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Club News

The monthly newsletter from the Tasting Club

Issue 1202



This year there’s the choice of 3 Tasting Club Eggs and a flatter letterbox-friendly version – or you could always have one of each! Details on pages 5 & 12

COCOA Comparison

We’re in a privileged position to have working knowledge of cocoa in Ghana and Saint Lucia. Read the comparison on page 7

Club Founder, Angus Thirlwell, reports on an exciting 12 months for the Tasting Club and Hotel Chocolat.

The BOND Report Each year we put together a report for our Chocolate Bond Holders to let them know what we have been doing over the past year and how their investment in Chocolate Bonds has helped.


This year, as we were busily preparing our second annual report, we realised that this was something that would interest the whole Tasting Club, but first, it’s probably useful to reiterate why we raised money in this way – it was to give us the freedom to develop our business without shackling ourselves to the financial community. It has enabled us to put in place our own exciting plans for development – without the imposition of big banks. And it has been interesting to note that several companies have since followed our approach, most notably John Lewis. continued on page 8...

Last Chance


…The Great Rabot Estate Cocoa Race is about to begin – don’t miss your chance to enter and to win. Just choose your tree! Enter now on page 15

Great Rabot Cocoa Race

Letter from the



s Tasting Club members, you already know that we like to do things differently and we like to do things better – like raising investment funds through issuing Chocolate Bonds for example! While we were putting together the second annual report for our Bond Holders, we realised that the information it contained would be interesting to all Tasting Club members. And so that is just what you’ll find on our front page – a fascinating round-up of what the Club and Hotel Chocolat have been up to over the past year, from creating British jobs in manufacturing and retail, to exporting British chocolate abroad and creating a truly sustainable business model in cocoa growing.

One similarity that they share, however, is the technical help that both sets of farmers need – which is something we continue to provide through our Engaged Ethics programmes in Ghana and in Saint Lucia.

Also this month, there’s an article by yours truly comparing a few aspects of cocoa growing in Ghana and in Saint Lucia. I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with farmers from both countries and quite a few differences jumped out at me. One similarity that they share, however, is the technical help that both sets of farmers need – which is something we continue to provide through our Engaged Ethics programmes in Ghana and in Saint Lucia. Elsewhere in this issue, you’ll find the renowned Easter Collection is revealed and there’s a last chance to enter the Great Rabot Estate Cocoa Race – don’t miss it on page 15! Fancy trying the new All Milk Selection for just £9.95? Last chance to order on page 4!

Until next month, happy tasting!

Simon Thirlwell Club News Editor Send your letters to The Chocolate Tasting Club, Mint House, Royston SG8 5HL, or simply email me on or via our website: We are waiting to hear from you! Club News Editor: Simon Thirlwell; Contributors: Simon Thirlwell, Terry Waters.


© The Chocolate Tasting Club plc 2012

Improve your chocolate knowledge

vanilla pods


anilla is an ingredient used in most chocolate nowadays, but there is a theory that mouldy cocoa beans are the reason we started to add vanilla in the first place. When milk chocolate first started being produced on a large scale, cocoa beans would often arrive in a slightly mouldy state. And when made into chocolate, they would carry that mouldy aftertaste with them. Unwilling to ditch entire batches, chocolate makers started to work around the problem and discovered that vanilla masked the mouldy taste very well. Of course, these days shipping is so much

quicker that the incidence of mouldy beans has all but disappeared. Vanilla itself is a member of the orchid family and the second most expensive spice after saffron, because the cultivation of seed pods is highly labour intensive – each flower needs to be hand pollinated within 12 hours of opening! Each pod must then be picked at just the right moment of maturity, then they must be dried and conditioned for about six months in closed boxes to develop the aroma. Only then are the vanilla pods ready for use – and we thought the cocoa tree was fussy!

