The first in our Meet The Maker series, looking at the exceptional crafts people, artisan makers and foodsmiths we’re lucky enough to work with.
Mike Longman at Chocolarder knows all about perfecting his craft. When we first met him, he’d spent a year working on the best way to make the perfect chocolate from scratch… yes, that’s a whole year.
Mike had previously spent many years as a chef (with a background in economics…) working in top restaurants and perfecting his chocolate making skills. We wanted to find out more about what a day in the life of a real ‘bean-to-bar’ chocolate maker was all about.
Firstly we asked Mike to explain what bean-to-bar means, and ultimately it means hand-made-from-scratch.
After sourcing the best cocoa beans possible, Mike roasts them, removes the shell and then stonegrinds them for days into a fine cocoa liquor. This liquor is then ‘conched’ (spun around a lot), tempered and set into exquisite chocolate bars.
It’s a long process that needs a lot of love and attention.
When we spent the day with Mike, he was foraging for one of his most popular chocolate bars – Wild Gorse Flower.
When the flowers start to bloom in the spring, he hand picks these himself from wild gorse bushes and draws out the natural oils through effleurage.
This natural gorse essence lasts him all year until the gorse flowers blossom again. Which means this incredible, coconutty milk chocolate doesn’t have to be seasonal.
One of Mike’s recent ventures has been sourcing chocolate from the Asháninka people in the Amazon rainforest. With the help of the international charity Cool Earth, Chocolarder has been trading with them, to help the Asháninka support their villages and combat illegal logging.
Mike’s been experimenting with these sustainably grown Peruvian cocoa beans from the remote Ene Valley region of the Amazon and has developed some exquisite chocolate.
He’s really excited about the incredible quality and flavour of the beans, so we’re looking forward to trying them.
Apart from his delicious, top quality chocolate, our favourite thing about working with Mike is the way his values are instilled in everything his does.
Mike sources the best beans from family plantations and pays higher than fairtrade prices, but he’s also always looking for ways to benefit the local economy and collaborate with local people.