Husband and wife team, Claire and Andy Burnet, have been making delicious, fresh chocolates in the Isle of Purbeck since 2002.
I met up with Claire at the Chococo café in Swanage to learn more about this creative company (where, appropriately, I had one of the finest hot chocolates I have ever tasted). Chococo’s philosophy and techniques are groundbreaking. Claire explained that they are one of the first, if not the first UK chocolate maker, to produce a truly fresh product, using cream from a local farm blended with chocolate direct from the country where it was grown, and seasonal, natural flavours. What they do not use are artificial additives and preservatives.
I was staggered by the range of flavours, such as ‘Bob’s Bees’ (made with honey from Swanage beekeeper, Robert Field), ‘Mellow Mint’ (made with fresh mint from a Swanage garden) and ‘Piddle Beer’ (made with beer from the Piddle Brewery). They even create edible chocolate boxes – a brilliant way to reduce packaging waste.
So how do a husband and wife come to set up a chocolate-making company in Swanage? Claire and Andy were both working in high pressure jobs for large companies in London, when they decided they wanted a ‘slower’ lifestyle. Connections to Swanage drew them to this part of the world: Andy’s family was from Swanage, Claire and Andy were regular visitors to the area and they were married in the town. Claire told me that she had always known that if she was going to survive as Andy’s wife, she needed to like both Swanage and sailing; thankfully she likes both.
When discussing how they would make a living in Swanage, Claire suggested, almost flippantly, that they make chocolates. Her parents had lived in Brussels for a time and Claire and her family relished the fine chocolates available there and lamented that they couldn’t find anything comparable in England. Andy laughed at Claire’s suggestion, pointing out their total lack of expertise, but he agreed to go on a chocolate-making course with her and see what it was all about. Making chocolate is a highly scientific process and Andy, who has a science background, was in his element. He was won over by the course and their business began.
As I talked to Claire I was baffled at how she could stay so slim while working with temptation on a daily basis. She explained that good-quality dark chocolate is low in sugar and low GI (glycemic index), and in fact many of the Chococo staff have lost weight since joining.
Claire and Andy are proud of their ethical approach. They care about the provenance of their ingredients and about the people who produce them, and make every effort to minimise their carbon footprint.
If you fancy having a go at making chocolate yourself, Chococo offers workshops at their Swanage premises. Their delicious goodies can be bought in their Swanage shop, in premium retailers and online (www.chococo.co.uk).