Raising the Bar – 6 Exquisite Irish Chocolatiers and Chocolate Makers
Written by Melanie May
If you are looking to buy some craft easter eggs or chocolate this year, why not buy Irish? There are some brilliant chocolatiers and chocolate makers all across the island.
When it comes to buying Irish craft chocolate, it pays to know the difference between a chocolatier and a chocolate maker.
A chocolatier makes chocolate products using high-quality couverture chocolate. They source the chocolate, they do not make it themselves. For example, some Irish chocolatiers buy couverture from Belgium and blend this with local Irish ingredients to create unique chocolates like flavoured bars, bonbons, truffles and pralines.
If in doubt, just ask the chocolatier where they source the chocolate they use.
A chocolate maker sources cocoa beans and turns these into chocolate. These are usually bean-to-bar chocolate makers. In Ireland, there are a few chocolate makers who make their own chocolate and use it to make chocolate products too.
Most artisan chocolatiers and chocolate makers in Ireland use local ingredients in their final products. This is what makes the texture and taste of Irish chocolate so unique, especially the use of local dairy products. Irish cows munch on the lush green grass in fields filled with wildflowers. This gives Irish milk a rich and creamy taste, which imparts these characteristics into the chocolate.
It’s not just down to the raw ingredients though, it’s what you do with them that counts. All across the country, talented chocolatiers and chocolate makers brimming with creativity are conjuring up confectionery that is aesthetically pleasing as well as delicious.
Is your mouth watering yet?
Satisfy those cocoa cravings with toothsome creations from these Irish chocolatiers and chocolate makers.
Arcane Chocolate by Erik Van der Veken
Erik is a creative chocolatier from Belgium, and let’s face it, the Belgians know a thing or two about fine chocolate. Erik likes to experiment with flavour combinations to produce bold, unforgettable chocolate, and his artistic flair is evident in his colourful, eye-catching creations.
Erik uses beautiful couverture from esteemed chocolate brand Cacao Barry. He masterfully blends these with local Irish ingredients, along with some more exotic flavours, to create the most exquisite chocolates.
His Irish Whiskey chocolate is a pure taste of the island. The finest cacao encases a filling of Irish wildflower honey and Bushmills Black Bush Whiskey. He also beautifully marries the local and exotic. For example, his caramel creation features luscious Irish butter caramel perfumed with Tahitian vanilla.
His Easter eggs give Fabergé a run for its money. The highly polished Or Noir black egg is encrusted with 21-carat gold leaf. The egg is made with Piedmontese hazelnuts, widely regarded as the best hazelnuts in the world. We would expect nothing less from Erik, he only uses the best.
Sisters Karen and Natalie Keane make chocolate at the Last Tree Farm in Wexford. The farm inspires the products from the colours on the packing to the flavour combinations. Bean & Goose use the finest couverture sourced from sustainable company Original Beans. They then use local, seasonal, natural ingredients to create their unique, joyful chocolate bars and slabs.
One of our favourite flavours is the Sour Cherry Orchard Chocolate Bar which is crammed with sour cherries which have been infused in Highbank Orchard’s Organic Balsamic Cider Vinegar.
You can hop into Easter with a Bean & Goose milk or dark chocolate Irish hare. This handsome hair is made from the finest single-origin chocolate, and the dark chocolate hare is vegan friendly.
Looking for the hottest chocolate in the country? Then look no further than Grá Chocolates by Gráinne Mullins. Fun and flavourful sums up the artistic chocolates created by this Galway girl. Grá Chocolates are handmade in small batches and are hand-painted too. As there are no colour charts, each piece of chocolate is slightly different making them unique.
Grá Chocolates uses the finest local ingredients which give you a real taste of the West. Fabulous fillings feature Sliabh Aughty Honey from Co. Galway, locally foraged water mint, Kylemore Farmhouse Raw Cream and Achill Island Sea Salt from Co. Mayo.
For Easter, there is a selection of limited edition, luxury eggs that wouldn’t look out of place in a modern art museum. Hand polished, gleaming chocolate eggs have ooey-gooey centres like strawberry compote and white chocolate ganache, mint fondant and smooth ganache, and our personal favourite, smooth hazelnut praline with a delicate touch of Achill Island Sea Salt. These Easter eggs truly egg-cite and delight.
Hazel Mountain Chocolate is located in one of the most unique landscapes in Ireland, the Burren. It is a bean to bar chocolate factory that uses sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients to create beautiful looking and tasting chocolate.
At the factory cocoa beans are roasted, hand cracked and winnowed. The beans are then ground in the stone mills for two days. Only then is the sugar and the local and seasonal ingredients added. The chocolate is then aged for three weeks. This brings out all the wonderful flavours in the chocolate.
The team at Hazel Mountain Chocolate control each stage of the chocolate-making process meaning they have tight quality control of their products as well as full traceability.
Of course, the surrounding landscape is incorporated into the chocolate including local Burren elderflower, Irish seaweed and Burren honey.
For a sweeter Easter this year, savour the Salted Caramel Bunnies or, for a true taste of Ireland, splash out on the Wild Atlantic Easter egg. This hand-painted egg features a landscape scene of the wild waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The rocky base on which the egg sits is made with salted toasted almonds and the bean to bar chocolate. It belongs in a gallery.
Benoit Lorge is a French chocolatier based in Kenmare, Co Kerry. He sources chocolate from around the world and uses a bespoke blend of cocoa beans from Mexico and Venezuela for dark chocolate and Ghana and Ivory Coast for milk chocolate. For his fillings and flavours, he uses local ingredients like Irish butter and Irish whiskies, gins and liqueurs.
We adore the 70% dark cocoa chocolate oozing with fresh Irish raspberry ganache and the chocolate and honey bar. However, his Easter egg collection melts hearts every year. All his eggs are hand-decorated so they’re all different and they are filled with his wonderful chocolate creations. They are like chocolate treasure chests.
Benoit runs chocolate making courses and if you need proof as to how good they are, Karen and Natalie addended a course and then went on to set up Bean & Goose.
In 1997, husband and wife team, Patricia and Con Farrell opened their chocolate factory not far from the shores of Lough Derg in Co Clare. Here they produce their award-winning, handmade, small-batch chocolates. With over 80 different chocolate products, they have something to suit all tastes.
The couverture they use is made from cocoa beans which are mostly sourced from West Africa and are from Cocoa Horizons sustainably sourced farms. At their factory, this is melted and tempered and turned into the most marvellous, mouth-watering creations. We love the whimsical, fun feel of the chocolates and packaging especially the Surfin’ Puffin Cliffs of Moher chocolate bar. However, for a taste of the ocean, tuck into the Dark Chocolate Seaweed and Lime bar made with dillisk that’s been harvested along the Wild Atlantic Way.
This Easter, Wilde Irish Chocolates has a solid, yes, solid Easter egg on offer. White, dark and milk chocolate eggs are filled with either praline or salted caramel fudge. It is pure decadence, and a wonderful, Wonka experience for chocolate lovers.