HOW TO HAVE YOUR OWN CHOCOLATE TASTING AT HOME

Chocolate tasting is great way to explore the magical world of chocolate. How is bean to bar chocolate made? Why do single estate cacaos all taste different? There are so many incredible flavours and so many questions.

Right now you are in luck! Join me on Zoom for a Live Bean to Bar Chocolate Tasting, at 6pm on Father’s Day, 20th June. The Event is Free – all you need is the chocolate. This is your chance to ask all your chocolatey questions!

To get the chocolates we’ll be tasting either take out a subscription or buy the one off Tasting Box.

Each Tasting Box contains 10 bars and for this event they have raw beans and roasted nibs too. Most exciting are the 2 limited edition not available in any shop. These ones are inspired by the magical flavours of Japan. Discover Yuzu, the sexiest of citrus fruit  …..and the thrillingly rare Super Oishi, the umami packed salted caramel of the Japanese world.

                 

If you are tasting by yourself at home, here’s a quick guide.

  1. Preparations
    – Make sure your chocolate is at room temperature and you have plenty of water to drink between chocolates.
    – Arm Yourself with the chocolates. If you don’t have any of mine, try to find some craft made single estate cacao ones. That way you will discover the flavours of fine beans and capture the magic. Don’t be fooled by anything that calls itself Single Origin, this is like saying wine from France! And don’t choose one containing vanilla (shows they are hiding the fact their beans don’t taste interesting) or lecithin (this is an emulsifier used in industrial processes, craft chocolatiers don’t use it).
    – Get our Flavour Map, look online if you don’t have a physical one. This  is a handy guide to help you navigate the c.400 flavour notes there are said to be in chocolate .We have grouped them together to give you a guide as to what to expect.

  1. The tasting order
    – Start by tasting the chocolates with the highest % cacao and move sweeter. If you do it the other way round you won’t be able to taste the dark chocolates at the end. So if you have Pure Gold 100% cacao start with that.
    – Have more than one single estate dark chocolate so you can taste the amazing differences. For example compare the nutty coffee notes in Rio Caribe 72 with the fruity Sambirano 71.
    Next taste any dark chocolates that are flavoured. Notice how I pair the flavour notes of the cacaos with the other ingredients. So to make Lusccious Orange I used a bean that tastes naturally of honey as it pairs so well with citrus.
    – Finally you can taste milk chocolates, then white chocolates. But I have to say, I still don’t make these very sweet. My El Blanco white chocolate has the same amount of added sugar as a 70% dark chocolate. this means you can taste the natural cocoa butter it is made from in all its glory. No Vanilla here!

  2. How To Taste
    – Pop a square of chocolate in the middle of your tongue and try as hard as you can to let it melt. Resist the chomping!
    – Then wait and breathe. The breathing is very important as so much of the flavour is perceive by your nose.
    As the chocolate spreads around your mouth notice how the flavours develop and change.
    – The sign of a good chocolate is always that the flavours stay with you after you have finished eating. They should not wash away in a flood of cocoa butter.

 

               

 

Don’t worry, there are no right or wrong answers as everyone tastes a little differently. You are likely to pick up notes that your friends don’t and vice versa.

By the end of your tasting session, you’ll discover which flavour profile best suits your taste and your personality. Will you be fruity or nutty, lively or spicy or will you love them all? For me, I love them all, there is one for every mood and every moment.

Just one parting thought… if you think you are a real chocolate connoisseur, then you can take the ultimate challenge… Can you identify the flavour notes blind fold?!

 

   

 

Welcome to a whole new world of adventure.

NUTS! NUTS! GLORIOUS NUTS!… AND SALT

I am all about flavour and as far as I am concerned the best, natural ingredients make the best flavours. So having scoured the equatorial regions of the globe for the finest cacaos, I am very picky about what other ingredients I put with them. They have to be 100% natural and they have to taste of exactly what they are supposed to. No half measures allowed!

Both salt and nuts are classic dancing partners for chocolate. Salt plays off the sweetness, but it has to be the right kind of salt, more flavour than saltiness is what I’m after. With nuts the key is not just in the quality but also in the toasting.

The theme for this month’s Chocolate Subscription Box is Nuts, Nuts, Glorious Nuts! I roast my nuts in a beautiful old nut roaster which looks like a rotating barrel. It gets a lot of use! Roasting nuts, (or maybe toasting is a better word for it) really brings out their flavour. As well as crisping them up it removes the raw, green slightly astringent flavours and brings out their deeper softer side.

One of the Magnificent Creations I made for this Tasting Box was The Salty Dog, Rio Caribe 44 milk chocolate with roasted almonds and Cornish Sea Salt. I give the almonds a light roast to bring out their deeper flavours and add sea flakes as the magic dust. What a bar!

Finding the right salt has been super important. Commercial salt is too harsh, so I now use The Cornish Sea Salt Company’s flakes. The joy of these is their soft minerality – they are more about the flavour than the salt if that makes sense. They come from the Atlantic waters off the Lizard Peninsula, and contain over 60 natural minerals. This makes them perfect as the salt for my Sea Salt Caramel Pearls with their cascades of molten caramel and Cornish Sea Salt riding the waves.

It also makes all the difference using flakes not grains. No one wants to eat a generally salty chocolate, what you want is to bite into the chocolate or Praline Truffle and find it jewelled with little bursts or crunches of salt. In fact I named my milk chocolate with sea salt, Sea Flakes.

