You only have to walk through the seasonal aisles of your supermarket of choice to see what is wrong with this time of year. Serious chocolate lovers such as myself, and most probably yourself, stand aghast at the brash and brightly-coloured, sugar-laden and poor quality 'Christmas chocolate' on offer. Some might believe that buying a bar of chocolate or two is lazy or unadventurous, but if that's what the recipient wants, then why shouldn't they get it? Here are a few reasons why the traditional Christmas chocolate gift buying process is wrong, and what you can do about it.
It's tough for craft chocolatiers
Artisan chocolatiers have great fun at this time of year. But they're under a great deal of pressure. They have to compete in terms of originality with those large companies producing chocolates en masse using woeful couverture and which panders to the lowest common denominator (usually sugar). These multinational companies would have designed their Christmas novelties last year and would have had them stuck in a warehouse since Easter. Skilful masters, on the other-hand, have to create chocolate that catches your imagination, use great ingredients so they taste wonderful and time their creation to perfection - as the best ingredients don't last long in stores. The balance is so much with mass-produced chocolate at this time of year that many craftsmen and women struggle. It shouldn't be like that.
Great chocolate isn't hard to find chocolate
Chocolate is such a joyous item, but far too many people, it seems, give the chocolate they find easiest to give, rather than the chocolate people want to receive. It is just so easy to move down that supermarket aisle and reach for a heavily discounted box of chocolates or novelty Santa shape wrapped in gold foil. It's much more difficult to find talented chocolatiers in your area the week before Christmas and purchase great quality chocolates - many also have websites that you can order from. Just walk along your local high street and see what stands out, do a few quick searches on the internet and ask your friends for recommendations. Even drop me an email and I’ll make some recommendations.
The Christmas concept of quantity over quality is wrong
I bet you hear people say "I haven't bought enough presents this year" a lot more than you hear "I don't know if they'll like what I bought them". Christmas is a stress. The high streets are packed (or they should be), the weather is often unhelpful. But it’s all about preparing yourself at home, with a nice cup of hot chocolate and your feet up. We say this every year, most of us plan, but then we always fall into the trap of thinking we haven't bought enough. If you look at the mess left after you've opened presents on Christmas morning - have you ever actually thought "I really didn't buy enough?" Rarely I would imagine. What does happen is that you compare your hastily acquired presents against others and you realise you really could have done better.
It is this notion, of buying heaps of food and presents at Christmas, that I find the most distressing. January will come and go and you'll still find the Cadbury's selection pack down the side of the bed. The cupboards will still be full to bursting with stuff you thought you just had to get; it wouldn't be Christmas without it.
A great box of chocolates from an artisan chocolatier. A selection of dark chocolate bars from the finest chocolate makers the world has to offer is plenty. Half of the seasonal aisle is too much. You’re actually showing great thought and consideration abandoning the supermarket and looking for niche, artisan, craft chocolate.
Your taste buds will still work
With every sense seemingly catered for in abundance over Christmas it is a wonder that we even think about fine flavoured food gifts. Save your best chocolate presents for when the extended family have gone. When the noise, the arguments about who gets a turkey leg, what TV you should watch and if you have make your annual pilgrimage to the family member you don't actually like. Keep the chocolates for when you get a moment to yourself. You can watch the great films you've recorded or got given and relax. That's a very important moment. You've worked hard during the year, you've coped with the stress of the core Christmas days and now it’s "me time".
What would I want for Christmas?
If I were looking at this chocolate shop and buying for myself for a budget of ~£20 I would choose: