#HelpEssexBuyLocal: 5 great Essex businesses to inspire your Christmas shopping

#HelpEssexBuyLocal this Christmas (photo: freestocks/unsplash)

#HelpEssexBuyLocal this Christmas (photo: freestocks/unsplash) - Credit: freestocks/unsplash

As Christmas arrives, now more than ever our local retailers need your support as we all aim to #HelpEssexBuyLocal

#HelpEssexBuyLocal is a regional website and portal to signpost visitors to food and drink producers, suppliers, distributers, eateries and bars ‘on their doorstep’, encouraging both the public and businesses alike to buy locally and make the most of the wealth of products that Essex has to offer. With consumers already having looked to nearby businesses to utilise and support during lockdown and beyond, the project aims to continue this focus on local buying to rebuild sustainability in the recovery period which will follow.

Here we share the stories of five independent Essex businesses, but you’ll find lots of ideas for great local businesses that need your support this Christmas in the December issue of Essex Life magazine.


1. Chocolate Moments

Chocolate Moments is a young company, established in 2018 by owner and founder Maria Antoniou. Maria decided that office life was no longer for her, so swapped her corporate job for Sundays at local farmers markets to pursue her chocolate-drizzled dreams. Based in Chelmsford and enjoying repeat patronage from loyal corporate customers nearby, Chocolate Moments proffers a little something more than you might find in the confectionary aisle of your closest chain supermarket. These luxury chocolate slabs, brownies and treats are all made with high-quality Belgian chocolate – creamier and lower in sugar than items in your average selection box – and most of their chocolates can be branded and personalised, making them perfect for adding an extra-special touch to corporate events, weddings, and birthdays. Maria’s made-to-order products are gluten and lactose free and her unique tahini brownie even snagged her a Silver FreeFrom award in 2019. Chocolate Moments believes that Christmas is all about showing those you love just how much you care, and these indulgent treats represent more than simply a thoughtful present; buying from small businesses and food producers in your area is truly the gift that keeps giving.


2. Dedham Vale Vineyard

As the name suggests, Dedham Vale Vineyard is nestled in Constable Country in North Essex, lovingly cultivating a range of grape vines in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a region popular with walkers who enjoy the picturesque countryside and walking trails. England presents a surprisingly suitable climate for producing wine (especially sparkling ones) and particularly in recent years, Essex-produced wines have gained momentum and international recognition. The range of tipples (as well as homegrown produce) created by this family-run vineyard are no exception to the quality for which the region is becoming known. Naming their creations after local features such as Willow Lake, and often with a nod to the area’s Roman history, Dedham Vale Vineyard implement traditional methods to make their wines, including their delightful sparkling Brut, made from grape varieties carefully cultivated and tended across acres of vineyard. With onsite tours, tastings and seasonal events due to resume in spring 2021, local support right now is as important as ever. Customers can enjoy Dedham Vale Vineyard’s delectable reds, whites and rosés from home in time for the Christmas season, knowing they are championing an Essex business literally rooted so close to home.


3. Brentwood Brewing Company

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The Brentwood Brewing Company, staffed by family and friends, was begun by Roland Kannor and Dave Holmes in 2006. Believing they could create better beers than those they were drinking, they reinvigorated the brewing process in a town with a long history of brewing and malting, creating quality real ales by blending traditional methods with modern equipment and controls. The company’s ales – all of which are gluten free – have secured multiple awards, including CAMRA’s Champion Best Bitter of East Anglia 2017 for regular favourite Brentwood Best, Champion Premium Bitter of East Anglia 2017 for Hope & Glory as well as runner-up accolades from SIBA. The company also holds the SALSA plus beer accreditation – boasted by only about 2% of breweries in the country. Committed to its local roots, The Brentwood Brewery Company is based firmly in its community, ensuring that spent grain and hops – essentially a waste product – are put to excellent use, provided to local farmers and allotments to be recycled as fertiliser. The range of seasonal beers, including Frosty Baubles and Good Elf, might just make the perfect tipple this Christmas, with the added comfort of knowing you’re bolstering true Essex quality.


4. Wildwing Honey

Wildwing Honey is 100% pure, unprocessed artisan honey harvested in Chelmsford by award-winning, British Beekeepers Association-certified beekeeper James Curtis. Wildwing honey is lauded for being unlike that which you would find in your average supermarket. Journeying from comb to sale in no more than 24 hours, all products are unprocessed and free of added sugars or syrups, so the distinct bouquet and aromatic flavour speaks for itself. All Windwing hives are ethically managed, with the bees being free to forage where they please within the surrounding countryside and farmlands – usually within a few miles of the hive – helping to sustain the flora and fauna across this little patch of Essex. Their precious honey is extracted using methods that are unharmful to the comb and the bees themselves, so James makes sure to take care of each and every one of his busy workers. You can find delicious Wildwing honey available online and at local suppliers across Chelmsford, Maldon, Colchester, Braintree, Shenfield and Witham. Support not only local business, but also essential local bees that sustain our environment, by purchasing from ethical and sustainable brands such as Wildwing Honey this Christmas.


5. Berties Cider Co

Berties Cider Co, a cidery based in Braintree, has been fermenting delicious beverages using locally sourced ingredients for many years. Winning awards since 2012, the team use only the best apples from Lathcoats Farm’s orchards in Chelmsford and traditional methods to press the fruit and extract its juices before fermentation to create delicious blends. There is a Berties Cider for everyone – the OBSession Cider (short for Old Berties Session cider) is medium-sweet, concocted with a mixture of cooking and dessert apples for a flavourful drinking experience. Prefer a classic, drier taste? Then the Cox-in cider is the one for you, made with only Cox apples so that you can enjoy that distinct taste. Berties have been providing this range to beer and cider festivals throughout Essex for a number of years, as well as being a regular supplier for local pubs and outlets. This Christmas the aim is to ensure that the holiday is enjoyed with a drink in hand and with people you love, despite the current time of uncertainty.

#HelpEssexBuyLocal was set up by the Rural Community Council of Essex and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP). Follow @HelpEssexLocal on social media or see buylocalfoodanddrink.co.uk/essex



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