First time dark milk chocolate wins top prize as artisanal producers shine at AoC chocolate awards

PRESS RELEASE:  23 July 2019

Castronovo Chocolate has been named as winner of the coveted Golden Bean trophy for its Sierra Nevada Dark Milk 63% at the prestigious Academy of Chocolate awards – the first ever awarded to a dark milk chocolate bar.

The Florida-based business was one of a number of artisanal producers to pick up prizes, signaling a major increase in fine chocolate awareness and understanding.

A record-breaking 1,600 entries from 46 countries were considered by the Academy’s panel of expert judges, and winners were presented with their awards at a high-profile event held at Claridge’s Hotel in London’s Mayfair.

Master chocolatier Denise Castronovo’s 63% Sierra Nevada dark milk bar uses wild heirloom cacao harvested by the Arhuaco indigenous people. Originally developed to bridge the great fine chocolate divide between discerning palates who enjoy milk chocolate and the dark chocolate purists, dark milk chocolate has emerged as a hugely popular trend.

A higher percentage of cacao means that dark milk chocolate has less sugar and ultimately more flavour, providing top bar-makers like Castronovo and Tobago Cocoa Estate – a fellow winner of Gold for dark milk – the opportunity to showcase their skills. The Tobago Cocoa Estate bar is made in conjunction with Friis-Holm.

Other special awards to be presented were five rising star awards.

The UK Rising Star 2019 went to Luisa’s Vegan Chocolates (bars), highlighting growing demand for quality fine vegan chocolate. Based in Nottingham, the producer makes bean-to-bar chocolate using cacao beans sourced from volcanic islands in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.

Norway-based Anyri Chocolat (bonbons) was named European Rising Star 2019.

There were three winners of the International Rising Star 2019 award: Valenza Chocolatier (bonbons), which creates Italian-inspired chocolate in California, USA; DesBarres Chocolate (bars), a micro-batch producer of single origin bars based in Ontario, Canada; and Metiisto Artisan Chocolate (bars), which creates bean-to-bar from Solomon Islands cacao out of Toowoomba, Australia.

The packaging Brand Experience Award, launched in 2018 to celebrate the pleasure of chocolate as a complete moment-by-moment experience, from attractive functional packaging to enjoyable mouthfeel was awarded to Foundry Fine Craft Chocolate from Mahurangi, New Zealand. Their bar wrappers demonstrated a creative concern for sustainability and presenting chocolate information attractively and concisely.

Sara Jayne Stanes OBE, Academy founder, said: “We are particularly impressed with the quality, craftsmanship and enthusiasm shown in all those small producers from around the chocolate world who won awards. The talent and creativity of newcomers is notable and we applaud the enduring continuity, brilliance and expertise of regular entrants.

“With so many incredible entries, the task of determining our winners was harder than ever. We were looking for complexity and innovation, stunning appearance and a beautiful melt. And in our special award winners this is precisely what we found.”


Media contact:

Piers Zangana

Susa Comms

t: 07960 078 935



Entries open for world leading chocolate awards

PRESS RELEASE:  23 November 2018

Entries for the 11th Academy of Chocolate annual awards have opened – seeking to identify and showcase the world’s most talented chocolate producers and finest chocolates.

Entries are invited across five headline categories – bars, filled chocolates, drinking chocolate, chocolate spreads and packaging – with chocolatiers able to make multiple submissions against a stage one deadline of Wednesday 31 January 2019.

Stage two of the competition will see the submission of final products, which must arrive for judging between Monday 4 February 2019 and noon on Monday 18 February 2019.

More than 100 expert judges will make up the panel, including leading chocolatiers and some of the UK’s most prominent food writers and bloggers. The judges will convene at Westminster Kingsway for a 25 session judging process expected over a 12 week period.

Together they will mark the products on appearance, depth of aroma and flavour, length and complexity to determine the gold, silver, and bronze winners in each category. Promising products that are not yet at award-winning level will receive commendations.

Winners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony in July. These include the famous Golden Bean award, which recognises the achievement of a producer controlling the entire process from roasting the bean to the finished, supremely delicious bar, and the Golden BonBon award, which was introduced in 2017 in response to the quality and creativity increasingly achieved in the popular filled chocolates category.

This year, the Academy has also launched a new Brand Awareness Award which celebrates the pleasure of enjoying chocolate as a complete moment by moment experience, from attractive functional packaging to enjoyable mouthfeel. The awards also seek to identify Rising Stars both in the UK and internationally.

Launched in 2005, the prestigious Academy of Chocolate awards have gone from strength to strength mirroring the growth of the fine chocolate market. In its inaugural year, there were 12 entries. By 2018, that figure had grown to more a record-breaking 1,200 submissions from more than 45 countries.

Sara Jayne Stanes OBE, chairman, Academy of Chocolate, said: “Ever since the Academy of Chocolate Awards debuted, the response from across the whole world of chocolate has been overwhelming. Not only has the number of entries soared, so too have the levels of innovation and quality.