Making the Magnificent Creations each month is giving me a great reason to spend lots of time in the test kitchen. This month I have been playing with old favourites like almonds and hazelnuts, but also the more exotic pistachios and macadamias. Nuts take you to all corners of the globe, deep into ancient culinary traditions, and have the added benefit of being packed full of heart-healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.

Macadamias are particularly extraordinary and are in fact the world’s most expensive nut, sadly making them too expensive to appear in my normal chocolates. Their slow growing tropical evergreen trees take seven years to produce a crop, but it’s well worth the wait. They are highly nutritious and have an incredible sweet, buttery flavour and creamy texture that makes them a pure delight in chocolate. Here I have paired them with some yellow raisins that I have been soaking in rum. Hey Ho and a bottle of rum!

NOTES 

Each month there is a different theme for the Monthly Chocolate Subscription . This month it is Nuts! and there are a small number of nutty tasting boxes that you can buy without having a subscription. In each there are ten bars, two of which are limited editions that are not available in any shop. I call them my Magnificent Creations.

 

Magnificent Creations for the Milk and Dark Chocolate Tasting Box

Salty Dog. Rio caribe 44 milk chocolate with almonds & sea salt

Get the best almonds you possibly can and give them a light roast to release their nuttiness. A quick chop, then stir them into freshly made Rio Caribe milk chocolate with a flurry of Cornish Sea Salt.  That’s all, you salty dog! Pure flavour. Pure pleasure

Jewelled Heaven. Creamy white chocolate with pistachio, yellow raisin & saffron

Joyous, totally joyous! I have taken the sugar right down to make the lightest, creamiest white chocolate. Jewelled with pistachios and raisins and infused with rare and precious saffron, this is one heavenly chocolate.

 

Magnificent creations for Al Dark Chocolate Tasting Box

Macadamia Rum Raisin. Rio Caribe 72 dark chocolate with macadamia & rum raisin

In The Chocolate Factory I am endlessly experimenting. There are jars and jars of different fruits soaking in various alcohols. Here I have taken some rum raisins and dried them out just enough to get them into the chocolate with their best friends, sweet, buttery macadamias.

Arabian Nights. Baracoa 65 dark chocolate with orange, almond & chilli

Oranges and almonds are a classic Mediterranean / Middle Eastern combination. This time I have added a touch of chilli, just a touch… it plays against the natural sweetness and is just enough to bring the juiciness alive. It is  remarkably different to its No Added Sugar cousin.

Viva Cacao!

COME WITH ME TO JAPAN…

I would like to introduce you to my new series of Magnificent Creations. These are chocolates I am making from rare beans or exceptional ingredients that I have found on my travels, and are impossible to make on a commercial scale. They really are the chocolates of my dreams. From now on I will make new Magnificent Creations every month to put in my Subscriptions Boxes. This is the only way you will be able to try them.

I don’t know about you, but there is nowhere in the world I find more inspirational for food than Japan. It’s their astonishing palate of ingredients and obsessive perfectionism. So when I came to make my first special edition chocolates that’s where my mind immediately took me.

You can find these Japanese Creations in The Tasting Box, and they will always be in the first Monthly Subscription Box, whenever you start your subscription because they are simply too good to miss!

I started by making both Dark and White Yuzu chocolates. Yuzu is a citrus fruit unlike any other, more aromatic and floral, almost other worldly. In the white chocolate I took the sugar right down to just over 20% because the flavour is so delicate I didn’t want to drown it. 20% is really low when you think a 70% dark chocolate has 30%. In the dark chocolate I paired it with the Baracoan bean that has natural honey notes. This is a match made in heaven. The two chocolates are very different and equally delicious depending on the kind of chocolate you prefer.

Yuzu is widely used as an ingredient, not just in sweet dishes… you can easily imagine a Yuzu sorbet. But at The Yuzuya Ryokan in Kyoto, it was the theme of their whole menu and this was quite honestly some of the best food I have ever had.

I first had it in Gen Yamamoto’s cocktail bar in Tokyo. This is an experience. There is space for just 8 people so you book your place as you would in a restaurant and sit back and watch as magic is conjured. There is a set menu of perfectly conceived cocktails. This sounds daunting but it isn’t about the alcohol, the alcohol is simply there as are carrier of flavour. Spices are ground, juices are squeezed and there isn’t a whiff of anything as prosaic as vodka or rum… rather fresh Sake or Shochu. It is like 3 Michelin star menu in liquid form. I hope he would enjoy my Yuzu chocolates as much as I do his cocktails!

Then in the dark box you have a chocolate that I have called Super Oishi. That means super delicious and it was the chorus that followed me around Japan as went from city to city doing tastings and events as part of the Salon du Chocolat. It is said that 80% of all chocolate in Japan is sold in the lead up to Valentines Day, and I can believe it. Hundreds of people queued for hours to get into the events… not this year I fear.

My Super Oishi is an Awajun 70 dark chocolate with Black Garlic and Miso. The Black Garlic is nothing like fresh garlic. It has complex smoky caramel notes and is packed with umami. The miso provides a background savoury note and so the overall effect is something like a Japanese version of Salted Caramel. All I can say is wow!

You make black garlic by slow cooking whole bulbs for c. 3-4 weeks at c. 60 degrees without letting it dry out. This is something worth perfecting because its price puts it in the Special Treat category! I experimented with fat bulbs from markets in France and it got pretty good, but for these bars I bought it from The Black Garlic Company because I simply couldn’t make enough myself. To get your genuine Japanese miso in the UK go to The Wasabi Company… European made equivalents really don’t cut it. While you’re there try their Stream Junmai Daiginjo Sake, it’ll transport you straight to your favourite back street Izakaya.

