Let’s Go Vegan – Willie’s Cacao Vegan Chocolate and 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.

Deliciously Dark Vegan Hamper

IndyBest 52% Medellin Hot Chocolate

Now available on the shelves in Holland and Barrett, this hot drinking chocolate created by Willie 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.

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 of the Dark Chocolate

In fact from the 100% Pure Gold to the Las Trincheras, all of Willie’s Cacao dark chocolate is 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 regular goes live on Facebook with chocolate recipes and in the future he will create some more vegan recipes for you to watch and cook along with. Until then, please do join us on Facebook and Instagram and take a look at the following vegan recipes we have right here on the website.

Cacao Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes

Cacao, Roasted Pepper and Chilli Harissa

Puy Lentil and Roast Tomato Salad


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.

How to Have Your Own Chocolate Tasting at Home

Chocolate tasting is an ideal way to introduce yourself and your friends to the magical world of real chocolate. Melt into a world of adventure by familiarising yourself with the different single estates and beans, and discover the various flavour notes of real cacao, real chocolate.

A chocolate tasting can consist of one person or twenty people, it’s entirely up to you. Tasting alone is preferred by some, as you don’t need to share the chocolate!

Arm Yourself with a Flavour Map

Our flavour map (or wheel) is a handy guide to help you navigate the world of chocolate and work out which of the 400 odd sumptuous flavour notes you prefer. Although there are 7 broad flavour types, we have tried not to be too specific within this, as every person’s palette is different and you may taste hints that your friends may not.

Flavour map

The seven flavour types are:

  • Roasted
  • Nutty
  • Spicy
  • Lively
  • Fruity
  • Earthy
  • Floral

By the end of your tasting session, you’ll discover which profile best suits your tastes and your personality. Will you be fruity or nutty, lively or spicy or will you love them all?

Start with our 100% Pure Gold Cacao

Our Pure Gold, 100% Sur del Lago Cacao is the ideal starting point. You always start a tasting with the darkest chocolate. For those who don’t like dark chocolate, it may be a little too much,  but you will also be surprised that there’s no bitterness, as you’ve no doubt come to expect from a dark chocolate. Even though it’s 100% cacao with no sugar, just cacao and , it’s still incredibly smooth and wonderfully delicious.


Go nutty in Venezuela

If you thought you didn’t like dark chocolate, these famous Venezuelan single estates cacaos are here to change your mind. Taste the difference between the Rio Caribe and Las Trincheras, (discuss with your friends) and then compare your findings with our flavour map. What is so amazing is that they are both 72% cacao, both come from Venezuela and yet they taste quite different.  Say goodbye to any preconceptions you had about bitter, vanilla laden dark chocolate. You’ve just become a chocolate connoisseur!

After these you can try the Peruvian Chulucanas 70 and the Madagascan Sambirano 71. What do you think, the same or different?

Moving on with a Milk

Now let’s move on to Milk of the Gods and the Milk of the Stars. These could be quite unlike any milk chocolates you’ve ever tasted before as it is most unusual to find such great single estate beans made into milk chocolate. As you’ve now come to expect, the characteristic flavour notes from the cacao still shine through. The beans do the talking here. , as There are no additives, it’s simply milk, cacao and raw cane sugar  and natural cocoa butter.  The Milk of the Stars is especially remarkable. It has such a high % of cacao (54% vs c. 25% in most commercial milk chocolates) that it has less added sugar than a 70% dark chocolate.

The Grande Finale with El Blanco

Most white chocolate tastes of vanilla and sugar, this El Blanco however, tastes of white chocolate, the way it should be. Let it melt slowly in your mouth, and you’ll catch gentle flavour notes from natural (not deodourised) cocoa butter and the raw cane sugar. Happily these aren’t overpowered by sweetness as we only add the same amount of sugar as we do to a 70% dark chocolate.

You’re Ready to Tell the World

Now you’re a chocolate connoisseur, educated on the different flavour profiles of the world’s great single estate cacaos, you’re ready to tell the world of your new identity. Before you do, check out our shop with a dizzying range of milk, dark and white chocolates, from the Sambirano you now love (admit it!) to an El Blanco Raspberries and Cream.

There’s a chocolate for every palette, every mood and every moment with real single estate cacaos. Let us know what your favourite is. Welcome, to a whole new world of adventure.


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.


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