Just over two years ago, I first met Katie Christoffers, just as she was planning the launch of her new business, Matcha Chocolat. I loved her gutsy packaging, her delicious tea-inspired chocolates, and her perfectionist attention to detail.
Yesterday, March 1st, was the 2nd anniversary for Matcha Chocolat. In just two years, Katie’s chocolates have won a slew of golds in the Great Taste Awards and a silver in the Academy of Chocolate ones.
I caught up with Katie (and her chocolates) to find out what’s been happening:
Question: Last time we met, you were a couple of months out from launching Matcha Chocolat, full of nerves about what people would think of your chocolates, whether they would sell well, and whether your transition from biology researcher to self-taught chocolatier would prove successful. Now you are approaching your second anniversary, how would you sum up your first two years?
Immensely challenging is what comes to mind first. It’s been a good two years though. I’ve learned so much and it’s been personally very rewarding for me to have taken on the task of running an artisan chocolate business, especially as I don’t have a formal background in chocolate making. As you mention I trained as a scientist and actually now that I think about it, it’s quite fitting to say that the past two years as well as the lead up to launching Matcha Chocolat have been my most enjoyable and fruitful experiment to date. From creating my method for making artisan chocolates, to developing the idea for my business, to launching… and now two years in it’s been a real period of exploration and creativity and I hope that some of that excitement and passion has been translated through in the chocolates that I make.
Question: What have the greatest challenges been for you?
As I mentioned, the feeling I’ve carried with me across the last two years has certainly been one of excitement. It’s been a real change of course for my life to take up artisan chocolate making. The other side of the coin of taking up a new endeavour is, of course, finding your way through an entirely novel set of challenges.
Overall I would say that the greatest challenge for me, and I think this is the same for a lot of small business owners, is that you have to take on a wide variety of roles. For me that involves everything from making chocolates on a daily basis, packaging and posting them, to accounting, website administration, product development, PR, blogging, writing newsletters, and keeping up to date via Twitter and Facebook. There’s no one task that stands out as particularly challenging, it’s just finding the time for them all!
Question: And what about the highlights? I’m guessing that the awards from Great Taste and The Academy of Chocolate must be in there, am I right? And what else?
The awards were really exciting of course! For me though, it’s probably been seeing the business grow over the last two years that has been the highlight. I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I launched, so to see it develop has been really exciting. It’s also been amazing getting to know so many people, from customers, to food bloggers, and to be able to share my passion for artisan chocolates.
Question: What are your plans for the coming year? I know you’ll be focusing on upcoming dates in the calendar such as mothers day and Easter, but do you have any broader game plans for taking the business forward?
I’ve created new selections for Mother’s day, Easter as well as Father’s day, so I will be busy making chocolates for holidays for most of the beginning of this year. After that, a lot of my time will be taken up with planning for Christmas. One thing that’s become apparent to me during these first two years is just how seasonal a chocolatier’s work is. The holidays are a flurry of activity but it can go a bit quiet for an online shop like mine during periods such as the summer, so it’s worth putting a lot of effort into planning for the holidays. Product development is high on my agenda as well as getting new photographs together for next Christmas’s selection.
Question: Of all your chocolates, classic and new, which is your personal favourite?
Well, I have to admit I’m a bit of a morning person and I have this habit I like to call ‘pre-breakfast chocolate’. I get up early in the morning and tip toe off to the kitchen to enjoy 3 or 4 chocolates in the peace and quiet of the early morning hours.
Your palette is so much more sensitive in the morning so I really look forward to the fist chocolates of the day and there are certainly a few chocolates that I find myself reaching for time and time again. In no particular order I would say my the top four on my list, for now at least, are Vietnamese Cinnamon, Matcha & Pistachio Truffle, Masala Chai Caramel, and Jasmine Pearls.
Question: What do you think is the next trend in artisan chocolate making?
I think people are much more open to creative pairings with chocolate and have even come to expect that there might be one or more challenger flavours found in a box of proper artisan chocolates. So overall I would say that innovative flavour combinations have become a familiar and established trend. With that in mind, particular flavours stand out. For instance over the past few years flavours like chilli, bacon, and sea salt, have emerged as innovative flavours that went on to became trendy and then eventually quite commonplace.
Yet, beyond these creative and unusual flavour combinations, I would say another trend that has been evolving within the world of fine chocolate is the exploration of food cultures through the medium of artisan chocolates. Having myself launched an artisan chocolate company inspired by the love of pairing Japanese ingredients, such as matcha tea with chocolate; I’ve been watching with keen interest the growing popularity of Japanese inspired flavours. Wasabi has clearly become a trendy flavour in the savoury market. Yet, I think the interest in Japanese ingredients, as well as Japanese design and aesthetic have been taken further in the world of fine chocolate.