The final Japanese Magical Creation is the Hojicha. We had Hojicha for the first time at a tasting with a Japanese tea master near Kyoto. A French lady working with the tea master saw the Matcha Mousse cake I put on twitter and asked if I wanted to try their teas. As it happened I was about to go to Japan so I went to visit them and we had an eye opening tasting. The tea master could actually taste the fields each tea was grown in and when it had been picked… that was extraordinary. Hojicha is made by toasting green tea in porcelain pots over charcoal which creates its signature smoky, caramel notes that are simply sublime in white chocolate. It is widely used in ice creams and deserts in Japan and is set to take over the foodie world much as matcha has before it. We get all our matcha and hojicha direct from these tea farmers now and have been back to visit twice. The second time we went with them to the Suntory distillery that was very close by, to taste old Hibiki whiskies. You didn’t even need to drink the 5ml of Hibiki 35 year old that we had… it was enough to smell it!

MORE MAGNIFICENT CREATIONS

If you were one of the early birds to take out a subscription in October, your second box should have dropped through your letterbox by now. The flavours this month are Fruity, one of which Hibiscus, a flower that tastes more of red fruits than they do themselves. I have them growing all the way up the path to my house on the farm in Venezuela. Check out that pink.

December’s Creations are full Christmas joy and are real labours of love. I have already started candying orange peel and I am going to be chopping this and putting it in both dark and white chocolates. Then for something that takes even longer to prepare, cacao nibs soaked in rum for a couple of  months, dried, caramelised and left nestling in Sur del Lago 69 dark chocolate.
These are the most super indulgent of them all, and the only way you will get them is if you take out a subscription before the end of November.

TO GET THESE CHOCOLATES

At the moment you can get the Japanese Creations in The Letterbox Gifts, The Tasting Box and whenever you take out a Monthly Subscription, the first box you receive will always have them in it.

Viva Cacao!
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VEGANUARY – THE JOY OF DARK CHOCOLATE

Many people ask me if dark chocolate is always vegan and the answer is yes. Mine contains simply cacao, natural cocoa butter and raw cane sugar because when it comes to flavour I’m a purist. Actually the majority of chocolates I make are vegan, I suppose because that’s where my taste naturally lies.

I grew up on Horse Island, an island off Southern Ireland, with my parents and five brothers and sisters leading as close to a self sufficient life as possible. We grew and milled our own grains, kept goats for milk and cheese, foraged for everything and even evaporated off sea water to make our own salt. So my taste has always been for the natural, and I’m not big on dairy or sugar. When I reach for a chocolate bar it is always a dark one, and when I drink hot chocolate it is a vegan version made with 100% cacao and water.  The Aztecs didn’t realise they were vegans!

The other reason I love dark chocolates so much is that they enable you to taste the flavours of the beans in their most pure form. For all my chocolates I use the best single estate cacaos in the world – I have to be one of the luckiest people alive, because my quest to make great chocolate takes me on the cacao trail across the world, around the Equator, in search of the finest beans. Every trip turns up  something new.

These beans are like fine wines, each one is totally different because of its genetics and the soil and conditions it is grown in. Take a look on my Flavour Map. So both Las Trincheras 72 and Rio Caribe 72 are both made from Trinitario beans, both come from Venezuela and both are 72% cacao but they taste really very different. Then compare these to the astonishingly juicy, fruity Madagascan Sambirano and you will be blown away. I want to introduce everyone to real chocolate with these long forgotten flavours. People are so used to generic brown chocolate, they don’t realise that mainly what they are tasting is sugar, vanilla and lecithin, not the cacao at all!

 

My early life also meant that when it came to making chocolate, my natural instinct was to go back to the basic raw materials and to make it from scratch. So about 20 years ago, I was on my cocoa farm in Venezuela wanting to set up a chocolate factory in the UK, and everyone told me I should simply buy bulk liquid chocolate and remould it like other companies did. But this was not in my nature. I wanted to choreograph every step of the dance. So I ended up setting up the first ‘bean to bar’ chocolate factory in Britain for hundreds of years, to start with making just 100% cacao cylinders with no added sugar or milk or anything.

My cylinders are what I  use to make my Hot Chocolate. I have one religiously every morning made Aztec style with 100% cacao, water and a little sugar, so it is dairy free. It’s a wonderful caffeine free way to get a little energy boost and lift. The theobromine in cacao  stimulates your body to produce endorphins which is what makes you feel good after taking exercise. And it is slow release so you don’t get an unpleasant spike. It is quite powerful stuff, so you can drink it in smaller quantities than a milk hot chocolate – treat it a bit like an espresso. To make a more classic vegan hot chocolate just use an Oat Milk or similar with my Hot Chocolate powder which simply contains cocoa powder and raw cane sugar.

If you haven’t had dark chocolate before, I would always say to try my Las Trincheras 72 first. It has soft nutty notes and is gentle and welcoming. Some people get put off dark chocolate because they find it bitter. Often enough this is because people using lower quality beans give them a heavy roast (like some coffees) in order to give them a flavour – this is what creates the bitterness. I always give my beans a light roast – just enough to bring out the flavours.  If you like this, you could move on to my Dark Tasting Box which will take you on a journey to discover the different tastes of different beans and how I pair them with different ingredients in my flavoured bars. And of course you will get the incredible Japanese inspired Magnificent Creations. For me to join you in your tasting, virtually that is, watch my Tasting Videos.

