We tour Duffy’s Chocolate factory in Humberston where some of the world’s best chocolate is made
24th April 2017
A Cleethorpes chocolatier is preparing to expand his cocoa-powered enterprise with a new extension offering the public tasty experiences such as truffle-making classes.
Gerald 'Duffy' Sheardown makes high-quality chocolate from his unassuming unit in Wilton Road, Humberston, where he has concocted a number of award-winning products, some named among the best of their kind in the world.
One of the accolades came from the Sunday Telegraph, whose resident chocolate expert Andrew Baker described Duffy's Honduras Mayan Red Milk variety as "a little masterpiece", and named it among the top six single-origin bars.
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Meanwhile, in 2011, his Honduras Indio Rojo bar won the prestigious Academy Of Chocolate Golden Bean award for the best bean-to-bar chocolate in the world.
Duffy, who got his nickname in school, hasn't always been in the chocolate-making business, having previously worked in the construction of racing cars for 30 years in a rather enviable career history.
Explaining how he made the transition from speed to sweets, Duffy revealed an interesting fact many be not be aware of. He said: "I heard on the radio that only Cadbury's make chocolate from cacao beans in the UK so, I thought, 'I can do that!'
"I bought a little machine and did 18 months of experiments at home making chocolate.
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"It was impossible to do a business plan as we had no idea how many bars we'd sell."
Duffy's chocolate enterprise has gone from strength to strength since he unveiled his first delicious creation in 2010.
Most of the 15 or so varieties of dark and milk chocolate he currently makes are sold via the internet with a few stockists dotted around the UK, as well as in discerning European markets such as Belgium and Germany.
Varieties currently on offer include the oak-smoked salt-infused Corzan del Ecuador and the multi-award-winning Nicaragua Oh Chuno! milk chocolate.
They can also be bought directly from the factory in Cleethorpes with prices typically starting from around £5.65.
While many chocolate companies have been busy churning out Easter eggs, Duffy has a different priority.
"I'm always busy working with chocolatiers at this time of year as it's competition time," he said.
"Quite a few people only buy my couverture when they're entering a competition."
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The small warehouse where the magic happens could hardly be said to resemble the colourful excess of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, but initial appearances can be deceiving with a tireless commitment to quality and using the best ingredients overwhelming the "man in a garage" aesthetic.
Duffy said: "We get the beans from Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, and Venezuela.
"Where we can we buy directly from the farmer so we know they get a really good price. We pay up to $10 a kilo for the cocoa beans."
Once the beans are roasted, the shells are removed before going in a machine to be grinded for 16 hours. Sugar is then added and the beans are grinded for a further 48 hours. Finally, cocoa butter is thrown into the mix with another eight hours' grinding completing the "three or four day process".
"Once it's been in there, we pour it out into bowls and leave it to mature for three months to let the flavours balance out," Duffy explained.
"When we make the Guatemala bar, all it tastes of at first is black pepper. It's horrible. But, leave it for three or four months, and it becomes more like a spicy honey. It won a 'best dark chocolate in the world' competition last year. It wouldn't have won it the first day out of the machine, that's for sure!"
Duffy is particularly pleased with his latest offering - a mochaccino variety, made up of 45 per cent milk chocolate mixed with Arabica coffee grounds producing a strong yet smooth taste with a slightly gritty but deliciously moreish texture.
Intriguingly, many of Duffy's chocolates are more or less the same recipe, with some even made from the same beans but still managing to achieve a unique flavour.
Offering a taste test of two bars, Duffy explained: "The DNA of the beans in these is identical and they're grown by the same farmer, from the same rootstock, but 150 miles apart.
"So, literally the only difference is the soil and the rainfall but the taste is different, though there is a family resemblance."
Looking ahead to his expansion into the unit next door to his current workshop, which will be in partnership with Louth's Spire Chocolates, Duffy hopes to bring something unique to the area with a range of chocolate-themed experiences, all of which sound like something of dream for those with a sweet tooth.
He said: "We'll open it as a shop and we're also going to have classes.
"We'll do truffle-making classes, cake-decorating classes, kids' parties and hen parties. We're hoping to have it up and running soon and there will be an official opening event once it's all sorted."
News Courtesy: www.humberbusiness.com