What does Choc Amor in Mawdesley have in store for Christmas?
- Credit: Paul Heyes
Meet the artisan chocolatier creating the perfect Christmas treats in Mawdesley. Emma Mayoh reports
Paul Williams couldn’t get through the Christmas rush without Gertrude, Doris and Izzy. The 46-year-old chocolatier, who owns Choc Amor in Mawdesley, has the three chocolate machines – making milk, dark and white – to help him produce the thousands of chocolates he needs each festive period.
‘We go from using 120 kilos of chocolate a week to a quarter of a tonne a week,’ said Paul, who lives in Croston. ‘It’s just a little bit mental. It’s full on. But I love it.
‘It’s all hands to the pump. It really ramps up from December. We get on with it and don’t stop until closing on Christmas Eve. The large glass of red on Christmas Day is something we look forward to – you won’t catch us eating chocolate though.’
Planning for the festive period starts in September with wife Jacqui, co-owner of the business. December is always a blur of chocolate making, special Christmas hamper production, farmers’ markets and festive shopping events. Paul creates everything from Christmas pudding chocolates and sprouts – flavoured with a zesty orange – to new flavours including Merry Cherry, a lovely blend of kirsch cherries with dark chocolate.
Being busy is a year round thing for Paul and Jacqui, though. They have gone from using eight tonnes of Belgian and Columbian chocolate a year when Choc Amor first launched in 2012 to churning through that every month now. Paul, who still does all of the chocolate production himself, makes different blends including chilli and lime, Persian coffee and orange jalfrezi. He uses produce from local suppliers including Blacksticks Blue from Butlers Cheeses in Longridge and oils from Apothecary Oils located just a few yards from Choc Amor at Cedar Farm. Monthly specials are also created by Paul, which often sell out in a few days.
His chocolates have won 28 of the industry’s highest accolades including several Great Taste Awards, Academy of Chocolate accolades and most recently two bronze awards from the World Finals of the International Chocolate Awards.
‘I’m always producing different flavours which suits me really well, said Paul. ‘It means I get to play a lot more. It would get dull for me if I couldn’t do that.
‘It’s funny really as I’m not a massive chocolate fan – I’d much prefer a bag of crisps. But that also helps keep me critical of the products.
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‘Hearing about the bronze awards was mind blowing. We got one for our salt liquorice chocolate a few years ago and we thought that would be our lot. It’s just incredible.’
The success of the business is validation for the passionate food producer who was made redundant from his job in commercial finance on New Year’s Eve in 2010. Over the following 12 months he sent out 1,000 CVs with no success.
‘It was soul destroying,’ Paul admitted. ‘I sent all these out and nothing worked. Then I was up reading the paper at 2am and saw a piece about a chocolatier who had done a two day course and then launched his own business. I thought I could do that. So I did.’
And Paul was right. Since then – and following his own two days course at Slattery’s in Whitefield – Choc Amor has become one of Lancashire’s best known artisan chocolate brands. As well as selling from Cedar Farm, at farmers’ markets and online, Choc Amor products are also sold at great Lancashire retailers including Holmes Mill in Clitheroe as well as at the award winning Hipping Hall, near Kirkby Lonsdale.
Paul and Jacqui, members of Taste Lancashire, have also recently had offers to stock Aldi, Waitrose and Co-op. But the couple are dedicated to keeping their business small scale and artisan.
‘To supply big supermarkets like that would change the business from something we love into something not recognisable,’ said Paul. ‘It’s not what we want. We’re not interested in being this massive company. I still make the chocolates and that’s how I want it to stay.
‘Our aim and dream is to be the best chocolate maker in Lancashire. And I think we’re definitely getting there. We’ve won 12 awards this year – one for every month – and next year we’ll start going again. I’d love to get to 50 so watch this space.’