Interview – Taylor from Bake Free

What got you interested in baking and free from foods?IMG_1229

I’ve always been interested in cooking, food and flavours but really began baking when I found that I need to follow a gluten free diet. My wife has food allergies and my daughter does too, so this naturally lead to baking free-from recipes and experimenting with creating foods that we were unable to buy elsewhere.

When did you first make your famous brownies?

I think the current recipe is about attempt number 17! I tried a lot of recipes which I found in books and online but wanted to keep pushing to see how rich I could get the chocolate flavour and also pursuing a great texture. Now I make them in a range of flavours but the nutty ones are my favourites – Peanut Butter Swirl and Hazelnut Praline!

How was your first attempt at gluten free baking? 

I actually used to really dislike baking as I didn’t like to follow recipes and measure ingredients. I was a bit of an “experimental” cook! Now that I create my own recipes and transform traditional recipes into free-from bakes, I enjoy the baking a lot more. I enjoy having the freedom to create.

How and from where do you source your ingredients?

From a huge range of places! I’m often limited by allergy statements and production methods but make sure that my ingredients are responsibly sourced/produced and I try to have minimal ingredients in recipes and to keep as much of a wholesome approach as baking allows.
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Anything you are particularly proud of about your products? 

I constantly get feedback that nobody would know that my products are free-from and many people prefer them to the so-called “normal” items that they buy.

What’s your best-selling product?

Brownies, both at events where I trade and I also wholesale locally too.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Taking the step to begin my own business and I hope that this will be a good example for my daughter to not follow the beaten track.

IMG_1281What are your ambitions for the future?

I’d like to have a small cafe or deli one day.

What’s your mission statement?

Just to make food that people enjoy. My favourite is when people get tippy-tappy feet when they eat something good.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate?

I’m a dark chocolate fan, particularly 85% and upwards. Combination-wise, I enjoy chocolate with nuts, ginger and coffee.

You will be able to get your hands on Bake Free’s yummy gluten-free goodies at the Exeter Chocolate Festival! If you would like to find them before then you can visit their facebook page for details of other local events.

Interview – Seed Chocolate

What got you interested in chocolate?SEED LOGOS White on Blue

I have always had an avid interest in chocolate from the very moment I trained as a pastry chef in my teens.  It wasn’t until recently, that I started to really think how chocolate was made, from the raw ingredients & the chemistry within cocoa.  This has guided me to become a bean to bar chocolate maker.

When did you first make chocolate?

Just under three years ago.

How was your first attempt at making chocolate? 

It actually went really well.  We haven’t hit too many hurdles luckily.  Our biggest challenge was the heat of the summer of 2018, damn that was a learning curve!
It’s all down to the preparation of your ingredients & sourcing the right equipment.

seed1How and from where do you source your beans?

We currently source our variety of cacao from Peru.  We have a great relationship with the smallholder supplier.  We are very proud to source our cacao directly from these small farms & cooperatives.
We get sent samples from all around the equator.  It’s a real privilege to us that they believe we can make a great end product with their harvest.
We are looking into new origins from Central America & Asia for future cacao varieties.

Anything you are particularly proud of about your products?

We are very proud that in our first full year (2018), we received five awards for three of our chocolate bars from The Academy of Chocolate & Guild of Fine Food.  We were also awarded Specialist Food & Drink Retailer 2018 by The Taste of Staffordshire.

What’s your best-selling product?

Our Toasted White Chocolate bar always sells out.  This is more than likely because it has been ranked top four (in the white chocolate category) in the world, by The Academy of Chocolate.  It’s is the only non-vegan bar we create regularly due to demand.

What achievement are you most proud of?seed2

I am just happy we have grown organically whilst keeping our identity & ethos of creating great single origin chocolate from the finest ingredients we can get our hands on.  It’s hard as I have a fractured spine.  But the rewards do push me forward.  We have met so many lovely people on our adventure so far in the chocolate making world.

