Duffy Sheardown has only been making chocolate since 2008, but his bars have quickly become renowned as some of the best in the world. In fact, just three years after starting the business, his Honduras Indio Rojo bar won the prestigious Academy Of Chocolate “Golden Bean” award for the best bean-to-bar chocolate in the world.
Before becoming a world-beating chocolate maker, Duffy was involved in a very different kind of competition. Duffy has spent most of his career working in motor racing, both as a mechanic and managing a team. He believes the highly scientific approach – necessary for shaving fractions of seconds off lap times in motor racing – has helped him get the best possible flavours from the cocoa beans he works with.
Duffy sources his beans directly from the growers. He is one of the founders of an organisation called Direct Cacao, aimed at promoting this kind of trade. From a cocoa farmer’s point of view, direct trade gives a much higher income than other schemes like Fair Trade, as it cuts out all the middlemen that are usually involved when cocoa is traded as a commodity.
From a chocolate maker’s point of view, direct trade gives Duffy more control over how the beans are treated from the moment they are harvested. The beans he buy are completely traceable and he can give feedback to the grower about factors such as fermentation – something that significantly affects the flavour of the finished chocolate bar, but that most chocolate makers don’t have control over.