The Roast + Conch of cocoa into chocolate – here in London!

Cocoa beans roasting - Roast + ConchEarlier this year Hotel Chocolat opened a new kind of chocolate store in Covent Garden. Angus hinted at it in his interview with us last October and now it’s finally here for all the world to see and enjoy.

I stopped in the day it opened and posted a few pictures to Facebook. Now here’s a little video I took on the same day:

Upstairs, in the “shop” part, the beans get roasted in a clear tube (not normally how it happens but much more interesting to watch), then they travel downstairs to the cafe, where they are winnowed, ground and conched.  Winnowing is the process of separating the pieces of cocoa beans (nibs) from their shell. On a grand scale this is usually done by oscillating the nibs on a wire mesh conveyer belt above a set-strength vacuum. The shell is lighter than the nibs, meaning they go in different directions. Simples.

Cocoa to Chocolate - Roast + ConchGrinding and then conching is all part of making the chocolate silky smooth and also removing some of the acidity. Conching is continuous beating of the molten chocolate inside a metal drum. This process causes the particles to refine as well as most of the acidic notes (leftover from the fermentation) to evaporate, leaving a delicious, rounded, chocolatey flavour.

The Chocolate Making Equipment at Roast + Conch

At Roast + Conch you can taste the difference between bars conched for 60 hours, 90 hours and 120 hours. And you can taste the difference.  I think it helps to highlight how much every stage of the cocoa (& chocolate) production process can affect the final product.  To me it helps justify why the best tasting chocolate also costs more.

Instead of a shot of espresso you can get your energy drink fix with lattes and “cappuccinos”  made with a shot of freshly conched chocolate instead.  Have it alongside one of the freshly baked chocolate treats or a savoury crepe made with, of course, chocolate.

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We’ve got an App – get your chocolate fix anywhere!

Seeing as it was Dom who did all the clever app work I think it’s ok if I brag about our exciting new mobile app! It’s available for iPhones and Android (for details on how to get it go here:  )

We are still working to add more shops to this site and, therefore, the app and welcome any suggestions you might have!

Now you will always know how close (or far away…) you are from chocolate.  Isn’t that exciting?! It’s much easier than using the website on your phone (which, I discovered on Sunday,  inconveniently won’t reveal the shops behind the little markers on the map).

Happy Chocolate hunting!

Thanks :-)

Jen x

P.S. If you do get the app please do take a second to rate it and if you have any suggestions for how we can improve it or any shops we’re missing, let us know!

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Tasting La Gelatiera

WCG La Gelatiera

This week I’ve spent time talking to several men who are incredibly passionate about food and so inspiring to speak with, Marc & Kim from Demarquette, Nick of Rude Health and Willie Harcourt-Cooze.

Today I met more passionate foodie men (and a woman). Antonio, Stephane and Simona are friends who met through the randomness of house shares several years ago and four months ago opened La Gelatiera in New Row, Covent Garden.  It is a gorgeous little shop. They kindly invited me and Dom to visit for a tasting.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but who says no to free ice cream? What I found was owners incredibly passionate about making the best food they can with the best possible ingredients.

Most of their sourcing is through the Slow Food Association. Antonio is the chief ice cream maker and Simona, who came in just before we left, comes most evenings after she finishes her day job, to bake the brioche and biscotti and other fine non-frozen treats. They are mostly recipes of her grandmother. Antonio’s grandfather used to have an ice cream parlour in Italy and he’s devoured books on chemistry written by other ice cream makers to get a scientific approach to the best ice cream.

The milk comes from Jersey cows and isn’t pastuerised or homogenised before it arrives so it keeps the good proteins as well as making a better flavour.  They don’t actually buy any chocolate for any of their wide range of chocolate offerings, preferring to purchase the cocoa mass, cocoa butter and cocoa powder separately so they can control the sugar and not have any soy lecitihin that most chocolate manufacturers use. They refuse to sell water because it “is free from the tap and shouldn’t be sold” and also because, so I learned today, the “dry residue” that is mentioned by law on all water bottles is higher than it is in tap water and apparently bad for your kidneys.  I’ve never heard this before and am yet to research it further but I love that Antonio cares so much to ensure that what they serve at La Gelatiera is good for you in as many ways as possible.  The coffee beans currently come from a social project in Italy, they are roasted within a prison.

