I’ve been enthusing for over a year about my friend Dom Ramsey’s bean-to-bar chocolate business, Damson, established in February 2015 and now based in dedicated premises in Chapel Market, Angel Islington. Dom makes superb chocolate which won awards from the get go and you can buy it in the shop or online. If you’ve not tried it yet, his Buffalo Milk chocolate (of which there have been several batches made with different cocoa beans) is amazing, and the Madagascar 70% is also a winner. The Liquorice & Sea Salt is not one I’m ever going to try but I know liquorice fans adore it. And if you can get your hands on the Whisky Cream – milk chocolate aged alongside wooden chips from a barrel in which Glen Garioch whisky was once aged, until the chocolate takes on flavours that soaked into the wood – you won’t be sorry!
Until recently, I thought Dom was the only bean-to-bar chocolate producer in London – the majority of specialist chocolate shops in London are chocolatiers and most chocolatiers don’t make bean-to-bar chocolate, they buy chocolate in from producers and either use it as is in their chocolate products, or blend different batches to create just what they need. Some work with the producers to have chocolate made to their personal specifications, giving them great control over quality and flavour without taking on the production directly.
But Dom tells me that the bean-to-bar category is expanding fast and that there are now many more people producing their own chocolate across the UK. Some of those are making chocolate at home, for their own pleasure and enjoyment, and others are creating businesses to sell their chocolate commercially.
A few weeks ago I heard from Tad Osborne, founder of Tadzio Chocolate, another London-based bean-to-bar producer making chocolate from single source beans and unrefined cane sugar. He roasts, hand winnows (peels), grinds and conches by hand and then sets some of the chocolate into solid bars, using the rest to make chocolate truffles.
Tad has always enjoyed good chocolate and making chocolate brownies and truffles for friends but, like Dom, his background is not a culinary one; indeed he is currently still working as a contractor in financial services.
A few months ago he travelled to Vietnam and while there he visited MAROU’s factory in Ho Chi Minh City. MAROU, founded by Samuel Maruta and Vincent Morou, is one of my favourite chocolate brands (one I first tried through Dom, I think), so I can completely understand how Tad was so inspired. As he says, ‘their chocolate is incredible and uses nothing but sugar and cocoa solids. When I got home I bought a grinder and some cocoa beans and got to work. That was about 4 months ago.’
Like Marou, Tadzio Chocolate uses nothing but minimum 70% cocoa solids and unrefined cane sugar; Tad is keen ‘to let people taste and enjoy the vast difference in cocoa varieties and regions without disguising their flavours.’
I am enormously taken with the Japanese-design packaging – a small circular red seal that turns out to be Tad’s name (‘Tado’) in the phonetic hiragana script – and beautiful artistic stickers used to seal wrappers and bags. I ask Tad to tell me more about it and he explains that he spent some time living in Japan, has a Japanese girlfriend and is also appreciative of ‘the meticulous attention to detail the Japanese have in all of their activities’, something he tries to adopt himself. It’s a way to express something about himself as a person in the way he presents his products.
As for the chocolate, Tad first sent me a bar of 71% Venezuelan Puerto Cabello and a bag of truffles made from the same chocolate plus cream, vanilla essence and salt. Both are delicious. The chocolate is well made, with a pleasing aroma, nice snap and really rich and intense flavours, mostly in the fruity spectrum – both fresh berries and dried fruit – but with quite low acidity, just enough to give balance. I would recommend that Tad tap the moulds more robustly after pouring in the chocolate as there were a few bubbles in the bar, but this is a minor issue and doesn’t affect taste or texture of the chocolate itself.
The truffles are similarly rich and intense. I can’t detect the vanilla but I’m glad of that – I’m not sure this chocolate needs it. I particularly like the smooth texture and same excellent flavour as in the bar.
It’s great to see more high quality bean-to-bar chocolate in London, and from what I’ve tried so far, Tadzio Chocolate will be a welcome addition to the category once he starts trading fully. I certainly look forward to trying more of his chocolate soon.
Thus far, Tad has set up a limited company and is licensed to sell his products, but hasn’t yet established a website or online store but you can get in touch with him via his Facebook page, or email him directly at [email protected] if you’d like to place an order. His 50 gram bars are currently £3 each and a bag of 7 truffles is £6. As he makes small batches, you will need to ask him what variety he has available at the time.
Kavey Eats received review samples from Tadzio Chocolate.