The Chocolarder, a small cocoa company based in Cornwall where sustainability and passion is key to creating these beautiful and unique chocolate bars ! Mike and Jo run this beautifully creative company in a gorgeous building situated near Truro.
The factory was nothing like I expected it to be, completely different to what I had imagined . I had Charlie and the Chocolate factory envisioned within my mind (as you do) but actually the place was totally unique.
A beautiful, minimalistic wooden and gorgeous looking building surrounded by trees, next to a lovely forest came into sight as the car pulled into the parking spot. The ideal place to make chocolate!
First thing I noticed as I walked in was that there was two floors. Downstairs for the physical work and upstairs was the office, lovely and warm. This was where the final bits took place for the chocolate. Wrapping them in their cases,
I put my stuff down, set up my camera and began to photography whilst listening to Mike explain the process to me, which by the way is fascinating !
Below is an Interview I had with Jo Longman, from The Chocolarder (and Mikes sister) The information below should give some more details on what the place is about and how it is run, etc.
How long has Chocolarder been going for ?
4 years – Mike launched his first products in November 2011 (they looked very different back then, there’s a photo of the old packaging vs the new packaging on our IG account)
How far has it come since the business began?
In the 4 years since he started he’s moved premises twice – he started in his home kitchen, then took on space above Rebel Brewing in Penryn where he stayed for 2 and a half years, and we moved into the Ponsanooth premises in June last year. He started out selling at markets, and our first stockist was Corner Deli in Porthleven where Mike lived at the time. We are still loyal to Helston Farmers Market every month as it was through the interest, encouragement and support of local customers that he was able to build the foundations of his business. Last year we finally launched our new branded packaging (by designed by Kingdom & Sparrow (who by the way would be great for a shoot!)) which really took the chocolate to the next level, and we now have independent stockists all over the county and the country and steady online sales.
What are the ethics behind the company?
Mike and I both settled in Cornwall for the same reasons most people do – for the landscape and the lifestyle, the space and nature and all the amazing things you can do outdoors. We feel incredibly lucky to live here and be part of such a vibrant and supportive community. Good food has also become central to both our lives through different avenues – Mike spent years as a chef on an estate that sourced 90% of its produce from within a 10 mile radius, and I studied nutrition at university. Looking after the health of our environment and community is really important to both of us. Chocolate makes people happy and is incredibly good for you if it’s proper, so that was a good start. Beyond that we have worked hard to ensure that our sourcing is sound, our product is as pure and unadulterated as possible – there are only 2 ingredients in our dark chocolates and we don’t use any emulsifiers or preservatives – all of our packaging is recyclable and our Dominican Republic cocoa beans are sail shipped with zero emissions. We are still working on ways to improve our practices and will continue to do so as we grow. We don’t think there needs to be a downside or a dark side to enjoying high quality, delicious food that is good for you. We’re making chocolate that is totally guilt free.
Where are the Cocoa beans all imported from?
We are in the process of sourcing new beans at the moment – our current range uses beans from Peru (Peruvian Dark), Dominican Republic (DR Dark) and Java (all the milk chocolate). They are all single origin beans, so they come from one particular plantation in each country, which ensures quality, consistency and traceability. The plantations we source from grow their beans using traditional organic farming methods and we pay above Fairtrade prices to our growers. The plantation we were sourcing from in the DR closed last year so we are finding a replacement for that, in the meantime we have just received our first shipment of beans grown by the Ashaninka tribe in Peru’s Amazon rainforest. We were contacted by local charity Cool Earth who have been working with the tribe to help them produce high quality cocoa on their land to save it from being sold to coca growers and logging companies. We are super excited about this as the beans are delicious and it’s amazing to be able to support a threatened indigenous community in this way.
How long is the overall process for one chocolate bar?
About 6 weeks, and that’s disregarding the time it takes to grow, harvest, ferment, sort, package and transport the cocoa beans from the plantation to us. It’s a lengthy and highly skilled process that we hope to fully document on our website very soon. Once we have the raw beans they are roasted, then go through a hand-cranked rollers to crack them, then they are winnowed to remove the shell from the cocoa nibs, then they are stoneground and conched in a grinder for between 68 and 80 hours, then the sugar is added and the liquor is poured into blocks and left to mature for 30 days to round off any remaining tannins. Then the chocolate is melted down, tempered and poured into bar molds to set, then each bar is hand packed and sealed. We produce our chocolate in 50kg batches which yield between 700 and 750 bars, and every batch goes through this same process. We often get comments about the higher price of our chocolate but I think it represents incredible value for money, and looking to many other craft chocolate producers ours sits at a third to half the price of what’s out there.
Do you enjoy working together ?
98% of the time, definitely 🙂 we have very complementary skill sets and the same sense of humour, and in our adult life we’ve always got on incredibly well and been there for each other through various stages of our lives. The only thing that’s changed is when we spend time together outside of work and end up talking shop. We do annoy one another occasionally but we know each other’s foibles and it’s always quickly forgotten. At the end of the day it’s Mike’s business, he’s the boss (and a really good one) and I want to do everything I can to help him succeed.
Other than Falmouth at The Natural Store and Penryn Deli, where else is your chocolate stocked?
All over Cornwall in various independent delis and farm shops. We are also in the Eden Project, St Michaels Mount, the Scarlet and Bedruthan Hotels in Mawgan Porth, The Better Food Company in Bristol, Claire’s Cornish Kitchen in Primrose Hill, Workshop in Brighton and Henri in Edinburgh. We also have a thriving online shop where we will eventually be selling limited lines that won’t be in the shops.
What are your hopes for the future?
We hope to bring the appreciation and enjoyment of craft chocolate to as many as possible and have a great time doing it! The dream is to be in our own self-sufficient building and be a completely carbon neutral business, for the heart of our business to continue guiding our decisions, to have close working relationships with all of our growers and stockists and be chilling on our yacht in the Bahamas 5 months of the year. Ok, maybe not the last one 😉
Who created the Logo?
Kingdom and Sparrow – they did the logo/branding, the packaging design and the website. They are good friends of ours – I know Johnny from my uni days (he studied illustration at Falmouth)