If, as Forrest Gump would have us believe, life really is like a box of chocolates, you should pray it pans out like one of Winchester Cocoa Company’s collections. Because then there’d be absolutely no uncertainty over what you’re gonna get – everything is guaranteed to be flippin’ fantastic.
And that’s no mean feat, given the many and varied creations found within. The company might be a relatively new kid on the block, but it’s rapidly developed a broad chocolate range comprising both strange and familiar flavours. Using ethical couverture and myriad local Hampshire products. WCC has already earned a fair few awards, including prestigious accolades from the Academy of Chocolate and the International Chocolate Awards.
I had the pleasure of sampling some of Winchester Cocoa Company’s winning wares during judging of both events, and found them much to my taste; so the arrival of a choc box containing a double dozen mixed specimens was not to be scoffed at, but scoffed down with delight.
I favour fruity flavours, especially when they’re sharp and bright like WCC’s ICA 2015 Bronze-winning dark chocolate raspberry jelly number whose ganache is lifted with lime and pepped up with mint from Summerdown in Surrey, or the dark-enrobed blackcurrant jelly and Wiltshire Liqueur Company Sloe Gin-infused ganache chocolate.
More local booze infuses a chocolate flavoured with small-batch craft gin Twisted Nose, whose myriad botanicals include Hampshire watercress. Its makers suggest pink grapefruit zest makes the perfect garnish for a G&T, and WCC applied the same sage advice to a ganache; yielding a citrussy, aromatic and unusual treat.
Rounder, softer, and no less alluring is a dark chocolate filled with Edmond Briottet Crème de Mûre liqueur-laced blackberry coulis sat atop a layer of 72% Ecuadorean ganache – a chocolate-y celebration of autumn. If you’re feeling bereft now that summer’s upped and left, take a taste of WCC’s double-layered, spicy-sharp rhubarb and ginger creation, or the milk chocolate that layers sweet, tart gooseberry coulis over St. Germain elderflower liqueur ganache.
Then there’s a voluptuous Mirabelle plum and Niepoort Tawny port dark ganache number, and a similarly-Christmassy creation combining crunchy caramelised figs with a good glug of Pusser’s Navy Rum. Morello cherry jelly pairs perfectly with pistachio and almond marzipan that tastes nicely of nuts, not sugar and fake flavourings.
Nut nuts will also enjoy the textured praline crunch – which combines almond and hazelnut praline with crunchy feuilletine wafers and caramelised nibbed hazels – and the super-smooth hazelnut praline that perks up the eater with a shot of locally-roasted Arabica coffee. If coffee’s not your cuppa but you do take tea, try the chai chocolate, or a lemon-licked, noble Earl Grey number; both using blend from Winchester’s Char Tea.
It needs to be noted that these guys do cracking caramels. WCC’s silken almond praline oozes mandarin and vanilla caramel, while the salted version seasons a Guernsey cream and Madagascan vanilla mix with an evident but not excessive sprinkle of Cornish sea salt. There’s a deep, dark version and one whose coat is mellow and milky. Both are equally tasty, so choose according to mood and moment. Or opt for another award-winner – a rich liquid caramel that’s made with muscovado sugar and zinged up with ginger.
Purists will approve of WCC’s straightforward single-origin chocolates. There’s real complexity to these seemingly simple creations; the range comprising a 72% Ecuadorean number whose cocoa comes from Esmereldas and a pair of sexy siblings from Venezuela’s Sur Del Lago region, available in both 38% milk and 80% dark incarnations.
Much as you might wish it wasn’t so, the fact remains that Christmas is a-coming and presents wil have to be purchased. A Winchester Cocoa Company collection would be a welcome presence at any time of year, but as festive fare, it’ll prove a lot further up a quality chocolate-lovers’ street than the foil-wrapped wares of a certain proprietary confectionery brand – and there’s not a Green Triangle in sight.
- For more about Winchester Cocoa Company and to order online, click here
- To read a review of Winchester Cocoa Company’s flavoured chocolate bars, click here
- To read why chocolate expert Cat Black rates Winchester Cocoa Company, click here
- To read more about Academy of Chocolate Award-winning chocolate, click here