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Listen up chocolatiers - there's a new brand in town. Or rather, an old brand with a new image. I'm talking about Stewart & Arnold Great British Chocolate, a new old brand that's resurfaced recently courtesy of Barry Callebaut.
In 1945, William Stewart and Dr Arnold Spicer formed W. M. Stewart and Arnold Limited, with a chocolate factory sited at Empire Works on Denmark Street in High Wycombe.
The factory was demolished in the 1990s, and the site is now home to the Eden Shopping Centre. Fast forward a couple of decades to 2020 and Callebaut has re-established the brand, moving production to its existing chocolate factory on the outskirts of Banbury, Oxfordshire. The site is also home to Callebaut's Chocolate Academy Centre, a test kitchen for budding chocolatiers to hone their skills.
The latest incarnation of Stewart & Arnold chocolate is made with 100% sustainably-sourced West African cocoa under Callebaut's Cocoa Horizons platform. The white and milk chocolate couverture also makes use of fresh milk from British farmers.
Always keen to try something new, the lovely Rachel Barker, National Account Manager at Barry Callebaut, kindly sent me some samples of this new British chocolate brand to see how it compared to its Belgian cousins.
If you are already using Callebaut's couverture in your chocolate work, should you consider switching to Stewart & Arnold's British-made alternatives?
Stewart & Arnold 27.1% British White Chocolate
Stewart & Arnold 27.1% British White Chocolate ingredients:
Whole milk powder, sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier (sunflower lecithin), natural vanilla flavouring. Cocoa solids: 27.1% minimum; Milk solids: 33.7% minimum.
- Order codes: CHW-Q27SA-D38 (5kg); CHW-Q27SA-498 (20kg)
- Nearest Callebaut equivalent: White Chocolate Couverture W2
- Sugars: 48%
- Lifespan: 12 months from date of production
The aroma is sweet and creamy, with heavy lactic notes. Quick to melt, the smooth white chocolate yields a sweet flavour right from the start. Creaminess floods in mid-way, and quickly dissipates at the end. The aftertaste is mild and sweet, with just a hint of the creaminess lingering.
While it doesn't impart a terrific amount of depth of flavour, it does delivery bags of creaminess and sweetness. This white chocolate should suit a variety of applications, including pâtisserie, bonbons and truffles, and should work particularly well with zingy berry flavours.
If you are already using Callebaut W2, the Stewart & Arnold equivalent should be a good fit. W2 contains soya lecithin versus S&A's sunflower lecithin. S&A also incorporates more milk and less sugar into their recipe, albeit with a fraction less cocoa butter.
Stewart & Arnold 35% British Milk Chocolate
Stewart & Arnold 35% British Milk Chocolate ingredients:
Sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, emulsifier (sunflower lecithin), natural vanilla flavouring. Cocoa solids: 35% minimum; Milk solids: 21.9% minimum.
- Order codes: CHM-Q35SA-D38 (5kg); CHM-Q35SA-498 (20kg)
- Nearest Callebaut equivalent: Milk Chocolate Couverture 823
- Sugars: 47.5%
- Lifespan: 18 months from date of production
Mild cocoa notes come through on the aroma along with hints of lactic and caramel notes. Another quick melter, the caramel notes lead in this particular chocolate. Like the white chocolate, it is very sweet with a lot of creaminess imparted right from the start. The cocoa flavour is fairly subdued although it is slightly more noticeable in the aftertaste.
This one feels like its ideal as a carrier of flavour rather than a star on its own. It should handle spices well, and thanks to its sweetness, it would work well with rich ganaches and dark caramels, and be ideal as a base for loaded chocolate slabs or florentines. The hint of salt in a salted caramel should compliment this chocolate very nicely.
If you are already using Callebaut 823, the Stewart & Arnold equivalent should be a good fit. S&A's milk chocolate contains a smidgen less sugar and less cocoa butter, but incorporates more cocoa mass and a touch more milk into the recipe. Callebaut's couverture contains soya lecithin versus S&A's sunflower lecithin.
Stewart & Arnold 55% British Dark Chocolate
Stewart & Arnold 55% British Dark Chocolate ingredients:
Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier (sunflower lecithin), natural vanilla flavouring. Cocoa solids: 56.9% minimum.