I will sign off with a quick mention for my No Added Sugar bars, also vegan. These are my answer for the increasing number  of people wanting to reduce the sugar they eat, but don’t like the idea of artificial sweeteners. They are 100% cacao naturally sweetened with fruit and nuts and make wonderful afternoon snacks. The Pistachio Date and Raisin Hazelnut get their sweetness from the dried fruits, while lovers of the Pure Gold 100% Sur del Lago cacao bar will find Orange Almond more similar to that as it has less than 2% naturally occurring sugars.

This month’s Tasting Boxes have a low sugar theme, and have got the original version of these bars in them, called Anna’s Jewelled Bites… this has 50:50 cacao to fruit and nuts which is how my mother makes them. You have to do this by hand though, because it is too thick for the depositing machine.

Happy Veganuary, everyone!

MY NEW MONTHLY MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTION BOX…
WITH MAGNIFICENT CREATIONS

I have been planning this one for years and finally it’s ready to go. I’d like to introduce you to my long awaited Monthly Chocolate Subscription Box – letterbox size. That’s right, your favourite artisan chocolate bars in a glorious monthly chocolate delivery.

Each month I’ll pick 10 bars with a particular theme. We may explore cocoa beans from particular countries, particular flavour profiles, different sugar levels… the possibilities are endless. Most exciting is that two of these will be chocolates I’ve made from particularly unusual ingredients or rare beans. These will form a series of limited edition chocolates that won’t be sold in any shop. So the chocolate subscription boxis the only way you can get them!

This series of Magnificent Creations is what has been keeping me more than usually busy over the last few months. I have been reliving all my travels as I have been recreating all the incredible chocolates I have experimented with over the years. My trips have always been a great source of inspiration and discovery. On my travels I have found not just beans, but amazing fruits and spices, whether it be on a farm in the Colombian Massif or a cocktail bar in Tokyo.

For the first month I am going to transport you to Japan, the culinary mecca which blows me away with its astonishing palate of ingredients and obsessive perfectionism. Gen Yamamotos’ bar in Tokyo, opened my eyes to a myriad of ingredients and flavour combinations, all the fruits are freshly squeezed and spices freshly ground. This was where I first tasted Yuzu, which is quite unlike any other citrus fruit, more aromatic and floral, you could almost say other worldly. It was always going to be incredible in chocolate.

So how does this journey of chocolate discovery work? Simply choose how many months you want, the more months the more you save, and whether you want a box containing dark, milk and white chocolates, or an All Dark Chocolate Box – dairy free and suitable for vegans. Both have something for every mood and taste, but if you are still wanting more you can get 10% off everything at williescacao.com for the duration of your subscription.

The Chocolate Discovery box will take you journeying through the wonderful world of cacao. You’ll get a Flavour Map and they’ll be tasting notes, and each month I’ll make a Tasting Video that you can watch on Willie’s TV. I’ll be talking through all the chocolates, where the beans come from and how they’re made. You’ll become a real chocolate tasting expert!

So if you are looking for the perfect Christmas gift for a chocolate lover, here it is! With travel and the possibilities of getting out to see friends so limited, how great to be able to look forward to this little package dropping through your letterbox every month.

Viva Cacao!

 

LET’S GO VEGAN!
WILLIE’S CACAO VEGAN CHOCOLATES & GIFTS

At Willie’s Cacao, our customers know that, the focus is always on the quality and the purity of the ingredients in the chocolate. Simplicity is key and ancient processes are used to celebrate the natural flavours while enhancing the taste of the cocoa bean, without needing artificial or synthetic ingredients to do so.

As Willie uses the minimum amount of ingredients needed to create his delectable chocolate, in order for the single estate cacao to shine, a lot of Willie’s Cacao products are naturally vegan.

Here’s a quick summary of our best selling vegan chocolate and gifts, along with a few recipes so you can find what you need for your dietary needs with ease. There is no soya lecithin, and no palm oil, while many products have just a few ingredients, namely cacao and natural raw cane sugar, making them suitable for people with allergies.

The Best Vegan Chocolate Gift

Starting with our biggest and best vegan offering, this vegan hamper celebrates cacao while offering a plethora of generous contents to delight any recipient. A beautiful hamper to give at any time of the year, our deliciously dark vegan hamper is packed full of mouth watering chocolate that’s completely dairy free.

Vegan Hot Chocolate

Willie’s Cacao 52% Medellin Hot Chocolate won an IndyBest award when in its infancy. It is deliciously creamy and frothy with nut milks and soya milks and is made on antique cocoa butter presses to extract the unique and moreish flavour. It can be enjoyed hot or cold and is deliciously vegan.

100% Cacao Cylinders

Those of you who followed Willie on his journey on Channel 4, through Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory and The Chocolate Revolution will be familiar with the 100% Cacao cylinders, Willie’s signature product. Using a sterilised piece of pipe, Willie created the iconic shape and the cylinders are now available in Selfridges, Waitrose and many independent stores. The cylinder is versatile and can be used for a variety of dishes. It creates a delicious, energising hot chocolate when blended with hot water, it can be grated onto cereals and main meals as a condiment, and it can be used in a plethora of sweet and savoury meals. It’s delicious when added to curries, chilli, stews and soups, and rich and decadent when used in place of other chocolate in sorbets and cakes. It’s become a pantry staple for many who enjoy pure flavours, pure pleasure.

