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Cocoa Emporium

Lynda Moyo gorges on our region's finest chocolates

Written by . Published on August 18th 2009.

Cocoa Emporium

Where is it:
80 Middleton Road
OL10 2HZ

Greg Wallace came up to Manchester a few months ago whilst filming his new TV show and, given his sweet tooth, he did stop and purchase some chocolates. He described them as "Probably the best chocolates I've ever tasted."

I came across Helen Rawle and her delicious cookies during a lindy hop dancing class in Fallowfield a few weeks ago. Helen was there to take part in the class but being the lovely, motherly lady she is, she brought along the homemade cookies for the hungry hoppers. Normally I reject people's homemade baking efforts as none can live up to that of my Gran. However, being polite, I tried one of Helen's. It was immense.

Puzzled as to how an ordinary member of the public could create a cookie to rival Millies, it all became clear when I overheard that Helen is in fact the cookie queen and she resides in the Cocoa Emporium...

As is often the case when someone is really good at something, it started out as a hobby. Former insurance broker Helen said: “I've always loved baking and chocolate but started falling more in love with making all things with chocolate. Gradually it took over as people asked me to make chocolates for presents. When I was looking for a career change, it seemed quite natural to take my hobby and attempt to turn it into a new career. Last October I started the business part-time, running stalls at a couple of farmers' markets in Lancashire. I went full-time on 1 May and we now undertake about 12 markets a month.”

What does it sell?
Handmade chocolates can be purchased on the website and at various markets and shows around the North West. Those delicious chocolate cookies, cakes by the slice, and also cupcakes are often available at the markets too and Helen even takes requests for chocolate birthday cakes.

What makes these different to most other choccies is their short shelf life. Helen bakes her chocolates fresh using natural ingredients that will inevitably go off. But that's a good thing.

One has to wonder what they put in certain chocolates to make them last so long. As Helen said: “We create our chocolates using Valrhona Chocolate. This is a specialist chocolate used by the best chefs which always wins awards for its taste and high quality. When we create our chocolates, we don't use any artificial preservatives, use the finest ingredients and we make them fresh each week. Our chocolates have a short shelf life of four weeks as we make them using only Valrhona chocolate, double cream, a little butter, a little sugar and the flavour which is added into the chocolate. There is only cocoa butter in our chocolate and real vanilla.”

Why go there?
As obesity levels rise and pennies become more precious, chocolate is something which you would have thought to be at the bottom of our wish-lists. However, there are actually a few myths to be dispelled, according to Helen:

“Chocolate is actually good for you, especially dark chocolate. However it needs to be good, high quality chocolate with any other items added to it kept to a minimum. Chocolate contains low cholesterol and slight stimulants from theobromine and caffeine, which in small quantities, can have health benefits. Chocolate also contains a selection of vitamins and minerals. Dark chocolate is particularly rich in magnesium, iron and zinc. As with a lot of things, a small quantity of quality chocolate will not harm your health and, in balance with a good diet and regular exercise, tastes good and makes you feel better.”

Good news then, although 'small quantities' isn't what most people are thinking as they break off a piece of a king-size Dairy Milk. But is that addiction or greed?

Helen added: “Most people are not addicted to chocolate, they are addicted to sugar and especially white refined sugar. A lot of commercial chocolate is made of up to 80 per cent sugar. If I was to give you pure cacao, you wouldn't eat it, it's very bitter. When people say they crave chocolate, it's not the chocolate fix they are after but the sugar rush that it gives them.”

Who shops there?
Everyone – including me. We tried a selection of Cocoa Emporium chocolates in the Confidential office, for the purposes of this review, of course. Gordo was straight in there with bells on.

Sampling the Espresso, his eyes disappeared to the back of his head in pleasure. He said: “It's a good, clean chocolatey flavour laced with smooth coffee. Mmmmm. Lovely. I like the bean in the middle and the crunchy texture against the creamy chocolate that's smooth and buttery.” And the Mint was, in his words, "an After Eight on steroids.”

Jonathan Schofield also favoured these local delights, describing the Praline as “light, full of flavour, not too sweet and with a high cocoa content yet pleasantly milky.”

The Cocoa Emporium hype has spread further afield than our own local food critics. TV foodie Greg Wallace is now a fan, to Helen's delight.

She said: “Greg Wallace came up to Manchester a few months ago whilst filming his new TV show and, given his sweet tooth, he did stop and purchase some chocolates. He described them as "Probably the best chocolates I've ever tasted." That certainly made my day. Most of our customers have their favourites and one of our most popular is the Cherrylicious which is a dark chocolate cherry brandy with a whole kirsch cherry inside. Our Coca-Cola cake has also been a big hit at the markets, going down very well with lunchtime shoppers at Manchester Piccadilly Real Food Market.”

Helen wants to open her own shop and possibly a café bar too, selling handmade chocolate baked goods, chocolate and great home-cooked food, alongside wines from local suppliers and beers, again, from independents. And deservedly so. However, in order to remain financially afloat, for the time being, the idea remains in the pipeline.

She said: “That's my dream and fingers crossed one day I'll get there. I'd love to be able to then do chocolate-making courses. I'll also shortly be looking at undertaking luxury chocolate parties for people who want to learn about chocolate in their own home.”

One taste of Helen's chocolates will make you realise that the chocolate you've been buying all these years from the newsagents is in fact cack, not cacao. Try some real chocolate immediately.

Prices start from £5.50 for a box of eight chocolates. For more information on where to buy Cocoa Emporium chocolates, please visit thecocoaemporium.co.uk

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ChinaAugust 18th 2009.

I neeeeeeeeed chocolate now, even tho its only half nine!

user30255September 28th 2010.

hi helen wat u doing

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