Monthly Archives: March 2011

Chocolate

Chocolate is a hugely important part of my life, obviously because of what I do, but it’s also attached to a lot of memories. I was brought up to appreciate food; its origins, flavour and that quantity doesn’t always mean quality.

One of my earliest Easter memories is sitting on my parents bed unwrapping a cello wrapped chocolate hen, the hen was pretty huge and there was no way I was going to manage to eat the whole thing in one go (although I’m sure I would have loved to have tried). I loved how all the features of the hen appeared in the chocolate J

Chocolate really awakes all the senses, aesthetically it’s enticing, and the smell is sweet, rich and immediately awakens the taste buds before you’ve even tasted it. Chocolate like a fine wine or coffee can have many layers in its flavour. Sometimes very fruity, sometimes with nutty tones or a creamy sweet flavour.

Like most foods I find people will have completely different outlooks and it can be really had to say what is right from wrong. Chocolate once a treat has become a huge commodity with people just picking up a bar and not caring where the cocoa is sourced, how the chocolate is made and what it contains. Your bog standard bar is a mixture of vegetable fat, vanilla, sugars and quite frankly only a little bit of chocolate. All my customers complain that they never feel satisfied when they eat a standard bar of chocolate they just crave more, however when they eat a chocolate with a high cocoa content and not jam packed with fats and vanilla they instantly feel satisfied, they love the complexity of the flavour and how they don’t crave chocolate. They simple don’t crave the chocolate in the same way because of the higher quantity of cocoa in the chocolates.

A fresh handmade chocolate has a depth of flavour and a far superior texture compared to a mass produced chocolate.

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#sbs winner

If you’re a Small business using twitter you’ll probably be familiar with #sbs or “Small Business Sunday”. This is an opportunity for small
businesses to tweet Theo Paphitis (@theopaphitis) from the BBC’s Dragons Den. Each business gets 140 characters to sell their business to Theo for the opportunity of a retweet. We were lucky enough to get a retweet or RT this evening! Tweets must be sent between 5pm and 7.30pm every Sunday evening using the #sbs hash tag.

So far we’ve received lots of messages of congratulations and support and gained lots of new followers. It will certainly be interesting
to see what our #sbs retweet brings.


The best Easter Egg?

Today the Daily Mail has published an article naming the Top 10 Easter Eggs as voted for my Good House Keepings experts and testers, this is an annual review. Tesco’s “Taste the Difference” Egg has come out on top with the likes of Rococo and Betty’s only reaching 5 and 10 respectively.

Obviously the article doesn’t give all the facts, but I would like to know how the eggs were assessed. The Easter egg from Tesco’s rated highly because of the Sweets Creamy Chocolate, Elegant Packaging and the Value Compared to the luxury brands; the egg also features in the stores special 2 for £10 promotion. Caroline Bloor (Good House Keeping’s Consumer Editor) said “The choice of Easter Eggs on the shelves seems to get bigger every year, and you can spend a fortune on them too. But paying more doesn’t necessarily guarantee good value or chocolate that everyone will love”.

I agree that sometimes you can purchase a chocolate which turns out not to be of your liking and maybe overpriced. The commercialisation of Easter as well as Christmas has really grown into quite a monster over the last decade. However the comparison of an egg from Tesco’s which will have been mass produced and a handmade egg, made with the finest quality chocolates is always going to open up to a lot of criticism.

I’m an advocate of quality of quantity, so previously when buying Easter Eggs, before I made them I would treat myself to a luxury brand made with a good quality chocolate and containing what I would deem as luxury chocolates. I could buy a Mars bar whenever I wanted, so why would I want to buy a Mars Egg? Especially as the actually Easter egg chocolate would be very sweets, fatty and rather unsatisfying. That’s why when I first started making Easter Eggs I made sure the chocolate I used was good quality, and my customers picked up on this commenting on how delicious the chocolate was and how it didn’t have that horrible “Easter egg flavour”.

