I have been making chocolates for about 26 years purely as a hobby. When I was very young, my Grandpa had a sweet shop and having a creative streak, he decided he'd like to make his own Easter Eggs at Easter and, using Cadbury's chocolate, he began his own lifelong hobby. After he left the shop, he carried on making eggs in the spare room - I used to sit on a ladder and watch him stirring a big copper vat full of chocolate. Eventually, he stopped and gave all the chocolate-making equipment to the man who had bought his sweet shop.
Many years later, after I'd been to University in London, worked there and then returned to the north of England, the sweet shop man also retired and most thoughtfully contacted my Grandpa about the chocolate making equipment that had remained in the boxes my Grandpa had packed in in about 15 years earlier - it had never been used. I thought it would be fun to buy it back and paid £250 for a small treasure trove of antique moulds, a large electric copper vat and some old, original mould magazines. It was a lot of money at the time but it has paid dividends over the years and I am so pleased I made the decision.
My Grandpa was delighted and gave me lots of tips and help in learning how to temper the chocolate and to get a sharp, shiny finish. It took me a long time to find the best quality chocolate but I ended up with Barry Callebault - a Belgian company - and use KeyLink in Sheffield as my supplier for my ingredients and my packaging requirements.
To start with, I made moulded chocolates and Easter eggs but found I loved making truffles and more sophisticated chocolates that I initially used to fill the eggs. And as I found more opportunities to sell - at craft fairs and to help raise money for various charity events - I developed my range. My Grandpa was most generous with his time and help and before long, told me that I had far exceeded his own skills. That was a very proud day.
I sell to friends, family, at craft fairs and charity fund raising events, trading as Taylor Made Chocolates. I never thought this was a particularly original choice of names until I was studying for my MSc (Information & Knowledge Management). A lovely man from the British Library came to tell us about copyrights, trademarks and patents and he did a search for me to see if anyone had registered as 'Taylor Made Chocolates' and they hadn't! There were lots of 'Taylor Made this' and Taylor Made that', with the same awful amateurishness about their logos and typefaces but no chocolates. And now I've arrived in Spain, I've decided to change the name to 'Annie's Chocolates' which is no more original than 'Taylor Made' but is very descriptive - everyone says 'have you tried Annie's chocolates...' so that's what I shall be.
In the meantime, I am planning to set up a website or find some way of selling online so that I continue to make my chocolates when we move to Spain. It's a long shot, but I'd love to have my own business and really indulge in lots of different flavours and combinations.
Here are a few pictures of my chocolates - do let me know what you think!
These are a couple of my Easter Eggs, which I fill with handmade chocolates and either a little chicken or a dinosaur! (My son is always telling me that birds evolved from dinosaurs so there is a link..)
Mateo was slow in his speech development, often making words up that were somewhere between English and Spanish and we worried he was confused by having two languages going on around him. When he was three and half, we went to Lyme Regis where he discovered fossils - and suddenly he was talking non-stop about all the ammonites he could see around him. He was fascinated and it was like something had been released in him - he's a real talker now and knows a tremendous amount about dinosaurs and prehistoric times. Hence chocolate dinosaurs and our love of the Jurassic Coast of Spain.
I make a mixed box of chocolates which are packaged in a Black and Green box.
In this one, there are strawberry truffles, orange liqueur truffles, raspberry truffles, caramel snails, ginger and lemon truffles, coffee truffles, honey truffles and rum truffles.
And finally for now - my latest craze is for making chocolate lollies: here are some koalas..