Bean To Bar Chocolate Making Update

Making bean-to-bar chocolate at home
You may have noticed that I’ve not had time to blog much recently.

Why? Chocolate has taken over my life!

Back in December I wrote in depth about my bean to bar chocolate making experiments. I’ve enjoyed making chocolate from the bean so much that my kitchen experiments have evolved into a proper business.

I was so pleased with some of my early results that (with a bit of help from my friends) I decided to enter the Academy Of Chocolate awards – probably the most prestigious chocolate awards in the world.

Last night was the award ceremony and I was hugely honoured to receive bronze awards for both the bars I entered! To have my kitchen-made bars ranked amongst some of the best chocolate in the world is incredibly exciting, and I hope it will serve to encourage more people to have a go at bean-to-bar chocolate making.


There was a real surprise for me at the end of the evening though. I received a totally unexpected award as “The One To Watch” for my efforts. I don’t know if I’m worthy of it, but it’s wonderful to be recognised for simply doing something I love.


These awards have certainly inspired me to go further with my bean-to-bar journey and I truly hope it will inspire others too. If I can make award winning chocolate from home, then so can you!

If you’d like to follow my journey, you can follow my new business Damson Chocolate on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. We’ll be launching our website and online store very soon, and we’re currently in the process of securing funding for premises and more chocolate making equipment. So if you’d like to invest in an ethical bean-to-bar chocolate company, do get in touch. 🙂

Finally, I’d just like to take a moment to thank a few of the people that have helped me get this far. So many friends have been supportive, but in particular I’d like to say thanks to Tom, who is investing both his time and money into Damson Chocolate; Hazel, who opened my eyes to home bean-to-bar chocolate making; the HB Ingredients team, who are making both the equipment and ingredients available to everyone; Neil, who put up the funds for my Academy of Chocolate awards entry; Zoe who has offered endless support and encouragement; and everyone else who has helped out. Thank you guys!


La Pâtisserie De Rêves White Chocolate Collection

La Pâtisserie De Rêves White Chocolate Collection

White chocolate has always been something that has divided opinion. One of the questions I get asked regularly is ‘Is white chocolate really chocolate?‘, and it’s a question I can’t easily answer.

In reality, it doesn’t matter whether you consider it chocolate or not. The question you should really ask is ‘Does it taste good?‘, and the unfortunate fact is that most white chocolates don’t taste of anything at all. That’s because more often than not, they’re made with cheap, bulk ingredients and lots of sugar.

Like most foods, it turns out that if you make white chocolate with the best ingredients it can taste amazing and if you look hard enough there are some truly wonderful white chocolates out there. La Pâtisserie De Rêves is aiming to showcase some of them with this beautiful themed collection of white chocolates from around the world.

La Pâtisserie De Rêves White Chocolate Collection

Presented in a stylish (if maybe a little over the top) chest of drawers, it’s a curated collection from some of the world’s best known chocolate makers and chocolatiers, including La Pâtisserie De Rêves’ own Philippe Conticini. The chocolates are:

Philippe Conticini / France
Vanilla White Chocolate With Verbena And Crunchy Pastry

Es Koyama / Japan
White Chocolate With Matcha Tea And Puffed Rice

Galvan / Mexico
White Chocolate With Almond And Figs

Amaz / Peru
White Chocolate With Coffee Bean Pieces

Oberweis / Luxembourg
White Chocolate With Cinnamon

Beschle / Switzerland
White Chocolate With Lemon And Cardamom

Vanderparre / Belgium
White Chocolate With Speculoos

Rózsavölgyi / Hungary
White Chocolate With Fresh Herbs

Domori / Italy
White Chocolate With Mint Leaves

Willie’s Cacao / UK
El Blano White Chocolate

La Pâtisserie De Rêves White Chocolate Collection

The only unflavoured bar is the El Blanco from Willie’s Cacao. It makes me smile that a personality as strong as Willie would want his chocolate to stand on its own, but it really is very good indeed. When I reviewed it back in 2012 it was probably my favourite white chocolate, and it’s still very high on the list.

The other chocolates were notable for their different approaches, but there were a couple of firm favourites. I liked the freshness of the Rózsavölgyi white chocolate with herbs and the citrus sweetness of Beschle’s Lemon & Cardamom bar. Es Koyama’s matcha tea with puffed rice also proved to be a hit.

La Pâtisserie De Rêves White Chocolate Collection

At £50 La Pâtisserie De Rêves isn’t exactly cheap, but it is both beautiful and eye opening. If that’s a bit beyond your budget, you can pick up the individual bars for £3.50 each (sans presentation box of course).

White chocolate is always going to appeal more to those with a sweeter tooth, but if you’ve never considered yourself a fan, these bars might just change your mind.


Judging At The World Chocolate Masters

Cacao Barry, WCM National pre-selections. London, UK. january 2015.

One of the most interesting perks of my job is being asked to help judge awards. Late last year, one such invitation took me to Lithuania to judge a dessert and wine pairing contest, and I’ve also been lucky enough to help judge both the Academy of Chocolate and International Chocolate Awards.