I know not everyone will maybe appreciate the flavour of a luxury chocolates Easter egg or an Egg made from Single Origin chocolate, I know maybe people who just want the chocolate fix rather than sitting down and contemplating the complexity of the chocolates, but I’d like to think that people would be able to appreciate the craftsmanship that has gone into a handmade Easter egg. As well as the craftsmanship I’d like people to understand the costs. The reason an Easter egg maybe priced a lot higher than other eggs is because of the quality of the chocolate and the fact that they aren’t mass produced. The chocolatier may not have the buying power like the giant that is Tesco, and in many cases the chocolate will have been purchased on ethical grounds as well as flavour.  Tesco may have sourced a high quality chocolate for the egg, but other chocolatiers really aren’t on even ground with Tesco.

I have also seen tweets this week from fellow chocolatiers and reviews saying how Easter Eggs can be purchased in supermarkets for less than the price of a Red Nose. Considering a Red Nose is meant to make a difference to people in the UK and places in Africa I think it’s quite ridiculous that an egg which will have been made from Chocolate grown in countries such as Africa can be sold for less than a disposable Red Nose. It really tells you how much the Cocoa Farmers are getting.

We’re currently living in one of the worst recessions we’ve ever had and I know every penny counts, so that’s why I think it’s really time to take a step back and look at where our money goes. Is it going to the producers of cocoa or the large companies pumping out cheap chocolate dressed up in expensive packaging and branded as fine, luxury chocolate?


Do you think about the food you eat?

Over the last few years food for many reasons has been in the media; cost, quality and production are huge factors in consumer’s everyday lives. The prominence of the argument has also been heightened with the recent economic crisis.

We all lead busy lives nowadays juggling work, family and social lives, so I can totally understand why people pick the easier option when it comes to food. However, I also feel that food has such an important role within our lives that sometimes we need to sit back and look at how we consume it. I was brought up eating delicious home cooked meals by my Mum, from an early age she instilled basic cooking skills and pushed me and my younger brother and sister to try the most adventurous foods possible. At the same time we understood quality and quantity sometimes meant two different things.

Rushing around I don’t always have time to properly appreciate the food I’m eating, but I make an effort to cook tea from scratch every evening. I have fond memories of family meals, sitting around the dinner table, everyone talking about what they had done that day. Food wasn’t just a fuel, something we needed to keep us going; it was a part of social interaction, something to be enjoyed with people.

Personally I feel food knowledge is an education which we all should gain as we grow up. Celebrity chefs can harp on about why we should use organic food, free range, fair-trade and buy local, but unless we experience and use food from these categories in our everyday lives we can hardly expect everyone to follow suit. I don’t think we can live in a world that chastises people for using the “wrong” food, especially as everyone leads different lives. Unfortunately supermarkets do play a huge part in people’s everyday lives, that’s a fact which I don’t think, can be changed.

However I do think we can strive to go back to basics and learn to appreciate the food we eat and where it has come from. I would argue that some causes are more important because of the environment we live in than others. I would rather pick free range and fair trade compared to organic. Not because I have anything against organic food and when buying a Free Range chicken I usually find they are Organic as well. However, I don’t always see or taste a huge difference when eating non organic vegetables. I believe fair trade effectively helps the communities who grow the produce such as Cocoa, which can also been seen closer to home when people choose to buy British grown produce.

I think many companies feel that they can just jump on the bandwagon nowadays and use buzz words to attract customers. The recent KFC advert is a great example of spinning buzz words. The advert features a “chef” talking about using fresh chicken. The word fresh is mentioned throughout the advert, while the advert is set in the fresh vegetable section of a supermarket and then a smart looking kitchen, which turns out to be a KFC kitchen. The chicken should be fresh, but that doesn’t mean its good quality.  He advert is clearly misleading and I sometimes think all the different messages from the media, chefs and the supermarkets confuse many food issues.

I truly believe as consumers we should understand what we are eating, how it has been produced and look at how we purchase food. As I have said before food shouldn’t such be seen as a fuel, it’s so much more than that? Considering we need food to keep live, we don’t always invest the time and respect it really deserves.


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