Pretty Perfect Praline Truffles

The dark praline truffles are completely vegan and have been named as the Best Vegan Chocolate Gift by many publications. Smooth and delicious, they are silky and irresistible while making an incredible gift! Now in new generous sizes as you told us that there were never enough in a box! You can find them on the website or in Waitrose and some great independent shops.

100% Cacao sweetened ONLY with Fruit and Nuts

This trio of bars is proving popular due to the purity and the no added sugar. 100% cacao has been coached for 21 days to created this silky, earthy chocolate that’s sweetened using fruit and nuts. Choose from incredible flavour combinations such as Pistachio and Date, Orange and Almond and Hazelnut and Raisin.

All completely vegan, and all completely delectable.

All dark chocolate bars

In fact from the 100% Pure Gold to the Las Trincheras, all Willie’s Cacao dark chocolate bars are vegan and dairy free. If you’re looking to follow a healthier lifestyle or you are vegan, you’ll find an array of delicious chocolate just waiting for you in our shop. We’ve added the vegan logo to all of our vegan products to make it easier for you to choose the chocolate that’s right for you.

Vegan Recipes

Willie has created a number of vegan recipes, both sweet and savoury, using our dark chocolate. Some of his vegan favourites are:

Cacao Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes

Cacao, Roasted Pepper and Chilli Harissa

Puy Lentil and Roast Tomato Salad

Gazpacho

Chocolate Sorbet

Do you have a vegan recipe you make using Willie’s Cacao chocolate? Please do let us know.

WHERE IS WILLIE HARCOURT-COOZE NOW?

Willie Harcourt-Cooze is fondly remembered for his two TV series Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory and The Chocolate Revolution on Channel 4 in 2009. In this series he started his journey, from Venezuela to Devon, on a mission to create  the world’s best  chocolate. He was determined to create a chocolate that was all about the bean, with no other ingredients, completely natural Being a purist, the first actual product he decided to launch was 100% cacao! Yes 100% cacao with no added sugar, what you would use for cooking and hot chocolate making. Viewers followed avidly as he sourced the right antique machines to perfectly process the bean gently in order to create his masterpiece. Many chewed fingernails as he went, cap in hand, to the bank for a loan to follow his passion and to bring the 100% cacao to the market. All of us celebrated as he pitched to retailers and received the best news, they would stock his chocolate! We all followed his journeys as he sourced the very best beans from Venezuela to Colombia, the long road trips, the anecdotes, the amusing stories, the vibrant infectious personality of Willie Harcourt-Cooze. Many of us bought his bestselling book The Chocolate Bible to recreate his unique chocolate recipes, and lots of us continued to search the shelves for developments in Willie’s Cacao chocolate, extensions of the delicious range, and new products to try, all sharing the ethos of being 100% natural using the very best beans in the world, and making the cocoa bean the hero of the bar.

What Happened Next?

Many fans and customers on social media have asked what happened next to Willie Harcourt-Cooze once the cameras stopped rolling. Lots of people have demanded that Willie comes back to the TV to share his adventures in the chocolate factory. What did happen next to Willie, did he find his new life plain sailing, or has he had a turbulent time as he’s grown Willie’s Cacao to house over 30 different products with over 25 loyal, passionate staff?

The Chicken Shed Grew

Willie’s undying passion for creating the best bean to bar single estate chocolate has never once waned, chocolate is his life and work, he is the ultimate chocolate pioneer. When the cameras stopped rolling, Willie continued at a hundred miles per hour, creating, tasting, developing, managing, selling, travelling, sourcing, producing, teaching and sharing his love of the cocoa bean. There have been many obstacles and Willie has tackled one at a time, from machine breakdowns, to bean deliveries, Willie has dealt with each one himself. As his product line grew and he developed more bars using different single estate beans from around the world, he shared the news that different beans have unique flavours and proved this with a selection of dark chocolate bars and 100% Cacao cylinders with specific beans from Columbia to Peru. He knew that, to ensure the quality of the beans and to guarantee good post harvest practices ie the fermenting and drying that he needed to practice direct trade with every cocoa farmer, and so he travelled the world building loyal relationships and sourcing the very best beans for his chocolate. As the Willie’s Cacao chocolate range grew, so did the factory and one chicken shed became two!

Willie Harcourt-Cooze Today

Today Willie can be found either in the factory in Devon inventing new products, such as his chocolate stock, his award winning hot chocolate and his Mexican mole, he never stops coming up with new ideas and using the best ingredients, he creates these kitchen products on a small scale on his collection of antique machines. He can also be found around the world as he sources the very best cocoa beans and spreads the word about the benefits and delicious taste of real chocolate. He also continues to discover new flavours and connections and goes beyond to bring the very best flavours from around the globe back to his factory in Devon. You can find out about a recent trip to visit one of the best Japanese tea farmers in Uji in the Matcha blog.

Willie never compromises on the quality of his ingredients and if he can’t find pure flavours, he will make his own. For instance, when creating the passionfruit bar, Willie could not locate passionfruit without malto dextrin in it and so went the extra mile to have pure passionfruit freeze dried with no added extras in order to use 100% natural ingredients in the popular bar.

In the factory you’ll find Willie either knee deep in nuts and bolts, as he manually fixes his antique chocolate machines, at his desk on the phone to growers, suppliers, distributors, usually wearing a hair net as he rushes from the factory to the office or elbow deep in chocolate as he develops new flavours, and experiments with new beans. If he’s lost, he’s easily found, just follow the unique Willie Harcourt-Cooze sound!

