We're adding some new Extra Special chocolate bars to our confectionery range. Ed Sowerby writes about his visit to our chocolate supplier in Italy to see for himself how they're made...
If you love chocolate we've got a real treat for you! We're adding three new flavours to our range of Extra Special chocolate bars: Dark Chocolate Espresso; Dark Chocolate with Coconut and Rum; and White Chocolate and Vanilla. Not only that, we're also increasing the amount of cocoa in our Peruvian Milk Chocolate to 43%.
I've been working on the new flavours with our supplier in Northern Italy, a family-run chocolatier that has been making chocolate for three generations since 1946. I recently visited their state-of-the-art factory near Lake Como and got the chance to see the whole chocolate-making process from cocoa bean to finished chocolate bar.
Fine cocoa accounts for about 4% of the world's cocoa supply and is the term used to describe cocoa beans with a distinctive flavour that is characteristic of the country in which they grow.
Most chocolate today is made from cocoa beans grown in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Our chocolatier looks further afield to source fine cocoa beans from around the world, from countries including Peru and Madagascar.
You can really tell the difference between cocoa beans from different countries. It's like grapes giving different taste to different wines. For example using Peruvian cocoa often gives a chocolate with red berry and honey flavours. The taste depends partly on where and how the cocoa beans have been grown; the climate and the soil.
All of the cocoa beans used in our Extra Special chocolate are certified as environmentally sustainable by the independent agency UTZ and, where possible, they're sourced from co-operatives and local farmers.
For each batch of cocoa beans they subtly adjust their roasting and grinding methods to get the absolute best flavour from the precious cocoa beans before adding other natural ingredients.
My favourite – and the bestselling of our Extra Special bars – is the Madagascan Dark Chocolate. It's quite creamy and a good one to start with if you're not used to dark chocolate. We've noticed a trend of people moving towards dark chocolate because they see it as a healthier option to milk or white chocolate. It contains a higher percentage of cocoa and less sugar.
It tastes great on its own and you can also use it in cooking – the high cocoa percentage means it makes really great cakes!
Look out for the new chocolate bars in store and online.