As I loaded my web browsers up and went looking for the page you could buy this chocolate I found my hand grabbing more of it in an almost uncontrollable fashion – it must have been how Keith Richards felt when somebody dropped a bag of pills at one of his legendary parties, for both chilli and honeycomb are both of my favourite additions to good quality chocolate. You see, although I crave ‘fine’ chocolate, I have sort of chemical addiction to mild dark chocolate with sweet inclusions and the sort of heat offered by proper chillies.
The problem that many chocolatiers have is that they control only the last hour or so of the process. Relying on wonderful companies such as HB Ingredients for all the stuff they tinker with is all well and good, but growing your own ingredients is something to be respected. Great companies such as Zotter have their own farms where they breed and grow the various meats and other ingredients that go into some of their more funky chocolate and the South Devon Chilli Farm, obviously, grow their own chillies.
I’ve been down to their farm and seen first-hand how much of small-scale outfit they are. I’ve also loved everything they’ve produced, including a whole load of jams and pickles. But it’s this chocolate, with the balance of the sweetness from the honeycomb which you can feel at the front and sides of your mouth along with the chilli that offers a non-extreme heat at the back that I’ve enjoyed the most. The 60% dark couverture chocolate, to be fair, won’t win any awards for flavour, but it is still a good carrier for the other wonderful flavours.
In my time I’ve consumed more than my fair share of pasties as I spent a good amount of my childhood and youth in Plymouth. I see this chocolate in a similar way to the pasties that the city’s Friary Mill bakery produce – each ingredient is very good, but on their own wouldn’t be remarkable, but when combined they offer a fantastic experience. Also in Plymouth there was a French Restaurant called Chez Nous, it’s very expensive, and no doubt offers a fantastic dining experience, but to be fair, give me a £1.50 Pasty from Friary Mill or Ivor Dewdney, around the corner, any day.
One thing I do notice with much chilli chocolate is that the chilli flavour can taste fake such as the Tabasco chocolate or the World’s Hottest bar. With this one, however, there’s a great deal more depth and sweetness to the chilli this gives it more character – it’s more like the chilli you’d have floating in one of the better curries you can take away from your local Indian restaurant but more flavoursome than the ones you’ll get dressing a dodgy chicken kebab at 3am.
When chocolate passes through my hands I rate it for appearance, but I always do so in context. The South Devon Chilli Farm aren’t chocolatiers, they don’t pretend to be, so to rate them on the same scale as Pralus, Mast Brothers or Duffy would be unfair. Instead I’ll rate it in terms of what I believe ‘ordinary’ people would expect given the price. For £3.64 you’ll get a rustic bag of broken shards just in the same way that Rabot Estate do with some of their chocolate. So if it’s good enough for the likes of Hotel Chocolat, I’m sure it’d good for these small-scale farmers in the plying their trade in the middle of nowhere. What’s more, the packaging is designed to fit, and look attractive, within their very small farm shop. Having pristine looking packaging in that environment just wouldn’t work.
If you love chilli and chocolate then I’d certainly recommend splashing out the poultry sum of £3.64 – it’s a bargain!