Flavours of Cornwall
PUBLISHED: 09:00 25 March 2014
Easter is nearly upon us and with it a surfeit of chocolate heaven - but this year why not bring your tastebuds a little closer to home with some lovingly crafted artisan Cornish chocolate
Ibegan my search for Cornish chocolate makers, I had heard there was some great work going on out there for those of us who want something a bit special this Easter. Among them is former pastry chef Michael Longman who swapped his Michelin-starred kitchen career to indulge his passion for chocolate making in his kitchen in Penryn. And the bet has paid off. Chocolarder has become a must-try for any chocolate-lover, and a fair few who profess indifference. He is one of only a handful of chocolatiers who make from bean to bar. Each of his chocolate bars are single source, with beans coming from small, often family-run, cocoa farms in Peru, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, India and soon Hawaii and tribes in the Amazon rainforest (incidentally the microbrewery below takes his cocoa bean husks and uses them in its chocolate and vanilla stout).
Like the generation raised on instant coffee who have turned to the real stuff with increasingly more sophisticated tastes, those stuffed with mass-produced chocolate are looking for something a little more refined with a lot more taste.
So what’s so special about handmade chocolate? Chocolarder’s range boasts only two ingredients (or three for the milk chocolate) compared to the five or six you might find in mass produced bars/ There are no emulsifiers or additives to prevent melting or extend shelf life, and it tastes better. His ingredients are sourced to find the best flavoured beans possible, while his process with those beans extends the grinding process fourfold, helping to remove any acidity which can leave a bitter taste.
It began, as with many artisan businesses in Cornwall, as a hobby. Working as a pastry chef, Michael was working in Michelin-starred kitchens and liked to experiment. At home he began to indulge his passion for making chocolate.
“It was a hobby outside of the kitchen,” he says. “I had some chocolate and I made and made a few bars and packaged them and booked in to a few Christmas fairs two years ago, I thought I would sell a few, get some feedback and I sold out in the first day.” He - and his wife and sister - worked through the night to make some more, and they sold out on the second day, and again on the third. “That gave me the confidence to do it full time.”
Chocolarder’s signature bars include his 80 per cent dark chocolate; this is not remotely bitter, while his milk chocolate has 40 per cent cocoa solids and is deliciously creamy without the sickliness associated with its mass-produced cousin.
Michael likes to play with flavours, his honeycomb is made with locally produced honey, while wild gorse flower uses the essential oil of the petal, lending the chocolate a coconut, floral flavour. His rose chocolate also went down a storm for Valentine’s Day – and look out this summer for his cut grass flavoured truffles. At Christmas his frankincense and myrrh chocolates (decorated in gold leaf) are a must for every chocolate lovers stocking. But this season, its all about Easter.
Michael is currently running at capacity, making around 30kg of chocolate a week He is constantly looking for new cocoa beans and growers who are passionate about chocolate as he is. This has taken him to the Amazon rainforest where tribes grow beans that are sold cheaply to exporters. By working directly with the farms he can pay as much as six times what they would otherwise get for them, helping them to improve their methods.
Fellow award-winning chocolatier Nicky Grant has an art background and makes stunning creations that look as good as they taste. Her chocolate is single origin and comes from plantation chocolate couvertures around the world.
Nicky, based in Leedstown, makes everything from truffles and praline to Cornish sea salted caramels. Her fennel and ginger won a Gold in the Academy of Chocolate Awards in 2011 and a three star gold in the Great Taste Awards 2012.
“My passion is to create chocolates with balanced flavour combinations and wonderful mouth feel.,” she says. “I prefer to use origin and plantation chocolate couvertures as standard including single origin chocolate from Venezuela, Madagascar, Grenada and Peru.”
Kernow Chocolate began selling their handmade chocolate bars in 2005 and have steadily grown year on year to become one of the best-selling chocolate makers in the South West. Their Easter range has always proved immensely popular, mostly due to it all being hand-made – and down to the distinct lack of packaging used when compared to some of the bigger brands on sale in the supermarkets.
Alongside their Easter eggs in 100g, 200g and 300g sizes available and their 95g Standing Bunny has proven to be a real hit along with our 100g pack of smaller Bunnies, they have introduced two special Easter themed 100g bar flavours of Hot Cross Bun (milk) and Simnel Cake (dark).
“I would struggle to do it anywhere other than Cornwall,” says Michael about Chocolarder. “There are so many independent delis who want to stock the best produce they can, and who have gone into that business because they are passionate about food.”
Chocolarder is available from Picnic in Falmouth and also online at chocolarder.com
Nicky Grant chocolate is available from her online shop nickygrant.com
Kernow chocolate is available from independent retailers throughout Cornwall including Padstow Farm Shop and Kingsley Village. kernowchocolate.co.uk