We first came across arctic thyme during one of our holidays in Iceland, and this year we have decided to bring out a new filled chocolate using this wonderful ingredient.
As the name suggests, it's a variety of thyme often found in areas near the arctic, often in Scandinavian countries. This herb is grown all over Iceland – often found in rock clusters and between the stones, in the lowlands up to about 900 metres in altitude. The flowers blossom usually around June-July. It has a sweet fragrance to it, and is often used in making herbal tea and infusion, and in salads, but also as a marinade for meat in Iceland.
We started playing with this ingredient last summer, when we were given a small bag of arctic thyme from our friend Peter Svenningsen (an award-winning chocolatier from Denmark) and we knew we just had to make a caramel. However, it's not easy to find this ingredient in the UK, so we had to do some research on how to source this wonderful herb. If you have been to Iceland, you may have seen arctic thyme salt being sold in some tourist shops. It is not easy to get hold of this herb on its own even in Iceland. So imagine our excitement when we have managed to source a sufficient amount for this new flavour from an Icelandic supplier.
Now you may wonder why we name this chocolate after the northern Icelandic city of Akureyri, rather than its capital Reykjavik? Firstly, some of our long-time customers may remember that we used to bring out a seasonal chocolate around Christmas called "Reykjavik" and it's a spruce chocolate - the inspiration for that came from a restaurant in Reykjavik where we had the most amazing spruce butter. So we have to find another city name.
In fact, Akureyri seems to be even more appropriate. For many of our chocolates, we get inspirations from our travels and food experience around the world. Akureyri has a special place in our hearts - this is where our most admired Icelandic chef, Fridrik V, comes from. Unfortunately you can't dine at the restaurant any more, as he closed it due to family reasons a few years ago, but we hope that one day he'll resurrect it (or at least do another pop-up in London). We really loved his philosophy in cooking and also in sourcing ingredients - at his restaurant, the staff would be able to tell you which farm the meat came from, and every ingredient on the plate had a story of its origin. This has inspired us immensely and we have built our business with this ethos in mind - we strive to do the same with our chocolates.
For the design of this chocolate, we went through several iterations. In the end we settled for this design which is purple (to reflect the colour of the fresh pick of the arctic thyme), but not a full cover of colour. We love this design as it also seems to reflect the less common purple colour in the northern lights (aurora borealis) - in many pictures you tend to see more of the green colour, but if you have ever seen the northern lights in real life, it's a multi-colour sensory experience. When you look at the chocolate from different angles, the amount of purple seems to change also - a bit like the ever-changing northern lights floating in the sky.