The world of artisan chocolate bars
For many years the art of the chocolatier and production of what has become known as Craft Chocolate or even Artisan Chocolate Bars remained solidly associated with France and Belgium. But in recent years England has seen a dramatic rise in the number of chocolatiers producing traditional and more innovative artisan chocolate than ever before.
English chocolate is big business
In 2017 it was reported that the number of independent chocolatiers creating in England had risen by a dramatic 63% between 2015 and 2016. On 1st April 2018 England’s own government website announced that exports of artisan chocolate from the UK had risen by no less than 84% since 2010. The UK Government website also states that chocolate, sugar confectionary and cocoa manufacture contributes £1.1 billion to the UK’s economy and in 2017 over £68million of English chocolate was bought by foreign consumers.
The rise of the English chocolatier
So why has there been such an increase in the number of independent chocolatiers in the UK? For increases in supply to take place there has to be demand. It seems that consumers are making conscious choices to seek out and buy artisan chocolate to provide pleasure for themselves and others. And to fill the need more and more independent chocolatiers are establishing themselves and their businesses.
Passion, dedication and pride: Becoming a proficient chocolatier requires passion, dedication and hard work. And launching a new business in any field requires enormous effort, commitment and continued hard work. The world of artisan chocolate is more competitive now than ever, yet more and more people are entering the market and even achieving considerable success and take enormous pride in their work.
Supply and demand: There is without doubt a positive circular interaction between consumer demand and the creation of new artisan chocolate production. As demand increases so does the number of suppliers which in turn creates a larger choice for consumers who respond with greater demand.
A variety of tastes: The increased demand for artisan chocolate reflects the variety of tastes and requirements consumers have. Some prefer traditional products whilst others look for something contemporary or even quirky. Certainly there are many consumers who search for chocolate created using sustainable ingredients and which demonstrate an eco-friendly approach to creation and selling, for example by using bio-degradable wrapping made from re-cycled materials.
So what drives someone to become a chocolatier? And what exactly goes into making an artisan chocolate bar or piece of confectionary? Let’s take a look at the end products first.
What goes into Artisan Chocolate Bars?
Chocolate bars, chocolate creations, individual pieces of chocolate artistry – whatever the shape, size or form there must first be ingredients.
Harvesting and processing the cocoa beans: Everything starts with the cocoa tree. Without it there can be no such thing as chocolate. Cocoa pods grow on trees and are harvested twice yearly. The pods are cut open once cut from the trees. The white pulp which contains the cocoa beans is removed and placed in containers where it ferments for between five and seven days. Even at this early stage the manner in which this process is handled can impact upon the final taste of the chocolate produced from the raw harvest.
Following fermentation the cocoa beans are separated and dried, usually by being laid out on flat areas. Once dried, they are packed into sacks and sent on their way. A vital component of preparation is ensuring that the beans are thoroughly dried.
Chocolatiers quite often deal directly with cocoa farmers. There are many co-operatives that form long-lasting relationships with their clients who have direct input into how the cocoa is grown, harvested, stored and shipped.
Unique roasting: Once the chocolatier has received a shipment of beans they must be roasted. In this the chocolatier has total control. The way in which the beans are roasted will have great impact upon the taste of the final product and forms a part of the often secret recipes used by chocolatiers. Some will roast slowly in conventional ovens, others will employ different methods. This gives rise to beans that are light, medium or dark roasted, terms that are often applied to bars of artisan chocolate.
Post roast: When cocoa beans have been roasted they retain a papery remnant of their shell that needs to be removed. This is called Winnowing. What is left is called the Nibs. Cocoa nibs are ground until they turn into a paste known as cocoa liquor or mass. This contains cocoa butter and solids, which can be separated. The more butter that is used the smoother the final chocolate taste. Cheaper manufacturers replace cocoa butter with vegetable fat.
After further refining in a machine commonly called a Conch all of the other ingredients are mixed in with the cocoa mass and then the whole is tempered. The process of Tempering raises and lowers the temperature of the whole final mixture until the desired outcome is achieved. The mixture is then moulded to form the final product.
Who wants to be a chocolatier?
There are no formal qualifications to be acquired in the art of the chocolatier. A number start off by acquiring other qualifications in catering and then move on to acquire experience, knowledge and expertise in the art of the chocolatier, often through apprenticeships.