“I look forward to seeing the talent and creativity that this year’s crop of entries will bring. I’m sure they will once again make for some very challenging and exciting judging sessions.”

Marie-Pierre Moine, board member and awards ambassador, added: “Purity and sustainability of ingredients remain paramount considerations for the Academy. This year’s new Brand Awareness Award will reward a creative concern with sustainability, as well as the way chocolate information is presented, and the overall packaging quality and suitability.”

The Academy of Chocolate was founded in 2005 by five of Britain’s leading chocolate professionals, united in the belief that eating fine chocolate is one of life’s great pleasures.

Today, Academy members from across the world meet to taste, discuss, demonstrate and debate issues regarding sourcing, transparency, sustainability and the journey from bean to bar.

Producers and chocolatiers can enter via


Media contact:

Piers Zangana

Susa Comms

t: 07960 078 935







International chocolate producers dominate prestigious chocolate awards


The world’s most innovative and exciting chocolatiers from across the globe were celebrated at a glittering party held at Claridges Hotel, London, on Wednesday 25th July.

One producer, Canada based Qantu Chocolate, achieved double success in the prestigious Golden Bean category. Its Chuncho 70% and Morropon 70% bars, using rare beans from Peru, were tied at the end of the blind tasting before the judges found them to be from the same chocolate house.

The Golden Bon Bon award was won by Chocolat Grace for its Maracaibo & Cranberry Caramel and follows the producer’s 2017 International Rising Star win.

As with Qantu, it was only the second year Chocolat Grace entered the awards and both are relatively new producers. It was also the second time the Golden Bon Bon was awarded after it was created last year to celebrate the quality and creativity increasingly achieved in the popular filled chocolates category.

Meanwhile all four winners of this year’s Rising Star awards were debut entries and relative newcomers to the world of chocolate altogether.

The UK Rising Star accolade was awarded to Tosier Chocolatemaker, whose founder Deanna Tilston was trained by Academy of Chocolate co-founder Chloe Doutre-Roussel, while Norway’s first bean to bar producer Fjåk Chocolate, whose flavoured bars include Lingonberry and Reindeer Lichen, took home the European Rising Star award.

Wisconsin-based CocoVaa Chocolatier, which creates filled chocolates and bars, and Taiwan’s Fu Wan Chocolate, which was notable for bean to bar brilliance matched by bold flavour combinations, were joint winners of the International Rising Star award.

All but one of the special awards winners were women chocolate makers and in a number of instances these women had an arduous journey to success and demonstrated great determination as well as skill.

Another female duo who continue to shine are last year’s UK Rising Star Dormouse Chocolates, with several winning bars.  Also fulfilling their promise are the 2016 UK Newcomers Eponine, carrying away multiple Gold awards for their bonbons.

Academy Chairman Sara Jayne Stanes OBE said: “We are particularly happy about the overall quality, craftsmanship and enthusiasm shown in the entries. We are thrilled at the talent and creativity of newcomers, and we applaud the constant brilliance and expertise of regular entrants.”

The panel of expert judges assessed a record-breaking number of entries from across the world. Sara Jayne added: “With so many incredible entries, the task of determining our winners was harder than ever. We were looking for complexity and innovation, stunning appearance and a beautiful melt. And in our special award winners this is precisely what we found.”

A special Brand Experience packaging award was created this year to honour the contribution of first time entrants ca ca o from Japan and it will become an official category next year.

Marie-Pierre Moine, Academy of Chocolate Board member and Awards Ambassador, said: “The Brand Experience is a new idea. It’s the first year we’ve awarded it and the reason ca ca o won it is that our judges loved the complete experience – from looking at the product and handling it, to opening and enjoying the chocolate.

“Our packaging experts mentioned the concept of brand experience as the enjoyment in chocolate starts from the wrapping to the eating. The enjoyment begins with the eyes. Judges this year particularly admired the bar packaging. They enthused over the beautiful use of traditional design and material, the fusion of old and witty modern, the provenance and chocolate information given, the super attention to packaging details, the ways the chocolate is kept fresh, the clever portioning. “

Among the delegates at this year’s awards ceremony were Mr John Coleman, Quebec Agent-General in London; Jaime Cardenas and Luisa Fuster of the Commercial Office, Embassy of Peru; Mr Felipe Angel Campo of the Pro Colombia Government Trade Office and Consul Rommel Romato and Zay Arguelles from the Philippine Embassy in London.

Managed and run by Silvija Davidson, this year’s award entries demonstrated the international recognition of the Awards. Entries were received from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, USA, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dubai, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Madagascar, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, South Africa, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, UAE, the UK and Vietnam.


To view a gallery of photos of winners and of the Awards party

user name:  choc ;  password:  awards  [all lower case]

Media contact:

Piers Zangana

Susa Comms

t: 07960 078 935





Record number of entries for the prestigious chocolate awards signals major growth in the fine chocolate market


A record-breaking 1,200 entries have been judged at the 2018 Academy of Chocolate Awards – 400 more than last year, rising from 12 when it first launched in 2005.

