“The opportunity to present my chocolate at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been the highlight of my chocolate-making career to date” – Luisa’s chocolate adventure has finally been rewarded by such a prestigious organisation, with diplomats from the Foreign and Commonwealth office and Prosperity Fund, other experts in the field of chocolate, and the University of Nottingham paying tribute to her hard work and commitment to ethical, sustainable, award-winning chocolate, which is incredibly well-deserved.

If you’ve visited the shop and met Luisa, you’ll have heard about the exciting “science meets chocolate” project that sets Luisa apart even more from any other chocolate-maker in the UK. Knowing all her farmers by name, Luisa is committed to making a difference in the communities that supply her cacao, embarking on a “rewarding adventure” to ensure the 3 female farmers (Yanira, Martha and Carmen) that supply her Colombian cacao get a better-than-fair price for their high-quality beans. The higher the quality, the higher the price farmers must be paid, thus Luisa, alongside scientists from the University of Nottingham, travelled to Colombia to meet her farmers and investigate the science behind the mysterious fermentation process of cacao, to unlock the secrets about what exactly, on a microbiological level, goes on in the fermentation box that creates that high-quality bean we love the taste of!

After all, Luisa’s motto is “great beans make great chocolate!”, and the project aims to scientifically discover whatexactly makes a great bean! Using techniques such as DNA sequencing performed by the UON, we will then feedback our results to Yanira, Martha and Carmen so they can take on these instructions to fine-tune their technique and ensure they get better beans with each crop. This will allow them to enter the “super premium market” and therefore Luisa is helping them to be paid a better price for their cacao. Luisa already sticks by the principles of direct trade, cutting out the middleman, which allows her to pay farmers up to 3x more than ‘fair-trade’ price, which she has witnessed making the monumental difference between farmers sending their children to university or not.

Luisa recalls “it was such an exciting moment to be presented with 3 huge sacks of cocoa from the first crop”, after which she went through each bag to assess the quality of the beans matched her high standard, which is done by using a cut test and checking the colours inside the bean to ensure the fermentation process has been successful. After the cut test, Luisa then records the data; “there is so much science that takes place during the fermentation process, so to be able to work with the University of Nottingham on the fine flavour profile is cutting edge, excuse the pun!”. Then, “with careful attention, the perfected chocolate is hand tempered and filled into bars …heavenly”.

If you want to invest in a truly ethical, high quality product this Christmas, make it Luisa’s Vegan Chocolates. As more and more people are becoming more mindful about the products they use, there has never been a better time to pop down to her shop in Sneinton Market and become part of a wonderful network of like-minded people on a chocolate journey. If it’s good enough for the FCO, we’ll sure you’ll love it!

by Isabella Bedi