But an invitation to be on the jury for the UK & Ireland selection of the World Chocolate Masters really got my attention. The World Chocolate Masters is a different kind of chocolate competition that aims to find the best chocolate individual “creator” in the world.

Cacao Barry, WCM National pre-selections. London, UK. january 2015.

For the UK and Ireland national final, contestants had to create four chocolate works over the course of a day; a chocolate sculpture, a filled praline, a piece of patisserie and a concept for an “on the go” concept chocolate dish that could be served like street food.

The contestants, Richie Heppell, Mary Reid, Norma Kelly and Alistair Birt are all professional pastry chefs at the top of their game, but the pressure was on with everything having to be created and judged on the day. For the showpiece sculptures, individual parts could be moulded in chocolate beforehand, but everything had to be assembled in front of judges.

Cacao Barry, WCM National pre-selections. London, UK. january 2015.

The World Chocolate Masters is a highly technical competition, and there are strict rules for each round. Additionally, the overall theme for this year’s competition is “Inspiration From Nature”, and that had to be reflected in each of the contestants’ creations. With just four contestants and twelve jury members, its safe to say that it’s one competition where you just can’t hide even the smallest mistake.

The incredible chocolate showpieces were judged by a technical jury, made up of past UK Chocolate Masters Ruth Hinks, Mark Tilling and John Costello. The pieces are the main attraction at the World Chocolate Masters. Made entirely from chocolate, they are as delicate as they are stunning and the slightest mishap can completely destroy them. Thankfully all the sculptures made it through to final judging in one piece!

Cacao Barry, WCM National pre-selections. London, UK. january 2015.

After presenting their showpieces, contestants had to produce two layer pralines (filled chocolates), using at least one local ingredient and taking their cues from the Inspiration From Nature theme. I’ve judged plenty of filled chocolates in my time, but this is the competition where I had to be most critical. Every aspect of presentation, flavour and texture was considered and of course every piece was checked for strict adherence to the rules.

Cacao Barry, WCM National pre-selections. London, UK. january 2015.

Next up was the “Pastry Of The Day” round. Contestants had to produce a bespoke piece of patisserie from scratch using fresh ingredients. The quality of the work was stunning, but by this point there was one contestant in my mind whose work was leading the field.

Cacao Barry, WCM National pre-selections. London, UK. january 2015.

The final round was a new “Chocolate On The Go” category. Contestants produced a chocolate dish complete with packaging that could be consumed on the go like street food. This was the most fun to judge and all the contestants produced fantastic results.

It was Alistair Birt’s entry that was a clear winner for me though. His beautifully made Earl Grey, Mandarin & Coconut pastry was presented in a custom made wooden box and tasted as good as it looked. Judges all scored each round privately and the numbers were crunched. Finally, at the end of the day and in front of a big crowd, Alistair Birt was awarded the title of UK Chocolate Master by honorary head of the jury, chef Michel Roux. A fantastic end to a wonderful day and a worthy winner.

Cacao Barry, WCM National pre-selections. London, UK. january 2015.

Congratulations to Alistair who will now go on to represent the UK and Ireland in the World Final at Salon du Chocolat in Paris this October. I can’t wait to see how he gets on in this amazing competition.

Photo Gallery

Photos: Cacao Barry / World Chocolate Masters


The Big Chocolate Tea Party

Photo credit: Paul Winch-Furness

When I was young I spent rather too much time in Great Ormond Street Hospital For Sick Children in London. The hospital was fantastic and I’ve no doubt I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them, but even as a child I knew that me being sick was often harder on my parents than it was on me.

While in hospital, my parents would make a daily hundred mile round trip to come and see me. As if having a sick child wasn’t enough, they had the stress and expense of spending half their lives traveling.

It’s for these very personal reasons that I’ve been keen to support the charity The Sick Children’s Trust. The trust was founded at Great Ormond Street Hospital in 1982 when I was 12 and has a simple objective; to provide a safe, comfortable place for parents to stay while their child is in hospital. It’s a little thing that makes a huge difference in people’s lives.

So why am I telling you all this on a chocolate blog? Well, every year the trust organises The Big Chocolate Tea Party, an opportunity for anyone to help raise funds and have a lot of fun in the process.

The idea is simple, you host a chocolate tea party with friends, family, at work, or wherever you want. You eat cake, drink tea and collect what you can for this fantastic cause.

The Big Chocolate Tea Party

The Sick Children’s Trust will send you a free party pack – just email for yours – and the rest is up to you. It costs just £28 to provide a ‘Home From Home’ for a parent of a sick child for one night and I can say from experience what a huge difference that can make.

The Big Chocolate Tea Party website has all kinds of ideas for organising and promoting your party, including recipes, posters, invitations and more. And of course, we have our own selection of fantastic chocolate recipes if you’re looking for more inspiration.

The Big Chocolate Tea Party is a fantastic way to make a real difference in someone’s life and have a lot of fun at the same time. So what are you waiting for? Click here to find out more and get your free party pack!


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