Last week for me was pretty intense, stressful, and busy. It was mentally draining, and I hadn’t felt that way since my last couple of weeks studying my masters last year. However last Wednesday I attended a blog event organised by the amazing Suzie over at Suzie 81 Speaks (link to her blog here) and hosted by the lovely bunch over at The Chocolate Quarter.
I’m not going to lie when I say that this event was the highlight of my week, and I had more fun than I thought I was going to have. The invite said how it was going to be on for an hour and a half, it lasted nearly three hours! Not going to complain about that mind, as I had so much fun and met some awesome people!
The Chocolate Quarter has only been open since February this year, and is located in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham. It isn’t rocket science when I say what kind of shop it is… It’s obviously a chocolate shop, but I found that it was a lot different than your usual Thorntons, or Hotel Chocolat. This is an independent company and their chocolate is just different from anywhere else, they have some interesting, and unusual flavours that you won’t be able to find in chain stores.
I was invited to the event by Suzie nearly a month prior to it happening, so I had a good look on their website to have a nose at what yummy chocolate goodness I was in for! I was in heaven, let me tell you, so can you imagine how I was when I entered the actual shop last week?!
I just want to quickly add, that I was in a bit of a rush to get to this event as I had finished work, had to get home and quickly get ready, and then get through traffic in the city centre to haul my booty to the event. Due to this I wasn’t able to take my digital SLR with me and get the best pictures I could. This being said, my iPhone does produce some pretty good pictures. Oh and by the way, this post is going to be hella picture heavy!
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the shop (apart from all the lovely people attending the event :P) was the amazing display of chocolates which was in front of me. I literally died and went to unique chocolate heaven! As I had already eyed up what goodies were on offer to buy I already had an idea of what I wanted, so I got to have a proper look at them in the flesh. Which by the way, I bought! But I’m going to save that for a separate post. 😛
The store itself wasn’t the biggest, but it was the perfect size, and due to the decor was light and airy. Definitely nice to venture into and was very welcoming. The store itself was decorated lightly in products they sell, and I was salivating at the thought of some of them. They had hampers you could buy, biscuits, chocolates, sweets, as well as the chocolates they make and sell. So there is various options for everyone!
To kick start the event we all got to have some of the Aztec drinking chocolate that they had prepared for us. From working in a coffee shop, I’ve made some kick ass hot chocolate in my time, but this stuff was beautiful! It wasn’t made with milk, which usually a lot of coffee shops do, but instead just water, hot of course. They owners were telling us how milk doesn’t really help give the true taste of chocolate, but instead masks it and hides the taste, whereas hot water doesn’t do this and you get the full flavour of the chocolate. It was delicious, and we got to add various spices to it such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and even chilli! For my first cup of hot chocolate I decided to add nutmeg. It was pretty subtle, but tasted amazing!
After trying the hot chocolate it was onto finding out a few in depth details about chocolate, and how it is made, as well as how The Chocolate Quarter make their amazing chocolates! It was really interesting to listen to, and Jay who was telling us all about it was very thorough, but not like school teacher boring thorough. We got to try three different types of chocolate to try and find the key notes to each. If you don’t like dark chocolate, you would have hated this. I love dark chocolate so this was fun for me to do. You placed a couple of little buttons onto your tongue, let it melt, and then swirled the chocolate around your mouth to get a taste for it. It reminded me of tasting coffee after testing it at my old job (as well as my current one) and it was nice. I love doing things like this!
Through talking about chocolate Jay went on to show us one of their newest chocolate inventions, the cappuccino chocolate! I ended up buying one of these, but I’ve yet to try it! I mean look at it, it looks like a cute little cappuccino drink, even has chocolate sprinkles! I think out of all the chocolates I saw and bought, this one was the most impressive out of them all. It’s just so unique, and such an awesome idea for people who love coffee flavoured chocolate, like myself.
He then went on to tell us we would be having a go at making four chocolates ourselves and went on to show us the five stages that it takes to make a truffle. Technically it should be six, but they did the first part for us by creating our little dark chocolate shells.
The first stage was to inject a gooey caramel into our truffles. It reminded me of piping buttercream on a cake, especially as we used piping bags! But this caramel was pretty damn hard, and it took a bit of time to get the hang of it. I like to think I didn’t do too badly though… It could have gone worse. It would have gone everywhere! Thank God it didn’t mind.
The second stage was to start temping the chocolate ready to use for our truffles. We got to find out how they temp their chocolate, as well as be given some hints and tips as to how we can do it ourselves at home. We of course got to have a go at doing this stage ourselves, which was pretty fun to do in teams. I worked with Laura from Fill to the Brum who was lovely! We both took it in turns to stir the chocolate and make sure it was ready to use to seal our chocolates, and cover them in gooey chocolate goodness!
That’s where the third stage comes in! Time to cover and seal our chocolates! This was a pretty simple stage where you got a little bit of the chocolate and covered the whole where you had just injected all the gooey caramel so it stays there for the next couple of stages. We left this to set for a couple of minutes and then moved onto covering the truffles in creamy chocolate.
The fourth stage was pretty straight forward… Although a tad on the messy side! We could either dunk our truffle into the chocolate, move it around a little and be done, or we could do the same process and then remove with a special dipping tool. Where it is swirly you hold the chocolate covered truffle onto this and use it to remove any leftover chocolate so it gives the finished truffle a nice smooth finish and texture. I kept dropping the first one I did this to, and I felt a tad silly due to it.
