Editor: A lot has changed since this article and there are now oodles of ethically conscious chocolate makers who create real bean to bar chocolate with recyclable packaging and without endorsing the slave trade. Take a look at our bean to bar and commercial chocolate guide, it’s extensive and includes every chocolatier worth knowing about!

For the past few months I’ve been spending some time with Willie Harcourt-Cooze and the team over at Willie’s Cacao. These meetings have opened my eyes and I’ve been thrust into an adventurous world of real chocolate, of pure cacao, of sublime flavours and guilt free decadence. I’ve learned so much in this short space of time that I thought it would be best to share, so you too can enjoy the same dawning revelation that what we’ve been fed is a lie.

Percy enjoying Willie's Cacao
Percy enjoying Willie’s Cacao Seasalt, her favourite after school snack

Eye Opener 1

Open Your Eyes to the Lies

Most chocolate, as we know it, is laden with vanilla. It’s the vanilla we taste, not the chocolate and while vanilla is delicious, it’s not needed with real chocolate. Real chocolate tastes divine and has an unparalleled flavour that celebrates the origins of the specific bean. It’s moreish, it’s delicious and it’s good for you! read the ingredients of your chocolate, if it includes vanilla, ask yourself why. Vanilla is usually used to mask bitter flavours or to make up for the lack of substantial cocoa solids. Say no to useless flavours in your chocolate. I have!

Brain Boggler 2

More Lies, No Surprise

Most companies, even the posh chocolate ones, buy their chocolate ready made. They mould the chocolate but do little all else, yet they claim to be chocolate manufacturers, when it couldn’t be further from the truth. There are a small number of real “bean to bar” chocolate makers in the UK, these are real chocolate creators, as they source the bean (in Willie’s case they even grow the bean) and take care of every stage to produce real chocolate. Of these, Willie’s Cacao is the largest distributor of bean to bar chocolate in the UK, which is why Willie’s Cacao is ideal for creating change with The Chocolate Revolution. Find #thechocolaterevolution on Instagram and the Chocolate Revolutionaries on Facebook.

Jaw Dropping Fact 3

Geography Matters

Willie’s Cacao is single estate chocolate. This means it pinpoints the exact farm the bean came from. Willie owns his own cacao farm in Venezuela, and sources more beans from others he’s built up incredible relationships with, regularly visiting them all. Other chocolate brands talk of single origin, not single estate. Origin covers a vast geographical area, often whole countries, even continents. Climates can change from the north to south, east to west of a country, which is why you deserve to know exactly where your bean is from.

Obviously Philanthropy?

Direct Trade not Fair Trade

While fair trade is commendable, direct trade is better. Direct trade cuts out any middle man and promotes relationships between the buyer and the grower. This allows the buyer to guide in the production of the bean and to ensure all beans bought are of the highest quality. Farmers, who grow for this niche can enjoy up to ten times more money for their beans while becoming known throughout the industry as a farm that produces quality. Willie’s Cacao is direct trade, which means they pay the farmers more. It’s very much a partnership of chocolate maker and grower, where both work together to produce the finest chocolate the world has ever known.

A Pioneer

Care About Coffee? What About Chocolate?

It’s amazing to me that so many care about the bean when buying coffee, my own marketing history with Monte D’Oro proved this, yet few believe the bean matters when choosing chocolate. It makes such a difference to the flavour too. There’s no need for flavourings, as the bean provides a well rounded flavour that can vary from earthy to fruity, nutty to honey and all inbetween. Furthermore, this chocolate is actually good for you, as it has very few ingredients (often just the bean, or the bean and natural raw cane sugar), and so delivers the often forgotten nutritional benefits of real cacao. This is why Willie is currently fronting the Chocolate Revolution. To spread the word about real chocolate and its benefits (which are legion).

If you are a foodie, if you care about your ingredients and food, if you have a conscience and you like to eat healthily, Willie’s Cacao is for you.

Here are a few facts about the range:

Willie was the first to introduce 100% chocolate to the UK. It takes 100 times longer to produce a bar of Willie’s Cacao than it does in industrial factories, as the slow process of conching removes the bitterness, and most of the acidity to produce a flavoursome chocolate that celebrates the bean and tastes divine.

Willie’s Milk of the Stars uses no more sugar than his dark chocolate and that’s a lot less sugar than most dark chocolate brands. It’s a favourite amongst children and adults alike.

Willie’s Cacao care about every ingredient used. From the beans to the raspberries and passionfruit All of these are often prepared in the factory too, so there is complete control over what goes into the chocolate.

It’s not just bars. Willie makes a full range of products from the factory on antique machines. As the batches are so small these are only sold on the website, where you can find:

  • Cacao nibs
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Chocolate and Hazelnut Spread

And much more. Take a tour, have a look and stock up on real chocolate.

Percy with Milk of the Stars
Percy with Milk of the Stars

About Willie

Willie after 10 years of starting his factory, still has the same passion and enthusiasm he had on day one. Some may remember him from “Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory” on C4, and this is the real deal. He’s energetic, lively, optimistic and ambitious. He has charisma to rival Ramsey and others, and it’s mind blowing that he hasn’t his own full time series on the telly. We need people who are a breath of fresh air, those that truly care about their business, those that have an unparalleled thirst for everything food on our screens. If any of my friends at RDF Media et al are reading this, snap him up, before someone else does.

Willie Harcourt-Cooze