pump street chocolate
SFH on tour continues, and this was a sweet trip to Pump Street Chocolate. As soon as I heard the word chocolate, I was in!
Pump Street was founded in November 2010, beginning as the bakery which it is most famous for and then moving into chocolate making.
They have won numerous awards, and having made the trip and tried their products, I can see why.
Anyway, on to the trip, the factory is located in Bentwaters Parks in Rendlesham, in an old military vehicle record-keeping building, disused for decades according to their history. They have been situated here since 2017, after becoming too big for their pastry section at the bakery (where they originally made the chocolate).
I drove down and met both Emma our Commercial Manager and Jean our Food Buyer, and as soon as you walked through the visitor door the smell of chocolate hit your nostrils, YUM.
Lizzie was our tour guide for the day and we were actually alongside some members from other Suffolk businesses, including Snape and Friday Street. Pump Street were celebrating Suffolk businesses and their sellers so it was nice to be a part of the celebrations.
A little secret… it was also a chance for them to showcase their new bars and packaging, which was lined up in our meeting room (it really looked good all together). Included in the lineup was the Christmas packaging which was another big hit, especially with our buyer, Jean.
The tour commenced, cue us being dressed in hair nets and overalls, not my favourite outfit, but necessary.
Our first stop was the ‘bean sorter’, I’m not sure that’s the technical term, but anyway, the beans come in hessian bags from the growers and are roasted. Pump Street have a fantastic relationship with growers from areas like Ecuador, Colombia and others near to the equator and it’s the grower’s hard work that makes the flavours!
Once the beans are roasted and room temperature they need to be sorted, making sure any anomalies are removed (like stones or bad beans), this is done until they are ready to move on and the nibs removed, or, breaking the bean to get the nib, which a machine does effortlessly.
These nibs are ground and then ready to move, this is where I was really interested, mainly because I could see the chocolate turning in the mixers. The nibs are mixed with the other ingredients needed to make the chocolate in large mixers, and I don’t think I have words that will describe how smooth it looked mixing around and the smell, well, you just had to be there.
The next fact I learned I had absolutely no idea took place, but, the chocolate is actually aged before it is made into the bars, they usually age it for weeks rather than months but this is so it hits the taste ‘sweet spot’ and I imagine they did a lot of tasting behind to get to this point. I believe that different varieties are aged differently but I may be wrong on that one, either way, very interesting. I just assumed it was ready to go out of the mixer, but I guess that’s where the quality really shines through.
Our next stop, and one that we were lucky to witness was the bars taking shape, this happened in the form of a machine. The attendant fed the mould into the machine which then fed the chocolate into the mould loosely, it went through to the conveyor belt which slammed the mould against two walls to make the bar completely flat and even in the mould, making its way to the racks to store.
The different bars have slightly different moulds depending on the pattern needed.
Now, this is where it got very nerdy but exciting, the new labelling machine, the first of its kind…
The solid chocolate bars were fed into the machine, which in an instant sealed with both foil and their new chocolate labels, perfectly sealed with tight, straight edges, it then made its way quickly through to another part and was labelled with the variety and ingredients label.
Boom, done, and in the box ready for retail, another aspect that shows Pump Street are all about quality is that their new retail boxes feature a tilt back, which means if they become half empty the chocolate will tilt back rather than forward and still be perfect for display on the shelf!
The tour ended with a sampling session, I don’t want to make you too jealous but I did get to try the new Eccles Cake Bar (SO SO GOOD) and the gingerbread bar. We left knowing that we had some secrets we needed to keep quiet until they officially released the new bars…
Which they now have and we can’t wait to stock them in the Food Hall. Look out for Pump Street in the Food Hall in the lead-up to Christmas.
And I just want to say a massive thank you to the team at Pump Street for showing us around and being so generous.