Finally we got to cover our truffles in either powdered chocolate, coconut shavings, or powdered sugar. As I’m not a fan of coconut shavings I went for the powdered chocolate and sugar! I made such a mess, which you can tell by my glove on the picture above. I felt like a little kid all over again in my cooking classes… Oh dear! I’m never usually this mucky, I promise.
So here are my finished chocolates! I did two with a smooth chocolate look to them, and two where I covered them in yummy powdered chocolate and sugar. The sugar one didn’t work out too great to be honest, but oh well. It’s trying that counts, isn’t it?
After this we popped our names on our chocolates, had another hot chocolate (this time I had cinnamon and it was BEAUTIFUL!!!), and had everything cleared away so that we could move onto the next part of the event, tasting the new Father’s Day chocolates. Man, I can’t believe Father’s Day is just a month away. SRSLY 2016 can you stop going by so quickly???
There were three chocolates we were given to try, jewellery porter, smoked bacon, and “the renaissance” single malt. That was also the order we got to try them in too. One thing about this chocolate’s were is that they all had alcohol in them. They were yummy let me tell you, and would make a great gift for someone’s father or grandfather who has a sweet tooth and loves a strong drink every now and then.
So the first one was jewellery porter, and it was the nicest one of the bunch! It’s described as, “A collaboration of two locals! Two Towers brewery provided their famous Jewellery Porter Stout and we provided the chocolate. A rich and chocolatey caramel in a thick dark shell with a sustained happy end note.” This was my favourite as it just ticked all the boxes. It looked lovely as it wasn’t too in your face, and it tasted amazing. The caramel was really gooey, which I love with chocolates like this, and the alcohol wasn’t really strong. I know some people prefer this, but personally I’m never fussed. This was more of a chocolate I would imagine a woman to enjoy though, due to both the taste, as well as how it looked.
The second was smoked bacon and whilst this wasn’t horrible, it was really weird and I’m not sure if I liked it or not… I wouldn’t chose it myself, but if someone gave it to me I would eat it. If that makes sense? Out of the three I found it was a the prettiest to look at. The description for this one was, “Bacon in a chocolate?! – You can’t do that! O’ yes we can. This caramel truffle contains actual salty bacon and a dash of laphroig single malt to give it a smokey kick start.” This was a strange chocolate… The gooey caramel was amazing, of course it was! But to then bite into and taste bacon was strange, in a somewhat nice way. I didn’t dislike it but I didn’t love it either. I can’t say I didn’t like it when I’ve eaten Marmite chocolate… 😛
The third and final one was “the renaissance” single malt which wasn’t my favourite out of the three. It’s described as, “Recommended by the experts at Hard To Find Whisky this chocolate is made with pure Glen Garioch single malt whisky. Notes of butterscotch, ginger and orange interlaced with caramel and barley are balanced with a Belgian milk chocolate shell.” This wasn’t a horrible chocolate, but it really wasn’t my cup of tea. It was really strong due to the whisky which was off putting for myself, and to look at it, it wasn’t anything special. I don’t expect mind blowing chocolate, my reason for putting this is due to how they wanted us to rate them. I’m not THAT mean!
After the chocolate tasting was over, it was time to begin the final part of the event which was a chocolate fondue, with lots of yummy food to dunk in, as well as some prosecco to wash it down! There was lots to choose from with various fruits like banana, strawberries, and satsuma, and some naughtier choices with gingerbread men, turkish delight, doughnuts, and honeycomb. As I’m either allergic or not a fan I didn’t eat any of the fruit, so I mostly ate the naughty treats. My favourite was the doughnuts! I didn’t try the turkish delight, sadly. The honeycomb was really yummy, but it stuck to my teeth, haha!
I already had an idea what chocolates I wanted to buy, and as we were given 10% off any purchases, I decided to grab some goodies to take home with me for me and Dane to share. I’ll be doing a full review on these the weekend to be honest, but I’ll definitely show off what I picked up here.
As well as my own four chocolates I made, I also picked up cappuccino, lemon and lime, Irish cream, and sea salt caramels. As well as that due to the event being on the 4th of May, which is known as Star Wars day they made Star Wars themed chocolates! I went for a Stormtrooper, because why not?
Overall what did I think about the event and The Chocolate Quarter? I LOVED it! I had a really crap week and this was the highlight of my week. Making chocolate, and getting to find out some more in depth details and information about how chocolate is made etc is really interesting and it was so much fun. It was also great to network and talk to some lovely fellow bloggers, especially food related ones.
If you love the sound of the chocolate making then you can book a chocolate experience to have a go yourselves with a minimum of 3 people but from memory the price was £50. This would be great for team building for work, maybe if you study a food related subject at college or university then it’d be great to learn about something new! My friends want to have a go, so it might be something I look into around Christmas time, or for birthday’s.
I’ll be visited The Chocolate Quarter again as there is so much more I want to try!
A massive thanks to Suzie for once again being a total beaut for inviting me, and always being so lovely and welcoming. If you haven’t heard of her, make sure to go and check out her blog. I’ve popped the link near the start of this post.
I also want to say a huge thank you to the guys at The Chocolate Quarter for being so welcoming and friendly to all of us! You were great hosts for your event and your hot chocolate is very yummy!
I’ve had three of my friends already ask me if we can go to The Chocolate Quarter soon to go and buy some goodies, so I already know I’ll be going again very soon.
If you aren’t local to the store like I am and really want to try some of their chocolate, then don’t fret! You can go to their website and look at what they have on offer, as well as make orders. I’m going to pop all the links for The Chocolate Quarter down below for you, so don’t worry.
Will you be paying The Chocolate Quarter a visit anytime soon? Or have you already? Make sure to let me know in the comments down below!
Until next time, take care all and I hope you’re having a great week!