This month’s Prize Draw


D143 Classic Selection

prize draw winner is Mrs Janet Kearns from Eastleigh who wins a Winter Cocktails Sleekster Selection. Next month’s prize is a Milk Oblivion Sleekster Selection.

K76 Dark Selection

prize draw winner is Mrs Lynn Eaton from Doncaster who wins a Super Boosters Selection Next month’s prize is a Dark Signature Collection.

S52 Elements

prize draw winner is Miss Ernestine Blackie from London who wins a Cookie Choc Chip Giant Slab. Next month’s prize is a Rocky Road Giant Slab.

P07 Purist Selection prize draw winner is Miss Tanya Sanderson from Benfleet who wins a Purist Collection.

Try the all milk selection for just £9.95 – but hurry! If you’re a fan of the mellow flavours of milk chocolate, then you really must give our brand new All Milk Selection a try


t’s a selection devoted to nothing but milk chocolate recipes and features three each of each chocolate, rather than the usual two, as well as four milk chocolate batons – so there’ll be plenty of favourites to share. Tasting Club members can give the All Milk Selection a try, without interfering with regular tasting box deliveries – just order the Introductory Selection for £9.95 (including delivery) and save £9! After trying, you can then decide to change to the All Milk Selection or to cancel any further deliveries – or you could always continue and enjoy two selections! or call 08444 933 933 to order yours!

Next month’s prize is a Saint Lucia Collection..

Don’t forget


– score by post or online at and you’ll be automatically entered into this prize draw


Exclusive eggs created just for Tasting Club members

DON’T MISS YOUR GREAT BIG EASTER ADVENTURE – order now Specially created just for you, our Easter Collections are here to take you on a thrilling adventure – with extra thick shells, Easter chocolates to discover, an exclusive chocolate tablet and a special members-only gift too – all in a stunning keepsake hatbox that will be useful long after the Easter treats have disappeared! Order yours now for £26.95 at or call 08444 72 70 70

Look out for the

NEW-LOOK WEBSITE! From 1st February you’ll be greeted by a brand new homepage at the Tasting Club’s website.


nd as you’ll see, it’s very much aimed at those who are looking to find out more about our Tasting Club – with details of our introductory offer and the opportunity to see the chocolates, find out how the Club works, read our story and, of course, join the Club and become a member just like you. But you all know all of that already! Which is why we’ve also created a dedicated login page for existing members so that you can bypass the homepage: Just bookmark the above address and you’ll be taken straight to your dedicated members’ login. And once you’re in, you’ll see that everything else is exactly the same, so you can take advantage of all the usual services – including scoring chocolates, changing deliveries, making payments, updating your details, reserving Club Specials and gaining access to the special offers in the Members-Only Area. And if you’re new to the Club website, then you can also register and get started at too!


Left – Simon inspecting a young seedling with Cocoa Programme Field Officer, Marius Felix. Above – cocoa farmer and Area Officer, Jean Modeste, showing off a very healthy 18-month old seedling from Rabot Estate stock that is already bearing many pods, with cocoa consultant Alphonsus Stanislas (right).

GHANA V Saint Lucia By Simon Thirlwell

Over the last few years I’ve visited Ghana on five occasions and have met a whole range of cocoa farmers on each trip. Last summer, during my visit to Rabot Estate, I had the opportunity to meet Saint Lucian cocoa farmers and therefore be able to make a fascinating comparison.


ne of the main differences between Saint Lucian and Ghanaian farmers is the cocoa they grow. In Ghana it is all Forastero, classified as bulk cocoa, which is used to make the average chocolate. In Saint Lucia it is predominantly Trinitario, which is classified as one of the world’s fine flavour cocoas and used to make fine chocolate. The methods of propagation used are quite different too. In Ghana new cocoa seedlings are created by growing them from cocoa beans, while in Saint Lucia, farmers use grafting as the main method. There are three main reasons for the difference. First, cost – it is more expensive and time consuming to graft seedlings than to simply grow them from beans. Second, as far as I have seen, there is no grafting expertise or tradition to draw on in Ghana. Third, I think grafting is used in Saint Lucia because they grow fine cocoa and