The entries, made up of chocolate produced in more than 45 countries, included a significant increase in chocolate made by smaller producers – reflecting growing awareness of the origin, craft and sustainability of real chocolate.

The awards aim to recognise and showcase great-tasting chocolate and its producers. Entries were received from traditional chocolate-making producers in the UK, Europe, Canada and the USA, as well as newer producers from countries such as Colombia, Croatia and Korea.

Leading chocolatiers from across the industry, including Luke Frost of Valrhona and Keith Hurdman from Felchlin, came together to judge the awards, and were joined by Andrew Baker of The Telegraph, Charles Metcalfe MW and Spencer Hyman of Cocoa Runners, as well as some of the UK’s most prominent chocolate bloggers and food writers.

Held at Westminster Kingsway College, London, industry experts took part in 15 days of judging – deliberating over key categories including Bean to Bar, Tree to Bar, Flavoured, Milk and White Bars, Filled chocolates, Spreads and Packaging.

A full list of gold, silver and bronze awards can be found on the Awards page. The winners of the famous Golden Bean and other special Academy of Chocolate 2018 Awards will be announced at a glittering ceremony at Claridge’s in July.

The awards have been organised by Silvija Davidson and Marie-Pierre Moine, who head up the Academy’s awards committee.

Sara Jayne Stanes OBE, chair, Academy of Chocolate, said: “We are thrilled to have had a wider global spread than ever before, including innovative producers from the Far and Middle East.

“This year’s entrants really raised the bar and we saw some very wild and innovative flavours.

“Consumer interest in craft chocolate is undoubtedly on the up and, as such, so too is the number of small-scale B2B producers, which make up the majority of entries this year.

“The talent and creativity of our new entrants and the consistent expertise of our regulars made for challenging and exciting judging. We are looking forward to announcing the overall winners in July.”


Media contact:

Piers Zangana

Susa Comms

t: 07960 078 935





And the 2017 golden bean goes to…

PRESS RELEASE:  19th July 2017


The Academy of Chocolate celebrated the winners of its 2017 Awards at a truly glittering party in London’s legendary Claridge’s on Wednesday 19th July, bringing together the Crème de la Crème of the chocolate world 

For the very first time, a 100% cocoa content bean won the coveted Golden Bean. Chocolat Madagascar’s 100% bar wowed the judges with its ‘great melt, buttery texture and sweet fruitiness’, a quite unique achievement for a bar containing nothing other than cocoa solids. Remarkably this is also a bar entirely crafted on the island where the cacao is grown, in other words produced Tree to Bar in Madagascar.

Rococo Chocolates went home with the very first Golden Bon Bon Award for its perfectly executed Rooibos Chocolate. The Golden Bon Bon was created this year to celebrate the quality and creativity increasingly achieved in the popular filled chocolates category.

The International Rising Star Award paid tribute to Chocolat Grace from North Carolina for its brilliantly executed filled chocolates. This year’s UK Rising Star was awarded to the first Bean to Bar chocolate maker in Manchester, Dormouse Chocolates, who make micro-batches of accomplished chocolate, using stone grinders, from hand sorted raw beans to carefully aged product.

Many of this year’s record-breaking entries were contributed by promising newcomers from all over the world. The best two shone in very different ways and both well deserved a Newcomer Award. One goes to Georgia Ramon, Georg Bernardini and Ramona Gustmann’s exciting new Bonn-based Bean to Bar venture. The other winner hails from Canada, a land of talented Chocolate makers. It is so new to the business that it doesn’t yet have a website. The jury was thrilled with the delightful little bars produced by Qantu Chocolate using rare beans from Peru.

Academy Chairman Sara Jayne Stanes OBE says, “We are particularly happy about the overall quality, craftsmanship and enthusiasm shown in the entries.  We are thrilled at the talent and creativity of newcomers, and we applaud the constant brilliance and expertise of regular entrants.”

The panel of expert judges, chaired this year by award-winning pastry chef and consultant Sarah Hartnett, tackled the evaluation of a record breaking 900 entries from across the world.  Sarah notes:  “The job of determining the Special Awards was no mean feat.  A fabulous appearance, a lovely melt, great balance, well managed complexity, and innovation …  Chocolates worthy of a special Award should stop you in your tracks and leave you in no doubt that they deliver sheer enjoyment.”

In keeping with the aims of the Academy, criteria for the awards are that products must contain natural ingredients with no artificial flavourings or colourings. This year’s award entries demonstrated the international recognition of the Awards. Entries were received from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Grenada, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Jakarta, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, UAE, UK, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

To view a gallery of photos of winners and of the Awards party, please visit the Academy’s Facebook Page




Cocoa Flavours, Premium Chocolate Brands and The Academy of Chocolate

(Taken from Hardman agribusiness)

On Thursday 16th July 2016, Hardman Agribusiness attended an evening discussion at the famous Soho restaurant, L’Escargot, about chocolate produced from single variety ‘flavour’ cocoa trees. There is compelling empirical evidence of strong demand growth for fine flavour cocoa inspired products. Hosted by The Academy of Chocolate, the discussion was led by Angus Thirlwell Co-founder and CEO of Hotel Chocolat, and Frank Homann Founder & CEO of Xoco. The central theme of the discussion was that cocoa production is still evolving and that compared to the production of many other fruit crops, it is relatively under-developed. Consumers will all have a favourite variety of apple, distinguishable by flavour, texture and juiciness, dates admit of a number of distinct varieties as do plums, tomatoes and avocados. Cocoa varieties also have unique and complex flavours, especially the ancient Criollo varieties which are the focus of Xoco’s production programme. The Academy of Chocolate and its members share with Xoco a determination to recognise and encourage the use of these fine flavour beans for the production of superior and distinct tasting chocolate.

