Chocs away as Scotland grows reputation for artisan confectionary

To the growing list of Scottish delicacies finding favour around the world, and adding to the country’s economic fortunes, can now be added…chocolate.

  • Full feature in Issue No. 2

It’s not usually the first thing to spring to mind when thinking about the nation’s natural larder but there are now dozens of independent and artisanal chocolatiers thriving across the country from the borders to Shetland.

James Findlay, Cocoa Mountain

Photograph by: Stewart CunninghamJames Findlay, Cocoa Mountain

Although cocoa isn’t grown in Scotland the country is getting an internationally renowned reputation for the quality of its produce made from carefully sourced, fairly traded, good quality imported cocoa beans mixed with a variety of uniquely Scottish ingredients.

Made entirely by hand, the finest Scottish cream, butter, foraged berries, herbs, whisky and other liquors, including Scottish-made gin, can all be found in the final products created among the inspiration landscape of some of Scotland’s most dramatic locations.

Cocoa Mountain, set in the natural wilderness of Sutherland, hit the headlines last year when owners Paul Maden and James Findlay appeared on the television show Dragon’s Den looking for £80,000 investment, in return for 15 per cent of their company, to expand their range of luxury products.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get the result they were looking for and walked away empty handed because the multi-millionaire panelists thought a company based in the Highlands of Scotland was too remote to be successful.

Durness was described as a ‘diabolical’ place to launch a business and it was even suggested they consider moving nearer to London.

However, the resulting publicity did them no harm and the company saw orders soar by more than 35 per cent within six months and offers of investment came flooding in from as far away as Vietnam.

New customers from across the UK, Tokyo, Argentina and the USA resulted in the company having to take on extra staff.

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It’s a similar story with many other of Scotland’s new artisan chocolatiers, from the Aberdonian 17-year-old, Jamie Hutcheon, who launched his own chocolate firm Cocoa Ooze using family recipes to Perthshire’s Iain Burnett, ‘The Highland Chocolatier’, who took three years to perfect his award winning velvet truffle and has seen international exports soar in the last couple of years.

Each one produces a unique taste of Scotland with flavours including chilli lemongrass truffle, Heather Rose Gin chocolate, Hebridean sea salt caramels and gin and tonic chocolate bars.

Some Scottish chocolate brands are even helping change the perception of chocolate as a guilty treat to a healthy superfood, such as Stirling’s iQ Chocolate and Edinburgh’s Decadently Pure, whose chocolate is made “bean to bar”, only contains natural ingredients, and is free from dairy, wheat, gluten, soya, refined white sugar and anything artificial.

At a time where consumers are more aware than ever where ingredients come from, chocolatiers north of the border use small local producers to make their creations uniquely Scottish, such as Edinburgh’s Ocelot Chocolate and In House Chocolates from Dumfries and Galloway making chocolate flavoured with Hebridean sea salt.

“We love to champion Scottish food and drink and the treats created by the Scottish chocolatiers are a revelation. Our new Scottish Chocolate Box Infographic highlights the wealth and creativity of Scottish producers,” said Ronnie Somerville, founder of 5pm.co.uk.

“Scotland already has a tradition of artisan craft food producers who focus on high quality ingredients and Scottish chocolate creators are a reflection of that.”