flavour is everything – therefore, when ‘good’ trees are identified, it is important to propagate new seedlings from them. Whereas the bulk cocoa grown in Ghana is not known for its flavour and so there is no benefit in using the more expensive grafting methods. One thing that remains the same no matter which country you are in, however, is the warm welcome of cocoa farmers. In Ghana we’ve been offered everything from water to a prized cockerel and we are always greeted with huge smiles and handshakes and it is the same in Saint Lucia. In particular, I met John Modeste, cocoa farmer and Area Officer for the Engaged Ethics Cocoa Programme. After spending hours showing me around his farm, he insisted we stop by his house, where his wife had prepared the most delicious, freshly squeezed fruit juice I’ve ever had!



continued from page 1

The BOND Report It has been interesting to note that several companies have since followed our approach, most notably John Lewis. Isn’t it wonderful to be at the forefront of business development as well as chocolate development! Isn’t it wonderful to be at the forefront of business development as well as chocolate development! WHAT THE FUNDS ARE HELPING US ACHIEVE Creating manufacturing jobs in the UK – Although this has been a year predominantly of consolidation and strengthening, we have boosted our chocolatier team with two new members – who have essentially started chocolatier apprenticeships and will develop their skills under our development chocolatiers. We have also appointed a new production co–ordinator and a maintenance technician, as well as logistics manager and delivery staff. When it comes to chocolate making itself – we have invested in a state–of-the-art panning machine for truffles; upgraded our computer aided design (CAD); installed a new roll press machine to make enrobed marzipan and fondants and created our first foiling line to foil wrap all of our truffle sized eggs for Easter 2012. Exporting Luxury British Chocolate – In 2011 we have expanded the US Tasting Club, recruiting a further 10,000 people to try the Introductory Selection. Eventually we expect the Tasting Club in the US to be equal in size to that of the UK, but we will be expanding it on a step-by-step basis to avoid unnecessary risk. In Europe this year we plan to enlarge the Club activities in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. In Germany, unfortunately, the arrangements with our partner there failed to produce the expected results. However, thanks to the funding made available through the Chocolate Bond, we hope to launch a new Club

in Germany later this year and this time we will be undertaking all the activity ourselves.

Developing a truly sustainable business model in cocoa growing – As we began 2011 the cocoa growing community in Saint Lucia (including us) had to contend with the aftermath of Hurricane Tomas, which had struck in November. Hotel Chocolat founders, Angus Thirlwell and Peter Harris were present and were proud to see our Saint Lucian team, led by Phil Buckley, living up to their responsibilities – keeping the fermentation station open despite very difficult circumstances so that our 120 cocoa growing partners could continue to operate and rebuild their businesses. Our Engaged Ethics Cocoa Programme continues to grow and to fuel a renaissance in cocoa growing on the island, by creating the conditions to make it a sustainable livelihood – paying a fair price (the highest in the Caribbean); paying promptly; providing high quality subsidised cocoa seedlings; giving free technical support. Angus told us, “Having just returned, I can say that there is a positive feeling about a future in cocoa now, but there is still a lot to do. Cocoa can be very positive for the environment – inter-planting amongst indigenous trees, fostering wildlife and preventing soil erosion but it does need skilful farming. This will be a long road but we are optimistic we can continue our cocoa revolution in Saint Lucia.” And there’s so much more to look forward to in 2012 – we look forward to sharing it with you!

Clockwise from top left – chocolatier Kiri Kalenko; new computer aided design and production lines at Hadley Park; Hotel Chocolat’s latest US store has opened in Roosevelt Field; harvesting cocoa on Rabot Estate; the nurseries at Rabot; and Hotel Chocolat Estates Director, Phil Buckley.



