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April 27, 2007
This article appeared in the Guardian recently. Does anyone know any more about this guy?
Making the best chocolate means being in control of every step in the process. Tim Dowling talks to the first Englishman since the Cadburys to attempt it
Saturday April 7, 2007
While most of the world is content to gorge on ordinary, mass-produced chocolate, a few producers are going to extraordinary lengths to create something special. Because there are only so many variables in the production of cacao, maintaining control over every step is the secret to success at the high end of the market.
Here in the UK, that high end is wide open. Virtually all British chocolatiers are actually using chocolate from one of the big European producers. “There’s no one in England,” says entrepreneur William “Wille” Harcourt-Cooze, who is in the early stages of producing his own specialist chocolate in the UK. “You’ve got Cadbury’s, and you will have Willie.”
When producing chocolate for the connoisseur market, the bean itself is most important. Unfortunately the industry is dominated by the hardy but inferior forastero variety. The more sought-after criollo currently represents just 4% of world production, so it is almost impossible to make chocolate without resorting to blending.
Recently, however, single bean chocolate has begun to gain favour, particularly with small, boutique producers. Amedei of Tuscany sells a limited-edition chocolate made solely from the porcelana bean, and other producers make bars featuring the caronero. Heritage and “recovered” cacao sub-varieties, such as Domori’s puertomar, are also beginning to appear.
Beyond that is single-sourcing then single-estate, and then a combination of the two. Harcourt-Cooze aims to be the UK’s first real grower-producer. Eleven years ago he bought an old cacao plantation in Venzuela and planted 10,000 criollo trees. Now he is poised to receive his first container-load of criollo beans from his own harvest. In as little as six weeks he plans to start making chocolate at his refurbished factory space in Devon. His approach to chocolate-making is not so much single-estate as single-minded. “I’m not only growing it, I’m not only selecting beans from neighbouring farms, but I’m controlling the finished product,” he says.
Cacao beans, once dried, are then roasted, crushed, winnowed to separate nib from shell, ground, refined and finally “conched” – in which heated chocolate is agitated in tanks to exorcise some of the bitterness, sometimes for days. Big manufacturers have various ways of speeding the process up.
There is some contention as to how refined superior chocolate needs to be – Amedei chocolate, for instance, is subjected to a five-roller granite refiner, leaving crystals of no bigger than 15 microns across – your mouth can only detect grains larger than 18 microns – while the industry standard is about 30. Harcourt-Cooze cannot afford the sort of equipment used to produce the finest Italian chocolate, but he isn’t for the moment, he says, trying to compete on that level: “My chocolate will be the most unprocessed chocolate in England.”
The finished product is usually a blend of cocoa solids with sugar added, vanilla, most likely a bit of extra cocoa butter and soya lecithin as a stabiliser. The better the bean and more exacting the processing, the less sugar required. Typically fine chocolate will have 70% solids and upwards, and many of the upstart fine chocolate makers, such as Domori, have a policy of not adding cocoa butter.
William Harcourt-Cooze intends to go one better by producing a bar which is 100% cacao for use by high-end chefs and chocolatiers. He admits he has gone to “extreme lengths” to produce something heretofore unseen in Britain, but that, he says, is the whole point. “I’m heading straight for the most interesting chefs of England,” he says.
