Amarachi Clarke is the founder and creative behind Lucocoa Chocolate. Lucocoa is London’s first bean-to-bar brand. She is an inspiration and has created a brand that leads not only in taste but also in how to create a sustainable business.
How did you discover your passion for chocolate?
When I discovered chocolate is like wine and coffee in that different regions create different flavours and then realized that you could get a breadth and depth of quality and price in wine and coffee I felt that there was something that needed to be done about showing the true face of chocolate.
What’s your creative process when starting a new bar?
We don’t often create new bars that sit in our range. We obviously experiment with different flavours and textures and have a lot of limited-release bars. But to make a new bar – Dark chocolate can take months. There is a flavour profile that I am personally drawn to and if the cacao matches that flavour profile I’m keen on seeing how I can preserve the flavour of the bean the whole way through the making process.
I will experiment with different times and temperatures to roast the beans and then test different percentages based on how the beans taste after I feel that they have been roasted in a way that compliments the beans. Then there is a whole process around the amount of coconut sugar vs. lucuma to add and then we repeat this process many times until we hit on what we think works.
As we now have a factory shop we often have customers on a Saturday do some taste tests. Prior to this, I would send samples out to different people to get their feedback. Our 60% Haitian was sent to quite a lot of chefs who helped shape the flavour and our 50% Dominican Republic milk was sampled by a hell of a lot of people in Brick Lane Market when I used to have a market stall there to refine my recipes back in 2015.
How do you find a balance between running Lucocoa and your personal time?
I’d say I’m quite bad at this I start early in the factory and am on my feet all day. I then get home and do the admin that I need to do. I’m quite lucky to have people like Megan who do a hell of a lot of this during the day whilst I’m running around the factory.
I do have hard stops in the evenings so I can try and switch off – Not that I’m too successful with the switch-off as I have always had a very busy mind
Who do you admire in the industry and why?
Cacao farmers! No chocolate maker would have the means to make the chocolate they do without the farmers. The incredible work that they put in gives us cacao that blows people’s minds.
Is it difficult to ensure to the production process is sustainable?
Yes and no, but it’s worth it.
It’s easier to get cheaper less sustainable products to market but long term that really doesn’t help the world. It hard because you are asking more questions and doing more checks. But as I say I it’s totally worth it because I don’t want a business that has no thought about sustainability because we want to be around for a while.
Has your work changed since you first started out? If so how has it changed?
Yes, I no longer hold a full-time job and balance that with chocolate making. The business has grown a lot and with it, my role has changed a bit.
Now Lucocoa has staff it means there is a lot of people and process management comes with that. Moving to a new factory has brought on incredible opportunities but also some difficult hurdles to overcome.
What has been the most satisfying moment you have had in your career.
I’ve been a chocolate maker for 6 years and in that short time, the fact that Lucocoa is still here is satisfying.
If you could start your journey again, would you do anything differently knowing what you know now?
No, I went into this not knowing the industry I am a Project Manager and had no idea about food production, importing cocoa or machines, making chocolate etc and I just dived in knowing that I would learn it and work it out somehow. I wasn’t held back by the status quo on “how to do things” but I knew that I wanted to disrupt the chocolate industry. Not using white refined sugar, making chocolate from scratch and pushing sustainability was what I came to the table with and as a result became the first Black woman to have a Bean to Bar chocolate company in the UK and the first in London.
Do you have advice for anybody starting out in food production?
Go for it. What is holding you back? You might regret it if you don’t.