The Glossy Guide To Irish Chocolate

Ahead of EASTER tomorrow discover the history of LADY CHOCOLATIERS in Ireland and find out the top CHOCOLATE TREATS to give this year …

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Hazel Mountain

Hazel Mountain’s chocolatier-in-chief Kasha Connolly and husband John run the Bean to Bar chocolate factory and cafe in The Burren and have just opened a smart new shop on Quay Street in Galway. Hazel Mountain is the only Irish company to import cacao beans whole from Madagascar (fruity), Costa Rica (smoky) and Venezuela (gentle) roasting them before grinding and mixing with raw cane sugar. Best-sellers are dairy-free honey and lavender truffles and Hazel Mountain drinking chocolate (pure grated chocolate), now served in chic cafes in Stockholm. Look out for adorable Burren Sheep and a marshmallow, nut and ganache chick. Hazel Mountain Chocolate is at Fallon & Byrne in Dublin and at www.hazelmountainchocolate.com.

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Butlers Chocolate

Butlers Chocolates celebrates its 85th anniversary this year. In 1932, Marion Butler, an Irish society lady who was born in India, began making handmade chocolates in a mews in Lad Lane, off Baggot Street. Ahead of her time (not too many female entrepreneurs in 1932), she produced chocolates for stores in the thriving retail hub of Dublin. In the 85 years since Marion Butler fashioned her first praline, the chocolate factory moved from place to place, growing in size as demand for her chocolates grew. Now in Clonshaugh, the 80,000 ft factory employs 350, among them 50 ladies. The product development team pinpoints global trends in flavours, colours and ingredients, (even looking to fashion catwalks for inspiration) and in the test kitchen, using the signature Butlers chocolate (a closely-guarded secret recipe) delicious marriages are made. (There have been several actual Butlers marriages, as well as a good assortment of Butlers’ babies, which reflects the family values of the workforce, and the brand.) Butlers now exports to 40 countries and has 19 cafes, here and abroad – one just opened in Dubai International Airport. Butlers Chocolate Experience is a must-visit – a guided tour of the factory and the Chocolate Museum finishes with a hands-on opportunity to create and decorate your own chocs. Eggs galore for Easter, of course, including the pretty Keepsake Egg box, below, but the most popular hostess gift is the Dessert Menu box. Dispense with pud and serve the little chocolate cups filled with assorted flavours at coffee time.

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Marion Butler

JeSweets

Wicklow-based chocolatier Síona Ryan is on a mission to inject some fun into the serious business of chocolate. The founder of JeSweets – a range of exquisitely flavoured, funkily packaged handmade truffles, bars and ganaches – Ryan used her background in the music industry to bring a witty slant to her brand. Her products have song-inspired names, from “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” espresso ganache to “Honky Tonka Woman” dark chocolate Tonka bean bar, and the packaging calls to mind a Miami nightclub more than an artisan kitchen. “A lot of high-end chocolate looks serious,” she says. “I wanted to create a brand that is serious about chocolate but presented in a more playful way – enter palm trees and flamingoes!” Ryan apprenticed with renowned Rococo Chocolates in London and was inspired by chocolatiers of Paris (her husband wooed her with truffles from Patrick Roger). JeSweets are made from fine single-origin chocolate, guaranteeing the character of the cocoa beans – “it works the same way as coffee or wine” – with original flavour combinations like orange, hazelnut and amaretti, and mint, passionfruit and Earl Grey. For Easter Síona Ryan has created ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’ disco chicks instead of eggs. “They’re glittery, fun and frivolous.” she laughs. JeSweets chocolates are at Avoca.

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The best chocolate treats to give this Easter …

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This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this don’t miss our next issue, out Thursday May 4.

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