Posted 23rd Feb 2015
Now in its 20th year, Fairtrade fortnight (from 23rd February to 8th March) is back, and to celebrate we caught up with Fairtrade chocolate makers, Seed and Bean, to find out more about their flavour-packed bars
Steve Rudkin (pictured left), founder of Seed and Bean, started his company in June 2005 following his time at chocolate giant Green & Blacks, when he decided to take his love of chocolate further and create artisan chocolate bars that ticked all the right boxes, from compostable wrappers and 100% organic ingredients to real, full flavours used in a selection of handmade, British bars.
Now fully immersed in the world of organic chocolate, Steve is embracing the changes as a market for niché chocolatiers and customers looking for healthier, organic chocolates opens up. Sourcing their cocoa from the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Sao Tome, Seed and Bean pair this with only real fruit, spices, coffee, salt and seeds, priding themselves on all-natural ingredients with no 'flavourings' or 'hints of' in any of their range, rather producing a selection of flavoursome milk, white and dark chocolates that promise to tantalise the taste buds.
Ensuring their chocolate has low food miles, Steve and his team make all of their delicious bars right here in the UK in small 45 litre batches. With the aim of helping the world to consume more organic foods and less pesticides, Seed and Bean have created 18 different flavours including lemon and cardamom, coffee espresso, coconut and raspberry, mandarin and ginger and their most popular flavour, sea salt, to make interesting confections that aren't easily forgotten.
We spoke with Steve to find out more...
Where did your interest in chocolate start?
I have always been very interested in organic, having worked in the industry for 25 years. Once you are in it is hard to leave as you are working in a very pleasurable industry!
Do you help to make the chocolate?
I don't make the chocolate myself, we have a master chocolatier who makes and tastes every batch. The importance of tasting every batch is down to the fact that the product is 100% organic, so there are natural changes in the ingredients depending on the crop and the time of year. Even cocoa can change at different times of the the year.
What processes does the chocolate go through from bean to the finished bar?
First, the pods must be harvested, which is usually done twice a year. Because the trees are too fragile to climb, harvesting is accomplished by workers on the ground, who wield either a machete or a long pole with a machete on the end. Then, workers open the pods by hand, taking care not to damage the beans inside.
Next comes one of the most important steps in the process – fermentation. The beans, still sticky with pulp, are placed in earthen pits or wooden bins and covered with banana leaves, then left to ferment. The heat of fermentation changes the bitter flavours in the beans into something more edible. The sugars in the bean turn into acids, the colour changes from pale to dark brown, and the pulp residue melts away. The length of the fermentation process depends on the type of bean; the higher quality beans may need only a few days, where others may need a week or more.
After fermentation, the beans are dried in the sun for about a week. The flavour continues to develop during this time.
Once the beans are dry, they are ready to be shipped to a factory, where they are turned into chocolate.
How long does it take to make one bar of chocolate?
It takes 24hrs to make a batch and a batch is 45 litres, which equates to 500 bars.
Do you use any local ingredients to flavour your bars?
Our Cornish sea salt and our mint are both British. Also the fact that it is all handmade in UK is very, very important. It is almost unheard of for a Fairtrade organic chocolate company to make all of their chocolate in Britain.
Where does the inspiration for flavours come from?
It all comes from me, and they are all concocted in my kitchen. I love blending and creating exciting flavour combinations. Not trying to be different for the sake of it, just working out what works with what, that's a bit different from the norm. We thrive on being experimental without being quirky, and we work around the wonderful ingredients we find.
Any personal favourites?
Sea salt and sea salt lime. Salt brings out the best flavour in the chocolate. A mind blowing taste.
Finally, will you be doing anything special for Fairtrade Fortnight?
We will be offering a 20% discount on all our Fairtrade chocolate to everyone! And offering tastings in stores such as Wholefoods.
To find out more about Fairtrade Fortnight visit www.fairtrade.org.uk