Kelsey enjoys sweet success in Chocolate Week

Set in the idyllic surroundings of Sedbury Hall Stables in Richmond, Kacoa is fast becoming a name in the world of chocolate.

Kelsey Anderson with some  of her  handmade truffles
Kelsey Anderson with some of her handmade truffles

Started just over a year ago by Kelsey Anderson, the owner’s love of chocolate is clear to see – and smell.

Delicious truffles, tantalising chocolate bars, melts, buttons and much more are laid out seductively in the quaint little shop attached to the small kitchen.

Banoffee pie, Eton Mess and Raspberry gin are just some of the unusual chocolate flavours straight from Kelsey’s imagination.

“I don’t think there are many things that don’t go with chocolate, although I did try a Madras flavour once as I thought the spice would work. It was awful.”

But owning her own artisan chocolate business hasn’t always been top of Kelsey’s life plan.

After leaving school she took a gap year working in an orphanage in Peru.

“It was a project for 17 to 19 year olds to spent eight to 12 months working with orphans,” explains Kelsey.

“I think I was probably a bit naive. I didn’t know any Spanish. But at the end of the day we were there for the kids and although they couldn’t speak any English we managed to communicate.”

During her time in South America Kelsey got to see first hand some of the regions which, in the future, the cocoa beans which are turned into her chocolate would come from.

Unbeknown to her at the time it also gave her a fervent desire that her chocolate should all come from Fair Trade plantations.

However returning from her gap year, she embarked on a degree in educational studies and psychology in Sheffield.

“It was a great course and I had a real passion for it.”

After graduating, Kelsey worked in schools including a unit for excluded children. But she soon realised that it wasn’t the career for her and she decided to give it up.

“I’d met my boyfriend and we were living in Sheffield. I was working at Costa Coffee where I’d worked throughout my studies. And then I for offered a manager job. But then I realised it wasn’t for me. I suddenly realised that I wanted to work for myself and if I didn’t do it then I would never do it.”

Kelsey and her boyfriend moved out of their city flat and moved in with her parents near Barnard Castle.

“I had this idea of starting my own coffee shop and I wanted to offer chocolates with the coffee and so I enrolled on a chocolate making course and I just loved everything about it,” she explains.

“Chocolate is notoriously difficult to work with, but once you have worked with it and understand it you start to feel the temper of the chocolate.

“I hardly even use a thermometer anymore. I can just tell when it is right.”

Kelsey talks about tempering chocolate as an artist would talk about their works of art.

She doesn’t tend to use a recipe either and makes chocolates that inspire her.

“I love chocolate and so I have decided if I like a particular flavour or type of chocolate then hopefully other people will. It has worked so far.”

It was Kelsey’s dad who found the unit for her at Sedbury Hall Stables. It is a picturesque setting in grade 11 listed buildings with a handful of other businesses. The drive through the tree lined drive is stunning although it is a little out of the way for a chocolate shop.

“I suppose I don’t get much passing trade but I do get regulars from the nearby village and I love it here surrounded by lavender and roses.”

She does sell to a local wholesaler and her chocolates can also be bought at a number of shops including Drewtons.

When not making her chocolates or developing new products Kelsey is showing her wares at shows and farmers’ markets.

She has just developed her new Christmas range of beautifully packaged gilt truffles and chocolates.

“Winter is my favourite time of the year and I love to create chocolates that really bring Christmas to life,” says Kelsey who has just taken on her first member of staff due to increase demand.

“My new range has been inspired by own memories of Christmas – all the flavours remind me of warm festive memories with my family so this has been a really personal project for me. My top picks include ginger spice truffles, spiced orange and cranberry meltaways and salted caramel hot chocolate stirrers. For the adults, there are mixed chocolate boxes, featuring Marc de Champagne truffles, and for the kids, milk chocolate with popping candy and reindeer design.”

As for her favourite chocolate – she loves them all. “I could eat chocolate all the time. People ask me my favourite but it is hard to say as it depends what mood I am in.”

Kelsey prides herself on the quality of the ingredients in her chocolates.

“I don’t use preservatives, which is why you will find I use alcohol in quite a lot of my truffles as it’s a natural preservative although they only have a shelf life of six weeks. I use the best yellow butter and cream and of course chocolate which is more than 70 per cent cocoa solids and Fair Trade. Chocolate is an affordable luxury.”