Tisan chocolates are small scale producers who make quite more interesting chocolate than the big manufacturers. Purists see their product from the bean to the bar and obsessively focus on the origin and quality of their cocoa beans; others use chocolate from the best suppliers as the basis for their creations. Either way, they make some of the best chocolates you’ll ever eat. They also pay producers correctly.
Some make lots of simple yet delicious candy bars, others, like the famous Paul A Young and William Curley, are fabulously inventive chocolatiers. Because they are small scale manufacturers and use premium ingredients, they tend to be more expensive than mass market brands, but it’s a whole different chocolate experience.
Most use less sugar than the large commercial producers, often less than 30 percent, which is significantly better than the around 50 percent that can characterize the big brands; the result is that theirs is less sickly and more appetizing. Come to think of it, chocolate is a healthy food. The good stuff, I mean.
Selection of artisanal Paul A Young Fresh truffles (9 chocolates)
Paul A Young is one of Britain’s finest chocolatiers, and his shop’s Soho branch exerts a sort of gravitational pull on me – alas, only his Islington is open at the moment. But luckily, his online store is ready for browsing. He is friendly and unpretentious and author of one of the best chocolate recipe books (Adventures with Chocolate). It makes a really good 40 percent Colombian chocolate bar with Cornish sea salt or for whole pigs (no judgment here!), A 450g bar of the same, minus the salt, for 24, £ 50. Or, for the crazy ones, a Marmite truffle bar. Its range of brownies is dangerously good. I suggest his fresh truffles, which vary seasonally, because I can’t imagine that nobody doesn’t like them. His tin of sea salt caramel would also make me very happy. You can’t go wrong with anything, really.
Pump Street chocolate, 60 percent, rye crumbs, milk and sea salt
It’s a wonderful chocolate bar, and Pump Street makes two of its kind – the other being a darker 66% cocoa with sourdough and sea salt. The crucial thing about them is that they are crunchy, like Cadbury’s Caramel Crunch, my childhood favorite, but much classier. The crunch comes from fine toasted breadcrumbs, and the flavor comes from sea salt – that ubiquitous contemporary ingredient (which suits me, because I really love it). And the sugar content is low – 24.3% in the case of Rye Crumb and 27.5% in the case of Levain. Both are intensely gloomy.
William Curley Sea Salt Caramel Bar
William Curley is one of London’s top two chocolatiers (the other being Paul A Young). He is infinitely inventive and playful where many of his designs are a clever twist on popular favorites. So its chewy and delicious coconut bar is a very elegant version of a Bounty bar; his peanut nougat is a sublime take on a Snickers bar and his Jaffa chocolate cake is, well, just that, only way better. I’m plump for his Sea Salt Caramel bar just because I’m a fan of salted caramel and it’s delicious, but you know I’d be happy with anything he does. He makes a very classy box of mixed chocolates. If you’re in Soho, her shop at Smith’s Court is a haven.
Duffy’s Milk 55 percent Venezuela Ocumare
Sometimes all you need is a simple bar of milk chocolate, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get something special enough. And that’s what it is: a higher-than-normal cocoa milk chocolate bar that has all the mellow and sweetness you would expect from milk chocolate – while still being complex and interesting. too. The tasting notes say “A velvety blend of almonds, bananas and raspberry jam”; I say: Very good milk chocolate. If you prefer dark chocolate, his Honduras Indio Rojo is excellent and the producer of the beans is paid far more than the fair trade premium. This no-compromise little producer roasts, grinds and makes his chocolate, from bean to bar in Lincolnshire.
Loir Chocolates Toasted White Chocolate, Madagascar
This comes from an interesting little Manchester-based chocolatier, and I mention the Toasted White just because it’s such an intriguing flavor – not at all white in flavor, or even in color – more of a light caramel, made with milk. toasted powder for an almost caramel flavor. But he may not find everyone’s favor. It was hard to choose just one between that, or bread and 51.5 percent buttermilk. This bar, like the one on Pump Street, is deliciously crisp, where the latter comes from brown butter and toasted sourdough crumbs and the chocolate really… crisp. The plain milk chocolate, 52 percent, is also very good.
BareBones, 70 percent of single Madagascar origin
This chocolate jumped out at me when I tasted it in a Paxton & Whitfield basket. It is lively and fruity, without the bitterness that can be obtained with darker chocolate. I don’t say that stuff normally, but I have a raspberry note, and the tasting notes tell me there’s vanilla and maple syrup in it too. This is a small producer from Glasgow with a limited range, but everything is excellent and beautifully and simply presented. Suitable for vegans.
Chococo, Selection box medium
Chococo has a very nice selection, with a selection of interesting flavors. The range includes passion fruit, rhubarb and vanilla, cream tea and Bakewell cherries. This is a small business in Dorset, run by a team of husband and wife. The box is fun and striking. They also make a stylish version of a Crunchie… a honeycomb cluster. * Chef’s kiss *
Chocolarder Wild Gorse Flower Chocolate (50 percent)
This is the most unusual flavor in the Chocolarder range – subtle, yet chewy and coconut. I bet if you serve it after dinner no one will be able to say “ah, gorse!” “. This is a Cornish producer who creates ethical chocolate from the bean to the bar.