There are many terms applied to hand-made gourmet chocolate: Craft Chocolate, Artisan Chocolate, Artisan Chocolate Bars and others but what unites them all under one canopy is the art of the chocolatier. There are many success stories amongst English chocolatiers and their routes to becoming leaders of the art are all different. One route into the craft is through cooking in other areas.
Some of the famous chocolatiers
Paul Young is one of the foremost names in English chocolate making. His route to his current position was through the study of hotel catering and management and from there through restaurant kitchens and then to position of head pastry chef for Marco Pierre White. From this point Paul chose to specialise in chocolate and opened his first shop in 2006. He is now renowned for what can be termed his taste alchemy with which he combines chocolate with experimental and daring ingredients.
Chantal Coady OBE Chantal founded Rococo Chocolates in 1983 to achieve her aim of changing the way in which fine chocolate creations were perceived. Chantal’s start was as a Saturday confectionary assistant in Harrods. Rococo employs a number of chocolatiers to produce its leading products.
Philip Neal founded his company in 1999 and he remains proprietor and chocolatier. Head Pattisier to many of the UK’s leading restaurants Philip creates all of his chocolate which uses only five ingredients and has no non-natural additives.
Iain Burnett The “Highland Chocolatier” began his career by learning about ingredients from his father and from there to Japan to learn about chocolate making at the highest level. Iain then went on to train under the finest Belgian, French and Swiss chocolatiers before setting up his unique business. Iain’s signature Velvet Truffle has been judged the world’s best dark chocolate truffle.
What does it all mean?
Artisan chocolate is big business and England has its fair share of the world’s finest chocolatiers. Not surprisingly some of them started by learning in other areas of the culinary world before specialising in chocolate. For those at the cutting edge of chocolate making their dedication, passion and inventiveness must be limitless. Their control over their creations can start at the very beginning with input into how cocoa beans are grown and harvested and following through to the very final stages of creation.
The English have always loved chocolate and the demand for it at the high-end of confectionary’s perfection is such that productivity is thriving. The British now have a secure standing in the world of chocolatiers. With more and more chocolatiers establishing themselves in not just the UK but on a worldwide basis the future is bright for the chocolate lover.
We know that craft beer has been all the rage in the UK over the past decade, but recently we have seen a new fad taking the nation by storm – craft chocolate. In this day and age people are much more likely to try to support and help startups, and businesses that offer something unique and unusual. We have seen big successes in the past for craft beer and coffee, and now it seems that the chocolate industry has joined in as well. This is a highly lucrative global industry, and we all know how much the UK loves chocolate. If you want to try something unique and with a bit of a twist, this is definitely something you’re going to want to find out a little more about.
Smaller businesses are becoming much more profitable these days, and that’s why industries like this are growing in stature and popularity. The good news for us chocolate lovers out there is that the growth of these bespoke chocolates is giving us plenty of new treats to experience, and more ways than ever before to quell those delicious cravings! The idea of ‘craft’ anything is more than enough to put a smile on our face and a song in our heart. But that’s even more the case when it comes to all things chocolate. So, it’s fair to say, you can count us in! We know you don’t need a reason to read a chocolate-related post, but this one is great for finding out more about the new chocolatey craze sweeping the UK!
So What is It?
Well, the first question you’ve probably got is to ask what exactly craft chocolate is? The first thing to keep in mind is that it is completely different to any chocolate you might have had before, or since. It is chocolate that is made and produced by using only the best and finest ingredients out there. It turns the method of making and producing chocolate from a process into an art form. A craft. It focuses on the origin of the chocolate, the skill and prowess of the maker, and utilising the natural flavour of the cocoa beans. This is such an intricate and important process that you are really getting to enjoy something unique and different. This is what separates this kind of chocolate from the normal chocolate you get on a day to day basis.
As with any industry, you always expect there to be big names who are leading the way in brand awareness and product innovation. Well, in the case of specialist chocolate, we have to say there are only really a few that are worth your time and money. You don’t want to settle for average, you want the absolute pinnacle of what makes the chocolate world great! Accept no substitutes, and ensure that you are getting the best return on investment you possibly can. We think that some of the names you need to be looking out for include Pump St Chocolate, Duffy’s, Solkiki, Land, and the Seaforth Chocolate Co. These guys represent the pinnacle of artisan chocolatiers in the UK, and you definitely need to look out for their products.
