Interview: tasting heaven with chocolatier Brandt Maybury

Brandt Maybury arguably has the best job in the world. Working as the Taste Specialist at Green & Blacks, he is paid to eat delicious organic chocolate all day. But at the same time, Brandt’s job is a lot more than taxing than just tingling those taste buds; he helps make people’s lives a little bit better through promoting ethical sourcing and secure prices for cocoa farmers.

It’s tempting to liken Brandt to a modern-day alchemist or Willy Wonka. This is after all a man who spends his days swirling weird and wonderful ingredients into bowls of warm, delicious melted chocolate. His goal; to discover a miraculous new recipe to outdo the unprecedented success of Green & Blacks’ Maya Gold in 1994.

But is this really what its all about, I ask him?

“Being Taste Specialist at Green & Blacks is such a fun job – not just because I get to work with chocolate everyday – but also because of the people I work with and the history of the brand. I feel really proud to be one of the team.”

Tactful. But no information about how much chocolate eating he really gets to do.

I am, however, happy and amazed to find out that chocolate tasting, aka most of the publics’ dream activity, is just as much a refined and skillful art as wine tasting. “First, I inspect the chocolate to make sure it has a good shine and a good snap,” Brandt tells me, “then I have a smell to see what aromas I can detect. I then pop the chocolate in my mouth, break it a few times with, before allowing it to slowly melt to appreciate the flavours and textures – chocolate should always be lovely and smooth, never gritty or chalky.” Chocolate tasting… hmm… could there be a new society on the horizon at Fresher’s fair?

Indulging in Fairtrade Organic chocolate whilst living on a student shoestring budget can be tricky. But Brandt is insistent that it’s worth spending that little bit more on good quality chocolate. Although it is a bit pricier, a bar of premium chocolate lasts the average muncher a lot longer than a bar of Tesco Value: “the higher cocoa content means that most people find a little bit goes a long way.”

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But the chocolate doesn’t only last longer- it tastes far better. “Because farmers can’t rely on artificial fertilizers or pesticides, they have to give extra care and attention to their crop,” ensuring that the chocolate really does taste better. And of course, “everything tastes a little bit sweeter, knowing that your money is helping to support Fairtrade farming communities all over the world.”

As well as tasting, Brandt loves to toy with flavours. One of Brandt’s latest inventions is the Salted Caramel THIN bar; perhaps not as crazy as Willy Wonka’s everlasting gobstoppers or chocolate grass. But Brandt is confident that his new flavours, and those on the horizon, will stand the test of time.

“I see other brands going with crazy flavours such as Wasabi, Marmite and Tabasco… however more often than not they tend to be a flash in the pan.”

Brandt’s favourite chocolate (as we speak) and one of my all-time favourites is Spiced Chilli, and I can’t help wondering what exactly it is that make certain unlikely flavours so unbelievably good.

“With over 600 different flavor compounds in cocoa, there are so many things that work well with chocolate. We always think of chocolate as a sweet food because that is how we normally enjoy it. However, it also works well with savory flavours and in savoury dishes. Try finishing off a pot of chilli con carne with a couple of squares of 85% dark chocolate if you don’t believe me and see how surprisingly good it is.”

Finally, I ask Brandt to give me a recipe to satisfy chocoholics with no cooking skills, a busy schedule and a student budget. The wizard of chocolate seemed unphased by the limiting criteria. He gives us the recipe for ‘Sea Water Truffles’: something truly delicious and a little bit different.

 

Ingredients:

 

150g Green & Black’s cooking milk chocolate

100ml water

4g flakey sea salt

100g Good quality cocoa for dusting

 

Method:

 

Break/chop the chocolate in to small pieces. Place in a bowl sat on a set of digital scales. Bring the water and salt to the boil in a small saucepan, and remove from the heat. Pour 45g of the boiled water over the chocolate and mix until smooth. Place in the fridge to set (about 3 hours.)


To make the truffles, use a teaspoon to scoop out pieces of the ganache and place these on to a cool plate. Next, sieve the cocoa powder in to a bowl. Roll a piece of ganache in your hands to the desired shape, and drop in to the cocoa powder. Swirl the bowl around in a circular motion, allowing the truffle to roll in the cocoa powder until fully coated. Repeat with the rest of the truffles (you will eventually get messy hands, but just keep going.)

 

Keep the truffles in the bowl of cocoa powder, placed in the fridge, until ready to serve. Then lightly shake off the excess cocoa powder before serving. These are best eaten within 48 hours.