In this Meet the Makers series, we're throwing the spotlight on the incredible producers behind some of Ireland's best food. Here, we look into some of the best chocolate producers from around the country.
These amazing chocolatiers have mastered chocolate making and are producing some amazing products, some specialising in single-origin chocolate, others in bean-to-bar. If you have ever taken on the laborious challenge of tempering chocolate, then you will understand the skill and patience required to produce even one decent piece of chocolate.
What you'll notice about quality chocolate producers is that sourcing is extremely important, core to their ethos in some instances. These producers often have direct relationships with the farmers who grow the cacao beans in various countries, from which chocolate is produced.
READ MORE: Chocolate truffle recipe
Chocolate is produced in multiple ways, using a different variety of beans and can be indicated as Fair Trade, Single Origin or Blended. Single-origin means that the chocolate has been produced using cacao beans from one specific place, with the country that the bean originated from stated clearly on the packaging.
In comparison, blended chocolate is often made from cacao beans that originated in different places. The flavour of the cocoa beans can be determined by the environment they were grown in, so a chocolate bar that uses multiple origin cocoa beans can bring a wide range of different flavours.
Bean-to-bar indicates that the company is in control over each stage of the chocolate-making process. It is a time-consuming task to be a bean-to-bar chocolate factory, they have to roast, peel, separate the cocoa nib from the husk and grind the cocoa nibs themselves. The chocolate producers would have built up a strong relationship with the cocoa beans farmers to receive the cocoa beans that meet their specific requirements to get the end product they want.
Fair Trade stickers mean that the company has attained a fair trade certification for their product and follows the ethos within the market-based movement 'fair trade'. This method takes an ethical standpoint and considers the producers first.
With all of this in mind, and our taste buds at the ready, we searched for our favourite Irish chocolate producers and have compiled this list below. If you try any of these chocolates, you will not be disappointed, and anyway, half the fun is in the tasting, right?
Bean and Goose, Wexford
Owners and sisters Karen and Natalie Keane started Bean and Goose back in 2014. They use the traditional technique of hand tempering on marble slabs, this tricky technique takes time to master. From starting off as street food vendors in Dublin The Bean and Goose is now located at Last Free Farm, Wexford, where locally grown products can be seen being frequently used in their chocolate.
Having tried the Bean and Goose Roasted Almonds & Irish Sea Salt, it is definitely remarkable chocolate and a taste not be forgotten. A smooth piece of chocolate with the perfect amount of saltiness and crunch along with the fantastic taste. The bar comes in the most beautiful packaging with a match stick styled box opening to reveal this beautiful gold paper. Needless to say, it was not around for long. Bean and Goose are quickly becoming a household favourite.
The bars are sold in several locations: The Hopsack, Rathmines, The Country Store, Waterford Delgany Grocers, Wicklow, Crinkle Stores, Kerry, to name a few. A full list of stockists on their website.
View this post on Instagram
Our Gingerbread Milk Bark sharing slab is a generous and impressive gift that is made to be shared. 500g of creamy Arriba 39% milk chocolate topped with gingerbread spiced hazelnuts and almonds, candied citron peels and a sprinkle of marigold and cornflower petals, sourced from @bumblebeefarm_. This seasonal sharing slab is presented in a craft box, perfect for gifting! Link to online shop in bio. #gifting #craftchocolate #foodsharing #goodtimes #chocolateindulgence
Skelligs Chocolate, Kerry
Chocolate maker and owner of Skelligs Chocolate, Colm Healy started off with two little production rooms in a very remote area in Ireland. Skelligs has grown into one of the most well-known chocolates produced in Ireland. In 2010 their factory was burnt down but this did not stop them, they went on to open and even bigger premises in 2012 showing their passion and dedication for their product.
They have the only open-plan chocolate producing facility in Ireland and welcome visitors from February to December to take part in watching their chocolate go through the processes, which is definitely worth a visit. Their flavours range from amaretto and apricots, Irish honey and rose and pistachio, along with all the classic flavours.
They can be found in most counties across Ireland from Brown Thomas, Dublin, Cashel Wine Cellar, Tipperary to The Counter, Letterkenny, Donegal. Find out more on the Skelligs Chocolate website.
The name Nobó literally translates as 'no-cow' (bó meaning cow in Irish). The Irish couple Rachel and Brian started to produce their ice cream in 2012. With a growth in the market for non-dairy products, their business has grown beyond their expectations and they are now a firm favourite in Ireland.
Using coconut and cashew nut they have been able to replicate that distinct creamy texture of chocolate that we all know and love. Their flavours range from Irish Seal Salt to their new Salted Almond flavour.
Nobó is also conscious of their environmental impact by packaging their chocolate bars in 100% biodegradable paper and all their cacao is sustainably sourced from Virgunga Park in the Congo.
Nobó Chocolates can be found in Donnybrook Fair, Stillorgan, Cambridge’s of Galway and many more. To find a full stock list on their website.