What This Means for Chocolate
This is exciting news for chocoholics as it could well mean a shake up in the industry. No longer do you have to settle for second-rate chocolate, and it’s clear many chocolate makers are going to be upping their game in a bid to compete with these artisan providers. This could well see the birth of a brand new, reformed chocolate industry, with a much bigger focus on sourcing the right cocoa beans, and taking the time to craft the perfect chocolate indulgence. You might well also see more choice offered by chocolate companies up and down the land, and this can only ever be a good thing, right?! There is also a hope that, as was the case with craft beer, the success of the emerging market will inspire others to open chocolate boutiques, and launch their own chocolate startups!
Where You Can Get It
Now, if this seems like a slice of heaven to you you probably have an extra sweet tooth, just like us. And, like us you’re probably longing to know where you can find and get hold of the very best chocolate money can buy. Well, there are a number of options open to you, with the main one being online. There are plenty of websites around these days, as well as online marketplaces where you can find delicious chocolates like this. You might also decide you want to go visit chocolate stores across the country to see, smell, and sample the products up close and personal. We would also recommend keeping your eyes peeled for events showcasing craft chocolates, such as market stalls and taster sessions. These proved highly popular and successful among craft beer audiences, so there is no reason why craft chocolates should not fare the same.
Why Choose Craft Chocolate?
So, the big question to ask yourself now is why you should choose craft chocolates? What can they provide you with that normal, regular, every day chocolates cannot? Well, there are many things that would make us embrace and indulge in the world of crafty chocolatey goodness! For one thing, you get a much better and tastier product. More time has been spent ensuring that exactly the right amount of work has gone into every last gram of chocolate. You also have to remember that there is a lot of man hours involved, and this really shows time and effort. It’s a product that is crafted (get it) exactly for chocolate lovers, and this is something you can’t put a price on. Furthermore, many craft companies have extras incentives that encourage us to get involved, such as philanthropy, fair trade, and ethical business practices. Investment is another possibility, and could see you at the forefront of cutting edge chocolate ideas!
Support Small Businesses
One of the best things we can do these days is to work towards supporting small businesses, because they are the future of the country. A craft chocolate business is definitely one we would love to see grow and progress. Think about how many different flavours and products we would be able to sample as a result. The fact is that this can only happen if we go out of our way to support these small businesses that are responsible for sourcing and making these bespoke chocolates. More and more of these artisan brands are going to be popping up all over the country, and the time to get involved is now. Think about how much your friends and family are going to love you once you have introduced them to these brand new craft chocolates!
As you can see, there is a lot to think about in the arena of craft chocolates. You have to make sure you do as much as possible to indulge in the world of craft chocolates. This is a growing industry that is taking the UK by storm, and is likely to be much more widespread in the coming years. It’s good to keep ahead of trends in the market, and this is a growing industry that is most definitely worth your time. If you have a sweet tooth, and a craving for all things chocolate, you need to get involved with craft chocolates as soon as you can. They will change your life, and your perception of the world of chocolate forever!
Making bean to bar chocolate is a very appealing process, and it requires time and patience. When properly executed, it is a fulfilling process not to mention the excellent chocolate bars made. Apart from having a partner to assist around in the making of bean to bar chocolate, some kitchen tools are important. Some of the kitchen tools that are necessary for this process include a digital thermometer for accurate temperature readings, molds for the final process, and dipping fork. The method also takes time, and it is, therefore, essential to be patient and give every single stage the recommended time for optimal results. However, some measurements mentioned in this piece can be improved depending on one’s view and preferences.
Cocoa beans preparations and roasting
It is advisable to buy cocoa beans from a reliable source for better quality. After getting cocoa beans from a trusted source, the process of preparing them can begin. Since cocoa beans are direct from farms, it is advisable to remove all the debris that might be present, twigs, and if there are small stones, it is better to separate them at this initial stage. For a better taste of the bar chocolate, it is advisable to remove any malformed beans present. Malformed cocoa beans can alter the bar chocolate taste and make it impossible to get the required taste. After removing all the impurities from the cocoa beans, they are now ready to be roasted. It is advisable to use an oven for this process. The main reason for using oven is to be able to have the correct temperatures and avoid going to the extreme while roasting. Before you start baking the beans, it is appropriate to preheat the oven to temperatures to around 160C. After preheating the oven for a couple of minutes, it is now acceptable to start roasting the cocoa beans. This banking is a vital stage in ensuring the chocolate has the desired taste. You start by roasting the beans with the 160C for five minutes and then after that period, you lower the oven temperature by 20C to temperatures of 140C. After this 20C temperature drop, continue roasting the beans for about 10 minutes. After the roasting the beans, allowing them to cool is recommendable.
