This week we’re excited that the excellent BBC Proms are back. It’s that magical time of year when music takes over for the rest of the summer, evenings are whiled away listening to a whole symphony of different music, and balmy summer sunsets are spent lounging around with a glass of wine and now, the perfect chocolate bar as your date. So, without further ado, we’d like to introduce the very first Cocoa Runners Proms Chocolate Pairings. Surely it can only make those performances those little bit more special, right? The Proms pride themselves on having the highest standard of music, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves as a team to put together our own luxury flight of chocolates to match. Rather than sticking to the Bach, Elgar or Mozart, though, we’ve gone a bit off key and picked the only most alternative acts spicing up the summer Proms’ itinerary…
As legends Pet Shop Boys make their Proms debut in this Late Night Prom, they bring with them a brand new sultry mix of electronics, orchestra, choir and more. So obviously, the perfect bar to settle down with would have to be equally funky (and just a little bit cool). Made with organic white cocoa beans from the Piura region of Peru, Cacaosuyo’s Piura Select is certainly something a little bit different and unexpected. After a slow build, this chocolate suddenly hits you with a crescendo of vibrant fruity notes before fading back to a more rounded, woody flavour. It was made to be eaten with music! Created with just two ingredients – much like the Pet Shop Boys’ music – we think this bar is a wonderful illustration of the range and intensity of flavours hidden within the simple cocoa bean. Prom 13: CBeebies Prom – Sunday 27th July. This year marks the debut of the CBeebies Prom, allowing children to sample the sights and sounds of the orchestra for the first time, alongside their favourite TV characters. As the perfect introduction to the finest music, surely we had to pair this with the starting block for any fledging fine chocolate fan – Duffy’s Venezuela Ocumare 55%. The description of the event says “The next generation of classical music fans starts here”. Well, this amazing bar by chocolate maker Duffy, could be considered the best milk chocolate ever produced; it has won awards for the best bean-to-bar milk chocolate in the world from both The Academy of Chocolate and the International Chocolate Awards, and we think it’s a must-have.
Laura Mvula is now a Proms veteran, having performed during last year’s celebrations. So in tribute to this Brit Award winner and Mercury Prize nominated superstar, we could only pick another award winner – nothing less would do. To complement Laura’s raw talent, we could think of nothing better than Pacari’s Raw 70%. Featuring natural green and earthy notes and smooth texture, it is also the Pacari bar’s intensity that makes it an ideal match for the power of Mvula’s silky tones. Whilst most chocolate is made with roasted cocoa, Pacari never let the beans go above 42°C. And, you know, Laura is pretty cool in the music industry right now, having headlined up and coming jazz festival Love Supreme only a couple of weeks ago. See what we did there? Both Laura and Pacari are showcasing new talents in their respective industries – so pair them together on August 19th for an explosion of all the senses.
Towards the end of the Proms comes our very own encore – Prom 71. September the 9th sees American Night arrive, with New Yorker and Principal Conductor Keith Lockhart taking to the stage. With a huge range of genres; folk, classical, jazz, blues and country music taking guests on an exuberant evening journey, we knew our chocolate pairing had to be something pretty special. Forming a harmonious flurry of excitement and a whirlwind of entertainment, only one of our most outragous bars could join the fun! So we’ve invited Massachusetts’ Taza Chocolate Mexicano Guajillo Chili to the party. Taza are famous for their unrefined & stone ground chocolate, which some may find challenging but we think it is rather playful. Gritty but soft, crunchy and packed full of tiny little flavour bursts, this chocolate is studded with a little extra chilli. It’s a surprise – just like country music at the Proms. We have a sneaky feeling the music will undoubtedly win you over, as will this delicious bar with its sweet & spicy personality, complete with a biscuity texture. One for those of you who delight in the unexpected. Want more? Raid our chocolate library here >>
With temperatures rising we thought we’d share our top tips to keep your chocolate in sublime condition all summer long. Although some people keep their bars in the fridge, we’re on a mission to free your bars from refrigeration, liberate them from their frozen captivity and let them breathe!
