Within a year of starting up, Solkiki have won awards for their gourmet chocolate bars. What makes their bars so special?
I met Iris and Bob at VegFest and absolutely loved the gourmet look of their chocolate bars, Their packaging was attractive because it was simple yet bold. However, beyond all of that, they had a large variety of flavours, and those I tasted were delicious!
Here's what I've tried so far and here are some of the tweets I've posted about them:-
What does Solkiki specialise in selling?
In short, we make and sell craft chocolate. We import rare cacao beans and cacao butter from various places in the world, and try to create the best chocolate possible. Alongside our range of bars we also sell couverture, nibs, cacao beans and cacao butter
Where is Solkiki based?
We're based in Northwest Dorset.
Do you exclusively serve those who are local to you or can others who are further away access your products too? If so, how?
You can always buy our full range of chocolate from our webshop. We post locally, nationally and internationally. Our chocolate is also available from a few stockists in and around Dorset, and a few specialist chocolate shops around Europe.
What inspired you to create a business that solely focuses on vegan chocolates?
We, (Bob and Iris) are both vegan. I have been vegan for over 20 years, and Bob for over 10 years. I have been a foodie for as long as I can remember. Chocolate became interesting about 9 years ago when we couldn't find a decent vegan white or milk chocolate, so I set out to make it myself by reconstituting the ingredients. Around the same time we discovered craft chocolate. Bob brought back an Askinosie bar from a business trip to the US. Finding a dark chocolate with so many flavours in it and was unlike anything we'd had before. After this we bought a stonegrinder and started making proper chocolate and we began experimented with different cacao beans and butters.
How easy is it for you to source cruelty free ingredients for your products?
We don't stop at cruelty-free ingredients. We want to ensure that humans aren't exploited in the process of making these bars of chocolate. For that reason, we source our cacao beans using direct trade, via the shortest chain possible. We make sure the farmer gets properly awarded, and we ensure that the sugar we use is bone-char free, and therefore, vegan. All our ingredients are vegan, and nothing has been tested on animals.
Do these ingredients effect the outcome in comparison with non-vegan chocolates?
We set out to create chocolate that is outstanding in flavour, ethics, quality and health. We feel our craft chocolate is as wonderful as non-vegan craft chocolate and far superior to lacklustre industrial alternatives in the supermarket or health food stores.
We have won awards by International Chocolate Awards, Academy of Chocolate Awards and others. Our competitors included mainstream craft chocolate from all over the world. We are proud to say that we won prizes for our white, mylk and dark chocolate in competitions against non-vegan chocolate.
The way we see it, is that dairy is just another inclusion for chocolate, it's very easily avoided and we feel very confident competing with any chocolate out there. Ingredients play the pivotal role in any recipe so we start with the best we can find, and work hard to show-off their unique properties.
For someone who hasn't tasted your chocolates before and is indecisive about what to buy; is there a particularly popular one you can name?
We often ask first what someone's preferred chocolate is: white, mylk or dark, after which we recommend some of our award winning bars.
For a lover of white chocolate, we can recommend our insanely clean Toasted White or our more complex Tahitian Nougat White Chocolate. Tahitian has roasted peanuts, whole Tahitian vanilla pod and a dash of pink salt, stoneground in white chocolate.
If you prefer mylk, we have a lovely Salted Caramel Dark Mylk Maranon 60% Bar. This is a very subtle and mild dark mylk bar. The coconut milk is subtly present and helps bring out the caramel and licorice that is naturally present in this wonderful cacao bean from the Maranon Valley in Peru.
For someone who likes dark chocolate, we would suggest the 68% Maranon Dark Chocolate bar. There are just two ingredients: cacao beans and cane sugar. The bar starts with light floral flavours like jasmin, goes into honey and raisin with a lovely undertone and finish of pink grapefruit.
At the vegan fairs people often ask us if we have 'raw chocolate'. We offer 'unroasted chocolate'. We use different terminology since 'raw chocolate' in the strict sense doesn't exist (fermentation and sun-drying of the cacao beans demands that it well exceeds raw temperatures and unfermented cacao is inedible). Therefore, 'Raw' chocolate is just a marketing ploy - a way to add perceived value to commodity grade cacao - and we don't want to mislead. Sometimes we have a cacao bean that is lovely to eat without roasting, and when we make a chocolate out of it, we call it 'unroasted'. We have an unroasted Maranon 70% that is wonderful, and when compared with our (roasted) 68% Maranon, it really shows how you can get different results from the same bean. We also have an unroasted 85% Castillo, Dominican Republic with is a deep smoky and mild dark chocolate that is insanely good.
Is Solkiki owned by, or in partnership with, another company that tests on animals or sells non-vegan products?
No, Solkiki is a family company owned by Iris and Bob and has no other employers or partnerships.
Tell me a bit about yourself before you launched Solkiki?
I have a masters in Clinical Psychology and Bob has degrees in Human-Computer Interaction and Business Law, so after a long stint touring the world directing and producing video games, starting a family and bean-to-bar chocolate making seemed like the obvious next step! When we heard that the world's best beans are in danger of extinction we moved mountains to help.
What is your vision for the future of Solkiki?
We're still in the first year of our business, so it's early days. For now we would just like to survive our first year and feed the kids! In the future we would like our business to grow and for our chocolates to be more well known.
I would like to help raise awareness about Fair Trade chocolate not being so fair. This is why we use Direct Trade. Here you can read a very well written article by the Chocolate Journalist, which discusses the pros of Fair Trade.
At Solkiki we're not big on any sort of certifications, including organic. These certification teams are businesses that found a way to make money from every kilo of coffee and cacao sold, and they typically discriminate against small businesses.
Having said this all our cacao beans have been grown without herbicides or pesticides. Most of the chocolate you'll find in the stores is made from a entirely different species of cacao, which has a global market share of over 95%. The chocolate has no other flavours other than the chocolate flavour that we all know so well. The trees have big yields, they respond well to herbicides and pesticides, and most of it comes from Ghana and the Ivory coast. Forty percent of this cacao involves child labour and the slave trade. The other 5% or so is fine flavour cacao. These trees are more delicate, don't respond well to herbicides and pesticides, have smaller yields, but the cacao these trees produce is much more interesting. There are often many other flavours and notes in the chocolate made from these cacao beans. These are the beans that we use for our chocolate. I hope that this background will inspire you to explore chocolates made using fine flavour cacao.
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