To the choc-o-phile, the arrival of advent provides legitimate license to eat chocolate every single day – usually before 9am.
But to date, Christmas and craft chocolate haven’t often gone hand-in-hand – at their lowest-rent, advent calendars are filled with morsels that are variously waxy, chalky, sugary, cheap and generally downright nasty; even at their fanciest, you’re unlikely to find anything made from bean to bar chocolate nestling in those windows.
That’s something Lilla Toth-Tatai (aka @littlebeetle_chocolates) is aiming to change. Obsessed with craft chocolate and the people behind it, Lilla started filling her own homemade advent calendars with bean-to-bar chocolate back in 2015 – and, this year, is attempting to bring her concept to the masses via a crowdfunding campaign.
Initially produced in a limited run of 200, the resulting Taste Better Chocolate advent calendar would serve as a showcase of 24 of the world’s finest artisans – the line-up reading like an all-star cast of the craft chocolate world. The pleasure is threefold: not only do you get to revel in a daily dose of deliciousness, but also in the fact you’re supporting small artisan businesses and the cacao farmers with whom they trade.
Lilla didn’t just whittle down her list of included makers based on the quality of their products (although of course excellence was a prerequisite) – she also selected them based on their ethical, eco-friendly approaches to chocolate-making and the inspiring stories behind their businesses.
The UK’s bean-to-bar scene is on the up-and-up and, accordingly, Taste Better Chocolate calendar features eight great British makers. Existing aficionados will already be familiar with Dormouse, Chocolate Tree, Duffy’s, J Cocoa, Original Beans, Pump Street Bakery, Solkiki and York Cocoa Works; those new to the wonderful world of craft chocolate should be excited to get to know them.
Don’t know your Costa Rican cocoa from your Congalese? The advent calendar will include bean-to-bar examples from all over the globe, made by both the aforementioned UK makers and their peers based in Europe, America, and even Vanuatu. What’s more, some of the treats are exclusives developed expressly for the Taste Better Chocolate project, meaning you won’t be able to get your hands on them any other way.
Thus far I’ve been emphasising the importance of what’s on the inside, but an advent calendar is after all a book you want to judge by its cover, so good looks are a prerequisite.
In keeping with its founder’s personal style, Taste Better Chocolate boasts a minimalist Nordic aesthetic, comprising 24 reusable, be-ribboned sachets housed in a screenprinted keepsake box. The snowflake theme is undeniably festive, but also nods to the diversity of craft chocolate – endlessly nuanced by infinite factors including origin, climate, soil, farmer, maker, roast and oh-so-many more.
If all this has got you licking your lips in anticipation, have a look at Taste Better Chocolate’s Kickstarter. If the campaign reaches its £6k goal, supporters will be rewarded with cacao-centric thank yous: a £10 pledge scores you a chocolate-accompanied card, £49 guarantees you an advent calendar, and £120 nabs a 1 ½ hour private group tasting for you and seven friends.
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, and you deserve an advent calendar as delicious as this. So go on – be your own secret Santa this year.