1. Our first top tip is that chocolate should be stored in a cool, dry place – away from overpowering smells and far, far away from anywhere that fluctuates hot or cold. If stored properly in these conditions, your chocolate bars can be saved for well over a year. If you can avoid tucking in for that long…
2. Do not be tempted to store your chocolate in the fridge. We know some of you will still be tempted to put that bar straight onto the top shelf, but here’s why you shouldn’t…condensation. If condensation forms on the surface, it will draw the sugar crystals to the surface – this is called “blooming” in the chocolate industry (because it is blooming annoying when it happens to our lovely chocolate).
3. But don’t let your chocolate get too HOT, HOT, HOT either. Chocolate may not be the best thing to carry around with you on a scorching hot day; you may find that cocoa butter will come to the surface and create a similar “blooming” effect.
4. If possible, keep your chocolate wrapped and store it between 16C and 18C, but for most purposes room temperature is fine.
We’re very careful about how we post your Cocoa Runners boxes to you too. When you subscribe, we like to send out your boxes quickly. We hate to think of our boxes sitting lonely in a warehouse somewhere over the weekend, without any chocolate lovers to keep them company.
In that instance, we can’t control the environment and we can’t control how the chocolate arrives to you. So when the weather is extra hot, we do our best to ensure that your bars arrive with you the next day. This way, we have the peace of mind of knowing that the best chocolate has arrived to you in the best possible condition.
Not a subscriber yet? If you like a lot of taste, creativity, sustainability and deliciousness in your chocolate, join our club today.
“I pledge allegiance to the chocolate of the United States of America, and to the deliciousness for which it stands. A chocolate loving universe under the sun, indivisible, with milk, white and dark chocolate for all.”
– The Chocolate Pledge of Allegiance
The US bean to bar chocolate industry is amongst the most exciting in the world; from Brooklyn to Woodstock, San Francisco to Washington, American makers are flying the flag for fantastic quality chocolate across the pond.
So we thought we’d host our very own Fourth of July chocolate celebration, using the very best bars from our American chocolate makers. Below you’ll find which bars the Cocoa Runners team thought complimented each other perfectly, independence day themed and arranged into a Red, White and Blue tasting flight for you to try at home!
The red spotlight belongs to two powerhouses of the American bean to bar industry – Askinosie and Fruition. We’ve chosen to put two of their signature bars together in a battle of the bold and beautiful because both pack a flavourful punch.
Fruition’s Dark Chocolate 70% is a master of illusions. For underneath the elegant packaging is an equally attractive bar, but as soon as you roll a small piece of the chocolate over your tongue, you are bombarded with an intense and punchy flavour that we just love. Sarah couldn’t get enough and and promptly made this her very own “Bar of the Week”, which has been slowly nibbled away at over the past few days (there’s none left now!) However, when paired alongside the Filipino cacao and the slightly salty kick of the Askinosie Davao Dark Milk and Sea Salt, the Fruition bar burst into some pretty special fruity, roasted and floral flavour notes. Rather than dull the flavour of the other bar, the 62% creamy Askinosie brought out a touch of spicy pink peppercorn – very addictive.
Our white spotlight offers a more surprising pairing, comprising of Brooklyn’s Raaka and the infamous round bars of Taza’s Massachusetts factory. These bars pride themselves on being unrefined, which means they haven’t seen the inside of a conch. The coarse texture may not be to everyone’s taste and whilst they may be a little challenging at first it’s well worth persevering with these special little bars as they’re often blended with some interesting spicing not found elsewhere in our Library. We’ve paired Taza’s Salt and Pepper Bar with Raaka’s unroasted, unusual raw chocolate. At 75% and with incredible earthiness, the Raaka cuts through the slightly sweeter Taza bar. As it also has a slightly coarse texture it doesn’t compete with the Taza for mouthfeel. We’ve all heard of seasoning our food with salt and pepper to bring out flavour, but it is the same for chocolate too. When eaten in the same sitting, notes of rice wine and a hint of lemon in the Raaka bar were exaggerated by the hint of salt and pepper. Both these bars have unusual qualities, but that’s what makes them such good bedfellows.