Hotel Chocolat

Hotel Chocolat is a British chocolatier and cocoa grower, with over seventy shops in the UK and a growing presence in Europe. The founding team of Angus Thirlwell and Peter Harris began designing and selling chocolates in 1988 and the rebranded all activities as Hotel Chocolat in 2003 when the first retail store was opened in Watford. In 2006, the company acquired the Rabot Estate in Saint Lucia, West Indies, and is, to date, the only company in the UK (known to Hardman Agribusiness) to own its own cocoa plantation. Hotel Chocolat has been awarded Emerging Retailer of the Year by Retail Week and has been nominated as one of the UK’s CoolBrands. In November 2013, Hotel Chocolat opened two UK restaurants, Rabot 1745 in London’s Borough Market, and Roast + Conch in Leeds.

Xoco Mayan Red

Source: Xoco website – Mayan Red

Xoco, founded in 2007, is a privately held company focused on supplying single variety flavour cocoa beans to chocolatiers around the world. The company operates in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua and is currently looking at more projects in Central America. Having identified rare fine flavour Criollo variety trees in various countries across the Central American region the company established nurseries for their propagation to support what it describes as perhaps “the largest cocoa grafting operation in history”. Xoco is seeking to revolutionise the cocoa production industry with the use of material for grafting to achieve the best flavours available within the known pools of cocoa DNA.

Xoco claims to be the first producer to offer single variety, single origin, fine flavour cocoa in volume. Over time, several hundred farmers – or “out growers” – have made exclusive partnership contracts with Xoco, and have planted their fields with fine cocoa tree varieties produced in the company’s nurseries. Typically, the farmers commit 20%-30% of their land in planting Xoco cocoa lines. The company has undertaken to provide technical assistance for the productive lifetime of the trees, it guarantees the growers a superior price, typically at or above the international price of the commodity, and it collects the wet beans at the farm gate for fermentation, drying and bagging to the highest standards, at its own facilities within each country in which it operates.

Attendees at the discussion were treated to tastings of chocolate made with Mayan Red, one of Xoco’s supplied varieties. According to Xoco, the Mayan Red cultivar dates back to the original Mayan trees, genetically unique to Honduras. The original “mother trees” were found on remote farms in the northern coastal jungle. Its tasting notes are described as ‘complex’ and a ‘distinct blend of dark raisins, fruit and honey’. Hardman Agribusiness and other tasters noted a definite rich smoky after flavour.

Fine flavour beans are thought to represent not much more than 5% of the global crop, but the proliferation of premium brands like Hotel Chocolat and many of the other members of Academy of Chocolate, suggests that demand for high quality flavour beans is on the increase and it is this demand that Xoco is seeking to meet.

The Academy of Chocolate was founded in 2005 by five of Britain’s leading chocolate professionals, united in the belief that eating fine chocolate is one of life’s great pleasures. Today the membership reads like a roll call of the quality end of the chocolate confectionery and retail sectors in the UK. The Academy argues that demand for fine chocolate will act as an incentive to select better quality cocoa beans and therefore have a beneficial social and environmental impact on the cocoa growing countries. With better pricing for their production and an emphasis on quality The Academy believes that producers will be incentivised to remain in cocoa production and will farm more responsibly.





At a sparkling Awards Party at the Athenaeum Hotel on 8th July 2017, host Simon Parkes presented the Gold winners of the 2016 Academy of Chocolate Awards

Academy Chair, Sara Jayne Stanes, and Board Member Marie-Pierre Moine, announce the winner of the Golden Bean 2016

From the Americas, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, the British Isles, from small artisans and major international producers, over 580 carefully packed chocolates had poured into Westminster Kingsway College to be judged at the Academy of Chocolate’s Eighth Awards in April. A panel of over 40 chocolate experts, buyers, pastry chefs, food professionals and journalists chaired by Michael Nadell, tasted and deliberated over 6 days with the help of Gary Hunter, Zoe Adjey and a team of hospitality students from West King.

Hundreds of fine chocolates lined up for judging at Westminster Kingsway College.

In the hotly contended Dark Bean to Bar under 80% category, a record 14 Golds were awarded by the jury, showing just how much the quality of bean to bar has improved.  Out of this impressive line up, the Golden Bean went to the highest scoring entry, universally praised by the jury, Hummingbird Chocolate’s Hispaniola 70%.  Ontario chocolatiers Erica and Drew Gimour were elated to hear that the top accolade had been given to their ‘unique magical bean’, the one they used when they first made chocolate at home as a hobby in 2011.

