National Chocolate week runs 14 – 20 October, so there’s no better time to celebrate the creations and stories of some of our favourite brands.
Founded in 1875, Charbonnel et Walker is one of Britain’s earliest chocolatiers. Encouraged by the Edward VII, (then the Prince of Wales), their company first formed as a partnership between Mme. Charbonnel, from the Maison Boissier chocolate house in Paris, and Mrs Walker. The original shop opened at 173 New Bond Street in Mayfair, and has remained in Bond Street ever since, now housed in the elegant Royal Arcade on Old Bond Street. The company is proud to be endorsed by the Royal Warrant as chocolate manufacturers to Her Majesty The Queen.
Charbonnel et Walker chocolates are hand made according to traditional recipes. They’re particularly renowned for their dark chocolate, made from the finest dark couverture, which has a luscious richness and unforgettable silky taste.
Since 1962 Godiva has been the premier maker of fine Belgian chocolate. In 1926 when their founder Joseph Draps opened his first GODIVA Chocolatier shop in Brussels, Belgium, Godiva became the chocolatier of choice in Belgium, and the talk of the chocolate world. After years of being exclusive to Belgium, Draps began international expansion in 1958 by opening a Godiva boutique in Paris on the fashionable Rue St. Honoré. Openings in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and elsewhere soon followed, and today the GODIVA brand is known and loved in over 80 countries around the world.
Barbara Holdsworth started making chocolates in the heart of the Peak District in 1988. Spurred on by a passionate belief in a hand- made approach, she crafted the most delicious centres from the best quality, ethically-sourced ingredients, to her own unique recipes. She set about recruiting locally and gathered a team of enthusiastic staff who trained to become expert chocolatiers, and with a modicum of space and lots of enthusiasm, Holdsworth Chocolates took off.
Barbara’s daughter, Genevieve, has worked along side her Mother for nearly twenty years and in 2002 Barbara passed Holdsworth Chocolates over to her. At their unit in Bakewell, they still employ a dedicated team of skilled, local chocolatiers to make our chocolates.
To create their exquisite chocolates, they whip together sweet cream butter and the finest Belgium couverture. They then add either liqueurs, spirits, fruit purees or praline paste to produce more than 70 delicately-flavoured creamy centres. Each individual chocolate is a masterpiece in itself, made with great care and attention to detail. They use only the finest cacao beans to make award-winning chocolates
House of Dorchester’s roots, unsurprisingly, are set in Dorchester where they remain today, although in a very different place to ‘The Dorset Maid’ chocolate shop where it all started on the High Street in 1963. Finding top notch chocolate to stock their shop proved so much more difficult than had been expected that the founders decided to make their own! A local lady trained in the fine art of hand-tempering and fork-dipping chocolates sat in the shop front, making all the lovely, luxury chocolates by hand. Word spread quickly and pretty soon a whole team of people were hand making chocolates above the shop for sale downstairs.
The House of Dorchester name was introduced in 2002 - a proud moment for all the staff, but particularly for the many who had been with the company since the very early days. The factory is now based on the Duchy of Cornwall’s Poundbury estate in Dorchester, where many chocolates are still finished by hand.
James Chocolates was founded in 1995 by James Hutchins, a scientist and passionate baker who’s serious about having great fun with fine chocolate. He still owns and manages this award-winning business, now recognised as one of Britain’s most innovative and dynamic chocolate companies. The James Chocolates range is distinctively kooky, eccentrically British and much-loved for its unique combination of great designs, bold colours and big flavours.
The range successfully embraces serious flavour blends in sophisticated presentations, such as Amaretto Amaretti Truffles, Salted Caramel Honeycomb, and Coffee Caramel Chocolate Macaroons. In contrast, Milk Chocolate Piglets, Fried Eggs on Sticks and Strawberry Milkshake Cows reflect the brand’s well-developed funny bones.
Back in 1995, James Chocolates was the first British brand to combine chocolate and chilli and it’s now a cornerstone of the portfolio. Chilli is blended with ginger in truffles and used in chilli honeycomb. There are even chilli-flavoured Chocolate Chillies - chilli shapes made from deep milk chocolate and flavoured with Chipotle and Habanero.
All products are handmade by a small team in Evercreech, near Shepton Mallet in Somerset. James imports the best covertures from France, Belgium and other single origins such as Ecuador. He then uses plump fruits, exotic spices and fresh cream to complete the process, and many products are hand-painted to create unique design
Helen and Simon founded Montezuma's in 2000 hand making their luxury chocolate bars, truffles and gifts with one little machine from one shop in Brighton. Since those early days Montezuma’s is now established as a leading and innovative family luxury chocolate maker with a handful of shops and network of lovely independent retailers. It remains entirely a family love affair with chocolate!
The first Prestat shop was opened in 1902 by Antoine Dufour, who came from a family of highly proficient confectioners and chocolatiers during a time when crystalising fruits was very much in vogue. The chocolatte truffle was first created in Chambery, France in 1895 by the Dufour family, and the recipe was soon passed on to Antoine so he could take advantage of the growing poularity for fine chocolate in England.
The business has had a number of owners since Antoine’s son; current owners Nick Crean and his half brother Bill Keeling enjoy a celebrity clientele which originated with in the early days with actress Sarah Benhardt, and has included Roald Dahl and Rod Stewart.