The four best chocolatiers in the UK
L’Artisan du chocolat
Founder Gerard Coleman is the only British producer using his own chocolate, which is manufactured at his Kent atelier. 89 Lower Sloane Street, London SW1W 8DA. http://www.artisanduchocolat.com
Paul A Young Fine Chocolates
Young is the winner of best new chocolate shop in the academy of chocolate world awards. Everything is made by hand on site. 33 Camden Passage, Islington, London N1 8EA, 020 7424 5750
The Chocolate Society
The society, a commercial organisation, is Valrhona distributor in the UK. It has two shops with cafes in London and online shopping service. Shepherd Market, London W1J 7QN, Elizabeth Street, London SW1W 9NZ. http://www.chocolate.co.uk
Curley opened his shop in 2004, and won an award for best British chocolatier two years later. 10 Paved Court, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 1LZ, 020 8332 3002
The four best places to buy bars: http://www.chocolatetradingco.com, www. seventypercent.com, Waitrose, Selfridges
April 20, 2006
I have talked with Willie a few times. As far as I know everything about him in the article is accurate. He owns a farm down in the Choroni region of Venezuela that I just missed being able to visit when I was in the area. His goal is not selling retail, but wholesale to chefs and chocolatiers, like the article says. Of course I might make the argument that when someone says Criollo, in the sense of genetically pure Criollo, that it should be taken with a grain of salt, but the stock that he has planted is largely of the same genetics as a lot of the trees in Chuao as I understand it, so I would expect him to be turning out chocolate of very good quality. I haven’t tried anything he has made yet, but I look forward to it.
October 13, 2009
Originally posted by Alan
I have talked with Willie a few times. … He owns a farm down in the Choroni region of Venezuela that I just missed being able to visit when I was in the area. His goal is not selling retail, but wholesale to chefs and chocolatiers
Choroni? Very exciting! I’m a fan of the Aragua region as a chocolate source in general – so the prospect of a new Aragua is always interesting.
But as for not selling retail, [:(] The problem is this: we have no guarantees that any of the people to whom it is sold will either make it available in pure form or disclose its origin. This diminishes the exposure either the origin or the manufacturer have, especially to the public, and hence knowledge or appreciation of either. It’s analogous to a potentially great masterwork painting stored in a vault instead of on display at a museum.
Originally posted by onehundredpercent
This article appeared in the Guardian recently…
There is some contention as to how refined superior chocolate needs to be – Amedei chocolate, for instance, is subjected to a five-roller granite refiner, leaving crystals of no bigger than 15 microns across – your mouth can only detect grains larger than 18 microns – while the industry standard is about 30.
Well, either the Guardian or their source clearly have some facts wrong because as we know, Amedei’s chocolate does have a detectable grain to it. I suspect it’s the estimation of human limit on particle size detectability that’s the problem: chocolate doesn’t seem truly perfectly smooth until down around 10 micron sizes. I find a lot of investigators, both journalistic and scientific, consistently underestimate the capacities of human sensory systems, as when an HP graphics researcher told me flatly that people cannot detect resolutions better than 4000*3000 at normal viewing distance, or better still, when the representative of Alcoa claimed that the difference in reflectivity between the 2 sides of alumninium foil is too small to be detectable by the human eye – a fact empirically refutable by everyday experience.
Harcourt-Cooze cannot afford the sort of equipment used to produce the finest Italian chocolate, but he isn’t for the moment, he says, trying to compete on that level: “My chocolate will be the most unprocessed chocolate in England.”
I wonder what this means? Minimal conch? Coarser particle size? Less control over roast? It would be nice to get some better info here.
The four best chocolatiers in the UK
Now here’s fodder for debate….
The four best places to buy bars: www.chocolatetradingco.com, www. seventypercent.com, Waitrose, Selfridges
Can’t resist a comment here: Waitrose and Selfridges? Not IMHO. They seem to have, in the main, pretty high-volume producers.
September 5, 2004
Does anyone have this person’s William “Wille” Harcourt-Cooze email or contact details? As far as i understand he is producing from beans to liquor, which will be a challenge to sell as not many chocolatiers can handle liquor and certainly not restaurants. But in our case, it would be great as we can make from liquor to bar and would be happy to disclose where it is from…
If you know how to contact him, let me know
October 11, 2006
I listened to a talk by him about two years ago I am sure you can get his details from http://www.homechocolatefactory.com as they organised the event
March 3, 2008
I think it’s fascinating how Willie has taken the rustic process that cacao growers use to make “panela de cacao” – which you can buy from roadside stalls in the cacao growing areas of Venezuela – and brought it to England.
