What motivated you to become a chocolatier?
I have always adored chocolate and sweets since I was teeny weeny. It used to drive my parents mad! Chocolate found me … though I cant say I am disappointed!
What chocolates do you create for Consensio?
We create the handmade chocolate skis and mini Easter eggs. Each season the team at Consensio and I have talk about possible flavours and ideas for their clients and we then conjure up something exclusive and special.
What inspires your flavour creations?
I need mental space to create and having run my business single-handedly these spaces are far fewer than the early stages! With my new assistant, Charlotte, on board I hope to find more creative time. Inspiration comes from travelling, exhibitions, tasting different ingredients and by a personal craving I may have. I play with possible recipe ideas in my kitchen at home. If I cant stop eating them I then get my production team to make up samples for me in the bars. My latest flavours have been Pale Violet, Dark Puffed Quinoa and Dark Edition 04 85%).
Where do you source your ingredients?
My chocolate comes from a Belgian chocolate house who are passionate about supporting sustainability as well as trading fairly. The chocolate I use , at the moment, comes from beans from Colombia, Ecuador, Madagascar, Tanzania. For any salt flavours I use Maldon sea salt. (I originate from Essex and grew up on this salt!). Others ingredients I use are organic oils, aromas, puffed quinoa, Colombian coffee beans, caramelised hazelnuts … Each supplier must trade fairly and the ingredients of each product must be excellent coffee. I will always ask for several samples, more than once, to guarantee quality and consistency.
What are your most popular flavour combination?
The most popular flavour combination tend to be the sea salts and rose in the milk and then in the dark – dark mandarin, dark coffee bean and the dark sea salts. I have just launched my favourite; Dark Puffed Quinoa 75% which I hope will prove popular.
You offer clients the service of creating personalised bespoke chocolates, what is your most interesting bespoke chocolate commission?
An Indian wedding invitation.
I read an interesting blog you wrote on the loose application of the term ‘handmade’ used to reference chocolate. How do you define?
I think the definition of ‘handmade’ has become a grey area. There is no law, as far as I am aware, which clearly states what can be classified as ‘handmade’. When bars are machine wrapped, made in large batches and minimal hand crafting I struggle with the concept they are handmade. My chocolate is ‘pretty much handmade’. They are made in small batches, tempered by machine rather than by hand on a marble slab, the inclusions are added by hand and each unit is hand foiled/wrapped too. I will move to becoming more machine automated in the future to scale up.
You have marked the UK on the map in the world of Chocolate and established yourself as the queen of English chocolate – but how did it all begin?
That’s extremely flattering to be described as the queen of English chocolate. I am totally self-taught – my only qualifications are as a secretary and aromatherapist. Key turning points were being a contestant on ‘Masterchef’ twice, meeting a Food Editor who loved my handmade truffles (in the early days I made all my own products from my kitchen at home – everything was bespoke) and then getting into the chocolate bar world after a commission from the Late Pat Reeves (co-founder of sofa.com). This product would become my route to the retail market. I was very lucky with Ewan Venters (now CEO Fortnum & Mason) seeing the bars and allowing me to launch in Selfridges in September 2009.
What’s in the pipeline for Amelia Rope in the year ahead?
To redesign the packaging and do a bit of a brand refresh, new flavours and new products. Ideally more exporting as I love to travel!
For those readers who won’t get the chance to trial your chocolates in chalets this season, where can they expect to find them?
Fortnum’s, Selfridges, small independents and online with me.