First time entrant to the AoC Awards and Newcomer of the Year is Japan’s Es koyama, who impressed the jury with beautifully executed chocolates and innovative packaging.  the 2016 Rising Star Award is Eponine, an exciting British Chocolatier from Cheshire.

Academy Chairman Sara Jayne Stanes OBE applauded the quality of the entries: ‘We are very proud of our winners from home and abroad, they have produced a very wide range of exciting chocolates. The quality of the Bean to Bar category has improved significantly. More than ever before the individual filled chocolates are technically accomplished, creative and original. The fact that our Awards attracted so many talented chocolatiers from across the globe clearly shows that the Academy of Chocolate is recognised as the leader in identifying, supporting and encouraging chocolate excellence‘.






At the sparkling Awards Party at Fortnum and Mason last Thursday, host Nigel Barden presented the Gold winners of the 2015 Academy of Chocolate Awards. There were additional Awards for exceptional entrants: Bertil Akesson was awarded the coveted Golden Bean for his outstanding Åkesson’s 75% Criollo Cocoa Madagascar; Chika Watanabe was chosen as Best Newcomer in recognition of her fresh, innovative chocolates; and Dom Ramsay was noted as One to Watch for his brilliant new bean-to-bar chocolates.

The Academy of Chocolate Awards, now taking place for the 7th time, is a highly anticipated event in the international chocolate calendar. This year’s Awards received a record number of entries with over 500 products. As a result more judges were involved in the jury panel and the judging, which took place at Westminster Kingsway College, was extended to five days. Chaired by globally respected wine expert, Charles Metcalfe, judges included chocolate experts and buyers, pastry chefs, food professionals and food journalists.

In the first clutch of Gold Awards, the Swedish chocolate maker, Åkesson’s Organic, won gold with its 100% Criollo Cocoa Madagascar in the Best Dark Chocolate Bean-to-Bar over 80%, as well as taking a Gold in the Best Dark Chocolate Bean-to-Bar under 80% category for its 75% Criollo Cocoa Madagascar. Also achieving Gold in the new ‘under 80%’ Category were American chocolate makers Amano Artisan Chocolate for Ocumare 70% Dark Chocolate; and, last year’s shared Golden Bean winner, Bar au Chocolat for Dominican Republic 70%.

Åkesson’s Organic truly impressed the judges this year and continued to thrive in the Best Flavoured Dark Chocolate Bar category, winning Gold for 75% Trinitario cocoa & ‘Wild’ Voatsiperify pepper and for its 75% Trinitario coca & Pink pepper. Also winning a Gold award in the Best Flavoured Milk Chocolate Bar Category with its 45% Milk chocolate with Fleur de sel & Coconut blossom sugar, Hotel Chocolat received a Gold accolade for its Borough Market Blend Gin Bar (65%) and Pump Street Bakery Chocolate triumphed with a Gold accolade for its Rye, Crumb, Milk & Sea Salt 60%.

The new departure this year requiring ‘bean to bar’ entries to be submitted in plain unidentified 5g moulds proved a highly popular move towards increased transparency.

Rococo ruled the roost in the Best Filled Chocolate – Plain category, taking home three Gold awards for its Single Origin Peru Ganache, Single Origin Dominican Republic Ganache and Single Origin Chuao Ganache. The brilliant Ben Le Prevost was awarded a Gold award in the Best Filled Chocolate – Fruit category for its Raspberry, Lime & Chilli, alongside the family-owned Berries Luxury Pudding Makers & Confectioners which also won Gold for its Raspberry & Rose Jelly Heart.

Newcomer to the Awards, Chika Watanabe received a Gold award for her Tajine Apricot in the Best Filled Chocolate – Spices and Herbs category. Demarquette Fine Chocolates also achieved a Gold accolade for its handcrafted Imperial China chocolate. In the Best Filled Chocolate – Alcohol category Chococo gained a Gold accolade for its Totally Twisted Nose and Hotel Chocolat was awarded Gold for its Single Malt Cardhu Whisky.

The Best Filled Chocolate – Caramel category was awash with outstanding opponents with the following walking away with a Gold accolade: Benjamin Chocolatier for Palm Blossom Caramel; Berries Luxury Pudding Makers & Confectioners for Blackcurrant Caramel Dome; Chika Watanabe for Yuzu Mint Caramel; Coworth Park Hotel for Muscavodo & Ginger Caramel; Rococo Chocolates for Mandarin & Tonka Bean Caramel; Selfridges for Hebridean Honey and Sea Salted Caramel; and last, but by no means least, Winchester Cocoa Company for Ginger and Muscovado Caramel.

Yauatcha won the judges appeal with a Gold award for its Raspberry Rose chocolate in the Best Filled Chocolate – Other category. In the Best Unflavoured Drinking Chocolate category Kokoa Collection Hot Chocolate gained a Gold award for its Dark Haiti 75% Hot Chocolate. Hotel Chocolat tantalised the judges’ taste buds, winning a Gold accolade for its Salted Caramel hot chocolate in the Best Flavoured Drinking Chocolate category.