Abroad Willie avidly visits all the individual farms, often going off grid for days at a time, as he carefully checks on the cocoa beans and builds relationships with the cocoa farmers. He also attends many trade shows as he brings Willie’s Cacao chocolate to new audiences.

You can also find Willie live on Facebook regularly, where you can ask him questions about chocolate in real time. Follow the Willie’s Cacao Facebook page for regular updates and to view the videos.

We’ll have another update for you in ten year’s time!

 

THE MATCHA JOURNEY
FROM UJI TO UFFCULME

Willie has always known that the tea we drink in the UK is a poor imitation of tea how it’s supposed to be. By adding milk, and often sugar, we drown out the antioxidants and much of the flavour that gives tea it’s respect in Japan and China.

Matcha is the ultimate green tea, as it uses the entire leaf. The preparation is careful and considered, with crops being covered before harvest to encourage new shoots which provide the essential nutrients. Matcha is believed to help with a wide variety of diseases and health complaints from high blood pressure to cancer.

The Matcha Mousse Cake

With respect for the eminence of Matcha, and inspired by its taste, Willie created his infamous Matcha Mousse Cake and shared a lifestyle photograph of it on Twitter.

“After I shared the photo on Twitter, the wife of a tea master got in touch to invite me to Uji to try their ceremonial grade Matcha. I promised to make time to visit when travelling to Japan for the salon de chocolate. I believe in chance encounters, of tangents and unexpected opportunities. I was excited to see Matcha at the source and to find out more about this incredible tea.”

Matcha Mousse Cake

Matcha Mousse Cake

To Uji, With Love

Japanese architecture tends to favour the new and bold, as efficiency is revered and so older, historical buildings may be torn down if the aesthetics are damaged or they are not fulfilling the best purpose. This is why it was refreshing for Willie to find himself directed down a long winding lane, flanked by fields of green leaves, in a quaint, picturesque village.

The house itself was unremarkable but was a small boutique powerhouse for some of the world’s best Matcha.

Willie explains, “After the initial warm greetings, and a tour of the house and facilities, where they had grinders pummelling this organic green powder to the finest dust. A freezer room to preserve the purity and chambers to store the tea, I sat down to begin the ceremony of the tea tasting. The tea master’s wife was American and so she kindly translated, which meant we could have a fluid conversation without any language barriers. In China, a long time ago, I realised that the tea we drink, with milk and sugar, is a poor imitation of how it’s supposed to be. The taste of a soft black unadulterated tea is sublime. The Matcha I was presented with was clear, smooth. fresh, better than any Matcha I’d tasted before and eye watering expensive! It was obvious though, after tasting and seeing how this Matcha was grown and harvested that I couldn’t use anything less than this grade of Kotobuki if I was to create a new chocolate bar with it.”

Perfecting the Pairings

From the village south of Kyoto, Willie returned to the chocolate factory in Devon to begin the creation of the new bar. He wanted to celebrate the flavour, to put it on a pedestal and to ensure that it was respected, not only by the flavours paired with it but by all who tasted this new, highest grade Matcha bar.

Tempering Matcha

Tempering Matcha

In the meantime, others sent Willie Matcha to try which compounded his belief that he had tasted the very best. As with all of Willie’s creations, choosing a cheaper alternative was not an option, it never entered his mind. The quality of ingredients in Willie’s chocolate is paramount, regardless of the cost. If he is to make the finest chocolate, only the finest ingredients should partner with it. This is just a snippet of the strong ethos that drives Willie’s Cacao.

The Jewel in the Crown

Willie started with white chocolate, he is keen to point out that this wasn’t from laziness, but from a chocolatier’s ingrained understanding of pairing flavours. Willie’s Cacao white chocolate has a lot less sugar than conventional white chocolate, having the same low amount as the dark chocolate, yet Willie felt even this low amount seemed to cloud the flavour of the Matcha. That’s when he brought the sugar content of his white chocolate right down to 23% and found this plummet in the raw cane sugar used did indeed put the Matcha on a pedestal.

Willie's Cacao Matcha Bar

Willie’s Cacao Matcha Bar

Now known as a green jewel of a chocolate, the Matcha bar is the most popular of Willie’s Cacao bars at this moment. You can buy yours here.

COLOMBIA
VENEZUELAN BEAN TRIP DEC. 2017

I use the top c. 3% of the world’s cocoa beans, grown on individual farms, so like fine wines they all have beautiful, complex and unique flavours.

These single estate beans don’t just show up at the factory, someone has to go and find them! The first two weeks of December have been a whistle stop bean trip. London – Amsterdam – Panama – Bogota – Arauca – Bogota – Caracas – Rio Caribe – Choroni – Caracas – Paris – London, with 8 flights and 1000’s miles driving.

Since I buy all my beans directly from the farmers, I do this type of thing several times a year, it is always and adventure and something of an endurance test. This time a friend came with me, he passed with flying colours! We had planned meetings with various cacao farmers and less planned meetings with out of control buses and crocodiles.

Happily I got to spend a few all too short days on my farm at the end.

Bogota – Arauca

On the first morning we were up at 4am to catch the epic view over Bogota from the top of the cable car, before returning for a couple of cacao meetings and then off to Arauca, on the Venezuelan – Colombian border. That river is in fact the border.

