Full of beans

Suf­folk’s Pump Street Cho­co­late has taken con­fec­tionery and bread to har­mo­nious new heights – and now they’ve treats for home­bak­ing, too.

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents - By Sue Quinn.

Sweet treats from Pump Street Cho­co­late

AT PUMP STREET Cho­co­late’s Suf­folk HQ, the air is so heady with the scent of co­coa it’s enough to make one deliri­ous. Au­gus­tus Gloop would be all over the vats of glossy molten cho­co­late, and who could blame him? Pump Street makes some of the coun­try’s most be­guil­ing bars. Creamy Mada­gas­can milk; dark with notes of berries from Gre­nada; smooth Ja­maican with hints of honey and rum. It’s one of Bri­tain’s lead­ing bean-to-bar mak­ers, and a far cry from the mass-pro­duc­ing mono­liths of su­gary con­fec­tionery.

But Pump Street’s founder, Chris Brennan, didn’t set out to make cho­co­late. In 2008, hav­ing re­tired from IBM 10 years ear­lier aged 53, and frus­trated he couldn’t buy good bread lo­cally, he taught him­self how to make sour­dough loaves. He sold them at a farmer’s mar­ket

home and they were an in­stant hit. In the pic­turesque Suf­folk vil­lage of Or­ford, he found a Grade-ii-listed build­ing ideal for sell­ing his pas­tries, Ec­cles cakes and nat­u­rally leav­ened bread, and a bake­house half a mile away where he could make them. Chris and his daugh­ter Joanna launched Pump Street Bak­ery in 2010 to great ac­claim. The café oozes rus­tic charm: tim­ber shelves lined with loaves, white­washed walls, pine ta­bles and a wood-fired stove for cus­tomers to gather around with hot drinks and freshly baked pas­tries.

A few years in, Chris be­gan to con­sider cho­co­late-mak­ing, af­ter dis­cov­er­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties in the process of mak­ing sour­dough. ‘The yeast and bac­te­ria that fer­ment co­coa beans are the same ones I use in the bak­ery to make starter,’ he ex­plains, ‘so the two things share the same her­itage.’

He got off to a rocky start. Chris paid £600 for his first bag of ca­cao, but the cho­co­late he made ‘tasted like fun­gus’, so he threw the beans away. Un­de­terred, he took the ad­vice of a friend who told him about Swiss-born pro­ducer Sa­muel von Rutte, who grows su­perb ca­cao beans in Ecuador. Al­though more ex­pen­sive, Chris or­dered a few bags and quickly re­alised that the high­est-qual­ity beans make the very best cho­co­late.

Now, Chris and Joanna buy ca­cao di­rect from farm­ers and co­op­er­a­tives in Ecuador, Gre­nada, Ja­maica, Hon­duras, Mada­gas­car and the Solomon Is­lands. They pay up to four times as much as big com­pa­nies that tend to use west African beans in cheap, mass-pro­duced bars. ‘We de­velop re­la­tion­ships with ex­cel­lent farm­ers around the world and pay them far above the mar­ket rate, so they can have eco­nom­i­cally sus­tain­able busi­nesses, in­vest­ing in their grow­ing and pro­cess­ing ca­pac­i­ties for the fu­ture,’ says Joanna. They avoid cheap the beans from west Africa, where chil­dren are of­ten forced to work on the farms.

Chris uses dif­fer­ent roast times and tem­per­a­tures to coax the best flavours out of the ‘ori­gins’, the term used for beans from spe­cific ar­eas – some­times from farms as small as seven acres – which have their own taste pro­file. ‘We’re a bak­ery by her­itage, so we know the im­por­tance of roast­ing,’ he says. ‘I think a good per­cent­age of what we’ve achieved comes from the unique way we do it.’ This in­volves roast­ing the beans twice: once at a very high tem­per­a­ture in a steam oven, and again at a lower tem­per­a­ture. ‘The mois­ture from the steam and heat cre­ates flavour,’ Chris says.

The roasted beans are ground into a paste and stirred (a process called conch­ing) for up to five days in small batches in grinders to re­lease and de­velop the flavours. Beans from von Rutte’s farm in Ecuador, for ex­am­ple, have a rich nutty char­ac­ter, while those from Bach­e­lor’s Hall Es­tate in Ja­maica have hints of juicy berries. Then, like fine wine, the chocon­ear

Chris paid £600 for his first bag of ca­cao, but the cho­co­late he made ‘tasted like fun­gus’

late is laid down for a month or more to ma­ture; poured into con­tain­ers that al­low the good flavours to meld to­gether and the less de­li­cious, acidic aro­mas to evap­o­rate. The cho­co­late is then tem­pered – melted and re­set in a con­trolled way to make shiny bars that break with a clean snap. Chris is con­stantly tweak­ing the process to im­prove the re­sults. ‘I’m a geek, ab­so­lutely,’ he ad­mits.

Hav­ing per­fected their bars, it made sense for fa­ther and daugh­ter to join up the two spe­cialisms, us­ing cho­co­late in bread prod­ucts, and the bakes – chunks of Ec­cles cakes or crumbs of sour­dough – in their bars. ‘We thought, “If sour­dough and cho­co­late have the same ge­n­e­sis, why don’t we put bread back into cho­co­late? Ev­ery­one puts cho­co­late in bread, why not go the other way?”’ Adding toasted sour­dough and a touch of sea salt to Ecuado­rian cho­co­late makes for a crunchy, slightly malty re­sult that is Pump Street’s most pop­u­lar bar. There’s tof­fee-scented white cho­co­late stud­ded with chunky brown­bread pieces, and dark cho­co­late filled with fruity, spicy bits of Ec­cles cake.

The Bren­nans’ cho­co­late is still made in small batches and much is done by hand: sort­ing the beans, sift­ing the nibs, and pack­ag­ing and la­belling the fin­ished cho­co­late. To cope with de­mand they re­cently ex­panded into a new and larger fac­tory a few miles from the café and bak­ery. At this time of year, Christ­mas or­ders flood the sched­ule – new fes­tive prod­ucts in­clude sour­dough panettone, as well as sub­lime dark­choco­late bars made with the sweet Ital­ian bread, and oth­ers filled with gin­ger­bread bis­cuit crumbs. And there’s also a new range of cho­co­late in­gre­di­ents for home bak­ers: tins of but­ton-like ‘pastilles’, co­coa nibs (crushed skin­less co­coa beans), and nat­u­ral co­coa pow­der. ‘Pump Street’s al­ways been about spe­cial bak­ing, so a range of cho­co­late in­gre­di­ents for bak­ing makes sense,’ Joanna says. ‘The cho­co­late we use for bak­ing is ex­actly the same cho­co­late that we sell for eat­ing – we don’t think you should start with some­thing that isn’t pleas­ant to eat on its own. But it’s in a more con­ve­nient for­mat.’

Fa­ther and daugh­ter con­tinue to play hands-on roles in the busi­ness: Chris in new prod­uct de­vel­op­ment, and Joanna in recipes, the café and events. Are there any plans for Chris to ac­tu­ally stop? ‘We talk about him re­tir­ing in jest,’ Joanna says, but it’s clear the an­swer is not just yet. Long may this de­li­cious col­lab­o­ra­tion con­tinue. Bak­ing tins of pastilles and pow­ders from £10, pump­streetchoco­late.com

Pho­to­graphs by Yuki Sugiura

Clock­wise from be­low The raw beans; cho­co­late gin­ger­bread loaf; mince pies; mince­meat in process; the Or­ford café, quiet pre-open­ing, then bustling with cus­tomers; the conch­ing lasts up to five days

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