Tosier bean-to-bar chocolate
28 September 2017
It’s always good to feel you were in at the start of a new venture. I could probably make a reasonable claim for that, having been the very first customer for the newly launched Tosier bean-to-bar chocolate maker, having found myself first at their stall soon after entering the Aldeburgh food festival. They were busy grappling with the sorts of obstacles new start-ups have to navigate - in this case, getting the credit card payment system to work when it inexplicably had a breakdown just as the first customers appeared. We worked out a way to facilitate a purchase regardless, thanks to the help of a supportive neighbouring stall.
I love the growing cluster of small operations producing artisan chocolate - particularly when they come with high integrity and a real connectedness to growers. As well as producing some fine chocolate, such products are the antidote to a lot of the industry that, accidentally or not, fuels a huge problem of child labour and other problems in cacao plantations in different parts of the world.
Tosier is definitely one of those companies. Founded by budding chocolate maker Deanna Tilston, each of its four chocolate varieties is introduced on their website with pictures of the respective growers of their single-origin beans. Their commitment is to produce chocolate with the highest quality - but also sustainably sourced - cocoa beans.
And it’s all about the individual beans. Tosier is one of the chocolate makers that makes it all about the bean - their chocolate only having the three principal ingredients - 70% cocoa solids, cocoa butter and organic cane sugar. No lecithin. No vanilla. So the individual characteristics of the bean are the focus.
Which is all very well, but how about the chocolate itself? I bought the pack of all four types, simply so that I could make a full report for you, dear reader.
Let’s start with the headline. I love this chocolate. Deanna Tilston has been investing her time extremely actively in the process of making great quality chocolate, and it shows. There is nothing rough and ready about the quality of the product - Tosier is starting strong right out of the gate.
And each of the varieties is so distinctive, it’s remarkable.
Since each of the bars has the batch number and the harvest date written on the back, let’s start with batch number 1, which has Acul du Nord beans from Haiti. This was the first one I tasted, and it was startling just how intensely fruity it was, with clear notes of cherry so pronounced you would assume it had rogue fruit dropped into the sack of beans. The Haiti beans come from Produit des Iles, a new cacao producer in the north of the country. It works with an association of nearly 1,500 smallholders, a quarter of whom are female, who together manage nearly 1,000 hectares of organic-certified land.
Batch number 2 is from Alto Beni, in Bolivia. This one is smooth and buttery in the mouth, a very even flavour with a little hit of fruit right at the end. The beans for this one are grown by a cooperative of 500 small scale farmers feeding their beans into the Alto Beni Cocao Company, which is on a mission to ‘revolutionise the Bolivian cocao industry’ by sustainably increasing production and building quality.
Batch number 3 is Tumaco, Colombia. It’s a rich, very nutty tasting bar, there’s fruit but with a more mellow rounded profile - the bar description says sweet banana and that fits the flavour. It’s very good chocolate indeed. The beans come from Cacao de Colombia, which works with three community cooperatives to improve efficiency and therefore boost the income for farmers.
Finally, we have batch number 4 - which uses beans from Maya Mountain Cacao from Belize.
Maya Mountain has a rich taste profile. The description promises notes of caramel, which I definitely got, as well as honey. It overall had the more multi-layered and complex flavours, and it was the first bar to be completely finished, if that tells you something. Maya Mountain Cacao was founded specifically to improve Belizean farmer livelihoods. It works with over 300 farmers who all grow organically, and it’s grown their incomes by 20% and has seen farmer children’s school attendance at 85%.
The artisan chocolate market has become a thriving space, and I hope Tosier becomes a regular and increasingly important part of it. I like the branding they’ve established for the bars, and I particularly like the commitment to sustainable sourcing and supply chain transparency. Which wouldn’t matter, of course, unless the chocolate was fantastic, rich and distinctive. Fortunately, it’s all that and more. I would definitely give it a try.
Tosier Chocolate https://www.tosier.co.uk