure might not have seemed like too much of a deviation of professional interests. Originally, however, Mike began a gastronomic career as a part-time chef to pay his way through a degree in economics. Quickly realising that his passions were far stronger for food than maths, he consequently ditched his calculator for an apron, enjoying a successful career over several years as a respected pastry chef.
Whilst dedicating himself to creating all of the ingredients that he could from scratch, Mike became fascinated with the process of crafting chocolate. He perfected the art of roasting, conching and alchemizing cocoa right in his kitchen at home – an office space that was quickly outgrown with the snowballing demand for his chocolate. Thus, began Chocolarder.
Today, Mike remains unwavering in his commitment to the intention he set at Chocolarder’s foundation, “unadulterated sensory enjoyment without compromise.” Chocolarder’s exciting line of fine single-origin bars and delightfully innovative locally inspired inclusions, is at its heart one of top quality ingredients that succeed in ‘doing better’ for the environment and the communities at their source.
Mike’s unwavering ethical values are evident in every aspect of production. Chocolarder source their 100% organically grown cocoa beans directly from farmers so that they can be sure that payment is truly going to those doing the hard work. This has a double advantage: not only do farmers receive higher than market value for their produce, but also that Chocolarder can be more selective about the quality of the beans they receive – resulting in more diligent control over the quality of their chocolate.
Chocolarder’s is dedicated to celebrating the flavours of a diverse range of cacao varietals in its chocolate, ensuring that your single origin experience is a true voyage of discovery. Whilst classic Criollo beans remain a firm favourite for Mike (sourced predominantly from the Asháninka people, deep in the heart of the Amazon), who cites their health benefits and depth of flavour, in Nicaragua Chocolarder favours the lesser known Chuno variety, a Trinitario hybrid said to be an ancestor of Venezuela’s Criollo trees.
Indeed, when it comes to sourcing, Chocolarder really does push the boat out; for Mike, ethical sourcing doesn’t stop with finding the beans, but rather at the very end of the journey in how they are transported home. These hardy beans embark upon an epic voyage across high seas in a humble sail boat, a process nothing short of poetic. When we tuck into a chocolate bar, we seldom think about the methods of transportation at the heart of how our chocolate came to be, but we really should. Mike’s heroic efforts all come as part of a genuine and dedicated commitment to environmental sustainability which sees him attempt to keep carbon emissions from transport as close to zero as possible. Cocoa is loaded directly from the farmers into their hold for a wind powered journey back to Falmouth, Cornwall, where the beans are unloaded and brought to the workshop just a stone’s throw away. Mike even sources raw cane sugar from close to the cacao to make sure that all raw ingredients can be put onto one boat. This is perhaps the most intrepid chocolate you’ll ever eat!
The Chocolarder team’s fearless approach to sourcing matched with an unfaltering dedication to ethical production certainly add an extra dimension of enjoyment to their delectable chocolatey delights. When you tuck into a Chocolarder bar, you can be content in the knowledge that it’s chocolate that doesn’t just taste good, it actually does good too, from bean to bar. What more could you ask for?
Mike’s diligent approach to sourcing has resulted in some truly memorable single origin bars that are bound to float your boat. [CC1] But we think that it’s Chocolarder’s innovative inclusions lines, incorporating local Cornish delicacies, in particular that will titillate your tongue and pique your palate. Of particular acclaim is an irresistable Chuno milk chocolate infused with wild gorse flower, and a Cornish honeycomb handcrafted from the honey of native black bees. We also particularly enjoyed a gold, frankincense and myrrh bar, topped off with edible 22 carat gold leaf, that is bound to make a snazzy (and delicious) addition to any festive feast.
You can also be sure that when you’re munching on Chocolarder, you’re truly enjoying chocolate with conscience. Not only does Mike embrace a direct trade model which economically benefits communities, environmental sustainability is of fundamental importance. Not many people can boast that they’ve crossed vast oceans in a sail boat, and fewer still that they’ve been lucky enough to enjoy chocolate with ingredients that have been transported in that way. Cane sugar and cacao are loaded directly from the farmers into the ship, before embarking upon journey solely powered by wind to Falmouth, Cornwall. They are then taken up the road to the Chocolarder factory, where they are then crafted into delicious treats using machinery fashioned and repurposed by Mike himself. Indeed, Mike’s commitment to keeping carbon emissions in transport as close to zero as possible make this chocolate a truly heroic feat.
Mike is on a mission. But his quest doesn’t stop at sustainability, it also extends to health. Mindful of cacao varieties with acclaimed health benefits, he also only uses raw cane sugar not only because he believes that it best compliments the flavour of the cocoa, but because it has a lesser impact on blood sugar levels and is easier for the body to digest in comparison to fully refined sugars. You can also be sure that all of the top quality raw ingredients used are organic and pesticide free.