Our blue pairing sees us sprinkle a little bit more fun in the mix. Gen insisted that we choose TCHO’s SeriousMilk Classic to represent the San Francisco chocolate maker as this is in her Top 10 favourite bars of all time. Its sweet and creamy milk chocolate has a lovely, buttery texture and an aroma like bubblegum, so we had to find another bar which shared the bar’s vibrancy. A 69% dark chocolate from Fresco, made with cocoa beans from Papua New Guinea was chosen by Chief Chocolate Taster Dom because of its amazingly playful profile and soothing smooth texture. A gorgeously flavourful dark chocolate, with roasted coffee notes and sharp citrus fruits, it has only been given a medium roast & conch allowing the bar to be slightly more subtle than some of Fresco’s darker bars and the perfect foil to TCHO’s creaminess.
Our final American pairing comes from Dandelion and Mast Brothers. Perhaps the biggest two “stars” of the American bean-to-bar chocolate industry, they have a huge fanbase on both sides of the Atlantic. Both were early adopters of the small batch chocolate movement which is now sweeping across America, so it seems only fair to pit them against each other in our battle of those who have earned their “stripes” amongst their peers.
These American beauties are great examples of the astounding work American chocolate makers are doing. However, we’ve chosen this Dandelion Mantuano bar mostly because Spencer is addicted to its lovely roasted notes! As the bean has only been roasted at a high temperature for a short time, natural notes of coffee, hops and barley and just a hint of spice still come through. We feel this sits really well alongside Mast Brother’s Crown Maple bar. Crown Maple syrup is widely considered to be amongst the best in the world, making it not only the perfect choice for our “Star” category, it also adds a luscious sweetness to this pairing, stopping the coffee and roasted notes of the Dandelion bar from overwhelming. Very moreish – you have been warned!
There is something about Wimbledon that brings a smile to everyone’s face. Maybe it’s the rollercoaster of emotions watching our favourite players on court, the quintessentially British traditions or the chance the sun might just shine long enough for a thrilling five-setter. We think it’s probably all three.
This week, as Cocoa Runners HQ cheers on Andy Murray (first match, straight sets, phew!) we take a look at the perfect bars to add to your Wimbledon watching – whether you’re on Murray Mount or on the sofa at home. Chocolate and strawberries together is not an astonishingly new concept, but picking specific bars to complement your fruit is something we’ve really enjoyed exploring as a team. We’ve got something for every palate – even the white chocolate fans out there. Let’s celebrate the perfect pairing of chocolate and tennis at Wimbledon 2014!
Lizzie, our newest member of the Cocoa Runners team has recently enjoyed discovering a whole new world of fine milk chocolates. She particularly relished in discovering that one of her favourite bars, a Michel Cluizel bar from Papua New Guinea, is a great match for berries this summer. Settle down in front of the television this evening and allow the sweet, creamy and fruity flavour soothe you through those tense match point moments.
Our chocolate tasters have even detected notes of strawberry and blackberry in the bar– so you know it will be perfect, especially as it’s won awards around the world, including a gold medal from The International Chocolate Awards. If this bar was a Wimbledon final, it would be that Federer vs Nadal final. (2008, in case you’re wondering). Read more about this bar today >>
Spencer prefers a slightly less creamy chocolate bar. During our experiment we discovered that berries and citrus flavours are very happy bedfellows, so we begun to delve into some of our zingier bars in the Library. It was a tough contest but we came to the decision that Fresco’s 222 Papua New Guinea should be placed as top seed. Featuring a light roast and no conch >> this is a truly special bar that evokes so much flavour from only three ingredients such is the quality of the cacao.
At first, you are quietly seduced by the aroma of raw beans, as if fresh from the pod. That’s wonderful enough. But when paired with strawberries, the bar comes alive bursting with the taste of summer; oranges, lemons, pineapples, plums and just a hint of sweet, fresh tobacco to take the edge off. It’s the Sampras vs Agassi of chocolate pairings – so exciting! Try this tempting bar today >>
Gen is a Wimbledon veteran, so she knows that any true fan will be accompanying their strawberries and cream with a glass of champagne this fortnight! This added dimension initially proved tricky to find a perfect match for, but we cracked it by adding a hint of something exotic – Menakao’s Combava & Pink Pepper.
