Sarah Cotterill meets the Leeds couple changing the world through chocolate, one triangle at a time.
If you were lucky enough to be delivering a parcel to Echo Central One, just Southeast of the city, a surprising toasted-caramel aroma would greet you at the door. It’s here that Frank Laws, and his partner Karolis Butenas, are able to resist a cupboard full of over 1000 chocolate bars.
For this small, one bed flat, is the home of Leeds’s only bean to bar chocolate makers: The Willy Wonka factory-come packaging and production hub; where giant stainless-steel fridges are packed with silica bags and setting moulds; a diamond custom tilting grinder liquifies the equivalent of 11kg of cocoa nibs; and a tabletop tempering machine melts and cools 180 bars worth, overnight.
On average, cocoa farmers receive around three to five percent of the supermarket’s retail price. That’s just 3p for your £1.00 block of Cadbury’s
But the sights and sounds of whirring machinery weren’t always on Frank’s agenda, despite a sweet tooth from a young age. At sixteen he began making biscuits for his Mum’s staff in Sudbury, before a stint selling cupcakes at a local gym. But it was whilst studying at Leeds College of Music, that his homemade brownies for the campus café really took off. After dabbling with macaroons and choux buns at pop-up markets around the city, the natural entrepreneur in him realised that chocolate bon-bons had a longer shelf life, and were easier to post, than pastries.
However, it was on Boxing Day 2019, when a Canadian friend persuaded him to watch a Netflix documentary exposing the hidden truths behind this beloved commodity. “I’ve only been in the craft chocolate industry for two and a half years now. What I’ve found is people might not be fully aware of the ethical issues…and are shocked when they discover the real facts. People who get this understand the value of craft chocolate and why it costs more than commercial chocolate.”
Frank hopes that craft chocolate will soon be placed on the same pedestal as third wave speciality coffee. You see, many of us would happily pay £2.90 for a barista Americano three times a week. You’d happily buy a bag of fancy beans for £12.00 to grind at home. You value a superior quality product, a luxury pick me up, with a traceable supply chain, fair compensation for farmers, free from child exploitation. But you’d also happily run into Tesco’s on your lunch break to pick up a 45g bar for Dairy Milk for £1.00? Something doesn’t add up.
On average, cocoa farmers receive around three to five percent of the supermarket’s retail price. That’s just 3p for your £1.00 block of Cadbury’s, which seems more sickly than sweet when you think about it. Even the Dutch confectionary company, Tony’s Chocolonely, who market themselves as ‘ethical’, admit cases of child labour in their annual report. So what exactly should we be looking for when out shopping for a treat?
“This is a great question, but not super easy to answer,” says Frank. “Fairtrade certifications are a great starting point, but they are not being implemented or regulated fast enough. Big chocolate producers have known about the issues surrounding child labour and poverty for decades and still haven’t eradicated the issue. They care about profit, not people.” The solution? “Ask chocolate makers and manufacturers where they source their cocoa from. Small makers like us are so passionate we can talk your ear off, and know exactly where our cocoa comes from.”
Now, after five years in business, networking with wholesalers and industry experts across the world, Frank has managed to find a rare cocoa supplier whose ethics match his ethos. “A massive part of my job is to raise awareness and educate people about the entire chocolate story. From cocoa pods, farmers, origins, how it’s made, historic issues….The list goes on, and that’s all before I even talk about the actual chocolate I make and sell!”
Luckily, the quality of his chocolate speaks for itself; Vibrant, velvety, and rich, without the bitter notes you might expect from an artisan bar. The Frankly Delicious range currently includes: A creamy 40% Milk, made with cocoa grown in the Idukki region of India; a 65% Dark Chocolate bursting with juicy blackcurrant flavour, and a vegan collection of tropical coconut, raspberry white chocolate and vivid green Matcha. If you’re one of Frankly Delicious’ 41.9K Followers on Tik-Tok, you may even catch Karolis dressed as a chicken making Easter Eggs live on camera.
For Frankly Delicious, the mission is more than just selling guilty pleasures. In fact, it’s strictly pleasure, without the guilt. As each time you snap off a silky-smooth triangle from one of their bespoke bars, you know you’re supporting a Leeds independent, whilst feeding a sustainable system. And that really is something to savour.
To sample a bar of handcrafted, single-origin chocolate, head to the Frankly Delicious website.