An annual highlight in the UK world of chocolate, Chocolate Week (October 8-14) offers a chance for chocolate enthusiasts to come together across the country, learn more about fine chocolate, meet leading chocolatiers and – of course – enjoy chocolate tastings galore!
Culminating in the Chocolate Unwrapped chocolate show in London’s Covent Garden, events during chocolate week range from ‘Choc Tales from Dean Street’ – an innovative chocolate and cocktail experience pairing chocolatiers with chocolate makers - to the Academy of Chocolate’s biennial conference for those in the world of chocolate.
Chocolate evangelist, Chairman of the Academy of Chocolate and author of Chocolate – the Definitive History, Sara Jayne Stanes welcomes Chocolate Week as an expression of the vitality of Britain’s chocolate scene. “It was a barren dessert here when I started writing about chocolate in 1985!” she laughs. “The difference between then and now is unbelievable.”
Keen to promote knowledge of chocolate, as opposed to “chocolate confectionery”, she welcomes Chocolate Week – “Chocolate Week is a great way of having a party while spreading the chocolate gospel. The people in the chocolate shops really get behind it – and that passion permeates the entire week. You can’t help but get drawn in and carried away by the enthusiasm of other people and that’s what so lovely.”
For Divine Chocolate, as Charlotte Borger, Communications Director at Divine explains, “Chocolate Week is our chance to be as chocolatey as we can possibly be! Our chance to show off our chocolate and our chocolate credentials and too create a really enjoyable experience for people. It’s an opportunity to do some great partnerships with people we enjoy working with such as shops and hotels. We have a great story – we are owned by the farmers with the profits shared by the people growing the cocoa – so it’s a real example of what is possible in the world of chocolate production.”
In addition to tastings and talks, Chocolate Week sees Divine launch its search for two ‘Chocolateers’, who can be trained up to become Divine Ambassadors. “We want people with a bit of charisma, who’re relaxed and natural in the kitchen,” explains Borger. “People who are motivated by the Divine story. If you really do know the story, then it’s fairly infectious when you’re talking about it.”
Chocolate Week offers a chance for the general public to learn more both about the long and complex process by which cocoa beans are transformed into chocolate and also about the many issues involved in cocoa bean production. One event, for example, is a talk by conservation entrepreneur Philipp Kauffman of Original Beans about ‘Responsible Chocolate’ with a tasting of Original Beans bars.
Chocolate Week also sees the UK premiere of the powerful documentary film ‘Nothing Like Chocolate’. Kum Kum Bhavani, the film’s director, explained to Chocolatier.co.uk that she was moved to make the film when she read about child slave labour harvesting cocoa in the Ivory Coast. “I wanted to make a film about this issue, but I wanted to make it about someone who was ‘doing the right thing’. I wanted to make a film where it was possible to see how to challenge this dreadful state of affairs regarding cocoa harvesting, so I started a hunt for ethical chocolate makers which led me to Mott Green of the Grenada Chocolate Company.”
Bhavani hopes her film will have an effect on those who watch it. “I want people to know how chocolate is produced, so they can ask large chocolate makers, like Hersheys in the USA, to buy ‘slave free’ beans. If we develop an insight into what is happening and why it’s happening, we can develop campaigns to change the circumstances.”
Britain is now home to many talented chocolatiers and Chocolate Week allows them a chance to step into the spotlight. Chocolatier Paul Wayne Gregory will be opening his new pop-up shop in Brixton Village. “I think Chocolate Week is good for awareness,” comments Gregory. “Every year it’s growing, getting better and better and more and more people are aware that there is chocolate week. It allows us to talk about chocolate and do some interesting events; it’s a good thing for the chocolate world.”