The journey of a chocolate maker

From simple curiosity to hobby to full time business, my bean to bar making journey has been a whirlwind.

I have always loved food, its origins and the care that goes into producing the finest delicious delights. Chocolate is no exception, though I knew very little about where it comes from and had never really thought about how it is created, until I was sitting in the audience of a ‘how to flavour chocolate’ demonstration. Someone asked the chef at the end of the demo, ‘but how do you make your chocolate’, to which she had to confess she just buys it all in ready-made and then simply melts it down. This got me thinking, how many companies actually do make their own chocolate, and if not, then why not? I was surprised to find in the UK that we only had a couple of actual chocolate makers, and one of those was Cadburys…

So with curiosity and a very loose amount of information from old books and google, I stupidly thought, ‘well how hard could it be?’

I managed to source a couple of kilos of Nicaraguan Cacao beans at the London chocolate show and set about making my own chocolate. I roasted the beans in the oven, cooled with a desk fan, cracked them with a rolling pin, de-shelled them individually by hand, winnowed with a hairdryer, and lastly stuck them in a blender to become chocolate. However, it didn’t all go to plan, and after blowing up two blenders in my attempts and only managing to produce a very gritty paste it quickly became apparent that producing chocolate from scratch was no easy feat.

Despite my initial failed attempts, I was determined to create something that at least resembled chocolate. I had read that old factories used to use large stone grinders called melangeurs to refine their beans into smooth liquid chocolate, and although they were way out of my price range I did manage to find a small Indian spice grinder on amazon that looked basically the same…

Although not what it was designed for, and possibly not what it should be used for, my little indian spice grinder worked perfectly, I had finally created Chocolate!

What began as a simple side project, started to consume me as my passion for making my own bean to bar chocolate grew. My chief tasters of family and friends were enjoying what I was making, and as word got around people asked if they could buy my chocolate, which was a bizarre concept considering how it all started. Then in August 2015, the owners of a now very popular coffee shop called Bond St Coffee approached me and wanted to buy and use my chocolate for their hot chocolates!

So launched J.Cocoa.

At J.Cocoa, I now make internationally award winning single origin bean to bar chocolate, in Hassocks, West Sussex near Brighton. I source only the finest cocoa beans from around the world, directly trading with cocoa famers and growers to ensure they receive a true premium for their crops of heritage heirloom cacao varieties, which not only helps to guarantee exceptional quality, but also goes back into education and community projects.

Every chocolate has its own unique flavour profile, naturally occurring through the use of different cocoa bean varieties, grown in different countries, regions, soil and climates. 

Each cacao variety is carefully crafted from scratch by myself with its own individual production profile, taking 10-15 days to roast, crack, grade, winnow, stone-grind, and conch before being hand tempered on marble, creating delicious chocolates with their own distinctive and exceptional flavours.

It is a very complex time-consuming process, and changing one small aspect within it will yield a completely different end product, which at times has been a nightmare. But I do it because I love it, and I want others to enjoy what I make.

Only organic ingredients are added to my chocolate, with only 2-3 ingredients in my dark chocolate bars. I never use emulsifiers, strongly believing that for great chocolate, Less Is More.

I have designed all my chocolate bar packaging to be zero waste, so it is glueless, recyclable, biodegradable and compostable. By end of 2018 I will have moved all my other packaging to zero waste alternatives as it is very important to me to try and protect our planet.

After all, it’s the only one with chocolate on it.