Emma’s interest in chocolate started when she took over Llandudno company Sandbach. The couple began making their own chocolates on a larger scale whilst running The Little Deli, their previous business. Having won a Wales the True Taste award for their White Chocolate Chilli Truffle they decided to delve further into the world of chocolate. Mark’s technical background encouraged his fascination with the chocolate making process and together they became the first people in Wales to actually make chocolate from scratch.
According to Emma, chocolate is “versatile, delicious and at times mind-boggling – an enticing combination!” The Welsh Menu was keen to find out more!
You pride yourselves on taking a “Bean to Bar” approach. What does this mean and how do you differ from other chocolatiers?
Chocolatiers typically use bought in couverture to create their chocolates. Whilst we do use fine quality Belgian chocolate for much of our range, we pride ourselves on actually making chocolate from scratch – every stage from roasting cocoa beans to moulding the finished bar.
Making truffles, bars and similar products involves melting, tempering, flavouring and moulding the bought in chocolate. Bean to bar requires the same skills, but there is a lengthy process to follow before even reaching this point.
How did you initially set about sourcing the beans and was the initial importing process straightforward?
This process required a lot of research. The Fairtrade model has been proven not to work for cocoa but we were determined to ensure our trade was fair.
It is important to us that our money goes straight to the farm and benefits the workers and local community. Eventually we found a farm in Costa Rica which employs local workers and strives to help the community, much of which lives in extreme poverty. The farmer also runs a free school for other local cocoa growers, which teaches all aspect of cocoa production and how to get the best deal for their cocoa.
When the beans arrive in Conwy how do you process them and what specialist skills and equipment are needed?
The beans have to be roasted, crushed, winnowed (separating the husk from the inner bean or “nib” ), and ground for several days.
The joy of making chocolate from scratch is that you can control exactly what goes into your product. You can adjust the sugar content to suit your needs and even play with the texture of the chocolate.
The chocolate making world can be secretive and so finding information and instructions proved practically impossible. Hours of research, coupled with trial and error got us there eventually.
So how long does the process take to get from Bean to Bar?
It depends on the individual batch. Typically between 3-5 days. It’s a time consuming process but incredibly satisfying.
Does all the chocolate /cocoa product get used in your confectionery or are there additional bi product uses to avoid waste?
We have created a product which utilises the husk of the cocoa bean. You can create a delicious cocoa tea by steeping the husks in hot water and straining. A little milk and sugar or honey makes for a light and refreshing tea with a delicious chocolatey taste.
When we buy chocolate we see different cocoa content percentages on the labeling. Does a higher percentage automatically suggest a better quality product?
In simple terms the higher the percentage, the more cocoa is in the product. The quality of the product is reliant on a number of factors which include; the quality of the cocoa itself and the ingredients.
Our chocolate contains only cocoa, sugar, and milk (if making a milk chocolate). A higher percentage will normally give a more intense flavour but may not be accessible to all tastes.
Many of the chocolate based confections we are used to in the UK contain all sorts of additional ingredients such as vegetable fats and flavourings – this is reflected in the taste – normally sweet but bland.
There are different types of cocoa which range from commodity / bulk beans, to fine and more rare varieties. Flavour and quality will vary depending upon source and can be greatly affected by the land upon which it is grown, the climate etc (not unlike the terroir of wine). If the cocoa is good, the ingredients list is small and the maker has taken care at each stage, the product will be of good quality.
What is the optimum cocoa percentage for your products?
There is no one optimum cocoa percentage. It really depends on the type of product you are creating and the flavours you want to use. We are always developing new recipes, often with a specific flavour in mind. We also consider how the product will be presented and how it will be finished.
There are growing numbers of artisan chocolatiers in Wales crafting some excellent products. Do you supply (or plan to supply) any other producers with your chocolate?
At present the scale of production would not allow for this. We do supply small quantities of our chocolate for special events, for example our chocolate has recently used by the Welsh National Culinary Team as part of a dessert in the
Battle of the Dragon.
We often hear reports about the health benefits of chocolate? Is there any truth in these or is it media hype?
Cocoa has been proven to contain antioxidants which fight nasty things called free radicals, and is believed to contain far more antioxidants than tea. It has recently been the subject of a study by an American University which claims cocoa can help fight against heart disease!
Whilst the cocoa is good for you, there are accompanying ingredients such as sugar to consider. The chocolate based confectionery that we have become accustomed to in this country is very high in sugar and fat. By changing to a
better quality chocolate you will most probably find you require much less to get your chocolate hit (in theory)!
When we think of fine luxury chocolate we perhaps think of Swiss or Belgian brands. Do you see Welsh Chocolate as a competitor in this marketplace?
At present our production is on such a far smaller scale than our Belgian and Swiss counterparts. However, in terms of quality our Welsh chocolate is easily comparable, if not better!
We want to make real chocolate accessible to everyone, and whilst the short ingredients list gives a more intense experience that is alien to many, we’re confident that as the range grows and production increases we’ll have something
to suit all tastes.
Where can we buy Baravelli’s products?
Our products are sold by a variety of independent food retailers. In North Wales we are stocked by farm shops such as Bodnant Welsh Food, Hawarden and the recently opened Tweedmill food hall. We also supply smaller deli’s such as
Leonardo’s of Ruthin, and the newly opened Providero Tea and Coffee House in Llandudno Junction.
If you’re working with chocolate throughout the day do you still enjoy eating it and if so what’s your favourite?
We will never get sick of chocolate! Our new range of chocolate coated fondant creams are probably the current favourite at Baravelli’s HQ or if we’re after a real chocolate hit, our 85% Costa Rican bean to bar is just the thing!
Finally can you give us a hint as to what new items you’ll be adding to your range or what will be trending in the world of Welsh Chocolate in 2015?
Hopefully Welsh bean to bar chocolate will start to reach a wider audience in the coming year. We will also be increasing our range to include milk chocolates.