The programme is generating loads of excitement and I can’t wait for the next installment.
For the person wanting Willie’s details, try: email@example.com
June 23, 2007
I think his chocolate will be on sale in Selfridges in it’s 100% form. Nothing on their site as yet, but Willies website is http://www.venezuelanblack.com
I’ve emailed him to ask if he would be willing to supply a small independent chocolatier like myself…have to wait and see!Thrilling to see it all on TV though. It really brings home the difficulties of growing and producing cocoa, and hopefully will help inform the general public about “real” chocolate. Can’t wait for next week’s episode!
October 13, 2009
Originally posted by Gracie
I think his chocolate will be on sale in Selfridges in it’s 100% form.
I can confirm that. He’s got 3 different chocolates: Hacienda el Tesoro, Carenero Superior, and Rio Caribe Superior. All come in an unusual billet form, not necessarily the best for straight tasting but good for grating, which to judge by the recipes within the wrapper is a major anticipated application.
I tested the el Tesoro and Carenero (Rio Caribe to follow shortly). Both look externally well-tempered, but the temper isn’t even; when you cut into the billet it has the look of a log, with alternating bands of colour. It looks like the chocolate is being poured in and then cooled in the whole billet, resulting in banding as it slowly crystallises from outside to the inside.
el Tesoro has a superb aroma, a mix of raspberry and chocolatey with some nutty hints. A slight whiff of vinegar suggests pretty aggressive ferment and relatively minimal conche, but I do get the impression that there is some conching being done here. I wouldn’t call this simply straight liquor by any means. Meanwhile, the flavour starts very well with blackberries and cream, but then turns very bitter indeed and rather woody. I think even longer ferment as well as a heavier roast might help this chocolate somewhat. The news articles hint that the texture will be poor but I didn’t find any overt problems with it; while it might not be as smooth as, say, Cluizel, it’s well within a typical industry chocolate and is nicely creamy as is typical for a 100%. Overall it’s a reasonable effort, although Willie needs to work on taming that bitterness which is decidedly aggressive.
The Carenero is in marked contrast in aroma, very spicy and cinnamon. This is characteristic of the bean and bodes well. Hints of lime also appear along with coconut, making the chocolate very tropical overall in feel. Flavour is better still, powerfully chocolatey at the beginning, then moving to cinnamon, finishing with a beefy finish a bit similar to Domori. It’s rougher in texture than the el Tesoro, but not by much, and still well within acceptable limits. I think this one is better than the el Tesoro and needs very little work, a near-textbook effort. Maybe a shadow less roasting time might be even more achieved.
Thus, so far, so good: this is excellent chocolate by any standards. I think it would be a good base, too, for chocolatiers looking to source it in order to make their own bars starting from a halfway point. I’d like to see what could be done by sweetening it to a 70% point. It’s got a lot of potential, and I think we can raise a toast to Willie’s success. Could it be that England is the next chocolate hotspot?
June 11, 2007
July 31, 2006
October 13, 2009
Any chance of arranging anything outside of London – I’d love to attend the monthly tastings – particularly to try the Venezuelan Black – but no chance of getting down to London then.
June 27, 2009
Need travel advice?
Starting to plan the summer vacation on the east coast. So, I am looking for fun destinations, close to where I live. Using the
<a href=http://www.tripcart.com/Road-Trip-Planner-New-England-Index.html>New England Road Trip Planner</a> I found <a href=http://www.tripcart.com/usa-regions/Coastal-Massachusetts-Rhode-Island.aspx> Boston Tourist Attractions</a> . asking some friends, a visit to the
<a href=http://www.tripcart.com/usa-regions/Eastern-Pennsylvania.aspx>Eastern Pennsylvania Tourist Attractions</a> looks even better.
Does this make sense?
Have a good spring.