View this post on Instagram
**FREE CHOC up for grabs!! Our new Choc flavour ‘Salted Almond’ is here and now available from our online store. To celebrate we’re giving away a FREE Salted Almond disc with the next 50 online orders on our site so you can try it out (link in bio). Perfect little stocking fillers for the chocolate lovers in your life Can’t wait to hear what you think! #nobó #nobóchoc #vegan #plantbased #chocolate #handmade #irish
This is the first bean-to-bar stoneground chocolate in Ireland, made from single origin cocoa beans that are ethically sourced from The Dominican Republic, Sâo Tomè and Ecuador. NearyNogs is a family-run business, which has been producing chocolate since 2011. They inherited the family recipe from their mother who decided to make chocolate to fund a trip to India.
They also have a Vanilla White Drinking Chocolate, which can be used to make a hot drink and having tried it, if you're a fan of hot chocolate you'll love this! Flavours such as Irish cream and Whiskey Caramel, Orange, Basil and Poppyseed are rich in aromas and beautiful textures.
NearyNogs can be found in Copper Lab Coffee, Banbridge, Warkes Deli, Portstewart. To read more about their story click on to their website.
View this post on Instagram
Batch testing. Taste testing. Raspberries. Cacao Nibs. Mango & Chilli. 72% Dominican Republic Hispaniola.. On cold days like today every thing sets a wee bit faster than I'd like. #chocolate #nearynogs #cacao #friday #funday #raspberries #cacaonibs #mango #chilli #vegan #fruit #spice #plantain #ginger #dominicanrepublic #smallbatch #slowliving #colours #hue #create #taste #chocolatemakers #makersgonnamake
Make it Caramel and Chocolate Slices
Chez Emily, Meath
The Dublin-based company, Chez Emily, was set up in 1994 by Ferdinand Vandael and Helena Hemeryck. They combine the freshest local Irish ingredients with Belgian chocolate. They also use the highly-recognised Callebaut chocolate that is used in some of the best pastry kitchens around the world.
Chez Emily produces over 30 different times of chocolates made with an excellent level of craftsmanship. Their chocolate selection – a box of 12, which reminds of the chocolates from the movie Maltida, would be the perfect Valentine's Day gift.
Their chocolates can be found in Fothergills, Rathmines, Avoca in Dunboyne and you can order online via their website.
The Proper Chocolate Company, Dublin
Owners Patrick and Kelli Majorlet began making chocolate in 2013 while living in the US. In 2016, they set up The Proper Chocolate Company in Dublin; a bean-to-bar company that is producing micro-batches of chocolate.
Patrick and Kelli take care to source the finest beans possible for their chocolate. They only use single-origin beans from Nicaragua, Tanzania, Peru and The Dominican Republic. Their chocolate bars not only tell you the area the beans came from, but which cocoa bean variety it is.
They are stocked in The Hopsack, Rathmines and can be found at their market stall in the Honest 2 Goodness market in Glasnevin on weekends. Find out more on their website.
Wilkies Chocolate, Cork
Shana Wilkie of Wilkies Chocolate is a multi-award winning artisan producer. Making only small batch organic dark chocolate, Shana prides herself on being one of a few chocolatiers who doesn't add emulsifiers into her chocolate. She is constantly trying to develop new techniques to get the best flavour from cocoa beans.
Her ethically-sourced cocoa beans come from Criollo Cocoa Beans from Peru, which is a rare type of bean, produced organically without the aid of pesticides or fertilisers. Wilkies take huge care to create unique chocolate.
Wilkies is stocked in The Hopsack, Rathmines, Ardkeen Quality Food Store, Waterford, Farmgate Restaurant and Country Store, Midleton, and The Happy Pear, Greystones. To find out more, visit the website.
Hazel Mountain Chocolate, Clare
Kasha Connolly is the head chocolatier at Hazel Mountain Chocolate, which is located in one of the most geologically-unique areas in Ireland, The Burren. Their boutique bean-to-bar chocolate factory is a special visitor experience, and with the amazing backdrop of The Burren, it is a must-visit.
The team of chocolatiers at Hazel Mountain Chocolate hand roast the cocoa beans before grinding. They use a three-week ageing process to bring the best flavour out of their chocolate.
Hazel Mountain Chocolate regular hold events and this Valentine's Day, they will be hosting a 'Valentine's Love Birds Lock-In', going behind-the-scenes with an exclusive tour, with Champagne on arrival.
You can find their chocolate in their stores at Hazel Mountain Chocolate, Burren Café or Middle Street, Galway; Fallon and Byrne, Rathmines and Exchequer Street, Dublin. Find out more on their website.
View this post on Instagram
These handmade chocolate truffles are definitely giving us that Weekend Feeling. mix and match with whatever takes your fancy! . . . . . #hazelmountainchocolate #handmadechocolate #truffles #champagnetruffle #whiskeytruffle #praline #hazelnut #artisanfood #artisanchocolate #giftidea #treatyourself #boxofjoy #handcrafted #beantobar #beantotruffle #bestofireland
Do you have a favourite Irish chocolate? Please let us know in the comments below and especially if it's not on the list.