New Forest chocolatier whipping up dark delights from rare crop
AN award-winning Lymington chocolatier has overcome the pandemic to join forces across the Atlantic with an artisan producer in Ecuador to launch a new dark chocolate made from rare cacao trees.
Kerry Witt, creator of Chocolate by Miss Witt, has been working with her longstanding friend Susana Cárdenas who has provided ingredients for the new product – despite the complications of them living 5,600 miles apart and the hurdles of international lockdowns.
She said it made her the only creator in the UK working with the rare chocolate, which has been praised for its sophisticated taste.
Kerry said: “I meet Susana Cárdenas, the renowned founder of Cárdenas Chocolate, at an industry event in London several years ago and we became great friends.”
Based in Manabi, Ecuador, Susana works directly with local communities of cacao producers, craftsmen, artisans from the four regions of the country.
Kerry is a World Academy of Chocolates Awards winner, and has worked as a pastry chef at a number of high-profile venues including Le Poussin and Bluebird Chelsea, before launching her artisan chocolate business in 2012.
She recalled: “Just over a year ago Susana rang me to tell me the most exciting, game-changing news, with her production of chocolate buttons for chocolatiers.
“This news meant I would be able to craft her beautiful, speciality chocolate into my products. I was delighted her product is truly exceptional.”
Made from Arriba cacao, grown on rare vintage cacao trees on Leonardo Andrades’ small plantation in Upper Manabí, the chocolate is hailed for its floral, fruity and nutty undertones.
But within weeks of receiving the good news, the Covid-19 pandemic began and, like many places around the world, Ecuador came to a complete stop under a strict lockdown.
Kerry said: “Leonardo’s cacao was at its peak of harvest at the time. Exports were threatened as there was a real chance the harvest would be lost.”
Fortunately, a safe permit to travel was granted and they were able to complete the harvest. The cacao spent six months resting until Susana was able to ship it to an Italian family-run factory, with experience of producing chocolate over four generations, to turn the cocoa beans into chocolate.
By November the chocolate was ready – but the next hurdle was shipping it to England.
Kerry said: “As my starting order was 20kg, the cost of shipping was double the cost of the chocolate! This did not make good business sense for either of us, but luckily Susana spoke to a client in Spain who was importing a large order and agreed to send my supply from Spain.”
It finally arrived in England on 18th December when Kerry became the only chocolatier in country working with it.
She said: “After such a long wait I had tears of joy and was so happy to be able to introduce so many people in the UK to this very rare produce.
“Their 2020 harvest has been called the Harvest of Hope, produced during a difficult time when the world has been so affected by the Covid pandemic.
“I am so excited to share this rare chocolate which I have used to create my dark chocolate hearts.”