Doing Things Properly with Bare Bones
We've been fans of Bare Bones - a Glasgow-based, award-winning, organic bean-to-bar chocolate brand - for some time, and naturally their story and approach plays a huge part in that.
For this edition of our Doing Things Properly series we caught up with founders Lara and Cameron to find out more about their journey, what it means to be bean-to-bar chocolate makers and why doing things properly rings true to their business.
If you missed out on our little Easter treats last month, keep your eyes peeled for a surprise taster in your orders over the next week. We hope you enjoy finding out more about this award-winning brand as much as we did.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and the journey that lead you to Bare Bones?
Cameron and I (Lara) were fanatical about coffee when we were younger. We used to plan holidays and day trips around coffee shops – forget about the sights and architecture, we were searching ‘Best flat white in ____’. We loved the attention to detail, trying different origins and blends and also the atmosphere in coffee shops.
A few years later I was a food photographer in London, working on an online food and lifestyle magazine. My job was to photograph makers, chefs and cafes and I fell in love with the craftsmanship and the idea of having a food business. Cameron is a mechanical engineer (which has helped massively because chocolate is all science + engineering!) and worked with a premium automotive manufacturer.
One day after a long shoot, I was eating bean to bar chocolate on my train home, I was lost in a day dream, thinking about how cool it would be if you could make chocolate all day. I started googling how you make it and couldn’t believe the work and skill behind making a chocolate bar!
We quickly became obsessed, learning everything we could from blogs and books, and started making chocolate at home. The business slowly grew from there! And we have been hooked ever since.
Chocolate is so similar to tea, wine and coffee in that each origin is famous for characteristics. Those flavours are purely from the genetics of the bean, the terroir and the fermentation process after harvest. This fascinated us so much because until craft chocolate, I didn’t even realise chocolate could taste fruity or that it came from a fruit itself!
It is so exciting to start working with a new bean origin and experiment with different roast profiles and unlock those incredible taste notes. It is one of the most extraordinary foods to work with!
Talk to us about Bean-to-Bar and why it matters.
Bean-to-bar means that we make the chocolate completely from scratch! (Chocolatiers melt cooking chocolate, but we make it from the bean). We import the cocoa beans, sort them for roasting, roast, crack, winnow, stone-grind and conche for 72 hours, age, temper, mould, wrap, package and post. It’s a 23-step process once the beans arrive at our workshop! And most of the steps are done by hand.
Making the chocolate from scratch allows us to create the most incredible flavours and bring out the most of each bean. Our job is to highlight the incredible work that the farmers have already done through farming, fermenting and drying without interfering too much. Our ingredients are all organic and our bars are made of up just cocoa beans, raw unrefined cane sugar and a tiny bit of cocoa butter.
As you know Doing Things Properly is something we work by, as well as talk about outwardly. What does ‘doing things properly’ mean for you?
For us, it is so important to be sustainable and thoughtful with everything we do.
• From working with co-operatives which allows smaller farms or individual farmers to ferment and sell their crop. We pay far above the fair-trade market rate for the best quality beans but also to ensure the farmer is paid fairly
• Our packaging is sourced within the UK and made from recycled sources and can be recycled after use – our colourful boxes are made using recycled paper coffee cups! We work with Windmill printers who are carbon neutral and based in Scotland too.
• We only use the finest, organically farmed ingredients in our chocolate with no additives or emulsifiers
• We make sure that every experience – online, wholesale or our shop front – is enjoyable for the customer and they leave with an even greater love for chocolate.
• Our workshop runs off of renewable energy - we even duct the heat from our machinery through the workshop!
What have been your greatest challenges since launching Bare Bones?
There are so many moving parts and a lot of stress in importing the beans from Europe since Brexit (we work with a middle-man who brings the beans into Europe for us). Working with a natural product has its challenges too, as every shipment of cacao is different due to climate, rainfall and so many more variables. We tweak each recipe and profile to bring the best out of each batch.
What does a ‘day at the office’ look like for you?
My role is really varied which I love! I’m either communicating with our wholesale partners and online customers, working on our instagram/digital content, getting set up for our chocolate tasting nights (we host them twice a week), designing packaging for new releases or planning new ideas!
What do you love most about what you do?
I love working in food and especially with chocolate. I love that we can make someones day when they try our chocolate or that we can share our ethos of ethical chocolate.
The pandemic was a challenging time for everyone, but like many others we also learned a huge amount from it. Were there any positive takeaways from the events of the last 2 years for you as a business?
Like so many other businesses, our wholesale customers closed and we lost a lot of orders. Thankfully our online sales started to grow, which really saved us. We have always written little notes in all of our orders and during the pandemic they were such a lifeline for some of our customers, which felt so important to us. We really made sure we could supply our chocolate as quickly and safely as we could for everyone which was also such a comforting thing for us to be able to keep working during such uncertain times.
What is top of the agenda this year for Bare Bones - any particular projects you’re working on or plans in the pipeline?
We are releasing something very exciting for our local Glasgow customers… chocolate m*lk! After months of recipe testing, we have found the perfect balance to create the best chocolate milk we have ever tasted. It’s creamy, thick and almost tastes like melted chocolate ice-cream.
We are also working with our of our favourite food-heroes, Maldon, for their 140th birthday celebrations. Watch this space!
If you had to choose just one, what’s your favourite bar?
It changes throughout the day!! In the morning I have our 68% Dominican Salted chocolate on my porridge (straight from the stone-grinder ) – the caramel tones make for the best breakfast!! I love our Madagascar hot chocolate because it is so fruity and rich. Most recently I am absolutely obsessed with our new Limited Edition bar! It’s a 70% dark chocolate and the beans are from the Philippines. It’s so creamy and tastes like creme brûlée, you’d think it had milk in it!
Hopefully you’ll agree that tea and chocolate are an unbeatable combination. Do you have a favourite pairing?
Absolutely! Theres nothing better than sitting down with a cuppa and a couple of squares of chocolate. I love peppermint tea with our 65% Guatemala dark chocolate. It has notes of floral honey and pecan, so goes really well with the freshness of the peppermint!
What does a day in cups of tea look like for you?
I always start with a coffee to wake up before cycling into the workshop. I love the Good & Proper Chamomile and have it mid-morning while I’m doing e-mails. After lunch I will either have a hot chocolate or a loose leaf Good & Proper Peppermint tea.
If you happen to be reading this from Glasgow and are local to the Bare Bones Factory shop on Osborne Street, do go and say hi to the team and grab one of their delicious hot chocolates - you won't be able to resist, trust us.