Classic 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Dark 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Selection – D143

Caffe Latte by K Kalenko 8.59 (36% scored it 10/10) Wanton Walnut by E Desmet 8.47 (32% scored it 10/10) Pecan Pie by E Desmet 8.44 (28% scored it 10/10) Raspberry Jam by E Desmet 8.40 (31% scored it 10/10) Rum & Raisin by M Meier 8.36 (37% scored it 10/10) Salty Caramel by O Nicod 8.33 (24% scored it 10/10) Milky Mousse by G Pereira 8.25 (23% scored it 10/10) Eggnog by R Macfadyen 8.18 (23% scored it 10/10) Crushed Caramel Tasting Batons 8.18 (25% scored it 10/10) Romantics Anonymous by K Kalenko 8.03 (31% scored it 10/10)

Selection – K76

Caffe Latte by K Kalenko 8.60 (32% scored it 10/10) Pecan Pie by E Desmet 8.54 (35% scored it 10/10) Rum & Raisin by M Meier 8.53 (38% scored it 10/10) Wanton Walnut by E Desmet 8.33 (22% scored it 10/10) 70% Dark Tasting Batons, Ecuador 8.29 (23% scored it 10/10) Golden Rum by K Kalenko 8.27 (26% scored it 10/10) Eggnog by R Macfadyen 8.20 (25% scored it 10/10) Raspberry Jam by E Desmet 8.17 (26% scored it 10/10) Salty Caramel by O Nicod 8.08 (26% scored it 10/10) Spiced Wine by O Coppeneur 8.07 (21% scored it 10/10)

Elements 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.


Caffe Latte

Selection – S54

Grandma’s House 8.58 (28% scored it 10/10) Wanton Walnut by E Desmet 8.30 (35% scored it 10/10) Pecan Pie by E Desmet 8.23 (17% scored it 10/10) Crushed Caramel Milk Chocolate 8.08 (26% scored it 10/10) Milky Mousse by G Pereira 7.83 (17% scored it 10/10) Salty Caramel by O Nicod 7.72 (20% scored it 10/10) Strawberry Affair by O Nicod 7.43 (20% scored it 10/10) Cuban Blend Milk Tasting Batons 7.17 (11% scored it 10/10) Grandma’s House Cinnamon & Orange Crunch by T & R Gysi 6.89 (16% scored it 10/10) 70% Dark Tasting Batons, Ecuador 6.53 (5% scored it 10/10)

Purist 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Caffe Latte

Selection – P07

Nutty Coffee 8.17 (0% scored it 10/10) Caramelised Pecan Bûche 7.86 (14% scored it 10/10) Geranium & Orange Truffle 7.71 (29% scored it 10/10) Soft Chilli Caramel 7.57 (28% scored it 10/10) 55% Dark Chocolate, Costa Rica 7.00 (29% scored it 10/10) 90% Dark Hacienda Iara, Ecuador 6.57 (0% scored it 10/10)

Nutty Coffee


Have Your Say! Bouquet Romantics Anonymous – Classic Glad you didn’t keep this chocolate anonymous – I fell in love!

Katie Green, Reading

Bouquet Salty Caramel – Classic Oh wow! One of my favourites so far, the delicious combination of sweet and salty really hit the spot.

Kim Thomas, Burton-on-Trent

Brickbat Brandy Marzipan – Classic Not so much ‘Off The Wall’, more out of his mind. Francis Lear, Tonbridge

Bouquet Brandy Marzipan – Classic I don’t even like marzipan, but it worked in this. The contrast with the white chocolate was brilliant. Ruth Kelly, Edinburgh

Brickbat  Wanton Walnut – Dark Oh dear looked so good, but the taste did not do it justice.

Sue Maycock, Bury St Edmonds

Bouquet Cinnamon & Orange Crunch – Dark The cinnamon really gave depth to the flavour. Like a toasted teacake! Sean Conlin, Walderton

Brickbat Romantics Anonymous – Classic Nothing seductive about this, it is brutally raw.