Chocolate is such an amazing medium to work with and can accommodate so many flavours. So certainly from my perspective it’s the ideal medium to explore a diverse range of food cultures in new and inventive ways. In the future I presume that people will continue to push the boundaries out with innovative flavour combinations, but I think there will also be more focused and in depth explorations of specific countries’ cuisine and aesthetic as has been seen with the growing trend in Japanese inspired chocolates.
And now, a review of Katie’s current mixed collection:
Chestnut & Japanese Whisky
This chocolate uses a single origin chocolate from São Tomé, contains Yamazaki 10 year old single malt whisky and chestnut puree and is topped with toasted sesame seeds. It’s a delicious chocolate with a clear alcoholic note, but for me, neither the chestnut nor whisky flavours come through clearly enough.
This is what I consider to be a classic Matcha Chocolat product and I absolutely love it! There’s a fabulously strong kick of black tea taste with a lovely hint of bergamot, and the ganache is wonderfully smooth, as are all of Katie’s fillings. This is a winner!
Masala Chai Caramel
Another Matcha Chocolat classic, bringing the flavours of masala chai to chocolate, this is not only beautiful, with the blue and white swirls on a dome of dark chocolate, but also really tasty. The shell is dark but sweet, with a satisfying solidity and crack as one bites through. The caramel filling is silky and strongly flavoured with the chai spices. I love the hint of salt too.
Rosemary, Raisin & Walnut
This dark chocolate combines fresh rosemary, minced raisins and a little walnut oil – a classic in savoury dishes, but not something I’ve tried before in chocolate form. I can’t detect the walnut but I do love the robust flavour punch of the rosemary and raisins. My only negative about this chocolate is the strangely slimy texture of the rosemary leaves.
Matcha & Pistachio
The first time I tried one of Katie’s matcha chocolates, I didn’t think the matcha taste came through strongly enough. But this time, it’s loud and clear and absolutely delicious, and is such a perfect combination with its colour-matched pistachio. The tea comes through first, and then the pistachio on the finish. And the crunchy topping is a delightful contrast against the smooth filling. This is another exceptional chocolate!
Yuzu, an Asian citrus fruit with a distinct taste and aroma, is an ingredient that’s been growing in popularity in the West over the last decade. Katie uses it to great effect here, combining pureed fruit with dark chocolate to create a lovely balance between the bitter sweet chocolate and the refreshing zing of citrus. Unlike the more familiar orange, lime or lemon citrus that I’m more used to, this reminds me (oddly but pleasantly) of childhood sweets such as Opal Fruits and Refreshers!
This is a magnificent chocolate! Katie’s talent lies in bringing the taste of both tea and jasmine to the forefront, and this is absolutely like drinking a cup of fragrant, high-quality, jasmine pearls tea and having a nibble of delicious chocolate, between sips. I love this and could happily eat a box full!
Cardamom & Banana
Cardamom and banana are two of my favourite ingredients, so I was very excited about this chocolate! The cardamom was wonderfully heady, aromatic and tasty as I expected. However, try as I might I just couldn’t detect the banana at all. I’m sure the pureed fruit gave its texture to the filling, but for me, the taste wasn’t there. I liked this chocolate, because of the cardamom, but had it also given me banana, I’m sure it would have been another favourite.
This was a lovely box of chocolates – beautiful to look at, intriguing flavour combinations, great textures and a pleasure to taste.
My three favourites are all classic Matcha Chocolat tea chocolates; they just blew my taste buds away!
Katie has kindly offered a Matcha Chocolat Mixed Selection box to one lucky reader of Kavey Eats.
How to enter
You can enter the competition in 2 ways.
Entry 1 – Answer the question
Leave a comment below, answering the following question:
If you could be a chocolatier for a day, what flavour chocolate would you create?
Entry 2 – Tweet
Tweet the (exact) sentence below:
I’d love to win a @Matcha_Chocolat Mixed Collection box from Kavey Eats! #KaveyMatchaChoc
Rules & Details
The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 9 March 2012.
One blog entry per person only. One twitter entry per person only. You do not have to enter both ways for your entries to be valid.
The winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
The prize is a Mixed Selection box of chocolates from Matcha Chocolat and includes delivery to UK mainland addresses only.
The prize cannot be redeemed for cash.
The prize is offered directly by Matcha Chocolat .
Valid entries must contain either an email address or twitter account, for contacting the winner. For those leaving a comment using their blogger/ Google ID, please make sure an email address is visible in your profile.
The winner will be notified by email or twitter. If no response is received by the end of Tuesday 13 March, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.
*If you don’t have a secondary email address already and are nervous about sharing your main email address on the internet, why not set up a new free email account on hotmail, gmail or yahoo, that you can use to enter competitions like this?
Kavey Eats received a complimentary sample box from Matcha Chocolat.
This competition is closed. Congratulations to winner goodfoodetc.