We are a nation with a chocolate love affair. But after putting up with the bog standard, chocolate purchasing, and consumption, is one of those habits that have been changing alongside the artisanal movement. Sales of mass-market chocolate bars are falling; for example, Cadbury Dairy Milk sales have dropped by 4.2% and Galaxy by 5.2%[1]; due to demand in health-conscious products and health-focused agendas,  such as the war on sugar. Mass produced chocolate is full of sugar, fats, and flavourings with not much actual cocoa which is why it is synonymous with junk food. However, experts are beginning to realise and hail humble cocoa as a superfood. According to Mintel press office, the average Brit consumed 8.4kg of chocolate in 2017[2], amongst the highest consumption rates in the world. We really are loco for cocoa!

There’s more to life than chocolate, but not right now…

Chocolate needs to be taken seriously; not all chocolate is created equal! There has been a dramatic shift in marketing towards adults in an attempt to showcase chocolate as a luxury, indulgent treat made for a more mature palate to appreciate cocoa delights; rather than a sugary laden treat for kids. With chocolate, what we now want from producers is the information on origin of the beans, how they were grown, tasting notes, the knowledge that they are ethically sourced, fairly traded, high cocoa content, low sugar, non-GMO, organic, to see chocolate as a super-food hence the ascension of raw cacao powders, nibs and the standard of quality chocolate being a minimum of 70%. We want interesting flavour combinations; savoury and sweet options. We want deluxe treats!

What comes with an artisan chocolate producer is a commitment to quality and flavour. We want our chocolate delicious, but sustainable, a small luxury price tag, but fairly traded, and we want peace of mind when we indulge. The artisan chocolatiers recognise this and focus on chocolate as a luxury to be enjoyed and as a safe escapism. The commodity market has seen the chocolate industry produce premium, organic, fairtrade chocolate in response to consumer needs and wishes.

Chocolate – The Food of the Gods

Chocolate is made from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree, which translates as ‘food of the gods’ in Greek. In ancient cultures, cacao was used in ceremonies and rituals. People were buried with it to sustain them in the next life[3]. It was revered in its original raw form as a health restorative. It contains flavonoids and antioxidants which explains its medicinal history in ancient times[4]. It is high in essential minerals such as iron and magnesium hence why it is craved by many as people, especially women, who are deficient in these minerals. Your body is a temple; feed it! According to Mayan folklore, cacao will restore harmony to the relationship man has with nature[5], by eating it and savouring it in its rawest form you can help restore harmony within yourself. Ixcacao, the Mayan goddess of chocolate, tells us to enjoy life’s luxuries away from the chaos of the modern world[6]. Follow the wisdom of the gods.

Now we are chocolate aficionados we can learn how to enjoy chocolate to its true potential.

Chocolate Eating Strategy: If you’re gonna do it, do it right!

  1. First things first do not put your chocolate in the fridge! This impairs the flavour in much the same way as it does with cheese; fat molecules = flavour, they need to be warm to melt into each other. If it goes in the fridge by accident take it out 30 minutes prior to serving if you can wait.
  2. Smell that chocolate! Rub the chocolate slightly and then give it a whiff! What can you smell? Whatever you smell you’re gonna taste. Suspense!
  3. Sample one piece at a time. When you have chocolate you have time on your side. There is no need to rush the simple pleasure. Enjoy it! The flavours emerging from chocolate cannot be fully recognised and appreciated if its unthinkingly being stuffed into your face.
  4. Let it melt on your tongue and around the mouth before you start to chew. The less chewing the more flavour and aroma.
  5. Repeat steps. But only another once or twice – everything in moderation, remember!

Forget love – I’d rather fall in Chocolate

Here are 3 master chocolatiers to fall in love with around the Scottish Borders. The chocolate makers in the Scottish Borders have come from afar to indulge our senses in chocolate heaven.

Cocoaecosse

Cocoaecosse - a chocolate explosion!
Cocoaecosse – a chocolate explosion!

Cocoaecosse is situated in the historic market town of Kelso. Their artisan chocolates blend the cultures of Scotland and France into beautiful artisan chocolates, shown through the desire to use local ingredients. Look out for the single malt whisky ganache. The husband and wife team have collaborated to offer beautiful chocolate bars such as honeycomb and truffles – a French chocolate invention. The chocolates are of high cocoa content, typical of French chocolates. They sell at various outlets in the town and are regulars at Scottish Border Farmers’ Markets.

Cocoa Black

HRH Prince Edward & Ruth Hinks of Cocoa Black
HRH Prince Edward & Ruth Hinks of Cocoa Black

Cocoa Black has become a worldwide phenomenon as a result of the success of South African Ruth Hinks. Based in the beautiful Scottish Border town Peebles, Cocoa Black now boasts its own shop, chocolate factory and chocolate and pastry chef school. Ruth Hinks is a multi-award winning chocolatier and she has a following of celebrities, including the Royal Family; Prince Edward has visited the premises twice during the grand opening of the chocolate boutique and school. The chocolate boutique boasts an escape from reality into ‘chocolate heaven’. On the menu is a decadent selection of hot chocolates, the signature Cocoa Black Indulgence a hot chocolate topped with cream, marshmallows and fudge chunks. While you’re there sample chocolate bars, or buy some boxed chocolates for a loved one (or you). As there is a pastry school established in 2016, why not book a course to make your own delicious chocolate treats?

Kiki’s Chocolate

Located in the ancient village Coldingham is a wee chocolate emporium called Kiki’s Chocolate. Kiki, who is native to Belgium, a country rich in chocolate tradition, uses 100% Belgian chocolate in all her creations. In a traditional Belgian style, where there are many small family run shops using minimal equipment to produce a luxury treat. Kiki has a variety of chocolate products ranging from Hot Chocolate stirrers, chocolate bars. Check out the dark chocolate and ginger chocolate bar, as well as the Belgian Chocolate, dipped marshmallows.

Got Chocolate on the Brain?

So go on then indulge! Make your own chocolate at the chocolate boutique or buy your chocolate treats from the Belgian and the French! Your favourite treat can be guilt-free with a rich, locally made Scottish Border luxury! The benefits of chocolate are long-lasting; there is a significant reduction in stress, it is rich in antioxidants and contains many minerals important for health.

Tell us your favourite local chocolate treat on social media. Join in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.