Last week I looked at what, to my mind, were some particularly fine finds at The Chocolate Show back in October. But palates are personal and the chocolate that drives one person completely cocoa-nutty might make be actively offensive to another. So for a broad and balanced analysis, I canvased a host of exhibitors and expert attendees to share details of their own most delicious moments and morsels.
Dom Ramsey, Damson Chocolate
One of the highlights for me was finally meeting Bryan Graham from American chocolate company Fruition, having known him online for years. He’s one of my all-time favourite makers, and I’m particularly in love with his dark milks. He only had a few bars on display on Pablo Spaull’s Forever Cacao stand, but I was lucky enough to be given a bar of his 61% Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Milk, which I’m still slowly enjoying. Some of Fruition’s range is available in the UK via Cocoa Runners, and I thoroughly recommend trying it all!
Matthieu de Gottal, Gottal Chocolate
I love the ritualistic hobnobbing with fellow chocolate devotees, worshippers and makers in a well-stocked watering hole, where we can discuss anything and everything cacao-related. Meeting new chocolate workers is always a highlight, especially when they have taken on the chocolate challenge without fear – a choice that will inevitably change their lives far more than they might have anticipated.
I am so happy to have encountered all these new cacao artists and their wares: Little Black Cat Gourmet mastermind Anber and her delicious lime caramels; Jaz & Jul’s and their sumptuous hot chocolate; Charlotte Flower and all her beautiful pieces, Ika from Ika Chocolates who makes nano truffles that are giga in flavour; and Coleman & Davis – a new bean-to-bar maker from the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. Pretty cool, huh?
Isobel Carse, Dormouse Chocolates
As first-time exhibitors and newcomers to the chocolate scene, the first thing we noticed was how welcoming and lovely everyone was. The whole weekend was crazily busy, but when we did manage to sneak away from our booth for a wander, it was great to finally meet some fantastic bean-to-bar producers, and of course try their chocolate.
All of the producers in the Cocoa Runners zone, Lucocoa, and Damson Chocolate were particular highlights, all with some amazing bars on offer. We ended up coming home with a huge stash, but still wishing we had picked up more!
Andrew Baker, The Daily Telegraph
For me, the whole show had a more substantial presence; a feeling that it had grown into the space and become a true international event. There was a great buzz and a sense that chocolate-lovers from all over the world had converged on Olympia to meet, chat, and taste.
It was lovely to meet two newcomers in particular, Manchester’s Dormouse Chocolates and Coleman & Davis from Provo, Utah. Dormouse was already a Twitter friend, and it was a delight to see the company making its way in style. I have visited Utah a number of times, and know what a lively, happening state it is, so it was exciting to see a great member of the American artisan scene taking the time and trouble to come to London. The Sambirano Madagascar bar is a distinctive treat.
Another newcomer doing conspicuously well was Damson Chocolates – every time I stopped by to say hello they were besieged by Japanese fans. I also had a terrific chat with the tremendously impressive and thoroughly lovely Esther Mintah Ephraim, who was visiting from Ghana as an ambassador for Kuapa Kokoo and Divine chocolates. With her determination, sense of purpose and wonderful commitment to living well in every sense, I found her the embodiment of a bright future for the ethical cocoa industry.
It was a big thrill, too, to be part of the judging panel for the final of the Great British Spiced Chocolate Challenge. The winner, nineteen year-old Zara Snell, impressed me in particular with the way that her Moroccan Rose chocolate had developed since the first round, adding refinement and subtlety to excitement. That, for me, was a sign that she is not only amazingly talented but is also quick to learn and possessed of a sharp palate – definitely one to watch for the future.
It was also a profound pleasure to sample some beautiful and sophisticated chocolate desserts on the Valrhona stand, courtesy of pastry chef Luke Frost, in the delightful company of The Cocoa Nut herself and Chocolate Ecstasy Tours founder Jennifer Earle. Sweet and sharp in every respect.
Aneesh Popat, The Chocolatier
My favourite chocolatier at the show was Charlotte Flower. She has the most unique take on chocolates in the UK; foraging locally in rural Scotland, and infusing the most interesting ingredients into her chocolates for a real taste of nature. As far as I know, nobody is doing what she is. Great authenticity!
Russell Pullan, Fifth Dimension Chocolates
Dormouse Chocolates was my most exciting discovery. I loved the ‘Batch 009’ bean-to-bar chocolate made from Columbian Criollo and Trinitario beans. As a fellow advocate of Colombian cacao, this was particularly interesting to me – and it did not disappoint taste-wise; delivering the unique local ‘Colombia’ taste even more so than the usual couverture I use. It took me back to my trip earlier this year, tasting of all the cacao farms and coffee plantations I visited. For me, Dormouse is definitely one to watch.
Anber Raz, Little Black Cat Gourmet
My first Chocolate Show was a veritable banquet for the senses. The absolute joy emanating from everyone in the room was palpable – how could you fail to be happy when discovering great chocolate from all over the world? I was attending as a semi-finallist of the Great British Spiced Chocolate Challenge, giving me the chance to share my Persian-inspired Cacao Joon truffle with spice-lovers.
It was also an opportunity to finally meet the wonderful chocolatiers whose beautiful photographs I’d been coveting on Instagram – like the dapper Matthieu de Gottal. Although alcohol is not my thing, I have it on good authority that his boozy chocolates are amazing, and I did sample both his non-alcoholic Lait de Bali made with Akessons Bali 45%, and Crumbs! made with Chocolat Madagascar 70% – beautiful, silky-smooth, melt-in-your-mouth truffles.
Aneesh ‘The Chocolatier’ Popat’s water ganaches were stunning both in looks and flavour, and I admired Paul Wayne Gregory’s beautiful, elegant colourful chocolates – as did my three year-old, who was in awe of his Phillip Schofield chocolate sculpture and was slightly bummed when I told her that she couldn’t lick it.
My ultimate discovery at The Chocolate Show? All the people behind the treats!