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Hazel Mountain staff. L-R: Ana Murphy, head chocolatier; Darragh Conboy; head roaster; John Connolly, owner and roaster; Kasha Connolly, owner, chocolatier and pastry chef. Hazel Mountain will take part in the first annual Bite Food Festival in Dublin’s RDS from November 19-22.

Festival to showcase Burren chocolate factory

The world’s smallest and most remote bean-to-bar chocolate factory, based in North Clare, will be showcased at the first annual Bite Food Festival in the RDS from November 19-22.

Hazel Mountain Chocolate will be one of the country’s top artisan producers showcased at the major new food festival, which is expected to attract over 20,000 Irish food and drink lovers.

Based on a small farm near the Burren, the internationally award-winning factory is about to expand its products into Scandinavia, where their seaweed chocolate has already become a huge hit.

Their success story started just four years ago when John Connolly and his Polish-born chocolatier wife Kashia decided to learn how to become chocolate makers.

“We use uniquely-flavoured cocoa beans from Madagascar, Cuba, Costa Rica and Venezuela and ensure we get them direct trade from small farms in each country,” said John.

“Our dark chocolate is made from just two ingredients, cocoa beans and unrefined cane sugar.

“It takes about one month to turn a handful of beans into a chocolate bar in a specialised roasting and grinding process, using a coffee roaster from Holland and a spice mill from India.”

Just over two years ago, Hazel Mountain Chocolate opened to the public with a range of over 17 types of bars and 80 decadent truffles, which include diverse flavours such as seaweed and goat’s cheese.

“We’re the only chocolate factory in Europe where you can see the working process of bean to chocolate to chocolatier,” he said.

Bite 2015 will feature top chefs and food experts as well as a huge range of producers, who are there to sell, sample and educate people about their unique products.

A must for food lovers, Bite 2015 will also feature tastings and demonstrations from chefs such as Donal Skehan and Domini Kemp as well as free cooking classes led by Lynda Booth of the Dublin Cookery School for adults and children alike.

Presented by the organisers of the National Crafts and Design Fair, in association with Spar and Eurospar, the Festival promises to be Ireland’s first and foremost interactive food expo, with attractions for all the family.

“Bite 2015 is aimed at promoting Ireland’s vastly expanding artisan food and craft drinks sector, letting people with an interest in food experience just how much quality that we have in the field to the plate industry,” said festival organiser Patrick O’Sullivan.

About Gerry McInerney

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