Photos courtesy of Chococo
Exeter is fast becoming a foodie hub, attracting big named restaurants and retailers in to the city centre as well as homing some of the best independent restaurants in the region. A new addition to the family is Chococo who have made their home in Gandy St. Being already a bit of a fan of Chococo after visiting their shop in Swanage, I was really happy to see them making their third home in our very own Diagon Alley.
We’re working with Chococo by bringing a lucky winner the opportunity to win a chocolate fondue for two! Head over to Twitter and Facebook, answer the question and share the competition to be in with a chance of being entered in to our grand prize draw.
Eating Exeter gave co-founder Claire ten questions about Chococo!
1. I love chocolate. I eat far too much of it, and am really happy to find Chococo opening in Exeter. What made Chococo choose Exeter for its next store?
We had been looking for our next location for a while (we already have two chocolate houses; our original one in Swanage and our second in Winchester), and Exeter was the obvious next destination as it is a fantastic, exciting city that is still relatively close to our chocolate HQ in Wareham in Dorset.
We are delighted to have opened on Gandy St, which is such an iconic street for independent businesses, and look forward to becoming part of both the Exeter and wider Devon foodie community.
We are already working with Crankhouse Coffee, roasted in Exeter, and Emma’s Bread, also based in the city, for the café element of our Chocolate House, and will hopefully work with more local suppliers as we create new Devon-inspired chocolates.
2. What makes your chocolate different from other chocolate makers?
My husband Andy & I set up Chococo in Dorset back in 2002 and we were amongst the first, if not the first UK chocolatier to make truly fresh chocolates. Nearly 14 years later, we still make all our chocolates fresh by hand using local ingredients wherever possible and no additives or preservatives, so the chocolates in our display cabinet have a two-week shelf life. That is very different to other chocolatiers.
Also, we only work with origin chocolate made from fine cocoa beans from such countries as Madagascar, Venezuela, The Dominican Republic, Colombia, Tanzania and Vietnam.
We are very passionate that our customers get to discover the taste of fine chocolate not of sugar, so only work with chocolate high in cocoa solids and therefore low in sugar (and definitely no palm oil).
For example, our house milk chocolate from Venezuela tastes much more “chocolatey” than many other milk chocolates as it contains a whopping 43% cocoa solids.
You can even enjoy a sugar-free chocolate experience with us if you buy our 100% cocoa solids bars or enjoy a hot chocolate made with 100% chocolate from Colombia!
3. I noticed that your chocolates have won more than just a few awards! Are there any awards that you’re particularly proud of?
We have won over 60 fine food awards now and we are very proud of all them but our recent 2016 Gold awards for our Gingerbread Caramel and Tawny Fig chocolates in both the Academy of Chocolate and the International Chocolate Awards were especially exciting. At both awards, our chocolates were judged alongside chocolates created by some of the most expert chocolatiers around the world.
4. How important are local producers and suppliers in your coffee shops?
Hugely important! Working with local producers and suppliers is part of our DNA and something we have done since we established Chococo back in 2002. We have worked with many South West producers over the years to create our very unique flavoured chocolates and also with local suppliers in Dorset, Winchester & now Exeter for our chocolate houses including coffee, tea, milk, ice cream, bakery, fruit juices and more.
We love working with local producers, as they are just as passionate about their cows, bees, vines, vodka stills and coffee beans as we are about fine chocolate.
We are also very proud to be members of both Dorset Food & Drink and Hampshire Fare food groups.
5. Tell me about your chocolate club?
We also offer a nationwide mail order service and a subscription chocolate club. We think it’s the freshest chocolate club in the UK as our members receive truly fresh handmade chocolates every 4 weeks over a 3, 6 or 12 month period of their choice. We offer a range of different box sizes too so our members can enjoy 9 or 16 chocolates every month, or go for our largest box of 25! As you can imagine, club subscriptions increase the most at Christmas as it makes a delicious gift for a chocolate lover and last year, we were thrilled that the Guardian recommended our club as one of the best subscription gifts to give!
As we are a small business, our club is run by Mel & Georgina at our Wareham HQ & between them, they write the monthly letters to all our members, include special offers like tasters of new flavours that we would like feedback on, ensure all the boxes are packed & despatched on time & also look after any special requests from our club members. It is a truly personal service!
6. I hear that there is something in-store for students when they come in to Chococo?
Yes we offer 10% off for students if they show us their student card.
7. Where are your cocoa beans sourced, is there anything you’d like to tell us about the process?
As I mentioned earlier, we only work with fine origin chocolate from a number of different cocoa producing countries – some of which is produced in their country of origin. This is great news for the producing country as it means they are exporting a finished product with the value added in the country, rather than exporting dried cocoa beans, which are a commodity product. This business model has been coined “Raise Trade” and is arguably beyond fair trade.
Earlier this year I visited one of the companies we work with, Chocolaterie Robert in Madagascar. It was fascinating to visit both their factory in the capital Antananarivo and the cocoa plantations in the Sambirano Valley.
If customers want to find out about the process of turning cocoa beans into chocolate, we have created a “story of chocolate from tree to Chococo” using photos I took in Madagascar which you can see upstairs in our Exeter Chocolate House. By the way, if you enjoy one of our 70% house hot chocolates, that is the chocolate you will taste!
8. Tell us a bit about your range of chocolate, do you have a best seller?
As well as our range of fresh chocolates (that are all sold loose so that you can choose which you would like in a box or a bag), we also make edible boxes made of chocolate (which make a fabulous present, eat the chocolates inside and then the box!), a range of studded chocolate slabs, bars, clusters, shapes (including chocolate fish & chips and dinosaurs, as we are based on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast), chocolate biscuit cakes, hot chocolate flakes, lollies and mini shapes for the young and young at heart.
Within our range of fresh chocolates, our best sellers include Cornish smoked sea salt caramel, Passionfruit, Dorset Honey, Madagascan Vanilla and Dorset Black Cow Vodka – but it does vary by time of year.
9. You have stores in Winchester, Swanage and now Exeter. Is there a difference between each store?
Our Swanage Chocolate House is our original and is tiny by comparison to Winchester & Exeter. It has also evolved quite a bit since 2002 as we added on the chocolate café element several years after opening, so it has quite an unusual, quirky layout! Our Winchester and Exeter Chocolate Houses are more “organised” if that is the right word, but Exeter has the most space for enjoying your Chococo experience as we have an upstairs seating area as well. So you can visit us to discover not just our handmade chocolates, but also to enjoy our hot chocolates, coffee, cakes, milkshakes, sundaes and even chocolate fondues!
10. What does the future hold for Chococo? Any more stores in the pipeline?
We always have lots of plans for the future, but for now, we are concentrating on ensuring that our Exeter customers are delighted with their Chococo experience.