It’s great news when you want the best of the best, and then find out it’s made locally. Kate Hamilton meets the chocolatiers of Conwy…

Chocolate is big business. Throughout the year, tons of factory made chocolate is bundled into bright attractive boxes that have been designed to encourage shoppers to spend their hard earned cash more on packaging than pleasure.

But for chocolate connoisseurs, this production line offering simply doesn’t cut the mustard. Because anyone that knows their chocolate, knows that it needs to be made with love.

“We’re really passionate about using quality ingredients, and everything is handmade here on the premises,” explains Emma Baravelli, a master chocolatier and one half of Conwy’s Baravelli’s chocolate shop. “We use a special secret recipe in our chocolate. It takes years to understand the coco bean – they are very similar to grapes and coffee beans in that sense.”

As a master chocolatier, Emma can tell you the whole process of the ‘bean to bar’ manufacturing technique. Originally a fashion designer, Emma got the chocolate making bug when she took over the Sandbach tea rooms in Llandudno and found some original chocolate moulds in the storage shed. But it wasn’t until a few years later, after she had met her husband Mark and they had opened a deli, that she actually made her first chocolate.

“We were making everything at the deli from scratch,” says Mark. “Cakes, pork pies, jams, chutneys, coleslaw and soup was all made on a daily basis, so it made sense to start making our own chocolate too.”

And this is where the Baravelli’s story really began. Emma attended a chocolate making course and went on to win a gold award for her white chilli truffle soon after. Numerous other awards followed, and Emma quickly became so respected in her field that she was invited to become a judge herself.

By this time the couple had decided to concentrate solely on their passion for chocolate, and Baravelli’s Chocolate Shop was born. When the shop opened in Conwy in November 2014 people were queuing down the street in order to get their fair share of the secret Baravelli recipe.

But it’s not just the general public that knew a good thing when they tasted it – Harrods too wanted in on the action.

“I was invited to judge the Academy of Chocolate Awards in 2016,” explains Emma. “Judging chocolate is very much like judging a fine wine, and so we need to let our taste buds rest between tastings. Naturally you get talking to other members of the judging panel during this time, and I was telling the New Product Developer at Harrods a little bit about what we do. Low and behold, she got back in touch and asked us to supply Harrods with an exclusive collection of Easter eggs.”

So they did. Using Harrods’ own house blend of 41% cocoa milk chocolate Emma, in close collaboration with the team at Harrods, has worked tirelessly to interpret designer Camille Walala’s graphic prints into Easter eggs.

“We have had to source bespoke chocolate moulds and increase the chocolate output of our workshop specially to complete the Camille Walala and Harrods Easter collection,” adds Mark.

Completely handmade in Baravelli’s, the Harrods collection is a great example of how smaller food manufacturers from North Wales are beginning to enter the artisan limelight – thanks to their quality ingredients and personal manufacturing touch. And what’s truly special about Mark and Emma’s success is that they want to share it.

“We’re looking to promote natural, good quality ingredients that result in ethical, transparent products – that taste good,” continues Mark. “We’d love to see a ‘home brew’ market emerge for chocolate, whereby people start to make their own at home. We feel that it’s important to know what actually goes into the chocolate you’re eating.”