Once a cottage industry, small-batch British chocolate is booming. Emma Hughes unwraps eight of the best small-batch bars.
Wild Gorse Flower 50% Milk, Chocolarder
Cornwall bean-to-bar producer Chocolarder doesn’t just pay lip service to the idea of sustainable production, the team is so committed to it that it sails all the beans to Falmouth.
To make this one-of-a-kind bar, the gorse flowers are handpicked, then steeped in cocoa butter. The result is a heady taste of childhood summers on the Cornish coast – a kind of Proustian madeleine for anyone who’s ever been on a clifftop walk.
£4.99 for 70g (http://chocolarder.com)
Island Sea Salt, Ocelot Chocolate
The ozone tang of seaside air inspired this handsome bar from Leith chocolatier Ocelot. A 70% cacao base with hints of cherry, blackcurrant and tobacco is sprinkled with Scottish sea salt for a lingering, savoury-sweet finish (it goes brilliantly with Pinot Noir).
Husband and wife Matt and Ish Broadbent were both chefs before setting up Ocelot the week after their wedding – they only use organic ingredients and make everything themselves, including the bars’ arty wrappers.
£6 for 75g at Ocelot Chocolate (ocelotchocolate.com)
Toasted Madagascan White, Dormouse Chocolates
From a tiny kitchen in what were once Manchester’s Granada Studios, Isobel Carse makes chocolate the old-fashioned way, stone-grinding beans, tempering the chocolate by hand on a marble slab and individually moulding it.
Unlike mass-produced bars, which muddle together beans from multiple suppliers, her bars are all single estate, which means a clear, clean flavour and a better deal for the growers. The fudgy, malty Toasted Madagascan White is the star of the range, but it’s only made in tiny batches, so you’ll have to be quick.
£4 for 60g (http://dormousechocolates.co.uk)
Nicaragua Sourdough, Damson
One for would-be Paddington Bears. The citrusy flavour of the cocoa beans used by London writer-turned-chocolatier Dom Ramsey to make this bar, combined with the breadcrumbs he sprinkles over the mixture, give it the unmistakable tang of marmalade toast.
The packaging is plain, but the contents are a crazy-paved masterpiece. Almost – but not quite – too pretty to eat.
£4.50 for 50g (http://damsonchocolate.com)
Asajaya Estate 73% Dark, Beau Cacao
As opulently attired as their dandy namesake, Beau Cacao’s wares come dressed in rich gold and jewel tones. Inside, the 3D-effect bars look like something Escher might have dreamed up and come with tasting notes to rival any fine wine.
Just 4,500 bars of the Asajaya Estate 73% Dark have been made – look out for hints of toasty brioche, chocolate ganache and milky coffee.
£8 for 55g (www.beaucacao.com)
White Chocolate, Raspberry and Rose Signature Giant Thin, Paxton Chocolate
They’re not conventionally shaped, but Brighton chocolatier Paxton’s Signature Thins pack all the punch of the best artisan bars as well as being works of art. Founder Caitlin Paxton is a Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef and her flavour combinations are unashamedly haute.
White Chocolate, Raspberry and Rose has an Austenesque feel (shades of the Bennet sisters in the print) and the Milk Chocolate, Chestnut and Vanilla nods to the botanical sketchbook of yore.
£3.95 per thin (www.paxtonchocolate.com)
65% Dark Malt, Land
To create this unusual bar, former BBC radio producer Phil Landers roasts Honduran beans for slightly longer than usual, then stirs in a good helping of malt-barley grain.
The result is a dark chocolate for people who think they don’t like dark chocolate (with just a hint of Maltesers). Aesthetically pleasing en masse, in the way of Penguin Classics, the six-strong Land range is made entirely by hand in a former East End furniture workshop.
£5.50 for 60g (http://landchocolate.com)
50% Milk Chocolate, Lucocoa Chocolate
London’s first bean-to-bar chocolate maker (producers who carry out every step of the process in-house, rather than buying in the component parts from other manufacturers) is the brainchild of Andy Clarke, a part-time boxing commentator, and Amarachi Uzowuru, who used to work at Comic Relief.
Their bars are made without refined sugar, a back-to-basics approach that’s reflected in the brown-paper packaging. Deeper in flavour than ordinary milk chocolate, but just as creamy, their ‘dark’ 50% bar has toasty caramel notes courtesy of coconut sugar.
£2.50 for 25g (www.lucocoachocolate.com)