With an added floral dimension carrying notes of rose and lemongrass, it is a quirky choice that will dazzle and delight. Far from being overwhelmed by the fizz of the champagne, it powers through – the Maria Sharapova of chocolate bars. Sophisticated and hard hitting. Learn all about this bar >>
If you fancy something slightly different to complement those summer berries, try a white chocolate – a controversial choice, but one Simon in the office insisted we try. Because Fruition’s Toasted White is reminiscent of Dulce de Leche and brown butter it really caught our imagination and soon we were all sneaking contraband bars home to melt down and use as an alternative to cream. A modern twist on the most traditional of tennis tournaments. Try this deliciously different bar now >>
Of course, we couldn’t let a Wimbledon round up go by without looking at the Best of British, the man upon which our Wimbledon hopes rest; Andy Murray. To do justice to his talent, we couldn’t pick a bar that was anything less than champion-worthy. After much consideration, the team decided that Andy’s style of play would be perfectly balanced with the equally intense and just a little bit fruity Peruvian 80% from the great Scots at The Chocolate Tree.
With Andy’s eyes firmly set on retaining his title this year, we think this bar could also be the ideal pick – just in case he forgets to thank his mum again this year! (Don’t worry Andy – you could always buy her our Thank You Gift box ).
The sun is shining, the nights are longer and everyone is getting in the summertime mood! Best of all, school is almost out for summer! Say thank you to your teacher this summer with a Cocoa Runner’s gift box.
Be ahead of the curve this year and get your gift for teacher all sorted way before the end of term – stress free certified! Banish the engraved pens, mugs and personalised notepads this year (they’ve still got some left over from last time) and get them something that really shows your appreciation – our special “Thank You” Gift.
What’s more, you can add an extra, truly personal touch to this gift, as we will include a greetings card in the gift, personalised with your message. It’s the perfect gift to show your gratitude to those who have made a difference this year!
Let’s celebrate the start of summer! We’ve had a busy week pairing chocolate with drinks for your favourite summer events (all in the name of research of course!)
This week sees Ascot take it’s position on the UK’s sporting stage. So whilst clad in your top hats and finest dresses, you could be forgiven for drinking the inevitable – a cool glass of Pimms! This fruity drink is the epitome of classic British summertime, so we thought it only fair to match this legendary beverage with a multi award winning, smooth and glossy English bar. To compliment Pimms’ sparkle, we recommend trying Duffy’s fruity Indio Rojo. Made in Cleethorpes, this chocolate was awarded the “Golden Bean” award for the best bean to bar dark chocolate in the world at the 2011 Academy of Chocolate Awards.
Of course, we couldn’t miss out the World Cup! Settle down this evening with some Cachaças – this Brazilian spirit has a very earthy, slightly grassy taste, so Chief Chocolate Officer Dom thinks it will be evenly matched by Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé’s Rio Caribe Superior 76%. This Hungarian bar has an unusually intense, botanical flavour note, making it our odds on favourite to take on the mighty Cachaças.
For our foodie fans, we’ve got some equally robust suggestions. It seems everyone is talking about beer and food pairings recently, so this weekend, why not take a trip to Hackney’s Summer Brew Fest? Here, we think you could best accompany your craft beer with a few squares of San Francisco’s Dandelion Mantuano Venezuela. Rather than overpower your brew, this bar will compliment your drink with strong flavours of hops and barley. The added hint of spice will be a welcome addition for cutting through your microbrewery samples as you sip from day to night.
However, if you’re planning on relaxing at home with a barbecue over the next few days, we’ve got just the bar for you too. Get everyone involved with Mast Brothers’ Papua New Guinea bar – its smokey notes from clever roasting are phenomenal when paired with summery charcoal flavours. 100% love at first bite guaranteed.
Today we’re remembering Mott Green. A year ago this week, the chocolate industry lost a true pioneer.
Mott Green was a university dropout, an idealist and a visionary. After becoming disillusioned with the American way of life, he dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania to help others, living in squats while working in soup kitchens.
Traveling around the Caribbean, he eventually settled in Grenada, having fallen in love with the island and the people. It wasn’t until some years later that he discovered the local cocoa, which was going unharvested because farmers simply couldn’t get a price that made it a worthwhile crop.