- Order codes: CHD-P55SA-D38 (5kg); CHD-P55SA-498 (20kg)
- Nearest Callebaut equivalent: Dark Chocolate Couverture 811
- Sugars: 40.7%
- Lifespan: 24 months from date of production
- May contain milk
The aroma from this chocolate has more character to it than the milk and white chocolate siblings. While still noticeably sweet, there's a hint of smokiness that comes through alongside cocoa notes.
Slow to melt, this chocolate begins by yielding a slightly bitter yet rich cocoa flavour. Mid-way, a flood of creaminess rushes in alongside the sweetness to tame the bitterness, leaving strong cocoa notes behind. The smokiness in the aroma only glimmers in the taste - it's there but as a thin strand running through the flavour profile. The aftertaste is dominated by rich cocoa notes and a hint of sweetness.
This would contrast nicely against fruity ganaches and would lend itself very nicely to mint chocolate thins and to mendiants, as well as truffles and a range of desserts.
If you are already using Callebaut 811, the Stewart & Arnold equivalent should be a good fit. S&A trades in the soya lecithin for sunflower lecithin, and also contains greater quantities of cocoa mass, a touch less sugar, and a little less cocoa butter.
Why Switch to Stewart & Arnold Couverture?
If you are already using Callebaut chocolate couverture, you may want to consider switching to Stewart & Arnold for a number of reasons:
- It's made in Banbury in Oxfordshire, supporting British jobs.
- It's made using British milk, again supporting the livelihoods of British farmers.
- The couverture is designed to suit the British palate and so tastes a touch different to its Belgian alternative. In general, S&A's couverture is creamier and a touch less sweeter than its Belgian equivalents.
- Stewart & Arnold chocolate couverture currently has a slightly lower price point per kilogram than the Callebaut equivalents, so could help improve your profitability.
Thinking ahead for the next few month, there's also continuity of supply to consider. With the Brexit transition period ending at the dawn of the new year, there's a risk that couverture imports may be subject to tariffs.
While British-made chocolate couverture still relies on the bulk imports of raw ingredients, there's less likelihood of these being caught up in any potential Customs gridlock at key transit ports. Plus, the ingredients are likely to be subject to different tariffs compared to finished Belgian couverture. As with many things Brexit related, I don't think we'll know the full effects until January 2021 when the new systems and procedures go live, so this aspect is subjective and may or may not apply to you depending on where you sit on the Brexit debate.
Why You Shouldn't Switch to Stewart & Arnold Couverture?
Honestly, I struggled finding any points to answer this one. But there are a couple of reasons why you might prefer to stick with the Callebaut couverture you are currently using right now.
- The pack sizes at launch were 5kg and 20kg sacks. If you're a small enterprise and only using very tiny quantities of couverture, these bags might be less appealing than the handy 400g and 2.5kg bags available in the Callebaut couverture range. Similarly, if, like me, you enjoy dabbling with chocolate, buying 15kg of milk, dark and white chocolate couverture might be somewhat excessive. I am told that S&A are looking into the feasibility of producing smaller pack sizes so this may become an option in due course.
- Switching from Callebaut to Stewart & Arnold might affect demand, especially if you have built up a loyal customer base on the particular taste of your finished chocolates. That said, your customers might love the taste of British chocolate more, and they might buy into the British values more too. Only you knows your customer base inside out, so only you'll know whether this will have any impact on your business. Perhaps it's worth making small taster batches of your best selling products using S&A couverture to get feedback from your loyal (and most honest) customers?
- Migrating your recipes from a Callebaut base to a Stewart & Arnold base might require reformulation to account for the slight differences in tasting notes, creamy qualities and sugar levels. With Christmas on the horizon, then the finale of the Brexit transition period, then Valentine's Day, then Easter, you might wish to delay this switch until April or May next year when you'll have a little breathing room to adjust your recipes.
Where to Buy Online
For many chocolatiers and home hobbyists, Keylink is your best option for sourcing the Stewart & Arnold range. They carry the Great British White Chocolate, the 35% Great British milk chocolate, the 55% Great British dark chocolate, and the 70% Great British dark chocolate couverture. Take a look at what's in stock here. There's also a launch offer of 15% off available until the end of December 2020, while stocks last.
Trade customers may wish to order through Bako South Eastern, which appears to carry at least the 20kg sacks of milk and dark couverture from what I can see. I don't have an account so can't see if it's a region-specific offer or if the chocolate is in stock. Google only shows so much...
Will you be making the switch from Belgian chocolate to British chocolate? Let me know in the comments below.