What are your ambitions for the future?

We have a few secrets up our sleeve for the future, but our main objective is to get our packaging onto the next level.  We aim to have all of our packaging home compostable by 2020.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate?

Dark chocolate all day long!  The flavour notes you get from different varieties is mind blowing. And unroasted cacao is a great snack food.
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I can vouch for their toasted white chocolate being absolutely delicious! If you want to get hold of some before November, you can visit their website by clicking here.

Interview – Solkiki Chocolatemaker

What was the point of starting your own chocolate label?

In 2007 we were looking for a decent dairy-free white chocolate, but there were very few options and none were delicious, so we started experimenting. That same year, we sampled fine flavour dark chocolate in San Francisco and were excited by the flavours and nutrition but also the ethics behind the fine flavour movement.  The point? Deliver exploitation-free chocolate that tastes great and protects everyone in our chain; from the creatures and trees in the rainforests, to the farmers and our customers. Consuming fine-flavour chocolate really makes a positive difference, and we want to be part of that change and make good decisions easy for people to make!IMG_2803

Is chocolate a luxury item?

What is a luxury item?  Something you don’t really need.  Because of its high nutrition we think fine flavour, low processed chocolate is a necessity, like apples and broccoli – only more powerful and beneficial!  Is ultra-processed industrial chocolate a luxury? Absolutely.  The planet would be better off without industrial chocolate.

How did you go about starting the company?

We started with a very basic shoestring budget. We invested in simple equipment and wanted to recoup some of the costs so we tested selling online as a hobby and found there was a demand for our product. Some of the most important steps were; finding great farmers, finding reliable sources of great cacao, finding the route to market, gathering equipment and obtaining government approval to import, make and sell.

What were some of the biggest challenges?

Finding affordable space in which to build our workshop.  We found a very old building to renovate in the rural countryside and it took a long time to make it ready for 

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production.  As well as an international relocation and raising a young family, it was a true challenge to get Solkiki off the ground.

Did you find any aspect of setting up the company to actually be fun?

Almost everything about it is fun! Coming up with the name and logo, and finding the Solkiki way to do things is great fun. Starting something new, with hopes and experiments and energy… it’s a dream come true. You’ve got one life, so try to enjoy it, right?!  We’re really lucky to have found our passion, and to be rewarded while doing it is something we appreciate every day.

What inspired the company name?

Sol means the Sun, and Kiki comes from a Dutch word (Iris is Dutch) that speaks of nature, all things that grow, live and die. Solkiki – it speaks of all the things we really need. We added ‘Chocolatemaker’ to make the distinction between chocolatiers (remelters who use chocolate made by others to then be made into bonbons etc) and chocolatemakers (who produce the actual chocolate made from the cacao bean).

How do go about developing your recipes?

We feel that every variety of cacao bean that we work with has a right to shine, whether as a single source bar or with an inclusion. We like to find the things that are special about the bean and put it in the spotlight. How we go about it is different per cacao bean. Sometimes it’s in the flavour of the unroasted bean, sometimes in the roasted bean. Other times we find inspiration in something less directly related – a memory of a flavour or perhaps an aspect of a dish we recently tried, etc. We find that when you follow a lead it can bring you to very interesting roads. Many dead ends too! We are not afraid to fail, but persevering sometimes brings you to a very delicious place where the chocolate is just divine and it was well worth meeting the dead ends that came before.

What do you want the buyer to come away with after tasting your creations?

We work to generate a feeling of discovery and excitement for fine-flavour chocolate. We create chocolate that hopefully excites you and makes you feel great – mind AND body!

Who is doing exciting things in the chocolate area, in your opinion?

The Heirloom Cacao Preservation initiative is working hard to find, promote and conserve delicious and especially unique cacao trees.  Their work here is invaluable because if people don’t act immediately then many amazing cacao varieties will be lost forever.