Claire Seignior, London

Bouquet Soft Chilli Caramel – Purist Firmly converted to chilli in chocolate & the caramel added a different texture. Lovely.

Tanya Sanders, Benfleet

Excellence Collection Comments… Toffee Chocolate Tasting Batons I thought I would never find an equal to my favourite batons – the caramel ones - but I have now! Lauren Cairns, Waterlooville Raspberry Butterscotch An inspired flavour, not one that came immediately to mind but it worked. Helena Brown, Dumfermline Chocolate XS This was the star chocolate of the box for one of us. Probably the nicest thing ever. Georgina Cook, Wantage Caramel & Co The best slab yet! Tammy Jones, Stoke-on-Trent Mousse au Chocolat Not being a chocolate mousse lover I bit in with trepidation and before the end of the first mouthful was wondering why there were only 2 in the box! Love it! Teresa Boughton, Wellingborough Irish Coffee I tried this one first, without reading the description. Glad to say my chocolate radar homed in on the best chocolate of a top class selection. Jane Wright, London See page 13 for results 11



For those who like their Easter eggs to be letterbox-friendly!

It has been brought to our attention that some members aren’t able to order the Tasting Club Easter Collection because they rely on their letterbox for delivery… If that is you, then don’t worry – help is at hand!


his year, we are once again offering Club members a more letterbox-friendly alternative – Hotel Chocolat’s Easter Egg Box Sleekster. It’s perfect for those who won’t be around to receive their Club Easter Collection. It’s a cracking collection of 30 filled mini eggs created especially for passing around and sharing this Easter – with melt-away milk chocolate pralines, silky smooth ganaches with champagne and zesty lemon, soft caramels and more. And all beautifully finished with splashes of all-natural colour.

Available with a special FREE DELIVERY offer for members – just £21.95 Order yours now at or call 08444 72 70 70 12

Excellence 2011 – The Results Are In!

Our annual Excellence Collection is all about celebrating the best chocolates of the last 12 months and, judging by the high scores, this year’s crop was amongst the elite – here are the top scoring chocolates from each of the three collections. Classic Excellence

Raspberry Butterscotch

1. Raspberry Butterscotch by E Desmet 8.72 (43% scored it 10/10) 2. Caramel Crisp by K Kalenko 8.67 (33% scored it 10/10) 3. Crème Brûlée by O Coppeneur 8.60 (35% scored it 10/10) 4. Fruity Fondant by E Desmet 8.60 (35% scored it 10/10) 5. Dizzy by G Pereira 8.57 (31% scored it 10/10) 6. Toffee Chocolate Tasting Batons 8.56 (33% scored 10/10)

Dark Excellence

Chocolate XS

1. Chocolate XS by G Pereira 9.09 (49% scored it 10/10) 2. Irish Coffee by K Kalenko 8.90 (41% scored it 10/10) 3. Flame on the Iceberg by E Desmet 8.87 (36% scored it 10/10) 4. Butterscotch Noir by E Desmet 8.80 (31% scored it 10/10) 5. Cherry Bakewell by K Kalenko 8.79 (36% scored it 10/10) 6. Congo Dark Tasting Batons 8.78 (34% scored 10/10)

Elements Excellence 1. Caramel & Co by G Pereira 9.10 (43% scored it 10/10) 2. Chocolate Brownie by R Macfadeyn 8.77 (42% scored it 10/10) 3. Caramel Baby Truffles by K Kalenko 8.71 (30% scored it 10/10) 4. Crushed Caramel Milk Tasting Batons 8.70 (43% scored it 10/10) 5. Toffee Chocolate Tasting Batons 8.68 (39% scored it 10/10) 6. Dizzy by G Pereira 8.67 (41% scored 10/10) Caramel & Co