Omissions this year from regular contenders and past winners included Amedei, Paul a Young and William Curley, all of whom were invited to ‘swap places’ to join the judging teams. There still was a significant increase in the number of entries in the bean to bar category, indicating that more chocolate makers are entering the Awards; and for the first time, entries from outside the UK equalled the number of UK entries, indicating the international recognition of the Awards.

Sara Jayne Stanes, Chairman of the Academy of Chocolate is “hugely excited this year by the growing universal attraction of the awards and the number of entries from across the globe. Who would have imagined when we started the awards 10 years ago we would be looking at a totally different world of chocolate. And the standard of chocolate just gets better and better”.

The packaging categories were certainly a welcome feast for the eyes. The judges were dazzled by the beautiful collection of Best Packaging – Bars entries, with Golds going to Beschle for its Matcha Bar –a perfect match for the green of the chocolate, Chocolate NAÏVE for Mulate Collection and Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate for Chocolate Bar Envelope. In the Best Packaging – Boxes category we received Gold award-winning entries from Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate for its Drinking Chocolate Bag, artisan and pratical; Du Jour Chocolate LTDA for its unique tactile Du Jour Multipurpose Cocoa Pod and Rozsavolgyi Csokolade for its charming Hot Chocolate Family Packaging.

We are grateful once again to Westminster Kingsway College, where the judging took place with the professional help of Gary Hunter and Jesse Courtis and the team of the hospitality lecturers and students.

Judges included food writers and bloggers: Xanthe Clay, Andrew Baker, Jennifer Earle, Lee McCoy, Zoe Perrett, Spencer Hyman, Jill Norman, Henrietta Green, Aggie McKenzie, Jenny Linford, Joanna Wood, Janie Suthering; Buyers from Fortnum & Mason, Harrods, Selfridges, Marks & Spencer; Chocolatiers/Patissiers: Cecilia Tessieri, Iain Burnett, Amelia Rope, Claire Clark MBE, James Petrie and Steven James from the University of West London; and AoC members: Kate Johns, Christopher Reeves and John Adams.

The Grand Jury comprised: Charles Metcalfe (Chairman); Sarah Jane Evans; Fiona Gately; Judith Lewis; Marie-Pierre Moine; Sara Jayne Stanes; Janie Suthering; Paul a Young.

The Awards were managed by Silvija Davidson and Philippa Denlegh Maxwell.




What price chocolate? was the theme of the AoC’s conference at The Royal Automobile Club, Pall Mall, London on Thursday 16th October 2014 hosted by broadcaster and journalist Simon Parkes.


Bertil Akesson (Akesson’s); Kora Bernabe (Martinique); Chris Brennan (Pump Street Bakery); Chantal Coady OBE (Rococo); Pierre Courtemanche (GeoTraceability); Robin Dand (International Cocoa Consultant); Marc Demarquette; Sarah Jane Evans MW; Clay Gordon (USA); (Barry Callebaut); Frank Homann (Xoco); Riccardo Illy (Group Illy); Barry Johnson (Rococo); Philipp Kauffmann (Original Beans); Bill Keeling (Prestat); Tony Lass MBE (Global Expert); Clive Martyr; Marie-Pierre Moine; Borjana Pervan, (International Cocoa Initiative); Shelly Preston (Boutique Aromatique); Christopher Reeves; Amelia Rope; Craig Sams; Sara Jayne Stanes OBE; Luned Tonderai (Panorama), Cecilia Tessieri (Amedei); Angus Thirlwell (Hotel Chocolat); Richard Turner (Mood Foods); Simon Wright; Paul a Young and other experts from the world of cacao and chocolate pooled their thoughts on everything that contributes to the price we pay – or should be paying – for chocolate. Topics discussed included cacao as a commodity, sustainability, ethical issues, cacao genetics, geo traceability and just what goes into the production of chocolate from the tree to the bar. As ever with the AoC, there were plenty of opportunities to meet producers and artisan chocolatiers, and to taste state- of- the-art chocolate creations.

“The wide range of topics under scrutiny during the Conference meant that all our delegates engaged in constructive and lively discussions – certainly plenty for the AoC to think about! I believe that the Conference provided a galvanising impact on the delegates and proved another hugely valuable opportunity for some serious networking by a diverse industry. It was particularly reassuring to discover how much has been done already to alleviate many of the issues created by child labour across Africa by the International Cocoa Institute. Likewise it was of great interest to hear from a number of bean to bar producers just how many ways there are of producing a chocolate bar. The hidden costs of training, marketing and packaging were discussed at length with surprising revelations,” said Academy of Chocolate Chairman Sara Jayne Stanes. “In the end, the Conference agreed that fine chocolate (as opposed to chocolate confectionery) is too cheap and that the cocoa farmers should be paid more. But would the market bear it?”