This is an area in transition from growing coca – to cacao. Since the recent peace deal between the government and FARQ, tensions were clearly a lot lower than when I was there 18 months ago, but the tyre marks on tarmac air strips in the middle of nowhere still looked pretty recent. Happily the biggest surprise along the road was this road kill crocodile – it happens a lot apparently!

 

Arauca – Bogota

There are many farmers in this particular co-operative, so discussions were long. They have a number of different beans. The ones I get for my Los Llanos bars have beautiful red fruit notes. The crop is just getting underway, so it is a great time to visit. These are the fermentation boxes, where the beans and pulp are turned daily and reach temperatures of around 52℃ . This is the crucial step for the beans to develop the flavours and aromas that you get in the final chocolate.

This stage is typically missed out for the low grade beans used in industrial chocolate.

There was just time to stop for a roadside beer on the way out. Back to Bogota ready for a flight the next morning to Caracas.

Bogota – Caracas

Remarkably we got an incredible view of Choroni, my local town as we flew in, around the coast, to Venezuela. My farm is just out of the picture, high up on the left.

Rio Caribe

That 10 hour drive to Rio Caribe is one of my favourites – it isn’t hard to see why. I have been buying beans from the Francescis since I started making chocolate. The Rio Caribe Superior is the King of beans, with deep coffee and nut notes, I use it to make Milk of the Gods too. This time I was visiting to inspect a shipment they are just preparing. The bigger of the 2 annual crops was just coming in. Each bean is separately sorted before having their pulp-covered beans removed from the pods.

The metal ‘tray’ on the right is a bean cutter. This is one of the inspections you do to examine quality – size, fermentation, mould etc

Rio Caribe – Choroni

Another epicly long drive, made longer by 4 hours spent at a roadblock held by protesters. We ended up driving down onto the beach and along it for a couple of miles to avoid the worst of it! Closer to Choroni, in yet another jam, that white bus ran out of control into the back of all the stationary cars in front of us taking off our wing mirror as it passed.

Very close!

El Tesoro, my cacao farm in the Henri Pittier National Park in Venezuela

This is the bridge over the river, at the entrance to my farm. I managed to spend 3 precious days there, including a 6 hour walk up into the cloud forest fuelled of course by hot chocolate!

Walking the farm

This is Ricardo who has worked for me for over 20 years cutting into the Baca tree to get the extraordinary white liquid that tastes and behaves exactly like milk. And high up in the cloud forest, way higher than you would usually find cacao trees, one venerable old tree has survived. It had one lone pod on it.

Less welcome were the patches of deforestation where people had come in and burnt whole acres to make way for planting banana plants. It is hard times in Venezuela, but destroying pristine jungle in one of the world’s great national parks is not alright.

Choroni, my local town, the one you could see out of the aeroplane

In a magical cloud of butterflies! Where did they come from? They don’t have these in Devon!

The beach at Choroni

Just time for a morning at the beach. Downtown in Choroni things are much better than in much of Venezuela as they the sea and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The fishermen are out catching the fish that are feeding the town. Big ones too!

Heading back to The Chocolate Factory

All too soon I am heading back to Caracas. Without trips like this there would be no chocolate. Making the best chocolate relies completely on having the best beans. Visiting the farmers, following tangents, talking to them about their post harvest fermentation and drying, all of this is critical and I have to say one of my really great pleasures.

CHRISTMAS CHOCOLATE HAMPERS

 

These are completely unique chocolate hampers, for people wanting to discover what real chocolate is all about. I  make it all ‘bean to bar’ from the best single estate cacaos in the world, but more than that, each hamper contains some of my real treasures, things I make by hand or on a micro scale on antique machines.

So many discoveries! Cacao Nib Brandy for making Cacao Champagne Cocktails, Single Estate Hot Chocolate and Hazelnut Chocolate Spread. I am constantly experimenting with all things chocolate and until recently I just made all these just for my family and friends.

Here they are, making star appearances in the hampers!

SWEET DREAMS HAMPER – GIFT FOR PAMPERING

hazelnut-spread

These are our most popular hampers probably because no one can resist the Hot Chocolate and the Hazelnut Chocolate Spread. What better Christmas treats!

The hot chocolate is 50% Chulucanas dark chocolate and I press the powder on antique cocoa butter presses. For the spread I roast the hazelnuts myself so they are totally fresh and just mix them with chocolate – no fats or artificial anything here!

 

CHEF’S TREASURES – THE COOK’S GIFT

Chef's Treasures- Chocolate Cooking Hamper

There is everything in here that a chocolate loving cook could want. They can experiment with savoury chocolate cooking with my 100% cylinder, or make hot chocolate with it. There are couverture drops for cakes and desserts, and my favourite THE MOLE!

Normally Mole takes hours and hours to cook – but here I have refined all 15 ingredients into the 100% cacao so all you have to do is brown some chicken, add tomatoes, stock and the mole cacao.

…….. and I put in some Praline Truffles as the Chef’s reward!

 

CHRISTMAS PRESENTS MADE EASY – SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

So there you are, completely unique chocolate hampers, containing treasures you can’t find anywhere else. For cooks, party people and chocolate lovers wanting only the best…have a look at our complete collection, and don’t forget El Grande if you REALLY want to impress!

