I often get asked how I come up with my flavours and recipes. Sometimes it’s hard to explain as it is so entrenched in my DNA, but thinking about this a little more I realised that it is very much about how I look to my past to create flavours and recipes that work for the future.
Much as we tend to go for flavours that match or complement our ‘personalities’, my chocolate is very much a reflection of my character – and if I had to sum up what that is?!… well…my chocolate has layers of intrigue, it packs a punch and is just a little bit mysterious and cheeky, its well travelled, well made and absolutely cares about the people eating it…
I first studied nutrition and herbal medicine, and then went on to train and qualify as an aromatherapist, rounding this section of my career off working for the NHS. It’s clear looking back that my interest in wellbeing and complementary medicine has always been there, and largely contributed to my particular style and approach when developing and creating any new products.
I believe that foods should be pure where possible, and in the early days I remember a lot of foodstuffs were packed with e-numbers and additives. At the time I was trying to loose weight, and I found that by sticking to ‘purer’ foods, I could digest them more easily. This was partly the reason I set up Amelia Rope Chocolate, as I found it difficult to come by simple, clean confectionery products.
I love the idea that in a way my chocolate creations have a parallel with how one might blend aromatherapy oils, with my chocolate being the ‘carrier’ if you like, and the flavour or fine tuning coming from the ingredients. I am always looking for new ways to balance unusual ingredients and get the perfect top notes, mid notes and base notes. I now appreciate the fact that I have a really sensitive palette, which helps immensely when creating new recipe concepts.
With producing small batch volumes, the ingredients are often added by hand and this also allows for beautiful subtle characteristics to develop in each batch; something I refer to as a true ‘artisanal’ product, and with the end result being really flavoursome and of a really high quality.
The other real challenge I face at Amelia Rope Chocolate, is taking time out from running the day-to-day business to create that special space and environment in which to develop new ideas and recipes. I really love to travel, and so it’s these special trips around the world that I tend to use most for my inspiration. That’s why my customers end up with ‘Italian lemon’ blended with Maldon salt from Essex – I love the dichotomy of how these flavours come together.
By taking this approach I suppose, this is also where the true ‘character’ of Amelia Rope Chocolate lies. Its all about the care and attention, as much as its about balancing unusual tastes. My end goal is always to arrive at a healthy, top-grade product which tastes unique and has a social impact too, with a little of the ‘unexpected’ thrown in for good measure!
There is often a misnomer out there that chocolate is bad for you, but as I became more experienced I discovered that if I can create a flavour that truly satisfies the tastebuds, then naturally we tend to eat less of it as the brain registers that its happy. So eating good quality chocolate can in fact help to combat weight gain – not something you would naturally assume.
Looking ahead at my product developments, I’m currently experimenting with Quinoa, which is a fabulous gluten free, protein-rich ingredient. My Quinoa puffs are really fun on the palette, and so I’m looking at developing some new flavours based around this theme. I’ve also made a huge step in moving my chocolate suppliers to using only Colombian chocolate. I was recently out in Colombia on a sourcing trip, a country which has up until now been dogged by drug trafficking and hardship. The cocoa growers there are producing a very high grade of Cacao Fino de Aroma*, one of the best I’ve tasted in fact. They create it with such passion and love, and its clearly reflected in the final taste. The fruity and flowery notes are interspersed with exquisite subtle nutty malty notes, which I just love.
I am also very proud to be able to contribute to social change in this way by changing where I source my chocolate ingredients. I see this as a real chance to make a real impact there. Helped by a new Government backed initiative to support cocoa farmers, and educated their families they, others and I are helping a good number to switch to ‘better’ crop types. Not only that but I can also source my sugar, milk powder, vanilla and soya from here too, which altogether really does start to change the power of that supply chain.
I love the couverture chocolate from Bogota. It’s reflective of this absolutely engaging and vibrant city. This feels like the right thing to do at this stage in my chocolate journey. Being able to truly make a difference to people’s lives gives me that extra drive and passion for my business.
(* Cacao Fino de Aroma denomination is an International Cocoa Organisation, which certifies its aroma and flavour. Around 8% of the cocoa produced in the world is classified as Cacao Fino de Aroma. Around 76% of Cacao Fino de Aroma in terms of world production is coming from Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru.)
Travel to: Manizales & Medellin … birds beyond your dreams (Colombia has the most astonishing variety of species in the world).
Try: Hot Chocolate and Cheese (in true Colombian style) – if in Bogota … La Puerta Falsa
Fresh air, country walks in Constable Country and a fantastic meal at: The Sun Inn, Dedham
Relax at: Organic Pharmacy – Rose Facial