Removing the beans shells and preparing for grinding
After roasting the cocoa beans, the next stage is to remove the beans shells by crushing them. This is easily done by using a rolling pin. A rolling pin is the most appropriate for this task owing to the fact that you can extract relatively high pressure on the beans. Using the rolling pin is also economical because it is available in almost every kitchen. When the cocoa beans are well crushed, you can now use a hairdryer to blow the shells especially the lighter ones. It is important to blow the cocoa nibs outdoor to avoid a messy room. This process of removing shells can take approximately ten minutes. After removing shells and obtaining a clean bowl of cocoa nibs, it is important to crush them further in order to obtain a fine powder for the next process. In this procedure of crushing the nibs further, one can use various tools available in their kitchen; nonetheless, the main goal is to make them finer. To make sure that there is no case of a grinder jamming due to bigger particles; it is advisable to pre-grind the powder further. This process of pre-grinding should take approximately twenty minutes. After you are fully satisfied with the quality of the powder, it is now apt to go to the next stage.
Grinding and mixing the ingredients
This is the most technical stage in the production of homemade chocolate. It involves many technicalities and expertise in ensuring that the final product is worth the time and the input. Before starting the grinding process, it is advisable to measure the correct weight of the cocoa paste and the figures used in the latter processes. After establishing the correct weight of the cocoa nibs, you now add them to a relatively wet tabletop grinder. This is where the magic happens of transforming the normal beans to a potential bar of chocolate. After putting the nibs into the grinder for approximately one hour, it is now the time to add sugar. The correct measurement of sugar depends on the weight of the cocoa on the grinder and the type of chocolate you want at the end of the process. If you want a dark chocolate, the percentage of the cocoa should be 70 and the other ingredients 30 percent. However, the sugar added should be pre-grinded also in order to avoid the machine jamming. It is important to taste the syrup to known if it has the correct sugar level. The issue of the quantity of sugar is subjective and varies from one person to another. At this stage, other ingredients can be added. They include milk powder and other flavors, and the choice at this point depends on the maker. The craft chocolate at this point has taken shape. However, during this stage, it is vital to refine the chocolate that is in the process. With the introduction of ingredients, the chocolate constituent part sizes are bound to increase reducing the fineness that makes the chocolate sweet. It is therefore good to make the chocolate liquor finer by continuously stirring. This process of stirring is an alternative way to a machine like a ball mill that also serves the same purpose.
Tempering, moulding, and storage
Ideally, chocolate should have a shiny, dark look. The shiny look is achievable in this process. If the chocolate is allowed to cool naturally, it forms a dark and dull bar that does not qualify to be called a bar of chocolate. Tempering of the chocolate paste is simply placing it at different temperatures that allow the chocolate to obtain the shiny look. The process also allows the chocolate to obtain feel that has a clicking sound. The process takes time, and this is subject to the amount of chocolate made. Fortunately, there is a machine designed for this purpose, and they can save time and energy. After successfully tempering, it is now the time to mould the chocolate into different shapes and sizes. Moulding is a reflection of one personality. There are different ways to mould chocolate. Pouring the melted chocolate into plastic shaped moulds gives the chocolate bars a distinctive shape. Although pouring is time-consuming compared to the use of machines, it is a fulfilling activity.
In conclusion, after making the chocolate, the next challenge is storing it. First, it is not advisable to store the craft chocolate in a refrigerator full of other foods. If it is necessary to store it in a refrigerator, it should be nicely wrapped in such a way no odour can be absorbed. The chocolate is likely to absorb the smell of other foods in the refrigerator. It is advisable to store the chocolate in a tightly closed container away from direct sunlight. When all these simple rules are adhered to, the chocolate is likely to last longer.
Making chocolate is not only art but also a specialty people acquire with time. Craft chocolate UK makes the dreams of chocolate lovers come true by not only teaching the art behind chocolate making but eating as well. For those looking for a place in the craft chocolate art, craft chocolate UK is here to help.