Surrey’s Premier Lifestyle Magazine

Sweet as chocolate

Shirlee Posner introduces readers to Sweet C’s – a new Surrey start-up making Colombian single origin, handcrafted chocolates. I love a good back story and this one starts out differently from most. Interviews often begin with a tale of years of yearning for a more creative life after a job in the city becomes too stressful. Or, perhaps, a move to the county and a search for a job that fits around starting a family. But most often years of tinkering with a notion for a business that eventually becomes a reality.

This one, however, starts with an unusual Christmas gift. When Caroline Hill of Sweet C’s opened a parcel from her husband a few years ago she wasn’t even sure what it was and remembers having to feign delight. Once it emerged it was a small commercial chocolate tempering machine, she was surprised and bemused at this unusual choice for a gift! Caroline did, however, rather like the idea of playing with chocolate, but it wasn’t something at this level she had ever done before.

A mother of six children, Caroline had left her career as a BBC production assistant on shows like Only Fools and Horses and Bread to raise her growing brood. With the youngest off to university and the others all studying or working, she had some quality time to herself. While using a tempering machine designed for an experienced chocolatier was a little out of her comfort zone, she soon got the hang of it. For a couple of years after the arrival of her machine Caroline went on courses, talked to as many chocolate makers at food shows and events as she could and gathered a wealth of information, drawing on this to start her business.
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Caroline Hill
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To make professional looking and tasting chocolate, the art of tempering has to be learnt. Some of it can be measured (temperature-wise), but lots of other factors come into play: where the chocolate is from and its composition play a part, as do outside temperatures, storage and chemical structure. These are all factors that chocolate makers have to get to grips with. Put simply, when buying chocolate, usually in chocolate chip form from a wholesale supplier, it has to be taken through the tempering process to melt it and create the product range, individual chocolates, bars or shapes. If this process isn’t right (a succession of cooling and heating chocolate), the end product will set with a bloom which makes the chocolate look dull and sometimes flecked with white blotches. The aim is to prepare the chocolate so it sets with a shine and for bars in particular to have a snap: it shouldn’t immediately melt in the hand or mouth. It’s a complex business based on the crystals that form in cocoa butter. Luckily this can be controlled by knowing exactly what temperature to achieve during the tempering process. It’s not necessary to go into more detail here, but it’s something Caroline has perfected in her new profession.

After experimenting for a couple of years, Caroline became a supplier to friends who encouraged her to take her new hobby to the next level. It was a leap she was ready to take. Having got her shine and snap just right and her products tried and tested, she felt confident about taking larger orders and not just from friends. This chocolate maker has not gone down the bar route, but specialises in small, six packs of individual chocolates. These, she says, are perfect for small gifts, to take to a dinner party or to buy for yourself, and I agree it’s important to recognise the competition to be successful in today’s fickle business environment.
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Having researched the local market, Caroline knew there were other chocolate makers out there and the importance of having a point of difference. In her core range, Caroline produces three chocolates: a dark chocolate amaretto truffle, a white chocolate praline with a passion fruit filling (think passion fruit juice blended with a French butter ganache) and, finally, a milk chocolate caramel praline with Cornish sea salt.

Caroline told me that a couple of years ago she changed her chocolate supplier and has now gone to a single origin supplier, CasaLuker from Colombia. Single origin is often discussed about coffee, but it’s less common to go down this route with chocolate. CasaLuker produces delicious chocolate from its growing region and also has a strong educational and fair trade philosophy for its growers. Since the business started in 1906, CasaLuker has had 30,000 farmers go through its training programmes which have a key focus on cultivation and sustainability; a unique selling point from this company producing a delicious chocolate.

Recently Caroline has collaborated with Dorking gin distillers The Gin Kitchen to create three chocolates using their Gutsy Monkey, Blushing Monkey and Dancing Dragontail gins. The Gin Kitchen featured in this column in October and is gaining a solid reputation for its gin and gin-based products from working creatively with other small producers. These chocolates are available from The Gin Kitchen and from Caroline when she sells at food fairs. As a small business, there is freedom to create bespoke products, one-off orders and customised corporate gifts too.

Sweet C’s chocolates can currently be purchased from a few retail outlets in Surrey, Village Greens in Ockley and Dorking and The Gin Kitchen; they can also be bought direct at food fairs. Follow Caroline on social media to find out what she is making and where she will be next, or contact her using the details below.
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Fresh date, cacao and coconut truffles
Love chocolate but hate refined sugar? Why not give these healthier treats a go. I try and make as much as I can around Christmas as I enjoy creating edible gifts: they sum up the essence of the season to me, plus you can decorate the bags and get all creative. This recipe has been influenced by all the raw energy bites hitting the shops, but with an added bit of glamour from some single origin dark chocolate making these truffles vegan if that’s required. By all means use any chocolate, I just happened to have some single origin Balinese chocolate in my baking drawer from a recent trip. The truffles make great table gifts in little bags and a label can be used to create place settings too.  

Makes around 30 truffles
400g pitted fresh dates (don’t use dried for this recipe) 
50g raw cacao powder 
One 200g pack of creamed coconut
300g of 75% dark chocolate 
A handful of raw cacao nibs to decorate

• First boil a kettle and place the creamed coconut still in its plastic bag in a heatproof bowl. Cover with just boiled water and in the time it takes to remove the stones from the dates, the coconut will be at the right consistency. 
• In a stand mixer or food processor, place the first three ingredients together and mix until a smooth dough-like consistency has formed. 
• Put a little oil (coconut or vegetable) on your hands and form the mixture into around 30 balls. Place on a tray or plate in the refrigerator to chill. 
• Meanwhile, melt two thirds of the chocolate in a bowl over some simmering water.  When it’s melted, stir in the remaining chocolate and mix while this melts too. Remove from the heat and carry on stirring. 
• Dip the truffles in the chocolate and sprinkle each with some raw cacao nibs. Allow the chocolate to set and they are ready to serve. 
• The truffles will keep for up to a week in a cool dry place. 

Shirlee Posner
essence info
Sweet C’s Handcrafted Chocolates
07973 529 025

Shirlee Posner is a food writer and blogger at and provides social media management, web copywriting and food photography.