Note: A bar of chocolate has been estimated at: Cocoa growers share 6% ; Shipment of beans to Europe and North America 4%; manufacture and processing of liquor, cocoa butter and couverture 14%; packaging, marketing and distribution of product 71%; taxes 5%.

For more images please visit our Facebook page.



The AoC celebrated the winners of the first Golden Leaf Awards at its third Conference held at the RAC in London on Thursday 16th October.

The Golden Leaf Awards were launched as a result of the AoC’s decision to spread out its award calendar by separating special Awards from the eagerly anticipated Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards given every two years to the finest chocolates, the best in show and overall winner being honoured with the prestigious Golden Bean. Nominations were entered by public electronic polling and the shortlisted nominees were judged by food writers and broadcasters: Nigel Barden, Xanthe Clay and Simon Parkes.

Shelly Preston of Boutique Aromatique won the Chocolate Entrepreneur Award for taking her fine chocolate business forward in a exciting, finely balanced and significant way while meeting the AoC’s ongoing campaign for better chocolate throughout the country.


The True Innovation Award went to Paul A Young of Paul A Young Fine Chocolates and to Aneesh Popat of The Chocolatier. It rewards genuine creativity and imagination and who has consistently surprised and delighted its customers.


Earlier this year the AoC created the Mott Green Award for Social enterprise and commitment to cocoa farmers, sustainability and the use of appropriate technology as a tribute to Mott Green who died in 2013. The High Commissioner of Grenada, His Excellency Joslyn Whiteman, received Mott’s posthumous award yesterday and paid a moving tribute to his old friend, urging the 120+ Conference delegates to stand and join hands in a circle of good will in memory of Mott.


“We are delighted to have so much new chocolate talent to celebrate and encourage. This is an exciting first time award – and the AoC Awards Committee was particularly pleased with the number of nominations demonstrating just how far the ‘stars’ of today’s new wave of chocolatiers have come” said Academy of Chocolate Chairman Sara Jayne-Stanes. We anticipate that our new awards winners will be the inspiration for many more to come in the future.



The Academy of Chocolate Awards, now in its 6th year, is a highly anticipated event in the International chocolate calendar.

 This year, two chocolate makers have ‘topped’ Bean-to-Bar category, winning the Golden Bean award.   Italian chocolate maker Amedei returns for the 5th time for its new ‘Blanco de Criollo’.  However, US newcomer Bar au Chocolat also wins Golden Bean with equal marks, hugely impressing the judges with ‘Chiapas, Mexico 70%’. Based in California, Nicole Trutanich turns the beans into bars working completely single-handed.

In Milk bean-to-bar, Duffy’s Red Star ‘Venezuelan Ocumare Milk’ excelled in its class with a ‘resounding’ Gold.

Other successful bean-to-bar manufacturers winning Silvers include Akesson’s Organic, Original Beans, newcomer Marou from Vietnam, Beschle, the Grenada Chocolate Company, Amano from Utah; Tobago Cocoa Estate, Michel Cluizel, Potomac Chocolate from Washington DC; Oialla from Denmark; and TCHO from San Francisco.

In filled chocolate categories, William and Suzue Curley have won 5 Golds in this year’s Awards and have consistently maintained the quality of their products since they opened their first shop in Richmond in 2004. The Curley ‘wins’ are closely followed by Rococo with 4 Golds and Matcha, the Buckinghamshire based company, with 3 Golds. Other big winners who picked up Golds were: London based Paul A Young Fine Chocolates for his stunning, creative version of Passion Fruit Curd which universally wowed the judges; newcomer Coworth Park, Ascot; and Co Couture in Northern Ireland; Akesson’s Organic and Michel Cluizel were also Gold winners as well as two US companies: Theo Chocolates in Seattle and Forte Chocolates from Washington, US.

The 15 categories in the Academy of Chocolate Awards include ‘Best House Dark Bar’, ‘Best Ganache Filled Chocolate’, ‘Best Flavoured Bar’ categories, ‘Best Truffle’, and ‘Best Drinking Chocolate’.  Best Drinking Chocolate is yet to be judged and these will be announced in due course.  In keeping with the aims of the Academy, criteria for the awards are that products must contain natural ingredients with no artificial flavourings or colourings.

The Academy of Chocolate’s Best Packaging Awards are also announced with Golds going to Original Beans – “simple but effective elegance”; to newcomers, the Franco-Vietnamese producers Marou  –“beautiful enough to frame” ; and also to the US based Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Company who won Gold for its perfect ‘classic’ box.

There was a significant increase in the number of entries in the bean-to-bar category, indicating that more chocolate makers are entering the Awards.

Entries from outside the UK equalled the number of UK entries, demonstrating the international recognition of the Awards. Entries were received from the USA, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, Madagascar and Europe, including Italy, France, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden and Norway.

To allow enough time to do justice to the many entries, the judging this year took place over 5 days, and involved a record number of judges – a minimum of 25 on each day. Judges included chocolate experts and buyers, pastry chefs, food professionals and food journalists including:  Bill Buckley, Charles Campion, Claire Clark MBE, Josceline Dimbleby, Chloe Doutre-Roussel, Jennifer Earle, Sarah Jane Evans MW, Mark Hix, Jenny Linford, Marianne Lumb, Charles Metcalfe MW, Marie-Pierre Moine, Amelia Rope, Yolande Stanley, Emma Sturgess, Janie Suthering and Will Torrent … and many more.

