There is something so evocative about the words 'chocolate factory'. It inspires images of fantastical machinery and magical experiences. Roald Dahl was a bit of a childhood hero of mine and so I was very excited to learn that there was a small chocolate factory here in West Sussex (found out through my dental hygienist randomly!) James Hull decided to give up his job in the food industry and strike out with his own chocolate business in 2014 after becoming interested in the process of how chocolate is made. We started using J Cocoa chocolate straight away for Bond St coffee after meeting James in 2014, but for some reason it took us a few years to get down to his factory. It's just a 20 minute drive from the roastery so I've no idea what has taken us so long.
There are a huge numbers of 'chocolate makers' in the UK- however the number of people actually doing the whole process from bean to bar is surprisingly small. Although it's not all that surprising when you see what the process involves, it is mind bogglingly time consuming and labour intensive (No wonder Willie Wonka needed all those underpaid migrant workers).
James' Chocolate factory is in a building at the bottom of the garden, it may be small but it's filled with marvellous things, the best of which was the smell of chocolate.
He imports most of his beans Nicaragua but will be adding several other origins over time including Peru, Venezuela and Colombia. The beans have to be roasted, cracked, separated, preground and then ground again to make them the smooth silky consistency of delicious chocolate, they then need to be tempered and moulded and finally packaged. When we visited he had some beautiful red hearts which he'd filled with an experimental filling of roasted milk powder- it was so delicious. James makes beautifully packaged bars which we sell here in our roastery cafe, and he also supplies coffee shops with shards of chocolate to melt into truly decadent hot chocolates. One of his products, the 30% Cafe au Lait bar, currently contains our Kenya Kianderi coffee.
The equipment to facilitate all of these processes is expensive, so James had to design and make them all himself- make no mistake, he may not be as crazy but this man is as genius as WW, and not an oompa Lumpa in sight!
Here are some photos of our visit to the chocolate factory: