Pots & Co: premium from cocoa pod to pot

Pots & Co: premium from cocoa pod to pot

by Great British Chefs5 April 2023

The UK is a nation of chocolate lovers – but how much do you know about how the sweet treat is made? We visit premium desserts experts Pots & Co’s sustainable farm in Colombia to learn how it goes from pod to pot. 

Pots & Co: premium from cocoa pod to pot

The UK is a nation of chocolate lovers – but how much do you know about how the sweet treat is made? We visit premium desserts experts Pots & Co’s sustainable farm in Colombia to learn how it goes from pod to pot. 

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

We are, it’s fair to say, a country with a sweet tooth. Whether it’s dark, milk or white, in a bar or box or turned into desserts and drinks, chocolate is everywhere; lining supermarket shelves, on most restaurant menus and very much at home in our cupboards. Our love for it is never more obvious than now, at Easter, when chocolate eggs fill the shops, though every year we Brits are estimated to each eat around three bars a week. Despite its popularity, we’re willing to bet most of us don’t fully understand how it's made, an intricate process which begins, of course, with the cocoa tree (the scientific name for which translates to ‘food of the gods’ – we can’t argue with that).

Luxury desserts experts Pots & Co has, in fact, found that 69% of us have no idea how chocolate is made, despite one in ten of us eating it every day. They know the process inside out and, since the business was founded by chef Julian Dyer in 2012, their Michelin-trained chefs have used high quality, sustainable ingredients in all its premium desserts, from Cornish sea salt in its salted caramel and freshly-squeezed juice in its lemon and lime possets to the cocoa in its pots of 70% chocolate ganache. Its chocolate is single-origin, meaning it is made from one variety of cocoa bean grown in a particular region, and Fino de Aroma, a grading set by the International Cocoa Organisation which recognises its particularly exquisite aroma and puts it in the top 8% of cocoa in the world.

Pots & Co’s Luker Chocolate farm in Necocli, on the Caribbean coast.

At Pots & Co’s farm in Necocli, on the Caribbean coast, where its Trinitario cocoa is made, sustainability underpins production; its family-owned supplier Luker Chocolate works directly with farmers to make sure they are not only paid fairly, but also supported to grow the best, most ethical cocoa they can. It runs The Chocolate Dream programme, which launches projects to make positive change in farmers’ communities, improving local infrastructure, education and culture. Through that, Pots & Co has set up its Empowering Dreams initiative, which trains, mentors and empowers local entrepreneurs. It all aims to make positive change for farming families, while keeping cocoa production sustainable and successful. After all, it’s certainly not easy work – cocoa is notoriously temperamental, and farmers are encouraged to grow three crops; cocoa, a fruit and a hardwood. The fast-growing fruit attracts insects to pollinate the cocoa and gives farmers a harvest while the cocoa matures, while the hardwood provides shade, a wind barrier and a third income.

Rugby ball-shaped, vibrantly coloured and up to fourteen inches long, ripe cocoa pods are a unique sight, with as many as eighty growing along the trunk and biggest branches of mature cocoa trees. Farmers harvest the pods by knocking them off the tree, before scooping out the seeds, or cocoa beans, and pulp inside. Then, it’s time for fermentation, a crucial part of chocolate-making which unlocks the beans’ flavour potential. The beans and pulp are stacked on top of each other and turned every day, triggering a natural fermentation process which takes up to eight days, stopping before the seeds begin to germinate. Next, farmers dry the beans on concrete or wooden slabs – while this step might need the help of fire in countries with rainforest climates, in Colombia farmers are usually able to let the sun do the work.

Cocoa pods grow up to fourteen inches long.
The beans being dried in Colombia.

Once dry, the beans are taken to Luker Chocolate’s centre in Colombian capital Bogotá, where they are graded and cleaned. They’re then roasted, with the Maillard reaction beginning to develop the flavour and aroma we know and love. The outer shell comes off, leaving the chocolate nibs, which are ground into chocolate mass, a dark, syrupy paste which, when pressed, yields cocoa butter and cocoa cake (this can be ground into cocoa powder). Once sugar is added to the mass, we have chocolate. From there, it’s a case of finessing the final flavour and aroma to create a consistently delicious end product – the chocolate is ground to remove any grittiness and put into a conch, a giant mixer, where it’s warmed, rolled and kneaded, smoothing it and driving off unwanted astringent notes, before it’s tempered.

From there, the chocolate is sent to Pots & Co’s team of talented chefs, who give the chocolate a starring role in their restaurant quality desserts. By using the highest quality of ingredients, it means the chefs can keep the recipes simple and clean and let those distinct flavours shine through – its hand-made pots of velvety 70% chocolate ganache, which are combined with luxurious whipping cream, being the perfect example; there’s absolutely no need to add anything artificial. When so much work has been put into producing the perfect chocolate, the chefs know the best approach is to let its aroma sing. After all, Pots & Co has set out to prove that ready-to-eat desserts can be developed with the same care as those served in top restaurants, delivering the same level of decadent flavour.

Chocolate-making might be an involved process, but every stage plays its part to transform the finished product. Not all chocolate is created equal, after all, and what goes into it matters. Single-origin chocolate, for example, delivers the specific notes and aromas of one type of cocoa bean (Trinitario, for example, has a fruity, floral and herbaceous flavour with notes of malt and walnut), while Fino de Aroma boasts a depth of flavour other cocoa varieties don’t. High-quality chocolate also has a velvety mouthfeel, without any grittiness (as a test, you can melt chocolate and rub it on the roof of your mouth), and should snap when broken, rather than bending or crumbling.

It may well be the nation’s favourite, but we’re sure plenty of us pick up a dessert or sweet treat without giving enough thought to where the chocolate comes from or how it’s made. By looking a little closer, we can be confident we are making sustainable decisions that not only help the planet and support farmers and their families, but also guarantee we are tasting only the finest chocolate.