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A Magazine for Sheffield

Yorkshire Gold: The rise of Bullion Chocolate

Sheffield’s first and only 'bean-to-bar' craft chocolate maker is slowly but surely becoming an integral part of the city's food scene. Luke Owen Smith finds out more from founder Max Scotford. 

Bullion chocolate
Bullion Chocolate

At 12 years old, Max Scotford was selling sandwiches on a golf course in Dronfield, the first of many entrepreneurial endeavours. But in 2016, at the age of 21, Max realised his destiny was chocolate.

Enter Bullion Chocolate, Sheffield’s first and only craft chocolate maker. Part of the UK’s emerging ‘bean-to-bar’ chocolate movement, Max and his team produce very small batches, using some of the highest quality cocoa beans from around the world.

“It’s about doing things properly,” says Max. “We’re taking something as simple and pure as a cocoa bean, and taking it through a series of steps to produce something special. We do it with care, and pay attention to detail.”

The concept of making small batches of chocolate from scratch is a relatively new one. The majority of the world’s chocolate is made in huge industrial factories, while many smaller chocolate companies use pre-made chocolate, known as couverture, which they buy from big producers and then transform into various treats. People who work with couverture tend to be known as chocolatiers, while those making chocolate from bean-to-bar tend to be known as chocolate makers.

Max was drawn to chocolate-making after watching the documentary series Willie's Wonky Chocolate Factory on Channel 4. That program introduced him to the concept of single-origin chocolate and specialty cocoa, which can offer a huge range of flavours, far beyond the standard ‘chocolatey’ flavour that we’re all familiar with. Max has always loved mainstream chocolate – and he tells me he’s still partial to the occasional KitKat – but he quickly realised that high-quality, single-origin chocolate is a completely different thing.

“What we produce – you only need two or three squares and you’re satisfied. Whereas something like Dairy Milk is very moreish, because of the amount of sugar. You’re not really tasting the cocoa. It’s just a sweet confection.”

Bullion chocolate founder max scotford

Max Scotford, founder of Bullion Chocolate.

Bullion Chocolate

Bullion’s first three releases were all 70% dark chocolate bars containing just two ingredients: cocoa and sugar. The cocoa beans were ethically-sourced from Bolivia, Guatemala and Madagascar, and they offered completely different flavour profiles, ranging from bright and fruity to deep and nutty. This pure expression of the beans’ natural flavours is what inspired the name ‘Bullion’, the term used for high-purity gold.

Over the past two years, the Bullion range has expanded to include some unique and beautiful bars made with additional ingredients, like the candied ginger bar and the whisky nibs enriched bar, which is made in collaboration with Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery.

There’s also the single-origin Hallmark milk chocolate, which exploded in popularity last year after legendary chocolatier Paul A Young featured it in his Saturday Kitchen TV spot, describing it as tasting like "true, British, nostalgic chocolate".

Without a doubt, nostalgia plays a major role in our love of chocolate, as most of us have been tasting it since before we can remember. One of the challenges for craft chocolate makers like Bullion is introducing people to much higher quality chocolate to create new nostalgia, which takes a long time to develop.

Max is inspired by the depth of connection and brand loyalty that many local people have for Henderson’s Relish. He hopes that one day Bullion Chocolate can be equally part of Sheffield’s identity. “The people of Sheffield have truly bought into it. They’re getting Henderson’s Relish tattoos. It embodies who they are. It’s nostalgic and it’s truly Sheffield. Bullion’s not at that point yet.”

But the process is in full swing. Top Sheffield restaurants like Jöro, Bench and V OR V are using Bullion Chocolate in their dishes, and they have collaborated with local breweries, distilleries and bakeries. You can find Bullion bars for sale at some of the city’s best coffee spots, and you can visit their chocolate-filled cafe and bar at Cutlery Works. You can even take a tour of the factory, as long as you book in advance. Slowly but surely, Bullion is becoming an integral part of Sheffield’s food scene.

Older readers may remember the glory days of chocolate production in York, when Rowntree’s and Terry’s were world leaders of the industry, before they were taken over by multinational corporations and the quality of the products went downhill. Along with a handful of other craft chocolate makers, Max is writing a new chapter in Yorkshire’s chocolate story, producing chocolate that’s higher quality, more ethical and more delicious than anything we’ve seen before.

If you’re yet to discover the joy of craft chocolate, find your nearest Bullion stockist and go for gold.

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