Duffy's chocolates will tempt your taste buds like no other – here’s why!
CHOC-FULL OF TREATS! Penny Sheardown, left, and Mary Berry take part in a class helped by Duffy Sheardown and Lindsay Gardner, right, from Spire Chocolates. Pictures: Jon Corken
By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 17 Jul 2017
Humberston could be hiding the best kept secret in chocolate heaven – but with truffle making classes on the horizon, it’s not going to stay under wraps for much longer! Abby Ruston went along to Duffy’s Chocolates, based at Bradburn Park, on the Wilton Road estate to discover more about their new shop and studio – where you can learn the art of truffle making.
Although owner Duffy Sheardown, 61, from Scunthorpe, began considering the venture in late 2009, it was a random departure from his main 30-year passion for tinkering with and making Formula 1 and sports cars.
He’s also had a hand in taking part in land speed record attempts and is currently working on the Bloodhound car; which can reach 1,000mph from its jet engine and a rocket! In August 2006 he was part of the team who broke the land speed record at 350.082mph.
However, it was whilst listening to a food programme on Radio 4 that inspired Duffy to take a stab or should I say slab at chocolate making. Duffy recalls hearing the words: “The only people making chocolate from cocoa beans were Cadbury.”
“I thought how hard could it be? I didn’t want to work for anyone else,” he said.
“I spent a year of two experimenting at home first.
“It was hard to get unbiased opinions but Steve from Deli-licious gives me the most honest feedback; whether it’s too waxy, dry or tasty!”
Duffy confesses to “never having set foot” in a chocolate factory to this day. In 2001, he bought equipment and got everything set up in the Humberston unit.
“I was the first small chocolate maker in the UK,” he said proudly.
The small firm makes 25,000 bars per year and they have increased their range of luxury chocolate bars to 18 with exotic named products such as Honduras Indio Rojo, Venezuela Ocumare 72 per cent, Corazon del Ecuador 72 per cent dark chocolate, Panama Tierra Oscura 72 per cent and the Venezuela Ocumare 55 per cent.
The chocolate-maker describes his premium product as fine, single origin chocolate. He not only buys the beans direct from farmers in central and South America but roasts them too.
“Making chocolate is really easy, you get the best ingredients you can and try not to ruin them,” he continued.
“It’s easy but takes a long time to make each bar, which is why it’s expensive.
“It takes three to four days to make 30 kilos.
“The bars are wrapped by hand in foil.”
Each 30kg batch of beans from a single estate is slowly granite-ground for between 50 and 70 hours, allowing the natural flavours to mature and fully develop.
Two ladies help Duffy out, part time; his wife of 16 years, Penny, who is going to be developing the shop and classes and Lindsay Gardner of Spire Handmade Chocolates – who now crafts her chocolate products in the new studio and helps to wrap the bars.
Co-director Penny said: “I enjoy getting new beans and flavours.
“I have changed in my taste of dark chocolate since we started.”
Lindsay, 34, has spent the last five years working from her Louth home and jumped at the chance to take her production to a proper facility. She enthused: “Since Duffy has opened the studio, he offered the use of the kitchen – instead of the entire house being covered in chocolate!
“It’s something that both Duffy and I have wanted to do for a while.
“When this unit came up I jumped at the chance. It’s how I got started, going to classes as a hobby.
“I don’t think there’s anyone doing the same thing.
“We’ve certainly had a lot of interest.”
Her hobby began in 2010 and by 2012 she had started her own business from home. Her favourite is praline based chocolates as they invoke childhood memories for Lindsay.
Friend of the business, Mary Berry (no, not that one), who was helping to make truffles said: “I love chocolate, I could just sit and eat it all day – being here is torture!”
Although much of his customers are online via subscribers, he hopes the new studio and shop will encourage locals to come and tempt their taste buds. Duffy supplies Riverhead Cafe with the chocolate for their brownies and sells his bars at Sweet Temptation and Deli-licious. He also sells to shops in Germany, Holland, Spain and France.
“I just like making chocolate and eating chocolate,” he beamed.
Duffy is finding that more and more people are becoming aware of the products used in chocolate making.
“People actually know what cocoa beans are, the word is starting to spread,” he said.
“They understand phrases like single origin and bean-to-bar.
“We buy the beans direct from the farmer, roast ourselves – we do as many of the processes as we can ourselves.”
He counts his favourite as the Honduras Indio Rojo bar, which won the ‘best dark chocolate in the world’ in his first year of production. He said of the bar: “Some people don’t like it because it’s not what they are expecting chocolate to taste like but it’s won an award in every competition it’s been in.”
The list of accolades for this single bar of chocolate is impressive , The Academy of Chocolate awarded the Golden bean in 2011 and subsequently;
- 2013 silver
- 2015 silver
- 2016 silver
The same bar has also gained international awards too, winning British Gold in 2014, European Bronze in 2014 and European Silver in 2015.
Nine of his other bars have also won a wide range of bronze, silver and gold awards both from the Academy and internationally and Duffy also scooped best newcomer in 20111 and British Merit in 2014. He is now eagerly awaiting the results of the European international chocolate awards which he entered in March. With statistics like that, it’s hard to argue and having tried a sample myself, I would say I’m on the side of folk who would give it a sweet thumbs up!
My experience of dark chocolate is generally with the well known high street brands and I usually find it’s too bitter to fully enjoy. I prefer it when it’s flavoured with something else rather than plain and can only eat a small amount before it finds its way back to the fridge.
However I can say it didn’t taste like I was expecting – it actually exceeded my expectations. It was very light and palatable and left no residue or bitter aftertaste.
Another surprise came with their dark chocolate bar flavoured with oak smoked salt. I usually find salt particles tend to overpower chocolate and stick in your teeth so you get a shock some time later.
However, with this bar, although I detected the salt straightaway, it was so much more subtle and quickly softened to make way for the delicate and non bitter dark chocolate.
Particularly zesty were the orange and almond rochers! And new in this week are Rocky Road and ginger fudge flavoured tiffin.
Last October 2016, the spotlight was cast briefly on the firm when Chris Evans spoke with Duffy on the air.
The result of telling the rest of the UK of the hand made chocolate resulted in 320 orders in a single day!
Duffy’s passion for motorsports has also seen a bar with a chequered flag design and Duffy also named one after his favourite trombone player – Rico! Even holiday photographs haven’t escaped being used to illustrate the packaging.
The new studio venture is a first for the firm and truffle making classes are only the beginning. “So many people don’t know we are here,” added Duffy.
“Truffle making is good fun, there’s nowhere nearby where you can do this.
“All classes will feature a tour.”
Master classes will sit alongside messy classes, with chocolate lollipop making classes and kids workshops in the summer holidays. And if getting messy is not your thing there will also be demonstrations to simply sit and enjoy. For those with a keen interest in chocolate, there will be skills classes which teach the science of chocolate making.
Duffy also hopes to open up the facility for bespoke classes where friends can get together for a night out, have hen parties or team building events.
Of course I couldn’t leave before sampling a freshly crafted truffle, coated with strawberry curls. I will be honest, I’m not generally a fan of truffles, as they are usually heavy in texture and insanely rich and sickly. But once again, I was surprised by how different a Duffy’s truffle was – so much lighter on the taste buds and I have to say, I could demolish a fair few of these – they are not made for sharing!