But chocolate is a high value product and Mott wondered why that value couldn’t stay on the island. Rather than ship the beans to the US or Europe, why not make chocolate in Grenada? After returning to the US for a couple of years to learn how to make chocolate and build the necessary machinery, Mott and his two co-founders shipped everything back to Grenada and the Grenada Chocolate Company was born.
This “tree to bar” concept has since become a model for chocolate makers all over the cocoa-growing world. Mott’s dedication, hard work and passion for life helped inspire many of the chocolate makers we feature on Cocoa Runners today. He proved that great chocolate can both taste good and do good.
Mott tragically lost his life in an accident at the factory on June 1st 2013, but his vision lives on, both at the Grenada Chocolate Company and around the world. If you’d like to know more about this amazing man who changed the face of chocolate, take a few minutes to watch this wonderful video tribute.
Zotter have long been one of our favourite chocolate makers. Their quirky style combined with a dedication to ethically sourced sustainability has proved phenomenally successful and turned their factory near Feldbach in Austria into a major tourist attraction.
Last week, we were lucky enough to be given the chance to visit their factory, on what turned out to be one of their busiest ever day’s. Ulrike Zotter, wife of chocolate maker Josef was our guide, on our tour of Austria’s chocolate wonderland. From humble beginnings, the factory now receives over 250,000 visitors a year and accounts for around 20% of Zotter’s sales.
Zotter started out back in the 80s, but after financial troubles, ended up going bankrupt. To save money, in 1999, Josef moved his small production to the family farm in the Styrian countryside, and hasn’t looked back since. The new company expanded quickly, adding new buildings onto the old production unit.
In 2005, Zotter invested 18 million Euros in their current state of the art factory buildings, which have been specifically designed to be as much of a tourist attraction as as working factory. With this new factory came “bean to bar” chocolate production for the first time.
Along with the factory came 67 hectares of land, part of which became an “Edible Zoo”. This farm, restaurant and film theatre – open to visitors as part of the factory tour – is entirely powered by nine massive solar arrays. Animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, ducks and deer are all reared to be eaten in the restaurant. This “look your food in the eyes” approach is central to Zotter’s ethical and sustainable philosophy. Joesef and Ulrike believe it’s vital to know where your food has come from. It’s a philosophy that, of course, extend to the chocolate itself.
The Zotter factory may be mechanised, but their approach to chocolate making is the same as any small batch bean-to-bar chocolate maker. Josef travels the world looking for fine, ethical cocoa. Recently, they were particularly pleased to have been able to help farmers in Belize who were left unable to sell their cocoa beans after Green & Black’s switched to cheaper alternative sources.
The same attention to detail goes for every other ingredient that goes into a Zotter bar. From locally produced honey to tropical fruits, nuts and even insects(!), everything is sourced ethically and sustainably. Zotter love to use local ingredients, and it was eye-opening to see other Styrian food producers doing the same with Zotter.
Finding Zotter Chocolate Schnapps wasn’t a big surprise, but the Zotter blue cheese we found at a local fromagerie was an unexpected find. Both were delicious, but as with most things in life could have done with a little more chocolate!
Just about every part of the factory is open for viewing on the tour. All the big machines have big signs, telling you what they are, and an audio commentary is available to guide you through. But if that’s not your thing, you’ll be pleased to know that there are tasting stations all along the route, offering an unlimited supply of chocolate to try. You certainly won’t go hungry on this tour.
We’ve visited many chocolate factories over the years, but the Zotter chocolate factory is a unique, must-visit attraction for any chocolate lover. Part Willy Wonka, part Disneyland and part educational experience, it’s an amazing place to spend a day out. We’ll certainly be back!
You can find out more about Zotter on their Cocoa Runners’ maker profile page, and if you want to discover the world of Zotter for yourself, we’ve also put together a unique collection of five Zotter bars complete with tasting notes at an extra special price.
If you’d asked anyone about the health benefits of chocolate twenty years ago, they would probably have laughed at you. Chocolate was seen as the cause of many health issues from acne to obesity.
But recently – and coinciding with the rise in popularity of artisan chocolate – there have been more and more scientific studies that prove that chocolate not only isn’t bad, but that it can actively improve your health and even help you live longer.
Here at Cocoa Runners we’re not health experts and don’t claim to be. But we have been watching recent research with interest and collected some of the specific health claims relating to chocolate on this page and presented them here with their sources. We recommend reading up for yourself and making up your own mind.
