Those of you who follow the blog regularly will know of my penchant for independent businesses, chocolate and good company, so when I was invited to a ‘Bean to Bar’ Christmas chocolate event at The Chocolate Quarter in Birmingham, I couldn’t get there fast enough.
I’ve been lucky enough to attend several events at the family-run store, established less than a year ago in the Jewellery Quarter by Kempes, Maninder and Jay, and it is my favourite place to buy bespoke, handmade (and quite frankly, rather delicious) luxury chocolates. Indeed, I’ve made sure to purchase some whenever I’m in the area, something that The Bloke has certainly appreciated when I’ve returned home with new flavours to try. It’s the ultimate place for chocoholics and I absolutely love the warm welcome I receive whenever I go in.
The evening focused around two different activities: testing the newly developed Christmas selection and making our very own chocolate bar from scratch.
We were presented with a selection of nine chocolates to start, along with some of their beautiful Aztec hot chocolate. It’s made without milk and yet it’s the creamiest hot chocolate I’ve ever had. Yum.
Monkey Shoulder Whisky
Amaretto and Marzipan
Mulled Wine (with the mulled with made in store)
‘We Three Kings’ – Frankincense, Myrrh and Cardamom
Hot Butter Gin
Marc de Champagne
Christmas Pudding – almond and sherry
They are also offering a range of dairy free chocolates – peppermint, passion fruit and coconut, and chilli and lime.
In all honesty, I’m not a fan of chocolates with alcohol and I’m certainly not a big whisky or gin lover, but I could have eaten these by the absolute bucket load. Some were slightly stronger than others – the Mulled Wine, Monkey Shoulder Whisky and Hot Butter Gin had a very distinctive taste in particular – but each were beautifully balanced and the flavours weren’t overwhelmed by the alcohol. My favourites in particular were the Christmas Pudding and the Amaretto and Marzipan. Gorgeous.
We were then given the chance to make our own chocolate bar, being provided with a hot pestle and mortar, cocoa nibs, cocoa butter, icing sugar and, possibly because they remembered my lack of elegance when making truffles in a previous workshop, a plastic apron.
We had to grind the cocoa nibs down into a paste and then add the cocoa butter and sugar. It was a lot more difficult than it looked and the apron was needed – there was cocoa on the table, in my hair and down the front of me, but after about fifteen minutes (with a little help from Jay, who I think felt a bit sorry for me after witnessing my rather pathetic attempt) I had managed to get something that resembled chocolate paste which I then poured into a container to set.
While we waited for the bars to chill down, we helped ourselves to a beautiful chocolate fondue, complete with an assortment of fruit, shortbread and honeycomb. Luckily, I was still wearing my apron as I managed to spill yet more chocolate over myself!
To add an amazing finish to the bar, Jay had also printed off individual wrappers which not only looked incredibly professional, but had a personal touch that I loved.
The Chocolate Quarter has an incredible set of Christmas gifts that are available for purchase both in the store and online. The ‘Bean to Bar’ and truffle-making experiences are available for groups of people who wish to have a wonderful chocolaty evening, catering for hen parties, company training days, baby showers, or for those who wish to do something unique and different.
Once again, The Chocolate Quarter proved why they are the best chocolate store in the city – definitely the place to go this holiday season for gifts for loved ones, corporate events or just a treat for yourself!
You can order online from The Chocolate Quarter at their website here
You can find them on Twitter @ChocQTR
You can also find them on their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/chocolatequarter
Disclaimer: I participated in the Bean to Bar experience and chocolate testing free of charge, and was given a discount on chocolates that I purchased at the end of the evening, but was under no obligation to provide a positive review. However, with chocolate this good, it was impossible not to!
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