WCG La Gelatiera chocolate bread cake

None of these ethics override the importance of taste. Which I know because they were generous with their samples and we tasted everything with chocolate and a few other things besides. Antonio asked me “so, no more desserts for you this week after this?”. Ha. He obviously doesn’t know me well yet! We did leave completely satiated of sweet things (for the afternoon…).  The levels of sweetness in the ice cream and desserts varies and most are not sickly sweet.  For those who are giving into a sugar craving, the chocolate salami or the salty caramel ice cream would definitely satisfy.

The chocolate gelato, one of the first things we tasted, was rich and almost pudding like with just the right balance of sweetness. Delicious. The version with chilli had just the perfect amount of (fresh) chilli to warm your mouth without burning it. I have two favourite, must-try things from the afternoon. The tartufo which they are just about to launch (you will be able to book one hour sessions to enjoy one with your lover for Valentine’s) and the Dolce Amore, an indulgent chocolate mousse made with an Italian liqueur, butter, eggs and cocoa mass and topped with flaked almonds.

WCG La Gelatiera chocolate dolce amore

Dolce Amore

WCG La Gelatiera chocolate tartufo

The Tartufo
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Oatso Sexy Hot Chocolate

Yuh huh.

This morning I started the day with an oat hot chocolate. Sound strange? It’s surprisingly good. I was turned to it by Nick Barnard of Rude Health and Marc Demarquette. They co-hosted an event on Monday to shout about the sexiness of oats and chocolate.  

Chocolate, yes, easily understood. Nick made a firm case for oats too, regaling us with tales of his challenge to the Scots for the title of Champion Porridge Maker at the World Spurtle Championships in Scotland, whilst making us porridge. First with rolled oats, then with oatmeal, the authentic Scottish way.

Video: Making porridge the authentic Scottish way

The oatmeal version was part of the special dessert Nick and Marc prepared for the competition. A chocolate cup filled with porridge and topped with hot salted caramel.  The hot caramel causes the cup to melt and it all mixes into one delicious chocolatey mess.

Demarquette and Rude Health dessert

The oat hot chocolate we were greeted with as we arrived. I didn’t notice straight away it was made with oat milk.  Maybe because they were injecting it with shots of Scotland’s finest whisky… And topping it with vanilla cream. Oh that was a nice way to end a cold January Monday.

Oat hot chocolate Demarquette and Rude Health

I made my oat hot chocolate this morning with my Blendtec which is quite amazing. You grind the oats in it, add water and blend further then throw in some chocolate (Willie’s 100% Venezuelan Black today) and put it on the hot chocolate cycle. It’s thick to rival a Spanish hot chocolate. It tastes ultra indulgent and is full of all sorts of good things. I don’t really know how you make it without a Blendtec.  You could buy oat milk from a health food shop or Wholefoods.  I think some supermarkets sell it too.  I’m totally converted to making porridge with oatmeal too, unfortunately that’s also quite difficult to find… Well, at least good chocolate isn’t thanks to this map. ;-)

Demarquette and Rude Health porridge

Nick from Rude Health making porridge

Marc has created a special Valentine’s heart made with puffed oats and praline.  It’s surprisingly moreish. Go get it.

Video: Marc Demarquette shows how to make the salted caramel

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An Interview With Franck Morin

In the last of our video interviews from Salon du Chocolat in Paris, we talked to French chocolate maker Franck Morin. Based in the south of France, Morin’s grandfather opened Chocolaterie Morin (shop page) in 1958. Unusually for a bean-to-bar chocolate maker, they also make, truffles, bonbons and other sweets.

Morin works closely with farmers and other chocolatiers (such as London’s Marc Demarquette) to produce bean-to-bar chocolate, so the chances are if you’re a lover of fine chocolate you’ve already tried their chocolate, even if you didn’t realise.

Watch the full interview below to find out more about one of our favourite chocolate makers.

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