iLoveMyGrub speaks to Jennifer Earle, founder of Chocolate Ecstasy Tours.
iLoveMyGrub speaks to Jennifer Earle, founder of Chocolate Ecstasy Tours, about spending a fortune at Pierre Marcolini and organising a full day chocolate tour, just in time for Chocolate Week 2008. Jennifer’s Chocolate Ecstasy Tours are ideal for chocolate addicts looking for a decent fix of boutique chocolate shops and some fabulous tastings.
What’s in your chocolate tin at the moment?
I have several containers with chocolate stashes! I have to say though, the really expensive stuff doesn’t last long. Nor do truffles (and you shouldn’t keep them anyway as they taste better fresh). I have quite a few half bars of Rococo, some Valrhona Jivara Lait, half a kilo of Valrhona for cooking, a couple of squares of Michel Cluizel and Pralus. I also have some Green & Blacks and Lindt, which I mostly use for cooking, but I eat Lindt 70% too (when I run out of the other stuff!). I like the Green & Blacks Almond bar and the butterscotch ones for eating (again, when I run out of the better chocolate or I’m out and about and not near a proper chocolatier). I have half a block of Venzuelan Black too which I use for making hot chocolate. Ooh, and some chocolate covered coffee beans from Sir Hans Sloane - I have to go slowly with those because I don’t drink coffee really – chocolate gets me wired enough.
What would be your ultimate chocolate buy?
A tempering machine? I haven’t bought one though and don’t plan to. It would be fun to play at making my own chocolate though! For eating, I love fresh chocolates from any high quality chocolatier. I also love bars of Amedei Chocolate and I love Valrhona Manjari and the pink Michel Cluizel bar (I only ever remember them by their colours!).
What’s the most expensive cocoa purchase you’ve ever made?
I spent about £80 at Pierre Marcolini in Brussels this year. He is (in my opinion) the finest artisan chocolatier in Brussels. I should mention that some of that was on gifts!
Was it worth it?
The people I gave them to seemed to enjoy them and I loved what I kept for myself!
Are people really getting more discerning about the chocolate they eat?
Absolutely. You can see by the way that the confectionary giants have leapt on the band wagon of high cocoa, organic, Fairtrade, single origin etc, that there’s a recognition of consumers getting more aware. Currently though a lot of people see a high cocoa percentage or an organic label and assume it’s great chocolate. High cocoa percentage is definitely part of the picture but the quality of cocoa (cacao) beans used, and how they are treated, is so important in determining flavour and quality of the finished product.
What’s your bugbear when it comes to chocolate?
I used to be a little hung up about “real” chocolate versus the vegetable fat crammed confectionary that people call chocolate. I still don’t really want to eat the latter but if it makes people happy then that’s great. I think the main thing that bothers me is that some people have an attitude of “I shouldn’t eat chocolate”. It makes me sad. You should eat it if you enjoy it! In moderation, yes, but never abstain if you love it!
What’s your favourite chocolate shop?
I couldn’t possibly choose! And not just because I risk offending any I didn’t choose! I have huge respect for so many chocolatiers and return to all of them to see what they have that’s new or to try old favourites.
What was the last chocolate-based recipes you cooked up?
I went to The Wolseley on Saturday night and the oven was broken, so the Jonas’ Chocolate Toasted Sandwich was off the menu - so I decided to try and make my own on Sunday. I bought brioche from Harrods and put it in the toasted sandwich maker wedged with shavings of Valrhona chocolate in the centre.
Was it any good?
Yummy. I tried a few variations (banana, goji berries) but plain was the best. Though I’m sure condensed milk would be interesting if I had had some!
Is it possible to convert a milk chocolate addict into a dark chocolate junkie?
I had a hot chocolate at Fortnum and Mason’s last night and was having a ‘When Harry Met Sally’ moment, and then started discussing this with the woman behind the bar who told me that before she worked there, she never touched dark chocolate. She thought she didn’t like it - now she has no interest in milk chocolate at all after having the dark chocolate they serve in the parlour.
Tell us what’s going on with your Chocolate Ecstasy Tours at the moment.
I’m organising the full day tour, which is fun! It’s a special one-off event on the Saturday of London Chocolate Week (Oct 15th-21st 2008). We go to the chocolate shops we can’t reach on foot on the other tours and spend longer in each shop, meeting and speaking with the chocolatiers as well (obviously sampling lots and buying lots at a discount too!). I have plans for a third regular tour as well, but I have to reign myself in and focus on doing more marketing and keeping up with my accounts and things! I do love all the aspects of the business but it’s easy to get swayed by creating new offerings. I’m sure I will need more guides soon though!
For more information on Chocolate Ecstasy Tours, visit:
Chocolate Ecstasy Tours
London’s Ultimate Chocolate Indulgence