black coffee, dark chocolate, red wine.
i’ve always felt there is something decadent and indulgent about dark chocolate, the refined – often bitter – taste far more alluring and sensual than its milky cousin. there’s been a real explosion in quality artisan bean-to-bar brands in the past few years (much in the same way as a quality coffee culture has been embraced here in london), and since i’ve sworn of all things dairy once and for all i’ve found myself becoming more and more of a connoisseur of ‘true’ chocolate, seeking out innovative flavour pairings and producers that place quality and ethics above all else.
so, given that i spend so much of my time – and money – on this extravagance, i thought it was high time i shared a few of my favourite bars with you. read on at your peril (here be chocolate cravings…)
DOISY & DAM
doisy & dam make and package everything by hand in the uk, using globally sourced ingredients and the highest quality organic dark chocolate. the philosophy of founders ed and richard is that you shouldn’t have to sacrifice health to find indulgence, and they pepper their ranges with superfood ingredients more akin to health food bars than chocolate, including maca, goji, spirulina and hemp seed.
my favourite is the ginger, chilli flakes & hemp seed, which packs a fiery punch, but i also love the look of their new milk & white chocolate bars wrapped in bright geometric prints; the date & himalayan pink salt sounds especially lovely, don’t you think?
coco is an artisan chocolatier based in edinburgh that specialises in ethically traded and organic choclate, wrapped in some of the most beautiful packaging you’ll find. i first came across the brand at the royal mile tron kirk market earlier in the year and when i was in town last month i made a beeline for their broughton street store in order to stock up.
probably best known for their haggis spice organic chocolate (salt, pepper, clove and nutmeg work remarkably well with dark chocolate), my personal faves are the gin & tonic (yes, really!) and the hazelnut & isle of skye sea salt; there’s nothing better than the interplay between sweet and salty in my book!
the chocolarder is one of the only small batch bean-to-bar chocolate makers in the country, producing fine quality, stone ground chocolate using organic beans imported from single estate, family run plantations in venezuela, java, madagascar, peru and the dominican republic. i was introduced to the brand by my bestie, a family friend of founder mike longman, who knows how much i appreciate a good, bitter dark chocolate, and boy am i happy she did!
by sourcing direct from the farmers themselves – no easy feat given the distance, language barriers and logistics of getting the bulk of raw ingredients across the world! – chocolarder ensure the quality of their beans and are confident that the money they pay goes to those who do the real work. the select beans used at the chocolarder are roasted, winnowed and ground over 4 days before being left to mature for 30 days, then hand tempered and made into bars. it’s this obsessive attention to detail that yields some of the finest chocolate in production in the uk today.
the superior strain of hispaniola criollo cacao in the dominican republic dark chocolate, which has been fermented for longer to give greater levels of complexity, is simply divine and my friends tell me the milk chocolate cornish honeycomb, made using small batch, cold-pressed honey from bees that feed on the wild flowers and heather of cornwall’s lizard peninsula is also to-die-for. i honestly can’t believe anyone is still reading this post without a chocolate bar in hand..
PUMP STREET BAKERY
you’re still here? well, good on you because i’ve saved the best til last…
pump street bakery is a small, family owned bakery and café in the village of orford, on suffolk’s heritage coast. having mastered the art of bread and pastries, they turned their all-consuming focus on quality to chocolate and, along with only a few other uk producers, make small batch, handmade chocolate from beans imported directly from family farms and cooperatives around the world.
upon arrival in the bakery, the beans are hand selected and then carefully roasted, winnowed, ground and conched for up to 5 days, before the chocolate is matured and tempered into bars. the process is tailored at each step to coax a unique flavour from each of the different types of beans, which are currently sourced from venezuela, ecuador, madagascar, grenada and honduras.
a unique combination of pump street’s two signature products, dark chocolate and sourdough, combine to make what is quite possibly my favourite chocolate bar ever. i say ‘possibly’ because it seems improbable that i should ever be able to single out just one bar as a fave, but if pushed this might very well be it. the sourdough crumbs and touch of sea salt add a delectable crunch to the smooth, malty flavour to the venezuelan chocolate and the flavour combination could quite conceivably be described as heaven on earth.
do you have a favourite chocolate bar – let me know which i should be trying next!