To celebrate Chocolarder joining the Cocoa Runners library, we sat down with Mike to find out more about his bean-to-bar adventure.
Why and how did you get into chocolate?
My road to chocolate making was a long and winding one. I initially started as a part time chef in order to pay my way through an Economics degree, but when I finally graduated, I realised my passions had been for the food rather than the maths. So, I followed my instincts and applied for the nicest restaurant in the area and started the following day. I quickly got to grips with the basics, and found myself running the hotel’s brasserie within the first 6 months. I progressed through the kitchen and eventually found myself in the pastry kitchen, having had a pretty one-sided conversation with my very good friend and head chef, who let me know that one of us would have to be head pastry chef, and it wasn’t going to be him.
I loved everything about running a pastry kitchen, especially as I had free reign over any dish, any element, any strange fabrication. I set to work making everything we could from scratch. Our attention eventually fell upon chocolate. And so, I became transfixed, breaking numerous pieces of equipment until I had my first batch of chocolate. I had little idea what the best approach was, and so felt my way there until I had something truly special. But the more I made, the more I discovered the world of chocolate, the flavour of different regions, different varieties, different roasts, different sugars- limitless possibilities, and all a million miles from the chocolate I knew from the high street shops. It was soon after my first batch of chocolate that I knew where it was all going, and I’m glad I took the leap.
What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?
I don’t have a mission, just a strict level of ethics in making chocolate that seem to have been forgotten over the years. These are the very same ethics that are bringing back a revival in small bakeries, coffee roasters, breweries, this new artisan world.
Sourcing is very important, not only for flavour, but because the production of the raw beans is so labour intensive. The producers of cacao have been exploited to the level where they have no idea what cocoa beans make; they do not know the value of their crop. Taking care of the growers takes care of the flavour, and everyone benefits.
The ingredients in the chocolate are of course of major importance, and our aim is to use as few as possible, as a lot of the additional ingredients are often unnecessary. In our dark chocolates, we only use the beans and raw sugar. An addition of whole milk powder makes our milk chocolate. All our ingredients are organic, all as pure as possible.
The packaging is the last of the big ethical problems we had as we contemplated the environmental impact of being a producer. Our packaging is now 100% recyclable, and made using recycled material.
When did you start Chocolarder — and with whom? How many of you are there?
I started Chocolarder on my own, in my kitchen, making a few bars to sell at local farmers markets and in my local delis. From the get go, it was a struggle to keep up with demand, partly because the equipment I was using was what I had found and adapted to work: a tiny coffee roaster that I slowed the drum speed on, and a grinder I had taken apart. I decided what equipment I wanted to keep and what I wanted to change and rebuild. Scaling up over the years has continued along this theme, everything is adapted and cobbled together. There’s no duct tape but we’re pretty close!
Where do you want to go next?
I have some amazing projects on the horizon this year, one of which is bringing my cocoa beans across the Atlantic via sail ship. The logistics of this are tricky, as the trip is a two-month round trip. The crew of the ship use the voyage to educate about the difference of zero carbon transport in terms of environmental impact, in addition to bringing across freight. This absolutely the ideal way to transport cacao, and we hope to expand in this way the future. We will also have a cupboard full of sample bars from small batches with different flavours, beans, and different sugars. My personal favourite of these is the 100% bar. It has been my aim from day 1 to make a 100% bar that I really enjoy eating. I’m very excited to let this one out and see what happens.
How do you source your beans?
Sourcing is the most difficult part of chocolate making, and is an absolute minefield. The only way to source effectively is to form solid relationships with the growers themselves. Other chocolate makers, and friends who have travelled to South America, have helped me massively along the way. I’m yet to set off on my first trip, but hope to be out in Ecuador later this year to go shopping and friend making.
Tell us a little about some of the great innovations in tech you’ve made in creating your machinery
The equipment used to make the chocolate is built to our needs from what we can get our hands on, and based on good, old-fashioned science. Stripping machines down and building them back up to our needs has become commonplace – for us as well as a lot of other small-scale chocolate makers. Our roaster is very interesting as it started out life with the purpose of roasting chickens, but it has since been fitted with a drum to roast cocoa beans. In addition, the melange had to be completely stripped down to have new granite pillar stones and a new motor fitted, and our butter press was once a car jack! All of these pieces of art work perfectly to do the job they are needed to do, and working with them is so much more personal.
What is your favourite food? Wine? Other chocolate makers?
I couldn’t possibly pick out a favourite chocolate maker, but there are many that I admire. My favourite food would have to be the crispy pork belly dish at The Langford in Fivehead, and to drink, any Merlot from Chile hits the spot.
We can’t wait to see what’s to come from this passionate chocolate maker and incredible bean to bar company!