Changing chocolate for good

Treat yourself to a blog of chocolate!

Nick Johns-WickbergComment

Welcome, readers, to our very first Choc Tuesday, launched to coincide with National Chocolate Week in the UK. Every Tuesday from now on we’ll be serving you a freshly tempered blog of chocolatey knowledge, choc full of sweet information and crunchy facts.

Yes, we know reading about chocolate isn’t as good as eating it, but until our dream of instantly downloadable chocolate is realised this is the best we can offer. In the meantime we recommend you enjoy this blog every Tuesday the way it’s intended to be consumed: somewhere comfortable, with a good helping of fine chocolate at hand. Yum!

Reflecting on National Chocolate Week

When we’re kids, most of us are taught that chocolate is a guilty pleasure, a sinful, sugary treat to be saved for special occasions and gorged upon when the moment arrives. We’re inherently attracted – and addicted – by the sweetness of white and milk chocolate and displeased by the bitterness of dark, because that’s how mass-produced chocolate teaches us to consume. But there are alternatives: artisan-produced chocolates that capture the flavour and nutritional value of the cacao bean without drowning it in sugar and additives.

National Chocolate Week (NCW) is a great time for all of us to learn a bit about artisan chocolate and to share that knowledge with chocolate’s most vocal fans: kids. We’ve seen from our own experience at Kew Gardens that introducing kids to good quality dark chocolate from a young age is an excellent way to get them thinking about how they consume chocolate and, importantly, their food choices more broadly. For artisan chocolatiers, NCW is an important opportunity to spread our message in an industry that is traditionally dominated by a few big players.

 Chocolate workshops provide a hands-on experience to guests of all ages.

Chocolate workshops provide a hands-on experience to guests of all ages.

There are plenty of educational activities during NCW, mainly based around London. It runs from October 12–18 and includes demonstrations from some of the country’s leading chocolatiers, a weekend-long chocolate show and even a chocolate-themed fashion parade.

Even if you can’t make it along to NCW, we’d encourage you to reflect this week upon your own relationship with chocolate. The best way to do that, of course, is to try some artisan chocolate and see how it compares to what you’re used to. Try to eat it slowly and truly experience the flavour; if it’s good quality dark chocolate you’ll be surprised at how satisfying a small amount is. There’s no need to gorge!

Here’s a super-quick checklist of what to look for when buying good quality chocolate:

·       Percentage of cacao: Many mass-produced chocolates, even dark chocolates, have a surprisingly low cacao percentage, as the valuable cacao has been substituted for a cheaper filler. Look for 70% or above to ensure that what you’re buying is really chocolate!

·       Origin of beans: If the label doesn’t tell you the cacao beans’ origin, they’re almost certainly from somewhere in West Africa, the area that produces the world’s cheapest cacao and has issues with modern day slavery – an issue we’ll discuss in future Choc Tuesday blogs. Choose chocolate that states the origin of the beans; chocolate made with cacao from the Caribbean, Madagascar, or Central or South America is likely to be excellent quality and ethically produced.

·       Avoid added flavours: Once you’ve tried single-origin chocolate, you’ll realise that the flavour of the cacao doesn’t need any additives to make it distinctive and amazing. Compare two different chocolates – for example Ecuadorian and Madagascan – and see what we mean.

NCW is the perfect opportunity to try some top quality artisan chocolate and upgrade your understanding of what this magical food can be. Enjoy!

Ruairidh the explorer

One of The Chocolution’s favourite sons, Ruairidh Wilkinson, will be heading to Bolivia in November for a research trip in partnership with Kew Gardens. Ruairidh is an intrepid jungle explorer with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things chocolatey. He’ll be investigating wild cacao and looking to set up direct, equitable trade relationships between The Chocolution and local farmers. 

 The jungle is Ruairidh's natural environment. He can't wait to get back there!

The jungle is Ruairidh's natural environment. He can't wait to get back there!

Ruairidh is also putting the finishing touches on an illustrated book – The Historical Adventures of Theobroma Cacao – which explains the historical and cultural evolution of chocolate over thousands of years, from the mysterious cacao bean to the chocolate bars we know today. It’s designed for all ages: accessible and fun for children, but with enough amazing chocolate facts to keep adults enthralled too. We’ll keep you updated on the book’s progress as we go through the publishing process over the coming months.

Chocolate exploration kits reduced to £15

We’re having an online sale of our chocolate exploration kits, reduced from £24 to £15 (plus postage). They’re a great way to learn about the chocolate-making process and create delicious treats at home, with all of the recipes ready to serve in under an hour. These kits are a unique gift idea for the curious foodie and a great way for your kids to start learning about chocolate – under adult supervision, of course! Our three kits are:

·       The Explorer: Make delicious dark chocolate in your kitchen from raw Ecuadorian cacao using three different recipes.

·       The Time Traveller: Create five different traditional hot chocolate drinks to trace the evolution of chocolate over 4000 years.

·       The Botanist: Familiarise yourself with chocolate’s magical raw ingredient, the cacao bean, using seven delicious, healthy and surprising recipes.

That’s all for us this week. We’ll be back next Choc Tuesday with more news from the world of chocolate!

Viva la Chocolution!