High-quality chocolate producers Chocolates by Tomes, reputed for their hand-crafted ranges of truffles, chocolates and seasonal items made from Belgian chocolate, have announced that the company will now also produce chocolate from raw materials by using cocoa beans imported from Africa.
Chocolatier Richard Tomes (owner of Chocolates by Tomes) felt that as Africa produces up to 80 percent of the world's cocoa beans, renowned for their quality and used by the top European chocolate manufacturers, it was time that an African manufacturer produced high-quality chocolate from the same raw materials to match the European imports.
"Prior to this, we've always used premium quality imported Belgian chocolate to make our chocolate confectionary. The chocolate was made by Barry Callebaut, a well known Belgian chocolate manufacturer. Now we'll make our own chocolate to be used in our chocolate confectionary," Tomes says.
Competing with Europe
He says that as far as he is aware, Chocolates by Tomes will now be the first in South Africa to target the premium market in order to successfully compete alongside the European chocolate being imported into the country.
"We would never have made this decision unless we were confident that we could produce a premium-quality chocolate. We simply would not have jeopardised our hard-earned reputation for quality with an inferior chocolate. In fact, we are only using quality raw materials which are produced by Barry Callebaut's African processing factory. So essentially we shall be using the same raw materials in our chocolate that Barry Callebaut uses in their chocolate which we used to import. The only difference is that our chocolate will now be made locally by us," he says.
This decision will also reduce Chocolates by Tomes' carbon footprint as the raw materials would previously be shipped from Africa to Belgium and then re-imported back into Africa as finished chocolate.
Going forward, the raw ingredients will be shipped from Africa to South Africa. The cocoa based raw materials will be sourced mainly from Ghana and the Ivory Coast, vanilla from Madagascar, with the sugar and milk powder directly from South Africa.
The move will also provide additional employment opportunities with new staff trained in the art of chocolate production.
Tomes says that initially they will only have capacity to produce chocolate slabs from the chocolate they produce from raw materials. Their truffles will still be made using Belgian chocolate.
"Over the next year or so as our new machinery arrives and our capacity increases, we will also make our truffles from our own chocolate."
He added that Chocolates by Tomes will be producing two tons per month, eventually capping production at six to eight tons per month.
"We don't want to grow too big. That way we can ensure quality and avoid losing our essence of being a niche chocolate manufacturer. We believe in quality rather than quantity."
Plans are underway to make the Chocolates by Tomes chocolate slabs widely available in order to celebrate the fact that South Africa can produce chocolate equal to the chocolate produced in Europe.
"We'll begin with our own outlets at the Backsberg Wine Estate and at Casalinga in Johannesburg, but we are also in the process of locating further Chocolates by Tomes outlets in the Western Cape as well as in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. In addition, we'll be approaching major retailers, delis, niche chocolate shops and specialist coffee shops," Tomes concluded.
Chocolates by Tomes is available at the Backsberg Wine Estate outside Paarl and at Casalinga in Johannesburg. For more information, visit www.tomeschocolates.co.za