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Meet the Producer | Darren Litton, Cocoba

Meet the Producer | Darren Litton, Cocoba

When Darren Litton was growing up in Australia, his favourite treat was the hot chocolate his grandfather made him. But it wasn’t just the powdered stuff you get in tubs, it was made with real, creamy, melted chocolate. When he moved to the UK years later, he couldn’t find any real hot chocolate despite searching far and wide. So he’d make his own at home.“I struggled”, he recalls.

Cocoba - Darren
Darren at his flagship store in Bluewater

“Everything was made with powder which is a completely different taste. Life is too short not to have the best. So I decided to combine my love of hot chocolate, chocolate and coffee into a chocolate café and brand.” After searching the globe for the highest quality cocoa beans and best tasting chocolate, he kissed goodbye to his career as a chartered accountant, and launched Cocoba. Alongside their flagship chocolate-themed café at Bluewater shopping centre (they also do superlative coffees, Darren’s other Australia-inspired passion), Cocoba do a stunning range of 150 delicious products including their best-selling salted toffee truffles with their unbelievably moreish crunchy toffee pieces.

Cocoba -Cocoa Dusted Salted Toffee Truffles
Cocoa Dusted Salted Toffee Truffles (www.tabl.com/cocoba)

Fifty of those products are handmade by Cocoba themselves, using best quality Belgian couverture which is then melted down, including 25 handmade chocolate bars of various exciting flavours – think Oreo, caramel sea salt and chilli dark chocolate.
His other best-selling item? Well, his signature hot chocolate, of course – and chocolate spoons. Simply pour yourself a mug of steaming milk, stir in the spoon until it melts and you’ll have the kind of luscious hot chocolate that Darren’s grandfather made him – that’s if you can hold back from eating it off the spoon which many customers just can’t help but do. Or melt Cocoba’s signature hot chocolate flakes, which they create from blocks of highest-quality Belgian chocolate, grated down.
While the most popular spoon is milk chocolate, Darren recommends the 53% dark chocolate for its perfect level of sweetness and richness balanced with the milk.

Cocoba - Cocoba's Oreo White Chocolate & Mini Marshmallow Bars
Cocoba’s Oreo White Chocolate & Mini Marshmallow Bars (www.tabl.com/cocoba)

“The response you get from people is phenomenal”, he says. “It’s great to watch people’s reaction the first time they try the hot chocolate; maybe they hadn’t had it made from real chocolate before so they don’t know what to expect. One customer said it brought back memories of her childhood when she was sat in a café with her parents in Paris having a cup of hot chocolate. To evoke those sorts of memories is something quite special.”
The cocoa is sourced from as afar as Equador and Uganda to create 70, 80, 90 and even 100% bars. Those high cocoa bars pair beautifully with a deep, full-bodied red wine or Port.

“We’ve done some tastings and the products go incredibly well with wine and Port”, Darren says. “As a general rule, the higher the cocoa content, the stronger the wine we’d recommend to have it with. And the caramel chocolate and the white chocolate might go well with a lighter red, a rose or even a white wine. We do a dark chocolate with sea salt which goes very well with a lot of wines with the added element of the salt.”
Their gorgeous white chocolate raspberry and Champagne truffles and hazelnut truffles are a dreamy match with Champagne.

Darren’s personal favourites include the 80% Uganda origin chocolate, and 71% Equador origin. “It’s dark and rich enough to get all the flavour out, but it’s still got enough sweetness in there as well.”
As well as experimenting with flavours (organic peppermint oil and orange oil are added for more exotic flavours), doing tastings on a weekly basis, the products are always carefully sourced to ensure that they are ethically and sustainably produced.

“For the products which are made for us, I go on site visits and meet the suppliers and check it’s all sustainably sourced so that the company who is taking the cocoa and making it into the couverture puts money back into the communities as well”, explains Darren. “We put a lot of care into sourcing and also I make sure that I’ve tasted every single product before it’s launched so we know it has the right taste and quality.”
Oh, it’s a hard life. “It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it!”