What a great week Chocolate Week was, and what fantastic way to end it? For me it started with a closed group discussing the history and future of chocolate at the Academy of Chocolate Conference and ended with a wonderfully inclusive event with Chocolate Unwrapped – the whole spectrum of people’s interest and love of chocolate has, I hope, been satiated with a variety of events up and down the country. The finale was this two day event held at the utterly fantastic Vinopolis venue on the south bank of the Thames and just a stone’s throw from the wonderful sights, sounds and smells of Borough Market.
As you walked in you had the opportunity to sign a chocolate wall created by Paul A Young – I just hope it wasn’t made out of Valrhona chocolate! Sob!
And then for those who wanted a bit more information about how chocolate was made you had some brief information about the stages that cacao goes through before it’s transformed into chocolate.
As you pass through the tunnel you’re met with a throng of fellow chocolate lovers. What better place could there be?
The first of the companies in the hall I came across was Divine who used the Chocolate Unwrapped event to show everybody their wide range of ethically sourced chocolate bars and inform everyone how they’re owned by the Ghanaian cacao farm owners and how their profits are redistributed in the region. They may have also told you that the average Ghanaian cacao farmer (outside of their scheme) only gets 54p a day for their efforts – something we need to change.
There were also new entrants to the UK market with companies such as Chocri exhibiting. They make bespoke chocolate bars such as this really, really strange bar. They’re great people too. And if you were interested, use could a voucher code that got you £5 off your order until the end of 2010 – the voucher code is chocriuk. They’re perfect for Christmas so give them ago.
It was also good to see Baruzzo there as I’ve been talking to the owner to get some samples to review – and they should be arriving next week and did look very good from what I could see.
Rococo Chocolates were there too with a wonderful range of chocolate biscuits, bars, novelties and other lovely stuff that would be great as chocolate stocking fillers – hint!
You couldn’t help be drawn to the stand by Patchi! There was a wonderful selection of handmade chocolates as well as some fantastic baby shower chocolate gift hampers. The UK Country Manager Maria Chehab was incredibly warm and engaging she gave me a box of the chocolates that retail at £25.99 as well as of their other chocolates to try. I’m due to review them in the coming few days as I want to make sure they’re still fresh – so I’ll report back then. But they do look fantastic and perfect for wedding favours – if you’re on the look-out!
I then visited the Lucky’s wonderland which was the most amazing exhibition stand I’ve ever seen – a suitable match for their chocolate enrobed cakes. I had a great chat with their guys and spoke about my review of their products and their future plans – which includes the launch of their smaller cakes. You’ll have to look out for these for mid-November. I’ve got some to sample now, so you can get ahead of everybody else and find out what they’re like this week. Stay tuned.
Next I paid a quick peak to Paul A. Young’s stand. Having tried a great deal of what he makes I wanted to leave some for everybody else. I did get to retry some when he did his presentation in the other room. You should have heard what the people around me were saying about the truffles! Ok so they absolutely loved them, but what else where they going to say?! Freshness is a key to me and even with filling my boots for chocolate over the week, I still had the desire to go over the top and gorge myself on what was offered.
Jeff de Bruges had a tough time being next door to Paul. I’ve tried some of their stuff in the past and liked it. I’ve still got a couple of bars to review and I should be reviewing those this year sometime. I didn’t get a chance to speak to the people there because their stand was always packed.
I also got to speak to the lovely Katie who is Matcha Chocolat and makes awesome tea-infused chocolates. I’ve already tried everything she’s created so just had one more Masala Chai whilst we chatted. If you like delicately flavoured chocolates with the odd one that will give you a taste sensation you’ve never tried before then pay a visit.
I stupidly didn’t get any photos of the Thorntons stand, but had a very good chat to Keith the Master Chocolatier and Emma the head of PR about all things chocolaty. I did try some of the lemon biscuits which were to die for – really! Keith gave me some of their triple chocolate biscuits to review too. I’ll save them for mid-week when I need a “pick-me-up” and I’ll try them out with a nice cuppa and a sit down. During Keith’s presentation we all tried some of the ganaches, truffles and bars that they’ll be launching next year for their centenary.
Hotel Chocolat was there too. I was sure I took some photos of their stand but can’t find them. But more importantly I had a great chat with the guys there about all the Christmas stuff, the Rabot Estate shop and their hotel in St. Lucia which is due to take booking very soon! I came away with some of their 100% cacao shaving stick which is from their Rabot Estate in Saint Lucia and makes hot chocolate. I’m waiting for a cold winter’s night to review this.
I also a good chat with Richard from Chocolate and Love who retails some awesome chocolate that you just can’t get anywhere else as well as Rasmus Bo Bojensen. I had a try of Rasmus’s Wild Bolivian chocolate which I hope will be on the market soon. I’ve got a bar to review for you sometime this week – but I already know its exceptional.
Cacao Sampaka were present and who are growing their international brand very quickly. I’ve now have three of their bars to review, but I did try the Milk Chocolate flavoured with gin and tonic and did thought it was very good, but I’ll give it a proper review in the next couple of weeks.
I know I’ve missed people like the Ben Tre Action Against Hungar Bar, and probably others. The thing its easily done with the event being so well turned out. If you didn’t go this year, please make sure you go next. It’s a fascinating event which is full of really friendly, interesting people. The best bit is though, you get to try free chocolate and chocolate you may never have tried before.
The chocolate industry is growing at such a pace that it’ll be very different next year – for the better. Make sure you’re part of it.
p.s. please go and buy some chocolate pizzas from Chocolate Cafe as Paul got a £140 parking ticket whilst he was unloading – after driving for hours down the motorway from Ramsbottom. He’s a great guy so please do take a look his chocolate pizzas – they do look much better than those mass-produced ones!
p.p.s. can someone tell me the name of the company that made that chocolate train? I just can’t remember!!