It’s becoming increasingly difficult to for unique chocolatiers to make a splash in the chocolate world so dominated by the big names. Lazy chocolate buyers will reach for the tried and tested offerings found in the supermarkets or whichever company manages to get top rankings in Google. But looking beyond the efforts of over-paid marketing people, we’ll find a problem. Too few people are trying to produce something different. Chocolatiers are going out of business because they don’ t have a workable business model. Paying exorbitant rents in low footfall locations isn’t a price worth paying if people such as Julia, Amelia or Katie can build an ardent following with a fraction of the overheads. We’re in the middle of a revolution, and chocolatiers such as Toot Sweets will start to eat into the sales of many a big named chocolatier.
In years gone by top quality couverture was difficult to come by. You had to have a decent budget to acquire enough of Valrhona couverture to make it worth their while. Now companies such as Marou and Zotter sell their chocolate in bulk and so does Amedei and Original beans. The building blocks for very good chocolates are now readily available. The problem is, however, having the imagination and skill to produce chocolates that people want to buy.
Tucked away in suburban Shrewsbury and a stone’s throw from the River Severn, Julia Wenlock creates lovely chocolates using top quality couverture. But to prove the poing I started with the salted caramel in a heart-shaped dark chocolate shell and which offers a much more laid-back version of a salted caramel. Often they can be incredibly sharp and salt-laden, which, for some is exactly what they’re looking for, but I prefer the balance to be slightly more in favour of the chocolate than the salt and Julia has hit the nail on the head with her version.
The next was utterly divine. The shell was thick and domineering whilst the filing seemed to be a balance of herb (lavender) and fruit. The flavours just blended together in a concertina affect that it became indistinguishable. The end result was very pleasant nonetheless.
Thirdly there was very dark ganache liberally topped off with large cocoa nibs. The brutish, acidic, soft, succulent centre contrasted magnificently with the crunchy, diverse flavours of the nibs. There’s so much more here than meets the eye as the centre was so expansive in terms of flavours that it surely all couldn’t be provided by just dark ganache? The mouth feel was luscious too as the melt took ages to get going and the flavours just continued to flare out.
Lastly the butterscotch was utterly sinful. It should be banned. Ouch. I did like that one. The balance of the dark chocolate shell counters a heavenly buttery, sugary, most flavoursome payload. The first thing you’ll notice is a curious texture, but then you’ll be hit with the flavour and you’ll wonder where they’ve been all your life.
And these chocolates are a case in point. You would have heard of some chocolatiers in the big city that are struggling to cover their costs, but you may not of heard of Julia who gets a fraction of the limelight these big names but is just as worthy of praise.
I can feel the revolution gaining pace.