TRUFFLE MAKING WORKSHOP AT COCOA AMORE, LEICESTER
Award winning Cocoa Amore, is located on the cobbled stoned lanes around Silver Street, is a firm favourite in our household. I often go to indulge in one of their delicious hot chocolates accompanied by a little handmade treat, or pick-up a few gifts from the array of chocolate delights available. So you can imagine my joy when I was invited to a chocolate making workshop to mark National Chocolate Week (14th October-20th October).
The flagship store in the heart of medieval Leicester, is the hub where Cocoa Amore’s creative team put together and develop new flavours with ingredients sourced globally. It’s also where the different chocolate making workshops are undertaken and delivered
The workshop kicked off with a delicious soya milk hot chocolate (vegan friendly) containing star anise barrow, we took our seats for an introduction to Cocoa Amore, the cocoa bean and the production of chocolate, by Pete, Chocolatier and Managing Director.
It was then time to make our way upstairs to start the chocolate workshop. Pete talked through the origin and history of chocolate and how it was once used as currency (I’ve included some of the interesting facts at the end of the post) and his own very inspirational story of how he set up his chocolatier business, which started out as a small outlet named Chocolate Alchemy in Loughborough, which he later sold, to the current Flagship store on Silver street (since 2015) and the store at The Engine Yard at Belvoir Castle.
Cocoa Amore has quite the national reputation as it has won awards for small business and enterprise. They were even invited to 10 Downing Street and featured in a Christmas market with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This was in recognition of being one of the top 100 small businesses in the country.
THE COCOA AMORE VISION
I loved Pete’s total enthusiasm and vision for Cocoa Amore. As a chocolatier, he sees Cocoa Amore as a full theatrical performance from the moment you step into the shop. The smell of the chocolate wafting up from the workspace, the numerous items on the shop floor as well as those in the display counter. There’s a mercator projection of the chocolate belt, hand painted on the wall with a few chocolate related facts, giving the customer an insight into the world of chocolate and feeding their curiosity.
There are samples of the different chocolate types to be found all around the store for a ‘try before you buy’ experience. It’s all about the customer experience and investing time in educating the consumer in choosing quality handmade chocolate and cocoa products made locally at the flagship store in the city.
THE NOT SO HUMBLE COCOA BEAN
During my time in Monteverde in Costa Rica, I built up on my elementary knowledge of the Cocoa bean, which is encased in a pod containing roughly 35 pods, which are meticulously removed, separated from their husks, dried for up to a year and then packed in hessian sacks ready for transport.
The last part of the theory session is a little more practical with tasting chocolate from the different parts of the Cocoa Belt. There was a selection and taste for everyone with geographical samples from Colomba, Belgium, Madagascar, Java, Sao Thomé, Brazil, San Martin and Mexico City. Each one had varying percentages of cocoa content and included, dark, milk, white and ruby milk chocolate. Truly a world chocolate tour for the senses.
It was then time to put on an apron and make our very own truffles. We were presented with a piece of dark chocolate ganache at room temperature, which was to serve as a starting point of our truffles.
The ganache block was cut into small pieces
Using our finger tips, these were slowing rolled into a circular ball, which was then made spherical in our palms. Working to speed is key as the chocolate can start to melt.
These were then coated in a thin layer of ganache by rolling in our palms, followed by a thicker layer of ganache.
Finally, the balls were dusted in cocoa powder and packaged. Don’t they look professional?
A NOD TO SUSTAINABILITY
Cocoa Amore definitely gets the be-lavie seal of approval as currently the brand are well on their way to reducing single use plastic by wrapping a selection of their bars in recycled packaging and paper. Some of the packaging has even been designed by the same local artist who created ‘The Cocoa Belt’ mercator projection.
In two years Cocoa Amore plans to reduce single use plastic by 80%, which is a fantastic plight and contribution to lessening the globally detrimental carbon footprint.
DID YOU KNOW?
Cocoa used to be used for currency…
Good quality chocolate should only contain the following; cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla pods, milk powder, lecithin and cocoa butter.
70% of the worlds cocoa is grown in Ghana and The Ivory Coast
Cocoa grows between 16 degrees and 20 degrees either side of the equator.
Cocoa tastes very different depending upon, which part of the world it derives from, for example beans from Mexico have a very spicy and tobacco like taste so are good for making savoury dishes, whereas beans from java can be more caramelised and better for sweeter palettes.
The majority of cocoa at Cocoa Amore comes from Casa Luker, who have been making the best quality chocolate from Columbia since 1906. They work as a co-operative in Columbia trying to deter local farmers from growing coca for cocaine production by helping them grow cocoa, ginger and banana trees instead hence reducing cocaine production in the country.
The Luker way focuses on producing long term sustainable businesses for all its employees by means of education, research and a true passion for the craft so that everyone in the co-operative can receive a fair income. If you fancy reading more about Luker cocoa, you can do so here.
Chocolate should be served at room temperature as if it is chilled and exposed to warm air, condensation occurs on the surface, dissolving some of the sugar leading to recrystallisation as a grainy white coating.
The optimum holding temperature for chocolate is 15 – 20ºC with low humidity.
The cocoa butter in chocolate absorbs odours readily so be sure to store chocolate away from things like garlic, onions or even spices unless you fancy altering the taste!
Couverture chocolate is a very high-quality chocolate that contains a higher percentage of cocoa butter (32–39%) more than that contained in baking or eating chocolate.
Also did you know that Cocoa Amore can make real handmade chocolate items for wedding and party favours as well as corporate packages and collaborates with many local business!
Just to note, Cocoa Amore cater for vegans too! There’s a a range of chocolates as well as the couveture hot chocolate we kicked off our workshop with. The workshops are also fully catered for a vegan diet.
SUPPORTING LEICESTER LOCAL INDEPENDENTS
One of the things I love about Cocoa Amore, is their absolute passion for chocolate making. I remember when I first met Pete, the owner many years ago when I discovered the brand, he was really enthusiastic and knowledgeable about his craft. I have seen over the years how that infectious passion has been transferred to the staff and it’s most definitely service with a smile. It’s the perfect place to grab a good quality hot chocolate if you ever fancy a break from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
Cocoa Amore have provided me with a special 10% discount code to share with my lovely readers so you can treat yourself to some of their delicious handmade chocolate delights as well as on the workshops. Just pop belavie10 in at checkout or mention in store until 31 December 2019.
Chocolate fiends, you have a chance to win your very own chocolate making workshop for two, valued at £90. Interested? Well, in every 100th bar of chocolate there is a Golden ticket, which will set you up to enjoy this very experience.
In the worlds of Cocoa Amore….
‘The greatest lobe stories start with one essential emotion – desire’
Cocoa Amore’s approach it to source the finest ingredients and blend them with the finest single origin harvest to deliver a product that showcases the benefits of cocoa and the love for cocoa.
Disclaimer: My chocolate workshop experience and goody bag was gifted by Cocoa Amore. All comments, views, opinions and photography are my own and therefore remain a copyright of be-lavie.
34 Silver Street
Tel. 0116 2623278
Information of workshops, products, their branch at Belvoir Castle, as well as the online shop is available via Cocoa Amore’s website
The truffle making workshop is priced at £20 and is approximately 2 hours in duration.
Tell me, have you ever been on a chocolate making workshop and what was your experience? How are you celebrating National Chocolate Week?