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Chocoholics of Norfolk - eat less, but eat better

PUBLISHED: 16:11 29 March 2018

Nelson's Gold chocolates

Nelson's Gold chocolates

Archant

Food writer Andy Newman says we should be looking local for good-quality chocolate this Easter.

With the Easter weekend upon us, many will be looking forward to indulging our sweet tooth and tucking into a mountain of chocolate, from mass-market Easter eggs to dark and bitter 100 per cent cocoa truffles.

Britons are the chocoholics of the world, consuming 11.2kg of the stuff every year – that’s the equivalent of 280 Creme Eggs, or 220 Mars bars. The UK makes up a third of the entire European chocolate market, which itself is half of the total global consumption.

In other words, one in every six chocolates eaten in the world goes into a British mouth. We munch our way through almost half as much again as the supposed capital of chocolate, Belgium.

Much as I like chocolate, I’m not sure these are statistics we should be proud of. Not only do we stuff ourselves full of it, traditionally our taste has been for the lowest quality, most unhealthy type of chocolate, stuffed full of sugar and evil hydrogenated vegetable fats, and containing so little cocoa solids that the EU quite justifiably threatened to ban us from even calling it chocolate.

Given that Britain leads the continent in obesity-related diseases, this is of real concern. As with so many areas of our diet, what we need to be doing is eating less, but eating better.

Good quality chocolate doesn’t necessarily entail spending more, because its more intense taste and longer-lasting flavour means you can get the same amount of enjoyment from a much smaller quantity. Which in turn means consuming less sugar, fewer calories, and avoiding the pernicious artificial additives completely.

Fortunately, this message does at last seem to be getting through. Sales of mass-market chocolate are on the slide in the UK, with the amount of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk sold falling by 4.2 per cent in a single year.

The good news is that ‘proper’ chocolate – made with cocoa butter not vegetable oils – is bucking that trend. Hotel Chocolat, the country’s largest and highest-profile maker of quality chocolates, has seen profits double in the past year, as consumers wake up to the fact that grainy, over-sweet bars of what the EU wanted to call ‘family chocolate’ are as unpleasant to eat as they are unhealthy.

As a centre of food excellence, it is good to see Norfolk taking part in this artisan chocolate renaissance. Booja Booja has carved a national reputation for its high cocoa content organic truffles; Gnaw handmakes its artisan chocolate bars in the county; and locally-owned chocolate shops like Digby’s are permanent fixtures.

Last week saw the launch of perhaps the most Norfolk-centred chocolate product I have seen. The people behind Wild Knight Norfolk vodka have created deliciously more-ish ganache chocolates using their Nelson’s Gold caramelised English vodka liqueur – itself created from barley and sugar beet grown in our county.

You couldn’t find a box of chocolates more different from the mass-produced, sugary rubbish which makes up most of what we eat, and appropriately it has been launched in two of the county’s leading independent food retailers, Jarrolds and Bakers & Larners. If you want to celebrate our county on Easter Sunday, look no further.

Our food pages are full of doom-laden advice telling us what not to eat if we want to avoid this or that disease. I am a firm believer that enjoyment itself is a powerful illness preventative, and as a nation chocolate is high on the list of things we regard as a treat.

So this Easter make sure that your are eating the best quality chocolate, probably in smaller quantities, and preferably made here in Norfolk.

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