There's a lot to love about Willie's Cacao. From their 100% natural rule, to their ethical purchasing standards for cocoa farmers, they are not only great in taste, but a great business too.
Who are Willie’s Cacao?
Willie Harcourt-Cooze is the real life Willy Wonka! He is a cacao farmer, pioneer and chocolate fanatic, with a dream to introduce everyone to real chocolate. Chocolate has only recently become the sugary, fatty confectionary we are all used to; it used to be something special, more like a fine wine. Like grapes, the best cacaos all taste different – one maybe of nuts, another of fruit – so we make all our chocolate from the best single estate cacaos in the world and 100% natural ingredients. To preserve these precious flavours we take up to three weeks to make the chocolate at low temperatures, whereas industrial chocolate is made in just a few hours.
How did the business begin?
On a beach! In the early 90s Willie was on a beach in Venezuela with his girlfriend, and an umbrella salesman asked if he wanted to visit a cacao farm up in the cloud forest. Sitting on a jungled hillside, he tasted a hot chocolate made from roughly ground cacao and cane sugar. A light went on! He hadn’t even particularly liked chocolate up to this point, finding it too sweet. He managed to buy the farm, and started a family there, learning everything there is to know about cacao. After 10 years he realised that if he was to fulfil his dream of introducing everyone to real chocolate it was going to be impossible from Venezuela. So he came back to the UK, and started the first bean to bar chocolate factory in the UK for hundreds of years. To get it off the ground he persuaded Channel 4 to make two documentary series about his often dramatic journey.
What makes your product unique?
The taste! The unmistakably pure, dancing flavours of real chocolate, 100% natural and craft made. Willie lives by the mantra that the best ingredients make the best flavours. He spends a couple of months a year with the farmers getting the best traditional variety beans. We are equally obsessive about the other ingredients, using raw cane sugar, natural cocoa butter, ceremonial grade drinking matcha, and to keep to the 100% natural rule, we even get passion fruit juice specially freeze dried because all commercial ones contain maltodextrin. It is easy to tell the pretenders! Have a look on the ingredient list… if a chocolate contains vanilla it is because they are hiding the fact that the beans are not great; if it has the emulsifier lecithin, it is industrial. Giving a fair return to the farmers is fundamental for us. We buy all our beans Direct Trade, giving a minimum of $500 a tonne over world cocoa prices direct to the farmers, this is more than the Fair Trade premium of $200 a tonne.
How does the company like to keep healthy?
We are all turbo charged on cacao! Willie has converted us to drinking it the Aztec way, 100% cacao frothed with hot water and a little sugar. For hundreds of years chocolate was in fact a drink, drunk initially by the elites and in religious ceremonies based on how it made them feel. Now we know it is packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and it stimulates your body to produce serotonin, the brain’s natural anti-depressant, and feel good endorphins typically created by exercising.
Which one Willies Cacao snack would you recommend as a must-try?
Start with one of our dark bars, the Las Trincheras 72 made with a Trinitario bean from Venezuela. It is smooth and nutty, with all this flavour coming simply from the bean since the only ingredients are cacao and raw cane sugar.
We couldn't agree more. Team Healthy Nibbles are obsessed with their dark bars. Want to see what the fuss is about? Order one of our snack boxes today and see for yourself.