In December my Sister-in-law and I went to the Animal Aid Christmas Fayre which takes place each year at Kensington Town Hall. While we were there we met Bob from Solkiki Chocolate and tried many samples of their chocolate! I could listen to Bob talk about chocolate for hours, he is so passionate and I learned a lot about chocolate making in those few minutes we spent with him! I bought some chocolate for my Sister-in-law as part of her Christmas present and as it was birthday recently I asked her and my Brother to return the favour.
Solkiki make dark, milk and white vegan chocolate, they also sell cocoa beans, cocoa butter and cocoa nibs. I chose a dark bar, two milk and one white bar.
I will start right to left with the dark Maranon 68. I find when tasting these types of (actual) chocolate (not confectionary) that are complex you have to treat it like wine tasting and proper think about what you are tasting and all the different flavour notes. This is not a bar I could just munch through but have a square or two at a time and really enjoy it.
The next bar is the Maranon 60 salted caramel dark mylk. This uses the same bean as the previous bar. This is a milk chocolate but has a high cocoa content so is darker than your typical milk chocolate. I find it so amazing that this bar doesn’t have any additional flavourings in it and it is simply the process of the chocolate making that brings out the caramel flavour. A little salt is added to compliment the flavour.
The next bar I chose was the Bocas Del Toros 49% Mylk Notes of Sweet Coffee and Cream. This is another delicious rich milk bar. I’m not sure what percentage of cocoa milk chocolates usually contain but I certainly know it’s not as high as 49%! When you buy commercial confectionary you are tasting milk and sugar, to actually taste the chocolate you need to get your hands on some proper chocolate people!
Lastly we have the Hazelnut Cream White Piedmont Gianduja. This is a newer bar which I hadn’t tried before. I love iChoc’s White Nougat Crisp bar which was my previous favourite white chocolate but this has now superceded it! This is deliciously creamy and tastes like the centre of a praline. This also reminds me of the mini vegolino chocolates from Vego. This is could seriously munch down in one sitting but I am rationing myself!
I also received some cocoa butter which I think I want to make into a body butter, I just need to look up how to do it!
I wanted to wax lyrical about how Solkiki work and their ethics but I knew I couldn’t do as good a job as Iris and Bob themselves so I reached out to them with a few questions which they obliging answered.
What does the name Solkiki mean?
-It means The Sun and The Godess of Nature.
What made you want to be chocolate makers?
– We couldn’t find high quality vegan chocolate and we couldn’t find chocolate that was ethically produced to high enough standards.
Can you briefly explain how your production chain works from bean to bar?
– EVERY step of the process has a BIG impact on the flavour of the bar! Our farmers carefully choose the correct time to harvest, and immediately begin fermenting their cacao beans. It’s very important to ferment cacao beans correctly and how this is done is greatly dependent on the type of cacao. They then guage quality of their fermented and dried cacao and set their price. If we like it, we buy it. If it’s not perfect we have to walk away. We inspect the beans in our workshop and clean them thoroughly. We often roast the cacao to develop flavour, but this also degrades the nutrients slightly, so sometimes we prefer not to roast. Also, sometimes cacao is really interesting and delicious before roasting, so we like to show off the flavours of the unroasted cacao sometimes too. Either way, we then get rid of the husk and grind the cacao into a paste before adding sugar and maybe other ingredients. When the chocolate is ready we temper the chocolate liquor and pour it into our bar moulds. When bars are set, we heat seal each bar and box it individually for unbeatable flavour protection. Then we’ll write the best before date on each box, and if we’ve been so fortunate we add an award sticker to the front of the box. As one of the UK’s very few bean to bar chocolatemakers, we have complete control over every aspect of the process. Any change to any aspect of the process will influence the end result, it’s very creative and exciting, often frustrating too, but mostly fun!
What makes you different from other small/artisanal chocolate makers? Every chocolate maker has their own techniques, experience, approach, range, recipes and preferences. We think that is great, because we all come up with different results because of this and you can out a lot of creativity in the chocolate. Also, there are 2 full time, full spectrum chocolatemakers at Solkiki. Both Iris and I can perform all steps of the process from bean to bar which works very well for us and allows us to be very productive and step in and help each other out when we need to. We learned everything in chocolate making by a lot of trial and error. There is a lot to learn about making chocolate, but not many places where you can learn this, so our experience is very valuable to us. We’ve been making chocolate now for about 9 years, but officially as Solkiki since a a year. We are one of a handful of global teams who make 2-ingredient dark chocolate, with no added fat, and we use different processes for each bean. We’ve also got a big range of very high quality internationally recognized bars. We have now over 20 different bars and just this year we have released 2 full time bars, 1 limited edition and 2 exclusive bars for our subscribers.
Why is it important for you to only sell through independent shops and directly through your website?
We like short-chain and direct trade. We can all change the world based on what we consume and how we spend our money. We feel everyone carries a part of this responsibility.
If someone was new to your products what bar would you recommend they start with?
All our bars are all beloved for different reasons, but they’re all delicious. Maranon 68 and 60 will redefine dark / dark milk chocolate for anyone. Toasted White is immaculate and a relatively simple white chocolate, Tahitian Nougat is balanced and complex flavoured white chocolate! Castilllo 85% unroasted is totally unique… a real eye opener! Hazelnut cream, Bali White, Chilli mint… luxuriant, retro-style, innovative…It’s impossible to recommend a single bar, but I would mention that Maranon took us many months of experiments and was a real challenge that tested both of us and taught us much.
What is coming up for Solkiki in 2017?
New bars! New equipment! New collaborations! Maybe even a surprise that ISN’T a bar of chocolate!