Single estate chocolate discovery, , tasting pack

THE CHOCOLATE REVOLUTION

Join a Live chocolate tasting with Willie & the great British chefs

GET YOUR INCREDIBLE VALUE TASTING COLLECTION

Great British Chefs

I remember quite clearly my first taste of real chocolate – it was on my first visit to El Tesoro, the cacao farm high in the Venezuelan cloud forest that would become my home. We made a hot chocolate with roughly ground cacao, boiling water and a touch of raw cane sugar from the mountain. It awakened my mind. Not only did I feel energised, but I had a real sense of wellbeing and the depth of flavour was incredible. My eyes were suddenly opened to what real chocolate was all about.

Chocolate has become a sugary fatty confection, a million miles away from health giving cacao, which boasts some 400 different flavours and was worshipped for centuries for the way it makes you feel. It has become my mission to open other people’s eyes to real chocolate… to start The Chocolate Revolution!

So I have teamed up with Great British Chefs to do an exclusive Facebook Live Chocolate Tasting, and have created a limited edition Single Estate Discovery Collection of 8 bars specially for the event. Click through to get it for just £8 including P&P (normal price £16 + P&P), when you enter the code TASTE8 at the checkout.

THE FACEBOOK LIVE CHOCOLATE TASTING

This will take place on March 14th at 6.30pm. In this live streamed tasting extravaganza I will join Ollie Lloyd of Great British Chefs, and we will chat about the best way to taste chocolate and why artisan and mass produced chocolates are so different. Together we will try a variety of dark, milk and white chocolates and see the astonishing differences in flavour between some of the World’s Great Single Estate Cacaos.  You can be tasting along at home, and there will be plenty of time for chat and questions at the end.

All you will need is The Single Estate Discovery Collection, a glass of water and maybe you could get a bar of some other dark chocolate and so you can see  just how much soya lecithin and vanilla alter the flavour.

To join in visit https://business.facebook.com/events/213520135876508/  and tick “interested / going”.

THE CHOCOLATES

 

We’ll be tasting these chocolates. You’ll see how very different the Las Trincheras and Rio Caribe ones are even though they are both 72% dark chocolates from Venezuela.  That is why single estate is important, not just single origin. Then you’ll taste the difference between cacaos with a generally more nutty profile and ones that are fruity. You can even taste these type of differences in the Milk chocolates.  Finally the incredibly pure El Blanco will make an appearance – a particularly good way to taste the lack of soya lecithin, which is the hall mark of industrial chocolate.

Pure Gold 100% Sur del Lago Cacao, Venezuela: absolutely nothing but pure cacao, intense but remarkably smooth

Las Trincheras 72,Venezuela:: a nutty 72% chocolate perfection for those who are new to or thought they didn’t like dark chocolate.

Rio Caribe 72, Venezuela: this contains the same cacao percentage using beans from the same country as the Las Trincheras, but with a very different flavour profile

Chulucanas 70, Peru: a fruity dark chocolate with a strong raisin, plummy flavour. 70% is the classic ratio of cacao to sugar that brings out the bean’s natural flavour.

Sambirano 71, Madagascar: another fruity dark chocolate but one that is completely different to the Peruvian above; think bright, fresh summer fruits.

Milk of the Gods 44, Rio Caribe: a milk chocolate made using single estate Venezuelan beans with a beautifully nutty rounded flavour.

Milk of the Stars Surabaya 54: an Indonesian bean made into milk chocolate with a slightly higher percentage of cacao. Despite being milk chocolate, this bar still contains less sugar than your average  70% dark chocolate.

El Blanco: Raw cane sugar from Barbados and the natural flavours of the non-deodorised cocoa butter is all that’s needed to give flavour to this bar without a hint of vanilla in sight. It’s also much less sweet than other white chocolate.

In the pack you will also have one of my Flavour Maps showing all the different flavour profiles you find in cacao and a map showing of where all the beans come from.

>See you there and Viva Cacao!

HOW TO JOIN & GET THE CHOCOLATE

Follow live at 6.30pm on March 14 th
To save the date and get a reminder visit https://www.facebook.com/events/213520135876508/ and tick “interested / going”

To get the 8 chocolates go to https://www.williescacao.com/product/single-estate-chocolate-discovery and use coupon TASTE8 to pay just £8 including P&P for the chocolates RRP £16. Otherwise some are available in Sainsbury, Waitrose, Ocado and independents.

For more information go to http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/features/willies-cacao-chocolate-tasting

INTRODUCING THE TREASURE TROVE

This is a very big week in The Chocolate Factory- the launch of my Chocolate Treasure Trove. Have a look at www.williescacao.com/chocolate/#willies-kitchen, and you will find a vast collection everything chocolate, made with the best of the best ingredients: hazelnut chocolate spread, praline truffles, drinks and ground breaking ingredients.

The Willie’s Cacao chocolates that you buy in the shops have always been the tip of my chocolate iceberg. I am in fact constantly experimenting. It may be sparked by some ingredient I discover on my travels, or by trying out new machines, but the kitchen is always humming with small batches of one thing or another. Up to now I have been giving them to family and friends, but from now on I am going to sell them in small quantities, just on the website.

 

My kids’ favourite is the HAZELNUT CHOCOLATE SPREAD (300ml £7.99). This is one mind blowingly delicious creation. Peruvian Chulucanas milk chocolate and roasted Piedmont hazelnuts with their soft, round distinctive flavour. If you can resist eating it all out of the pot, melt over pancakes and warm toast, make milk shakes or eat with ice-cream.

 

 

Have a great time delving into my treasures

Viva Cacao!

 

 

PURE CHOCOLATE FROM THE BBC

The rise of chocolate purists!

The BBC investigates real chocolate:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21847447

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