It’s the end of Lent and Easter eggs are everywhere, so I am sure many of you will be thinking about chocolate. Before you buy supermarket eggs, can I offer you a delicious, ethical and local option?
I met I am Cocoa at the Christmas market where their delicious handmade chocolate bars, buttons and lollies were a huge hit. Best friends Jackie Smith and Rohan Patel started the company last year and have had a busy few months tasting chocolate and experimenting with recipes and designs (tough job!).
Jackie told me how they only use the best quality chocolate, which starts as untempered couverture from Cocoa ID, an ethical supplier with impressive business ideals. The company pays growers 125% of the New York stock exchange price which, apparently, is far better than Fairtrade price. Cocoa ID also offer a 30-year contract to growers making it a long-term, multi-generational business. It sounds a good idea to me.
I was very impressed by their Swirly Eggs and Groovy Eggs which have a good shine and come in dark, white or milk chocolate. At just £7 for 300g and £10 for a 600g egg this is excellent value for the quality of chocolate. You can also buy eggs lined with crystallised ginger which look amazing when broken open.
The dark chocolate I am Cocoa use is 70.5% Belgian and has a lovely flavour. Look out too for their Kumabo 83% which has an intense flavour and is low in sugar. Their very popular white chocolate has 30% cocoa content which is at the top end for a white variety and their house milk is 43.5% and is single-origin Venezuelan (there is no soy in it). I am Cocoa shape the chocolate into bars, buttons and lollies and of course, eggs and bunnies for Easter!
Jackie told me that the key to tasting chocolate is to eat it at room temperature and that it shouldn’t really be kept in the fridge, where it can develop condensation. If you let it melt in your mouth, rather than chomp (who me?), then you can taste the floral, spicy and sweet flavours. “Chocolate flavour varies according to where it was grown and how it was roasted and is like wine – you need to savour it”, Jackie explained.
I am Cocoa use natural fruit powders to colour some of the bars and use organic ingredients where they can. Look out for their new chilli salt flavour due out soon: the chillies come from Chiltern Chillies who they met at Berkhamstead farmer’s market, and will contain tequila, lime and chilli salt.
You can find I am Cocoa at The Smokehouse Deli, where owner Gels is an old school friend of Jackie’s. The Green Kitchen, Hatfield Road, is stocking their vegan-friendly dark chocolate and you can buy directly from http://www.iamcocoa.co.uk and just pop round to collect. The duo plan have a stall at the Berkhamstead farmer’s market and are waiting to hear about a stall at the Wednesday market in Market Place and the St Albans market, so look out for them there, hopefully soon. Look out too for their Big G lollipop: it’s in memory of Jackie’s brother Graham who was well-known in St Albans. The proceeds go to Rennie Grove Hospice.
I like the fact that Rohan and Jackie make everything themselves, including the packaging. They are so approachable – if you want something special for a friend, or a wedding, they will happily customize what they do, so do get in contact. And if you are wondering where the name I am Cocoa came from, Rohan came up with it to show their passion for chocolate. Jackie told me: “I’ve always said that Rohan eats so much chocolate that it runs through his veins, so it was perfect for us”.