A number of years ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to visit a cottage in Haddington that has been converted into a chocolate factory. The experience left me convinced that I had discovered one of Scotland’s finest producers and products. Yes, quite a statement given some of the ingredients available in Scotland’s larder; from the best Shellfish to the finest Whisky and I am saying that Chocolate made in Scotland is up there.
The bean-to-bar chocolate movement follows the ever increasing desire among consumers to know more about the food they eat, and of producers satisfying this need by creating locally crafted less processed ingredients. This trend in chocolate follows in the path of craft beers, small scale cheeses and artisan charcuterie and of course fine wine.
The bean-to-bar Chocolate movement has been slower to catch on due to high equipment costs and difficulties sourcing the ingredients, but catch on it has the bean-to-bar chocolate movement is now firmly established in North America with small scale craft chocolate makes such as Rogue, Ritual, Dandelion, Patric and Soma starting in the mid-naughtiesm and today seen as some of the best Chocolate in the world.
Food trend from America to Europe
Ali and Friederike Gower started making bean-to-bar chocolate from their base in Haddington about ten years ago, have been one of the early adopters of this side of the Atlantic making them one of the most established and experienced makers alongside michelin starred Parisian chef Alain Ducasse.
Ali’s background is as an artist and is the creative brain and Frederike is an extremely skilled mathematician, which is useful when you consider there are 500 chemical compounds within a cacoa bean, and an extremely talented pastry chef.
The past ten years has been spent sourcing and visiting their farmers in Peru, Madagascar, Columbia and Venezuela making sure they are using the best native strains and fostering good relations.
It has also involved much experimenting and constant improving of the chocolate making processes and have picked up some of Scotland’s leading chefs such as Geoffrey Smeddle of The Peat Inn and Scott Davis at The Three Chimneys.
Geoffrey Smeddle is quoted below;
”For more than a decade I imported Amedei Chocolate from Italy because I believed it was the best I could find but since January 2015 I have used only chocolate from The Chocolate Tree. Ali and his team not only offer a diverse range of chocolate, with complex aromas, absorbing flavour and outstanding texture but they do all this with two key differences from other producers: they make chocolate form bean to bar, with ethical links to the source and they do all this right here in Scotland. The result is a gorgeous chocolate I can trust and love.”
Single Estate Cacao and its benefits to flavour and the environment.
Most of us have grown used to chocolate made from a blend of Cacao from different strains and regions often made with high yielding non native varieties, which in turn drain nutrients from the soil and have an adverse effect on the local ecosystem and thus the very flavour of the end product.
The craft bean-to-bar movement has begun a process persuading small, often very impoverished farmers, to grow native varieties over higher yielding stains in return for a better price. These native varieties are conducive to creating a far better and more natural ecosystem that benefit local biosphere, which ultimately determines the varying different flavour profiles of each Chocolate .
Region, Flavour and Taste
Each origin and cacao variety has a distinct effect on the flavour resulting in completely varying tasting chocolate for example
Peru Maranon Dark 70%
A classic dark chocolate made from pure national cacao and grown on small farms in Peru. The are distinct in that they have 40% pure white bean, an unprecedented discovery according to Dr Lyndel Meinhardt Lead Researcher, USDA. Three Michelin starred restauranteur Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin in New York, describes the Maranon beans;
“I am a chocoholic. This chocolate made with Peruvian Pure Nacional beans is the best chocolate I have ever tasted”.
The Fruit and Flora notes in the dark beans and nutty flavor notes in the white beans are perfect for infusions.
The legacy of purchasing these chocolates
Other than purchasing a product with stunningly distinct flavours made right here in Scotland, you are also purchasing a Chocolate that you can trace right back to the single farm and farmer who grows them, Ali makes an effort to try and visit every one he works with, you are also supporting rare native strains and encouraging the revival and securing the future of rare native strains of Cacao for the next generation. These native strains are vital for local biospheres all sorts of different plants, fruits, insects and ultimately the very taste of the Chocolate that ends up on your plate. A noble pursuit I would say.
On sale from Ochil Foods
Peru Maranon 70% – £22.90/kg