In this month’s blog, Michael Dart explores the world of chocolate and how trends and demands are changing the way it’s produced.
Some of you may know, we have recently launched our very own artisan chocolatier (part of Cow & Cacao) here at Darts Farm. Honestly, a couple years ago, I didn’t know much about the industry, but once you start looking into and understanding how it’s produced, like most things, it all comes back to the farmer and how they grow the raw ingredient.
Here at Darts Farm we source cacao beans sustainably and ethically from the best, small-scale growers across the world and craft them in to true bean-to-bar chocolate; very different to the standardised, mass-produced, factory-made chocolate.
With the way our modern world is moving, standardisation and homogenisation are becoming the norm; flavour seems to be made in factories and provenance is becoming a distant memory, but here at Darts Farm, we continue to champion variety over volume. Our community of farmers, growers & makers champion diversity, whether that’s seeds, animal breeds and even cacao beans!
Picture: Ellen and Luca (right), founders of GoGround - an initiative that supports farmers to grow premium cacao whilst receiving a premium payment - with local growers in Udumbanoor, India.
As efficiencies and demands increase, much like many other industries, cacao farming is becoming more and more industrial. Varieties are being planted that produce mass volumes and are able to be harvested all year round; it’s all about quantity over quality. However, staying true to our roots, we continue to work with the small-scale growers who have been farming for generations. The ones that are producing cacao for incredible flavours, to support their communities and to keep their traditions and cultures alive.
Each cacao bean that we source is unique. Its flavours and make up vary depending on the region it’s from, when it’s harvested and the terroir in which it’s grown; the soil, the weather, the biodiversity, the crops around it. Handmaking each small batch allow us complete creative freedom and means that we can adapt each beans quality to ensure the taste and texture of our chocolate is the best possible. It’s not that one recipe fits all; constant adaption and tweaks are so important.
Picture: Criollo pods growing in Soconusco, Mexico, sourced from Champolapita Organic - a cooperative of 60 family farmers who are all indigenous farming families.
Everywhere you go within Darts there are passionate people; people that love what they do and our expert Chocolatier Louise is no exception… A local Exeter girl, Louise discovered her passion for artisan produce whilst working in a chocolate shop in Borough Market. She then went on to complete an apprenticeship with Hotel Chocolat, where she visited a cacao plantation in St Lucia and developed her own recipes in the kitchen. She continued her chocolate making journey with Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse – a world-class chocolatier in London and last year, Louise decided to move back to Devon and joined us here at Darts Farm.
When you visit Cow & Cacao, you’ll be able to see Louise and the team busy at work; roasting, winnowing and conching cacao beans, aging blocks of single origin chocolate, hand moulding delicate truffles and tempering chocolate to create the perfect shine and snap.
Picture: Our In-House Expert Chocolatier, Louise, pouring single origin cacao nibs into our conch
For us, nothing says Spring like a delicious lamb roast accompanied by minted, seasonal veg and garlic butter new potatoes!
A super exciting announcement!