The world of chocolate is becoming increasingly interesting and sophisticated. The rise of interest in bean to bar chocolate production all round the world, means that are some fascinating new chocolates out there.The big question though, for anyone interested in good chocolate, is how to get hold of it? Cocoa Runners, a new, on-line chocolate ‘club’ specialising in bean to bar chocolate bars, offers a solution, offering either one-off chocolate tasting boxes or a regular supply for those who subscribe.
“We got together to form a society whereby people who love great chocolate can have access to it,” explains Cocoa Runners co-founder Spencer Hyman. For Spencer and his colleagues, which include an impressive line-up of chocolate cognoscenti including Dom Ramsay of Chocablog, food consultant Jennifer Earle of Chocolate Ecstasy Tours and Kate Johns, founder of UK Chocolate Week, this is an exciting moment in the world of chocolate. “If you want to get the really great chocolate, you have to find those chocolate makers who are sourcing fine quality cocoa beans, roasting them, winnowing them, conching them, transforming them into chocolate. We want to show people the wonders of bean to bar chocolates. One of the challenges for these small-scale chocolate makers is just how hard it is to get distribution. We want to help them. I see Cocoa Runners role as being a DJ – spreading the word about great bean to bar chocolate, introducing people to it.”
Regular subscribers to Cocoa Runners get a box of four different chocolate bars each month, sourced from all around the world and carefully selected. Interestingly, in every box, Cocoa Runners try to include what Spencer terms a “Marmite bar”. That is “a bar which because of something about it – say it’s a 100% bar or a stone-ground bar - provokes a more binary reaction. Some people will absolutely love it, whereas others just won’t enjoy it.” Importantly, Cocoa Runners promise that the chocolate bars they supply through subscription offer better value that if the bars were bought at retail prices. In effect, Cocoa Runners are offering a carefully curated chocolate experience; a chance to go on a journey of chocolate discovery. Cultivating a relationship with its subscribers is an important aspect of the business model. Subscribers can feed back their preferences so that Cocoa Runners can build up taste profiles of what sort of chocolate they like and cater for them accordingly. Tasting cards tell the “stories of these amazing makers”, so that people can realise what a remarkable world of chocolate is out there.
“It’s a labour of love project,” laughs Spencer. “Yes, one of the perks is that we do all get to eat a lot chocolate at work! There are always interesting new bars to sample in the office. What I’d like Cocoa Runners to do is to help people have respect and appreciation for the growers and the chocolate makers. Respect for the work and love that goes into great chocolate. That would make all this worth it.”