The chocolatiers of hazel mountain on the edge of the Burren in north Clare in the west of Ireland have every reason to celebrate their first year in business. They are heading a trend that is seeing the art of chocolate-making move out of its traditional centres in Belgium and Switzerland, and setting a trend that has been the preserve of large-scale factories for far too long – cocoa bean roasting!
Dara Conboy, a 25-year-old from county Sligo with a background in coffee bean roasting, is the head roaster on hazel mountain. Recruited by John and Kasia Connolly to get the flavour out of the beans they import from Madagascar and other tropical cocoa growing regions, Conboy is an Irish chocolate expert. He can talk chocolate all day long.
Accompanied by Anna Murphy, a young pastry chef employed to make confections with their chocolate, the Connollys and Conboy are a unique team in rural Ireland.
But they are not alone in Europe. The idea that artisan chocolatiers can roast their own cocoa beans and make their own distinctive chocolate has been seeping into the creative consciousness among European food artisans for several years.
This is not about the mass production of an homogenised product, it is about the flavour and taste that can be coaxed out of cocoa beans with their own delicate aromas, then transferred into artisanal chocolate of quality.
Chocolate Whiskey Coffee
- 1 square Hazel Mountain chocolate, chopped small
- 1 shot blended Irish whiskey, eg Tullamore Dew
- Double espresso
- Sugar, pinch
Melt chocolate in hot coffee, stir add whiskey and a pinch of sugar, stir again.