How to be a Chocolate Gourmet

It was #NationalChocolateWeek and it seemed only right that we should have a presentation from a local businesswoman aka the Chocolate Gourmet to our Telford & Wrekin WiRE networking meeting in October.

Janette Rowlett opened her first shop in Ludlow nearly 19 years ago after she took a year out of her career to research what she wanted to do with the rest of her working life.

Her travels took her all over the world where she fell in love with the idea of selling really high quality chocolate.  In those days there were very few dedicated chocolate shops and she has remained true to her idea of being a truly customer focussed specialist retailer. Janette opened her second shop in Shrewsbury in 2004 and now also trades on line.

Another one of her USP’s is to ensure all her staff have excellent product knowledge and Janette certainly demonstrated her own expertise. She explained how the plants are grown and harvested as well as the history of chocolate and what different chocolate tastes like.

Here are some fun facts that we learned in our ‘tutored tasting’, sampling chocolate that had from 32% to 100% cocoa – bearing in mind that Cadbury’s Dairy Milk has just 26%.

  • The scientific name for the Cocoa plant is Thebroma Cocoa – which literally translates as ‘food of the gods’
  • It is thought that the Mayan people in Central America were the first to farm Cocoa plants around 2000 years ago
  • Until about the 17th century chocolate was only ever consumed as a drink
  • In 1947, Bristol Company Fry & Son, made the first chocolate bar in 1847 which we would recognise today
  • The oldest chocolate bar still in existence is Toblerone from 1908, even Mars Bars goes back to 1932 and M&M’s were made to send to the Us troops in the 1940’s
  • The cocoa tree only grows within 20 degrees of the Earth’s Equator in shady areas within rainforests from places like Ghana, Venezuela, the Caribbean and Vietnam
  • It takes five years for Cocoa trees to produce large fruits called pods
  • The pods are harvested, dried and then transported to the producers where they are roasted and the outer shell broken off to reveal the seeds or nibs
  • The nibs are milled and crushed into a liquor which can then be converted to a powder (for drinking chocolate for example) or used as a fat called cocoa butter for making chocolate
  • Further processes include conching and tempering (rolling, kneading and heating it to make it silky smooth)
  • It takes a whole year’s crop from one tree to make 1lb (454g) of cocoa
  • As a nation, our insatiable taste for chocolate accounts for nearly a third of the European market, in 2016 we ate 661million kg of cocoa-based products last year

Janette was certainly a chocolate expert and admits she was blessed with a good palette, she is determined to remain a quality retailer offering nearly 100 different bars of chocolate from her shops supplying chocolate bars, gifts, truffles and cooking packs worldwide from her website.

We certainly enjoyed the samples and felt we had fully embraced #NationalChocolateWeek!

Blog written by Kim Gilmour, Network Leader, Telford & Wrekin WiRE