The International Chocolate Awards and the International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Tasting are doing an incredible job of promoting fine flavour cacao and chocolate tasting worldwide, and of course the International Chocolate Salon do a great job promoting fine flavour chocolate in North America.

Are there any developments in the field that you find very exciting?

There are more and more chocolatemakers popping up around the UK and also around Europe. There is a steady interest for quality chocolate that is different and new, and we also see a growing interest from the public in understanding and exploring the ethical side of cacao.

Chocolate made without dairy is receiving more interest and we feel this is really motivating because we feel that dairy should not be an automatic ingredient for white and milk chocolate. This might sound strange at first, but we feel one can enjoy an extremely delicious white, milk or dark milk chocolate using other types of milk, like coconut milk for instance. They’re at least equally delicious.

We are also seeing new bean-to-bar specialist shops run by enthusiastic chocolate curators popping up more and more throughout Europe. It’s really great to see more interest in cacao as a food, and people understanding that cacao is a lot like fine wine, not just something to quickly satisfy a craving with (although there is nothing wrong with that too!), but that it can also be a food to savour and enjoy at a deeper level.

Do you have advice for anyone wanting to get in the business?

If you want to learn about chocolate flavours, the best way to learn is eat as much fine flavour chocolate as you can. Pay conscious attention to the chocolate and compare at least two chocolates in any session.  You’ll learn a lot about what you like and dislike and it’ll give you the best possible grounding.  Taste, taste, taste again. The sort of chocolate you should make should be the sort of chocolate you like to eat, you’re the expert when it comes to your taste buds and no one comes close. So, trust your own judgement most.

Any comments on sustainability, the environment, fair trade or other areas of interest?

About sustainability. In a nutshell, cheap industrial chocolate which costs less than 10p/gram retail price does NOT come from a sustainable source. It is driving deforestation and human rights abuse on a huge scale. Industrial chocolate currently employs 2.3 million child workers and a total of 8 million workers earning half of the bottom line for absolute poverty.

We work using direct trade, which means cutting out as many middle men as possible and making sure the farmers are rewarded properly for their work. In return they look after their crops and fermentations well and can supply us with outstanding cacao. We do our best to then work with the cacao beans as best we can, making the best chocolate possible.

We would love to see more chocolatiers switch to buying from chocolatemakers that practice direct trade. The problem with chocolate from more sustainable sources where the cacao was bought through direct trade (not just fair trade) is that the end product is more expensive and not everyone will be happy to pay more for something they’ve always underpaid for.

There are a lot of issues with Fair Trade in chocolate that need to be addressed. Just because there is a Fair Trade stamp on the bar you bought, doesn’t mean it is sustainable. What it means is that only slightly more has been paid for the cacao, but it is not enough to make a difference on the farmers’ lives.

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If you can’t wait until November to get hold of some award-winning Solkiki chocolate, you can order it on their website – www.solkiki.co.uk

Photo credit: Michael Lucky.

Ethical, Educational and Delicious

At the Exeter Chocolate Festival our mission is to share our passion for, and educate others about the fine quality, bean-to-bar, ethically produced chocolate being made right here in the UK.
Over our two day celebration of chocolate, you will be able to discover some of the UK’s most passionate and talented chocolate makers who are dedicated to working directly with cocoa farmers to ensure the best quality product.
This direct trade provides traceability, and means the farmer is paid a fair price for their beans, therefore supporting small farms to grow.
Dark chocolate is naturally vegan and gluten-free, but you will also be able to find a range of milk chocolates to suit all dietary needs.
We have something for everyone – exquisitely indulgent brownies, handmade truffles from local chocolatiers, you can even treat yourself to a chocolate cocktail. Rest assured you will only find it at the Exeter Chocolate Festival if it meets our strict criteria of being made from bean-to-bar, is ethically produced, fine-quality or is locally made.
Alongside the chocolate sellers, we will be bringing you a full programme of talks, demonstrations and workshops. Plenty for connoisseurs and families alike.