Saturday, 14 February 2009

Chocolate for a chilli day

Like tea and sausages, chocolate is one of the most prolific artisan products available at any food fair or deli. To sift out the quality from the Quality Streets and promote a greater awareness between fine chocolate and mass-produced confectionery the grandly named Academy of Chocolate was set up in 2005 by five of Britain’s leading chocolate professionals.

The academy’s annual awards have just been announced and the winner of the “Golden Bean” is… Amedei No.9, an Italian chocolate bar made with 75 per cent cocoa solids. This Super Tuscan of the chocolate world blends and refines beans from nine cocoa plantations to make a strong and balanced dark chocolate with expressive flavours ranging from cherry and molasses to blueberry and coffee.

On the homefront, William Curley scooped six gold awards, including the best UK chocolatier, for the delicately crafted chocs he sells from his shop in Richmond, in south-west London. Curley excelled in the filled chocolate category with praise for his toasted sesame, Japanese black vinegar and rosemary and olive oil chocolates.

Other winners included Amano from Utah, French chocolate houses Valrhona and Pralus, London based Paul Wayne Gregory and Sir Hans Sloane, and regional companies Chococo, in Swanage, and Co Couture, in Northern Ireland.

The cold snap is a perfect excuse to drink hot chocolate.

It was the Aztecs who first made cocoa beans into a bitter-tasting hot drink flavoured with chilli, and the Spaniards who sweetened it with sugar and vanilla.

When cocoa butter is removed from chocolate liquor it creates a fine, bitter-tasting cocoa powder. These days, there are no excuses for not buying Fair Trade cocoa powder with plenty of options available from Divine to Green & Black’s Organic.

For a taste of the original Aztec-style drinking chocolate, try Hotel Chocolat’s Aztec Chilli Liquid Chocolat flavour (just add milk to the flakes) or the Chocolate Society’s Valrhona dark drinking chocolate with chilli ( Both have a mouth-warming kick absent from the average cup of cocoa.

There are more flavours on offer at Hotel Chocolat’s in-store Concept CafĂ© on High Street Kensington in London. Hot liquid chocolate is served in jugs with china cups and long handled spoons. Choose from six flavours including wintry praline with a tingle of cinnamon and seasonal Valencia oranges (

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