Dormouse Chocolates: Bean to Bar Craft Chocolate Made in Manchester

Jemima Forbes talks to Isobel Carse from Dormouse Chocolates, the only company in Manchester that makes chocolate completely from scratch - and one of the few in the UK to make bean-to-bar chocolates

With Easter just a few days away, you’re probably thinking about stocking up on your favourite chocolatey treats to indulge in after the Sunday roast. The supermarkets are inundated with chocolate eggs of all shapes, sizes and brands, but sometimes you need something a little more special to satisfy your sweet tooth. And something a bit more, well, Manc. Luckily for us, local chocolate brand Dormouse Chocolates is on hand to do just that.

“They are on the lookout for local artists to help design some original and unique packaging”

Dormouse Chocolate was started in 2014 by Isobel Carse as a brand specialising in bean to bar chocolates. With several years under her belt working at Hotel Chocolat (first as a Christmas temp and then a chocolatier) she decided to put her skills to the test by starting her own line of craft chocolate bars.

“It was a bit of an experiment, really,” Isobel says. “We took a stall at a Christmas market in Cheadle to see if people would like what we were making and we haven’t really stopped since. It’s been this great whirlwind of chocolate!”

A year and a half on and after giving up her full time job to commit properly to Dormouse, Isobel now works out of the transformed ground floor of her house and, with the help of her partner, sells chocolate at markets, online, and in a handful of coffee shops in Manchester and Scotland.

After sourcing the cocoa beans from countries like Madagascar, Colombia and Grenada, they are ground down, refined, hand tempered, moulded and hand-packaged in beautiful craft paper right here in Manchester.

Along with their richly flavoured bean-to-bar range, Dormouse also produce a flavoured range using pre-bought chocolate that is melted down and natural flavouring, nuts and fruit added.

Isobel tells me that the most popular flavoured bar so far has been the Rose and Raspberry. The Madagascan 70% dark and Colombian 80% dark bean-to-bar ranges have also been a success.

With beans directly sourced from plantations or through intermediate traders, Isobel has been able to test out and experiment with different beans and hand select which ones create the best flavour. However, it’s not always that simple.

“We had a really amazing Venezuelan bar at one point but unfortunately we can’t get those beans anymore. It’s all about trying to find the right sources.” Isobel explains.

While the beans are sourced from far and wide, Dormouse collaborate with local regional businesses as much as possible. From working with a local liqueur company to make boozy wedding flavours to sourcing coffee beans and peanut butter from nearby factories for special flavoured bars, they are able to support other small businesses and receive support in return. They are even on the lookout for local artists to help design some original and unique packaging!

At Christmas, Dormouse create tree-shaped treats and Christmassy flavoured bars infused with mince pie spices. If you’re after an original and unique gift idea for a friend, they can create bespoke flavoured bars upon request. Whether it’s a traditional duo of rum and raisin or a more exotic combination, Isobel loves to experiment with flavours and has drawn much of her previous inspiration from suggestions from friends. And vegans won’t miss out as Dormouse’s two rich dark chocolate bars are completely dairy-free!

Dormouse Chocolates Easter Selection

So what’s next for Dormouse? Isobel’s main aim is to own her own premises where she can produce and sell her chocolatey creations. For now though, you can check out their products online or take a stroll down to Spinningfields, Knutsford or Cheadle market one weekend to sample them.

It’s not too late to buy some Dormouse chocolate for Easter. They will be selling their range at Chorlton market on Easter Saturday. With rich chocolate eggs filled with mini caramel and chocolate treats, hot cross bun flavoured truffles and passion fruit and vanilla filled crème eggs, their chocolates make the perfect luxurious alternative to the boring old mainstream brands.

Ezra and Gil in the Northern Quarter, Coffee Twist in Gatley and Nook in Heaton Moor all stock Dormouse Chocolates, and if you are a frequent visitor to chocolate trade shows, you might find them with a swiftly selling out stall set up.

Having wowed the organisers themselves of the highly acclaimed Chocolate Show in London last year with their rich flavours, Dormouse will be exhibiting again at the show this October and offer all chocolate addicts the perfect excuse to see, buy and drool over mountains of chocolate bars, truffles, and figurines.


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