Cocoa Flavours, Premium Chocolate Brands and The Academy of Chocolate

(Taken from Hardman agribusiness)

On Thursday 16th July, 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-logoXoco, 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.


Source: Xoco website – Mayan Red

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.

Academy of ChocolateThe 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 incentivized to remain in cocoa production and will farm more responsibly.



What price chocolate? was the theme of the AoC’s conference at The Royal Automobile Club, Pall Mall, London on Thursday 16th October 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%.

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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 will be presented at a party at Fortnum & Mason on Tuesday 23rd April when 5 special awards will also be announced.

Note: The Academy of Chocolate was created in 2005 by 5 of Britain’s leading chocolate professionals, united in the belief that chocolate is one of life’s great pleasures. Membership has since grown but the aim remains the same, to campaign for better chocolate and promote a greater awareness of the journey from bean to bar, differentiating between fine chocolate and mass-produced chocolate confectionery.

For more information, please contact Fiona Gately – 07968 962 039.

Awards Listings, in alphabetical order within Award:

Manufacturer Product Award
Best Dark   Chocolate Bean-To-Bar
Amedei Blanco de   Criollo Gold
Bar au   Chocolat Chiapas,   Mexico 70% Gold
Amedei Cru –   Madagascar Gold
Bar au   Chocolat Sambirano   Vallley, Madagascar 70% Gold
Akesson’s   Organic Madagascar   75% Criollo cocoa Silver
Amano   Chocolate Company Chuao 70%   Dark Chocolate Silver
Amedei Amedei 9 Silver
Amedei SRL Toscano Black   63% Silver
Hotel   Chocolat Rabot Marcial   70% Silver
Marou,   Faiseurs de Chocolat Tien Giang   70% Silver
Original Beans Original   Beans Beni Wild Harvest 60% Silver
Michel   Cluizel Mokaya 66% Silver
Potomac   Chocolate San Martín   70% Silver
Tobago Cocoa   Estate W.I. Tobago Estate   Chocolate 70% Silver
Marou,   Faiseurs de Chocolat Ben Tre 78% Bronze
Oialla A/S Oialla Dark   Chocolate 72% Bronze
 Best   House Dark Bar
Bachmanns   Patisserie Felchlin   Maracaibo 65% Bronze
Konzept PFB Cru Orinoco Bronze
Szántó   Kereskedelmi Kft House blend   superior dark chocolate  70% Bronze
William and   Suzue Curley House Dark   65% Bronze
Best   Flavoured Dark Chocolate Bar
Akesson’s   Organic Madagascar   75% chocolate and Voatsiperifery pepper Gold
Amedei Prendimé dark chocolate with hazelnuts Gold
Akesson’s   Organic Madagascar   75% chocolate and black pepper Silver
Akesson’s   Organic Madagascar   75% chocolate and pink pepper Silver
Beschle Ginger Silver
Grenada   Chocolate Company Nib-a-Licious Silver
Amedei Dark   chocolate with almonds Bronze
Cinagra/Menakao Menakao 63 %   Cocoa Nibs & Madagascan   Sea Salt Bronze
Rózsavölgyi   Csokoládé Olives and   Bread Bronze


Best Milk   Chocolate Bean-To-Bar
Redstar   Chocolate Duffy’s   Venezuela Ocumare Milk Gold
Oialla A/S Oialla Milk   Chocolate 46% Silver
TCHO Serious Milk   – Classic Silver
Pralus SAS Tablette Mélissa 100g Bronze
Best   Flavoured Milk Chocolate Bar
Akesson’s   Organic Bali 45% Milk   Chocolate with fleur de sel and coconut blossom sugar Gold
Amedei Prendimé chocolate   with hazelnuts Gold
Michel   Cluizel Caramel 45% Gold
Beschle Tonka Orange Silver
Pralus SAS Barre   Infernale Lait 160g Silver
Rococo Organic Milk   Chocolate Rose Otto Artisan Bar Silver
Redstar   Chocolate Duffy’s Milk   Chocolate with Salt and Nibs Bronze
Rococo Organic Milk   Chocolate Sea Salt Artisan Bar Bronze
TCHO Mokaccino Bronze
Valrhona Enchantillon   Caramelia Bronze


Best Filled   Chocolate – Plain
William and   Suzue Curley Chuao Gold
Coworth Park   Hotel Dark   Chocolate Bronze
Demarquette Lost Kingdom Bronze
Iain Burnett,   Highland     Chocolatier Velvet   Truffle, Mild Bronze
Best Filled   Chocolate – Fruit
Paul A Young Passion Fruit   Curd Gold
Lauden Sicilian   Lemon Silver
Cocoa Red Rhubarb and   Ginger Bronze
William and   Suzue Curley Yuzu Bronze
Best Filled   Chocolate – Spices & Herbs
Coworth Park Spekuloos,   Orange and Tonka Gold
Matcha Ginger and   Lemongrass Gold
William and   Suzue Curley Rosemary and   Olive Oil Silver
Boutique   Aromatique Garden Mint   & Sweet Basil Silver
Best Filled   Chocolate – Alcohol
Theo   Chocolate Talisker   Ganache Confection Gold
Papa Chocolat Winston Silver
Hotel   Chocolat Pink Champagne Truffle Bronze


Best Filled   Chocolate – Nuts
Matcha   chocolat Peanut Butter   Praline Gold
Rococo Salted   chocolate toffee and crunchy praline Gold
Amedei Quadrotti   dark chocolate praline Bronze
Pralus Barre Infernale Pistache Bronze
TCHO Classic   Serious-Milk + New American Gianduja Bronze

Best Filled   Chocolate – Caramel     Forte   ChocolatesCaramel with   Rosemary and OrangeGoldRococoKalamansi   Lime CaramelGoldRococoPassion Fruit   & Rosemary CaramelGoldWilliam and   Suzue CurleyMuscovado   CaramelGold