But before you do that, there is one point that should be noted. Nearly all of these claims relate to high cocoa content dark chocolate. Too much sugar and saturated fat in your diet is still a bad thing, and in most cases, there is a balance between the health benefits of the cocoa and the negative effects of the added sugar and milk powder.
Most of the chocolate we feature in Cocoa Runners is high in cocoa solids and low in sugar, meaning that when consumed in moderation, you should get the maximum benefit.
Chocolate – specifically cocoa – is high in flavanoids, which are powerful antioxidants. Coca Powder can contain up to 10% of its weight in flavanoids which have been linked to a reduction in coronary heart disease and stroke.
Antioxidants are compounds that protect against so-called free radicals, molecules which accumulate in the body over time that can damage cells and are thought to play a role in heart disease, cancer and the aging process.
Many recent studies have shown links between a small daily chocolate intake and improved cardio-vascular and heart health, although research is still ongoing into the benefits of antioxidants.
Several studies have shown that eating a small, regular amount of chocolate may help to reduce blood pressure.
One recent study indicated that bacteria in the stomach ferment chocolate into useful anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for the heart and reduce the death rate in heart attack survivors.
One recent study showed that the flavanoids in chocolate might help prevent diabetes and obesity.
Making health claims related to cancer is always controversial, but some studies have indicated that there may be a link between cocoa in the diet and reduced risk. One study by Spain’s Institute Of Food Science, Technology And Nutrition showed that the antioxidants in cocoa could reduce the number of aberrant cells that cause colon cancer, while other studies have shown they can reduce cell damage that can lead to tumour growth.
It’s long been known that a key chemical compound in chocolate – theobromine – has a stimulant effect on the brain similar to that of caffeine. More recently, studies have shown that theobromine can stimulate the release of endorphins, giving a sense of well-being, similar to the feelings we experience when in love.
Contrary to what you might expect, recent research suggest that a key component of chocolate – Theobromine – is actually good for your teeth, and acts to harden tooth enamel more effectively than fluoride.
The one thing that most of the studies listed here have in common is that they recommend a small daily intake of quality chocolate. To get the maximum benefit, you should avoid chocolate that has excess sugar and vegetable fats, and – most importantly of all – consume chocolate in moderation.
At Cocoa Runners, we put a great deal of thought into this when creating our monthly tasting club. We think that four bars per month not only lets you sample a fantastic range of the world’s best chocolate, but at roughly 10g per day, is just the right amount to help maintain a balanced diet.
The one thing you’ll notice with high quality chocolate is that you simply won’t need as much of it as you would with cheaper chocolate. The higher cocoa content means you can get the same lift – and all the health benefits – in a couple of squares that you would in a whole bar of cheaper confectionery chocolate.
So whether you choose Cocoa Runners or not, the message is simple. Eat chocolate in moderation and stick to the good stuff!
If you’re new to the world of chocolate, you may have heard the term “small batch”, and wondered exactly what it means. How small is small batch, and what difference does that make?
This week, we came across the perfect illustration from one of our partners, Forever Cacao. Chocolate maker Pablo was excited to be picking up their biggest ever delivery – two small pallets of fine cocoa beans from a co-operative Peru, pictured above.
But if you pull back from this photo a little, it starts to tell a different story.
Behind the wall is a mountain of cocoa beans from West Africa, destined for the bulk chocolate and confectionery market.
The beans are loose, mixed up, and moved around by tractors. This isn’t uncommon – it’s the only way the multinational confectionery manufacturers can produce confectionery chocolate bars at the price they do. It’s not just a commodity, it’s a commodity on a massive scale.
The beans for all your average 50p newsagent chocolate bars are stored in warehouses like this around the world.
Forever Cacao’s beans are treated completely differently from the word go. Grown in South America from cocoa varieties that are selected for flavour rather than yield, they are hand sorted and treated with respect at every stage of the process in order to obtain the best possible flavour..
The story is the same for all our partners at Cocoa Runners. Cocoa Beans are treated as a quality ingredient rather than a commodity.
That’s the “small batch” difference – and why we think it’s worth paying a little more for your chocolate.