An entrepreneur who funded her university studies with a fondant fountain will reveal her sweet secrets with a masterclass at Wales’ first Chocolate Festival.
Bodnant Welsh Food centre is hosting the two-day Festival on March 28-29, with everything chocolate-themed, from artisan-made treats to sample through to beauty products using cocoa beans.
Among the chocolatiers giving demonstrations of their craft will be Wrexham Glyndŵr University business graduate Sarah Bunton.
The 27-year-old funded her way through her studies by hiring out a chocolate fountain for weddings and parties – and afterwards was inspired to launch her own award-winning company.
She now sells her hand-made luxury chocolate creations as far afield as Japan from her base in her home-town of Aberystwyth – and is lining up a new deal in Dubai. She’s so busy that she got through more than 20,000 kilos of chocolate in just three months to fulfil Christmas orders.
On Sunday, March 29, Sarah will hold her first masterclass at Bodnant, showing the delicate art of hand tempering and dipping, to create a mouth-watering selection of Easter chocolate treats. Her delicious chocolate treats are already stocked at Bodnant Welsh Food Centre’s £6.5m base at Furnace Farm in the Conwy Valley, as part of the company’s commitment to support local producers.
“While I was doing my business degree at university I hired out a chocolate fountain for parties to earn some money. Though I left in 2008 with a student loan, it’s not as big as many people – and it meant I learn about the world of business,” said Sarah.
“I then had a fountain stall at the National Eisteddfod, and finally was left with 20 kilos of chocolate. My mum and dad Anne and Mervyn had a cafe and bistro Y Caban, across the road from the Vale of Rheidol Steam Railway station, at Devil’s Bridge near Aberystwyth.
“So we decided to turn the left-over chocolate into a model train – while we were hunting online for a mould I came across some chocolate-making courses, went on them and then realised I could start making them.
“Initially I was working full-time as a hotel receptionist but as the business took off I have cut back on my hours, and now just do it occasionally. Most of my time is taken up with the chocolate making. The cafe is now a chocolate shop, where we have a window so customers can see the chocolates being made.
“I have done numerous demonstrations for the WI and other groups, but they have always come to me. This is the first time I have done a demo such as this one at Bodnant, and I’d like to do more. I will be showing the importance of tempering – when you reduce the chocolate from 42℃ to 32℃ to ensure it stays smooth and shiny.
“The sales of my chocolates have been very good at Bodnant, and it’s been good fun working with the team at the farm shop – they have been very supportive.”
Among those looking forward to seeing Sarah’s chocolate demonstration is Bodnant Welsh Food Centre Managing Director Chris Morton.
He said: “There’s a growing interest in good quality chocolate, and hand-made chocolate products continue to be among our top selling items.
“In the run-up to Easter we thought it would be perfect to have a Chocolate Festival – we will have something to suit everybody’s tastes, from white through to milk and dark chocolate, plus a selection of beauty products. It’s quite surprising just what the cocoa bean gets used for today.”
Sarah, who also still hires out the chocolate fountain under her other company Y Forwyn Siocled (Welsh for the chocolate maid), has gone on to win prestigious Great Taste Awards as well as a coveted Gold and Silver True Taste awards for the chocolates that she produces.
They include filled chocolates – many containing Welsh specialities such as Merlyn Liqueur or Welsh honey – and truffles, seasonal gift lines, bars and novelty items. Her team also creates bespoke items for cafes, hotels and restaurants – such as hot chocolate stirrers, small ballotins as wedding favours or bedroom chocolates.
Sarah, whose three brothers help out by tasting samples, added: “We also supply Scandinavia and Japan, plus I am in negotiations with a new supplier in Dubai for the hot chocolate drink stirrers.”
Also holding a demonstration during the Chocolate Festival will be Bodnant’s own Dai Chef, who will demonstrate how to recreate his de-constructed Snowdon dessert, plus Jo Beevers, who set up Broughton-based chocolatier company Kokonoir with her husband Toby, a former chef at Chester’s Grosvenor Hotel.
Bodnant’s bakers will also be making a wide range of chocolate cakes and biscuits, which will be on sale in the Farm Shop. More details on the Chocolate Festival at www.bodnant-welshfood.co.uk
Bodnant Welsh Food Centre has its own dairy making cheese and ice cream, plus an on-site bakery and butchery, with award-winning pies. There’s also a wine store and tea rooms plus the Hayloft restaurant and farmhouse accommodation.