See page 11 for a selection of Excellence comments! 13

and finally

CALLING ALL Quiz Fans We were recently approached by one of the world’s largest publishers, Dorling Kindersley, to participate in their website, The DK Quiz. As you might guess, it is a website devoted to an enormous array of quizzes.


o if you’d like to test your knowledge of chocolate, then you’ll find us in the ‘Food’ category with questions about chocolate history, cocoa and more. We do, of course, expect every Tasting Club member to score 100%! There are no prizes to win, just a lovely, warm feeling of accomplishment. And when you’ve cleaned up on our quiz, you can test your knowledge in a whole host of subjects – from general knowledge and current affairs, to sport, history, science and much, much more. There are even quizzes devoted to the last series of Masterchef and the letter ‘A’! Once you’ve signed up to play,

you can measure yourself against fellow contestants as there are leader boards for each quiz.

news from across the pond

Following the successful testing phase the launch of the US Chocolate Tasting Club continues apace!


uring the autumn (or should we say fall?), our promotions have encouraged 10,000 people to try the Introductory Selection. In the past we have restricted the US offering to either Dark or Classic boxes. This time we added Elements and 20% of those new starters preferred it, with the rest evenly split between Classic and Dark Introductory Selections. We have previously reported that 35% of American members prefer the Dark Selection, which is 3 times more than the


Our American tasters are big fans of elements and dark selections.

UK. Our research also shows that those US Dark Selection members also eat more chocolate – so far, they’ve taken 13% more boxes PER MEMBER than those taking the Classic box in the US! In the spring we’ll be promoting again to attract another 8,000 people to take up our Introductory Offer. Once again, we will be keeping to the northern states to avoid potential heat problems. We’ll keep you updated in future issues of Club News.



Entry Form


Cocoa Race I

n last month’s Club News we invited Members to take part in the Great Rabot Estate Cocoa Race (If you missed the January edition the article can be found at RABOTCOCOARACE) and select from five combinations of trees each having its own carer as listed below. Your task is to decide which combination of tree and carer you think will produce the most cocoa during the 2012 season. And tell us, in 30 words or less, what you would most look forward to on a visit to Hotel Chocolat in St Lucia. If you



ch urr anc ety o

en t

er !

didn’t get to enter last month, then please use the entry form below – but hurry the competition closing date is 29th February 2012. First Prize – a dream holiday to The Hotel Chocolat at Rabot Estate in Saint Lucia. Includes flights from the UK, transfers and seven nights full board for two people and £400 spending money! Runners-up – four further lucky members will win a year’s supply of Tasting Club chocolates.

Great Rabot Cocoa Race

Please note: (1) only posted entries from Club News can be accepted; (2) only one entry per member is permitted. Tear or cut along dotted line


– You must be a current Club Member to enter. Entries can only be accepted on this entry form. (a) Choose which tree you think will produce the most cocoa in the 2012 season by indicating below. TREE

1 2 3 4 5


Looked after by

Trinitario ICS 39

Cuthbert Monroque

Trinitario ICS 95

Murray Bertie

Old Rabot Heirloom Trinitario

Simon Monrose

Trinitario ICS 98

Freda Augustin

Trinitario ICS 1

Matthew Alcindor (Mr Matt)

Tick one

(b) Write in 30 words or less what you would most look forward to on a holiday to The Hotel Chocolat – the more interesting the better!

(c) Complete your name and membership number and send this form to – The Great Rabot Estate Cocoa Race, Mint House, Royston SG8 5HL. (Please print) Name Member No. Closing date 29th February 2012 Only one entry per member please! See full terms & conditions at


Celebrating British Creativity in Film & Chocolate

Hotel Chocolat is delighted to announce its continued partnership with BAFTA – and to celebrate the Orange British Academy Film Awards we’re creating limited edition Tiddly BAFTA Masks available for two weeks only in-store and online from the 1st February.

The Chocolate Tasting Club News D146 February 2012  

The latest club news from the Chocolate Tasting Club.

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