Benjamin   ChocolatierMuscovado   CaramelSilverMatcha   ChocolatTonka Bean   CaramelSilverPaul A YoungSea salted   caramelSilverToot-Sweets   Shropshire ChocolatesSalted   CaramelSilverDemarquetteWhite Monkey   Jasmine CaramelSilverCoworth Park   HotelCaramel with   Halen Mon vanilla sea saltBronze   Forte   ChocolatesChipotle   Caramel with OrangeBronzeKeith Hurdman   for ThortonsExotic Fruit   CaramelBronze



Best Filled   Chocolate – Other     Co CoutureGinger Crème   40%GoldWilliam   CurleyJapanese   Black VinegarGold   Boutique   AromatiqueCoffee,   Cardamom, Bitter AlmondSilverBoutique   AromatiqueHoneyed,   Hand-blended ChaiSilverCo CoutureBelfast Brew   40%SilverCoworth Park   HotelCherry   Blossom, Sudachi, GingerSilverMelt   ChocolatesFlat White   CoffeeSilver      Co CoutureFresh Mint   70%BronzeCo CoutureIrish Whiskey   68%BronzeHotel ChocolatJasmine Spring Tips   GanacheBronzeIain Burnett,   Highland ChocolatierVelvet   Truffle, Duchesse RoseBronzeMatcha   ChocolatStrawberry   & Pink PeppercornBronzePaul A YoungBanoffee pie   truffleBronze         Best   Unflavoured Dark Truffle     Rococo   Chocolates LtdMadagascar   house truffleGoldWilliam and   Suzue CurleyVenezuelanGold   Matcha   ChocolatDominican   RepublicSilverMatcha   ChocolatSanto DomingoSilver




Best   Unflavoured Milk Truffle      Matcha   ChocolatNew GuineaGoldWilliam and   Suzue CurleyHouse MilkGold   Matcha   ChocolatGrenadaBronze       

Best   Packaging – Bars     Marou,   Faiseurs de ChocolatTien Giang   80% special edition blue wrapperGoldOriginal   BeansOriginal   Beans The Story of Cacao in Four BarsGold   Pralus SASNapolitains   120gSilver   Raw GoodiesArriba   Nacional 70% (using upcycled books and magazines)BronzeRózsavölgyi   CsokoládéTrincheras   95% wrapperBronzeTCHOMokkacino and   other barsBronze      Best   Packaging – Filled Chocolate     Cacao Atlanta   Chocolate Co12 piece   Truffle BoxGold   Chuao   Chocolatier5pc bonbon box,   30pc bonbon boxSilverGmeiner   Confiserie & KaffeehausunternehmenLuxury   Champagne Truffle BoxSilver   Devnaa LLP,   LondonDouble signature   chocolate tiffin boxBronzeRococo ChocolatesRococo Advent   CalendarBronze



 25th February 2013

This week, the Academy of Chocolate’s expert judges are gathering in London. Their mission:  to find the world’s best chocolates.  Eighty companies from across the globe have submitted their products for scrutiny with hopes of winning a bronze, silver or gold medal.   The highest accolade, the coveted Golden Bean Award, will reward excellence from bean to bar and celebrate what the judges believe to be the finest dark chocolate.

With over 425 entries the challenge will be daunting.  From straightforward dark and milk chocolate bars, to filled chocolates and truffles, the flavours range from regular favourites – salted caramel, nuts and citrus fruits – to the daring – blue cheese and biscuit.  Other flavours this year include peanut butter, apple pie and brandy and seasonal rhubarb, and for the new age chocolate lover, essential oils.

“The Academy’s mission is to promote fine chocolate” said Chairman Sara Jayne Stanes “and this year’s event, which has attracted more new producers from across the globe than ever before, reflects a growing market and recognises the work of cocoa farmers and many exceptionally fine products.”  The Awards will be judging products made from the key origins for fine beans including Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, the Caribbean and Madagascar.  Vietnam and Bali also feature this year.

The UK’s taste for fine chocolate is reflected in the number of entries from producers all over the country.  In the last decade the US has generated a number of very fine chocolate makers and several of their top companies have entered. From Europe, traditional processing countries like Switzerland, France and Italy are well represented but there are also submissions from  Denmark, Hungary and Poland and others coming from as far afield as Australia and Canada.

Sara concluded by saying “what is continues to be exciting is the strong growth in home-inspired talent that has produced many of the winning entries in the past and is exceeded in numbers again in this years awards”.

A list of winning companies will be announced after the judging in early March.  The winner of the world’s best chocolate title, the Golden Bean Award and a full list of wining products will be announced at the Academy’s Awards party at Fortnum & Mason in London on 23rd April.

 – Ends –

Notes to Editors

For more information please contact Fiona Gately on 07968 962 039 or

A full list of categories and judging criteria is on the Academy of Chocolate website

Follow us on Twitter @AcadofChocolate   #worldsbestchoc

The Academy of Chocolate defines fine chocolate as:

  • containing no vegetable fat other than cocoa butter
  • with a minimum cocoa content of: Dark 60%; Milk 30%
  • where the quality, provenance and treatment of the cocoa beans have been considered
  • containing no artificial additives such as vanillin, flavourings, colourings, preservatives, etc.

Members of the Academy are committed to ethically sourced chocolate.










9. BEST DRINKING CHOCOLATE ( to be judged separately after the main awards)



The judges will pay particular attention to the appearance, depth of aroma and flavour, length and complexity of each chocolate.

Gold, Silver and Bronze may be awarded in each category.  The overall winner of Category 1 ‘Best Bean to Bar’ will be awarded the Golden Bean Award.