The judging took place at Westminster Kingsway College with the help of a team of Hospitality Students led by Zoe Adjey and was invigilated by leading Bakery lecturer, Jessica Courtis.

The Academy of Chocolate Awards for 2013 were presented at a party at Fortnum & Mason on Tuesday 23rd April when 5 special awards were also announced.  See our Awards pages for all listings.


Fantastic week of judging at Academy of Chocolate Awards

Posted on March 3, 2013 by admin

We’ve seen some fantastic entries into this year’s Academy of Chocolate Awards and some really interesting flavours, here’s a small sample of some of the flavours we’ve tasted this week:

  • Arabic Spices
  • Brickhouse Sourdough
  • Rhubarb
  • Reserve Bourbon
  • Japanese Black Vinegar
  • Masala chai Caramel
  • Yorkshire Blue and Biscuit
  • Potato Chip
  • Crème Brulée

Aside from flavours that have tantalised our tastebuds we’ve been ably assisted in the judging process by some expert tasters from the pastry industry and wine world along with chocolate enthusiasts and journalists. Below are just a few of the names that have come to help us judge:

  • Charles Campion – Food Critic
  • Claire Clark MBE – Pastry Chef
  • Chloe Doutre Roussel – Industry Consultant and Chocolate Connoisseur
  • Sarah Jane Evans – Master of Wine, Writer and Broadcaster
  • Mark Hix – Chef Restaurateur
  • Jenny Linford – Food Writer and Chocolate Blogger
  • Marieanne Lumb – Restaurateur
  • Jeanette Marshall – Food Writer and Nutritionist
  • Sara Jayne Stanes – Chairman Academy of Chocolate
  • Yolande Stanley MCA – Chef Patissier

You can keep up-to-date with Awards news by following us on twitter @acadofchocolate and using our hashtag #worldsbestchoc


Out-of-town chocolatiers take the Noval LBV and Tawny trophies


Fine chocolate is not just the preserve of sophisticated city dwellers.  Two talented chocolatiers from the Buckinghamshire and the Isle of Man have just been named as winners of this year’s (2012) coveted  Noval Trophies – an international  competition run by the Academy of Chocolate and supporters Quinta do Noval, to find the best chocolates to match their acclaimed ports.

The competition was fierce, attracting entries from all round the United Kingdom, and even as far as Seattle in the United States and Budapest in Hungary.  Fourteen finalists were selected to show off their creations, which included ingredients such as figs, prunes, walnuts, beetroot, oatmeal, and blue cheese,  and  blind-tasted last week against Noval’s  golden 10 Year Old Tawny and rich, red LBV 2005.

‘Originality and standards of  execution were extremely high this year,’ commented Sara Jayne Stanes OBE, the Academy’s Chairman and one of the Noval Trophy judges.’ which made it even harder for our panel of chocolatiers and Masters of Wine to decide on the winners’..

In the end, however, the accolades went unanimously to Jonathan Scott of Auberge du Chocolat, Gerrards Cross for his perfectly balanced Amedei Chuao ganache with dried cranberries in port, encased in Amedei Chuao and finished with port ‘dust’ to match the red fruit Late Bottled Vintage 2005, and Karl Berrie of Cocoa Red, Isle of Man for his subtly spiced Port and poached fig praline, layered on a feuilletine base and enrobed in 68% Wild Bolivian Grand Cru chocolate  which was  made to match  Noval’s nutty 10 year old Tawny port.

Each win a unique trip for two to Portugal and Quinta do Noval’s spectacular estate in the Douro, where they will be presented with a very special bottle of Vintage Port.  Truly a trophy to savour!.

‘It’s brilliant to win this Trophy. It’s really something special to achieve’ commented 21 year old student Jonathan Scott, who is studying business management and works at his parents’ family hand-made chocolate business outside London. ‘ We will put this new chocolate – which I centred  around cranberries and port ‘dust’ to bring out the character of the wine – into our range for Christmas.  It will be a great boost for the shops.  Now I can’t wait until next year to visit Noval …..’

Karl Berrie agrees.  ‘This is the biggest competition I have won with my chocolates.  I am gobsmacked’, he said.  ‘We are a bit out on a limb in the Isle of Man, with no access to the latest trends.  So I just try to be ‘different’ in my creations.’   Part of a small team introducing Manx islanders to fine chocolate over the past three years, self-taught  Karl, 40, was formerly an aircraft engineer – studying the art of chocolate in his spare time.  Now success beckons, not only with his Noval chocolate which will be soon be sold in his shop , but also with his Vintage Christmas Pudding – just launched by Fortnum & Mason.

‘It’s great to know that we can take on the Big Boys, and hold our own’ Karl concludes.


For more information contact Fiona Campbell on 01225 782095 (fionaccampbell@btopenworld)