Every January, one of the questions we get asked is “what new chocolates are you bringing out this year?”. This is usually the time of year when we start planning on the new flavours for the filled chocolates for the year.
When we develop a new flavour for our filled chocolates, we usually follow these 5 steps (This is an iterative process - Sometimes we have to backtrack to an earlier step, before we can move on):
1 – Inspiration
We often get inspired by flavours we come across when we travel, experiencing local cuisines and ingredients. Therefore each of our filled chocolate is named after a city or place in the world – it doesn’t necessarily mean that the ingredients come from the place, but that’s how we associate the flavour to the place. For example, “Sydney” (Mint & Miso chocolate) always reminds us of the fusion cuisine in this city – the miso is obviously a Japanese ingredient, while the mint comes from our own greenhouse. For our Curry & Raisins chocolate, we named it “Cape Town” because our friend Jane, who introduced us to the South African dish Bobotie, came from Cape Town even though we first tried it in the UK.
2 – Filling
Once we have an idea of the base ingredients we want to work with, we would need to develop the filling. The easy part seems to be deciding on whether it should be a ganache, caramel or something else. Developing the right flavour balance and texture is more difficult – the time it takes to develop each flavour can be unpredictable as we may need to research into how to bring out the flavour more or overcome a texture that we are not happy with. The quickest development is our “Rio de Janeiro” (Banana Cardamom Caramel) which took about 5 iterations (over a period of one month), while the most challenging one is our “Montreal” (Brie chocolate) which has taken us several years to develop this cheese chocolate!
3 – Matching
With the prototype of the filling done, the next step is for us to taste the filling with several different dark, milk and white chocolates, to see which chocolate has the best match with the filling. When we developed “New York” (Apple & Calvados Caramel) and “Hong Kong” (Soy Caramel) in 2015, we actually would have preferred to have one of them in a dark chocolate shell, rather than both of them in milk chocolate shell. However, after testing multiple dark chocolates, we couldn’t find one that worked as well as the milk chocolate, and hence they both ended up as milk chocolate caramels, and competing in the same category in International Chocolate Awards in 2016!
4 – Presentation
We would decide on the design of the chocolate - matching the shape and colour to the flavour. You may be surprised to learn that these actually affect the flavour. For example:
Originally the top choice for the mould of our “New York” (Apple & Calvados Caramel) would have been a rectangular shape with a triangular indent on top – the triangle represents the shape of an apple pie which is the inspiration behind this flavour. However, when we made a test batch using this shape, vs another batch using the current half-round shape, we found that the latter actually worked far better even though we were using exactly the same filling and the same milk chocolate couverture.
One time we made a special batch of “Bangkok” (Mango & Passion Fruit Caramel) for an awards ceremony, using a blue colour on the chocolate. When we did the tasting, we were so convinced that it’s actually a different flavour altogether, even though we knew it was mango and passion fruit. Quite interesting to learn how we eat with our eyes!
5 – Final Test
When we are happy with the chocolate, we would give the “near-finish” product to selected people and ask for feedback. Often we would just need to fine-tune the flavour to improve the balance, but on a couple of occasions we had to go back to the drawing board.
Even when the chocolate is available for purchase, we would continue to tweak the flavour whenever we can, based on customer feedback.