I was delighted to be given the opportunity to try out the highly spoken of, “Bean to bar” at Hotel Chocolat.
It is situated in the best of locations, just on Boar lane only a very short walk from the train station.
On this occasion I took my good friend Rani, a very well known chef from the south. I wanted him to see what Leeds had to show for itself and knew this would be something memorable just from what I had heard.
We were met by Sam, he would be our expert chocolatier for the evening. On arrival we were welcomed with prosecco, given a moment to have a wander around and take in the very impressive displays.
We were then led upstairs to the main room where the instant aroma of chocolate just fills
the room. Sam ran through the plan for the evening and what it entailed, He was very thorough and one thing that stood out initially over anything else, his passion.
Before getting here, I was convinced I knew everything there was to know about chocolate. Within no time I was proven so wrong. Even to the point that I thought milk chocolate was my favourite, but by the end of this session it would be far from that.
Our lesson was kicked off with many samples , from milk chocolate through to darks. Sam asked us to snap one piece in two, the fresh chocolate fragrance, bellowed into our noses, sending our sense into overdrive.
The next step Sam explained, literally had myself and Rani left in absolute awe.
Sam asked us to hold our noses and place the chocolate on our tongues, this was one of the most educational moments when it comes to food of any kind. Yes there is a slight taste, but very bland, then once let go of our noses to breath, the flavours just come to life. What an amazing little trick.
As this class is very educational, you could think it may be a tiresome 90 minute duration. But it is far from it, learning about the origins of the cocoa bean, how it is sourced and how it is farmed is interesting. This definitely had to be mentioned.
Its an eye opener to hear that they are not part of Fairtrade, don’t be shocked as I was, this is a positive, this means that they actually want to pay their farmers in cash, I mean, how many ATMS are in Ghana anyway?
There was more to this story of farming and how the crop is sustained, but I will leave that for the experts to tell you, it is a story that I think will bring a slight tear to the eye as it did me.
As we moved through the Cocoa bean and how it was produced, we were shown it in its purest form, as one giant seed. Once opened the beans are clearly present. The whole thing goes through a rigorous process of being baked whole then the beans are then removed. The beans we given to us to split and taste. A very bitter but sweet taste, the key to this luscious snack.
Next up, a pestle and mortar. I have one of these but not at this size. Im dead handy in the kitchen so thought this would be a breeze.
Sam provided us with the beans in their raw from but crushed down, it was for us to then grind away or Conch as I believed it to be called.
Cocoa butter was then added, they other key ingredient, a silky soft texture gave It the immediate glossiness and depth…slowly but surely (15 minutes in) a paste started to form, then a molten fluid like mixture, that of heated chocolate, saying that It probably was heated with all that effort that went into grinding it down.
Once the mixture was tacky enough, it was introduced into moulds, where it was taken awake to set.
From here we then tasted a selection of truffles and other chocolates. As I mentioned previously I thought milk chocolate was my favourite, but Sam gave us a unique chocolate to try, that wasn’t expected,
I instantly said this would be suited to a drink of red wine as the depth of flavour was exceptional.
To be told the cholate we favoured was vegan was something I couldn’t quite get my head around. That’s right, Hotel Chocolat offer a vegan alternative. Mind blown.
One fact that we were taught by Sam how to determine what was a quality chocolate over what we think is a good chocolate. Other retailers have mastered the art of advertising over selling not so authentic product, whilst hotel chocolat remain within their ethics and company brand values, to produce one extremely sumptuous product over imitations.
Hat off to everyone involved for that. The phrase “you get what you pay for” springs to mind and a pleasurable experience is pretty much guaranteed when visiting these guys.
After a few more drinks our chocolate moulds were ready to check, it was quite an exciting time. The unveiling showed our chocolates perfectly formed.
These were wrapped and then we were able to take these away with a selection of chocolates provided as part of the package.
Sadly the night had to come to an end at some point.
All in all, one Fantastic alternative to a standard work party or even a date night.
Sam you were exceptional, and you inspired us both with your knowledge and passion for what you do.
Readers, Head over to Hotel Chocolat and have fun !!!