ARTISAN chocolatier Jane Williams spreads joy wherever she goes, especially at Easter time, as KATHARINE CAPOCCI discovers.
Life is pretty sweet for artisan chocolatier Jane Williams. But life tends to get a whole lot sweeter in the run-up to Easter. Thatâ€™s when Jane and her North Shields chocolate factory go into meltdown, catering for the demand for her hand-made Easter eggs and gourmet chocolates.
The recipients of chocolatey joy currently include delis, gift shops and restaurants across the region, such as Stewart & Co and @Fern Avenue in Jesmond, Blackfriars restaurant in Newcastle, and the Grand Hotel, in Tynemouth.
As we speak, Jane has just taken an order for 400 of her hand-made Easter eggs for Booths stores in Cumbria. But she sells her chocolates as far afield as Guernsey and the Shetland Isles. And she is now selling her decadent chocolates online.
"Easter is a lovely time to be a chocolatier," says Swiss-trained Jane, 32, who is originally from Stockton-on-Tees. "Itâ€™s the busiest time of the year after Christmas. Each egg is hand-crafted and decorated and we put chocolates inside each one, which is a lovely surprise. Each shell has a double coating and we have some lovely antique moulds we use, bequeathed to me by the Swiss master chocolatier I trained with."
Janeâ€™s business, Davenportâ€™s Chocolates, operates from a chocolate studio based on a business park in North Shields, which has been in existence for the last two-and-a-half years. She trained under Swiss master chocolatier, Philippe Burger, in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, at his family-run tearooms and patisserie, spending some seven years there.
Jane spent her early years in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, famed for its luxury chocolate, and has travelled widely in Europe in a quest to expand her chocolate knowledge. Marriage to husband Michael brought her to the North East and led to the birth of her very own chocolate studio business.
"What could be nicer than having a chocolate studio to go to work in," she says. "Chocolate is more than just a food. There are antioxidants in there that create happy feelings; the taste, the smooth texture, itâ€™s all very comforting. Being a chocolatier, itâ€™s really a dream job, I really do make the most of it. Iâ€™m really lucky to be doing what Iâ€™m doing. Iâ€™ve been working 10 years now with chocolate and I never get sick of it."
She adds: "The raw materials I work with are a combination of South American and African cocoa beans. Itâ€™s a well-rounded chocolate, it has a rich flavour, and is smooth to work with. We buy it in as a refined chocolate base and we work with that."
Janeâ€™s most popular Easter eggs include a fudge and mallow creation and a chilli chocolate egg. Her chocolates include flavours such as raspberry and rose truffles, franzipan, cinnamon toffee apple and praline creations.
"The raspberry and rose is probably one of the most popular chocolates. And we also do a cinnamon toffee apple variety that has a lovely nostalgic flavour. Iâ€™m always coming up with new ideas and new flavours, my tastebuds are always on the alert!"
And knowing each box of chocolates or Easter egg is purchased probably as a gift for a loved one, and therefore bought with feeling, makes Jane very happy. She says the difference between her hand-made chocolates and the shop-bought varieties are a world away.
"The flavours are so much purer, with fewer preservatives used, and a lot fresher. All the ingredients are the best of ingredients and my chocolates have a shelf life of three months, compared with 18 months for many shop-bought products."
Jane is holding an Easter shopping afternoon and artisan demo evening at her chocolate studio on April 1.
The studio will be open for the purchase of eggs and chocolates from 2pm to 4pm and entry is free. The demo evening runs from 7.30pm to 9pm, when you can watch the moulding of hand-made Easter eggs and also enjoy tasters.
Tickets cost Â£7.50 from 07813 954368 or email@example.com
The Chocolate Studio, Unit 31, Evans Business Centre, Orion Business Park, North Shields, NE29 7SN. www.davenportschocolates.co.uk