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Chocolate with a conscience

Seed and Bean has a kaleidoscope of bold, natural flavours – and scores top marks in the ethics department, too
Chocolate with a conscience

This article appears in the spring issue of Magazine, distributed with the Guardian on 07 April 2017. Click here to read the full digital issue online.

Jonathan Shorts and Colm Curran had been involved in the organic sector for nearly 20 years before taking over Seed and Bean, the artisan British chocolate company.

‘There was a gap in the market for a new bold, creative boutique brand to stand up against the other ‘organic’ chocolate brands that had, we felt, started to lose their identity and their integrity’, Jonathan says. ‘We are passionate about the importance of trading fairly, using only organic, natural ingredients and creating totally traceable products of the highest quality.’

The company originally brought together the two elements of cocoa and seeds; it started off making chocolate-covered seeds and beans – and so the brand Seed and Bean was born.

Experimental artisans

The brand launched in June 2005 with the mission to make the most ethical, sustainable and delicious organic British chocolate. While most organic and Fairtrade chocolate sold in the UK is made thousands of miles away and most probably shipped in by specialist transport, Seed and Bean makes its ethical chocolate at a deliberately small production facility in Northamptonshire, saving food miles and creating local employment.

Seed and Bean’s batch size is just 45 litres – a fraction of the 20-50,000 litres per batch of industrially produced chocolate – so each run can be tasted and tweaked. ‘Making our chocolate by hand in small UK batches means we’re able to ensure first-class production’, Colm explains. ‘Quality overrides quantity; when it comes to chocolate, we really are artisans.’

The courage to do things differently has seen Seed and Bean make some bold moves: it uses fully home-compostable ‘foil’ wrappers made from eucalyptus wood pulp, and isn’t afraid of creating ‘courageous chocolate’ using daring new flavours from Nature. They’re mixed to transform the simplicity of a pure cocoa bean into what Seed and Bean calls ‘kaleidoscopic moments of pleasure’.

Currently, the 23-strong menu of full-flavoured bars includes tastes from Aromatic Fennel, Thyme, Chilli, Lime, Coffee, Coconut, Cornish Sea Salt, Raspberry, Cardamom, Poppy Seed and Hemp. The chocolate is available in milk, white or dark bars, with the award-winning dark flavours – which contain 58% to 100% cocoa – certified as being suitable for vegans.

Some tastes are easy on the palette, some quite unusual and others will electrify your tastebuds – all in a good way, of course. There are no ‘hints of’ or ‘flavourings’; if the real ingredient can’t be used then the idea’s dropped and the bar’s not created. ‘The focus has always been on using, where possible, organic ingredients from small-scale suppliers’, Jonathan says, ‘while at the same time being brave with flavours rarely tasted in confectionery.’

Devilishly dark

Seed and Bean assures us that its latest concoctions – the 100% Dark Chocolate Bar and the 80% Dark Chocolate Bar – are its best yet. They’re definitely a good option for the true dark chocolate connoisseur who enjoys a punchy hit of cocoa.

Seed and Bean's kaleidoscope

The deep and velvety chocolate delivers the ultimate intensity with none of the bitterness you can get from dark chocolate. The strong flavours mix with the spicy, nutty and woody tones, keeping the chocolate smooth and creamy.

The 100% and 80% Dark Chocolate bars are made from 100% premium organic cacao beans grown and cultivated by 396 farmer families in the tropical lowlands of Ecuador – the most biodiverse country on Earth. From that exquisite paradise, the highly regarded Fino de Aroma cacao variety delivers a discernible and unparalleled depth in aroma and flavour.

Fair trade

Seed and Bean works closely with its suppliers, in some cases paying well above the market price for their highest quality cacao beans to ensure the farmers receive their deserved share of the entire farmer-to-consumer process – a difference that profoundly affects the producers’ quality of life.

With a strong focus on transparency, Seed and Bean’s chocolate can be traced from field to shop shelves. As a result, the Good Shopping Guide has crowned the company Britain’s most ethical chocolate brand for the last five years running. Each time, Seed and Bean has scored an incredible 100 out of 100 on the Ethical Company Index.

‘We know where our ingredients come from; by getting to know some of our cocoa suppliers and growers we can better understand the issues and controls they have’, Jonathan says. ‘By applying our knowledge of the market, we aim to help growers produce a far greater yield of a finer, higher quality bean – without compromising on quality.’

Click here to view Seed and Bean’s full range of conscious chocolate.

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