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SHARMEEN ZIAUDDIN

Sweet things aren’t as simple as they used to be. Long gone are the days when a bar of milk chocolate was all that was required to hit the spot. Our palettes are becoming more discerning, craving for more creative flavour combinations in our sweet treats. These days you might be laughed out of a meeting if you didn’t show up with Pear and Goat Cheese flavoured chocolate.

Such cravings are satisfied perfectly by luxury flavoured chocolate brand Cocoa Hernando. Using cocoa sourced from West Africa and produced in London, Cocoa Hernando is the creation of entrepreneur Paul Tomlinson.

Growing up in Bolton, Northern England, Paul knew he was never going to be a nine to five kind of man; being told what to do was not his style. Tired of his job as a web designer, Paul’s real passion lay in food — chocolate to be specific. Many of us have dreams but very few actually chase them. What made Paul take the plunge and launch his chocolate business, having little experience in the food industry?

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‘I was getting frustrated by how much time I was spending in front of the computer, I wanted to do something that was more immersive and more varied so I had the idea of a food related business.’

On an epic train journey through Kerala in India, Paul had a uniquely memorable cup of tea. Indian ‘masala chai’ on a rickety Indian train gave Paul the inspiration behind Cocoa Hernando — connecting flavours to places. Imagine combining the exotic flavours of cardamom, cloves and cinnamon with the one of the most beautiful foods known to mankind — chocolate?

The rest as they say is history. The first of four unique flavours was developed: ‘Cocoa Hernando Discovers India’, Masala Chai. Drawing upon his concept of emotive chocolate, other flavours include ‘Mexico’ which is a concoction of chocolate and chilli.

Perhaps the most interesting is the ‘Syria’ variety, 70% dark chocolate with Damascus Rose. The Syria chocolate epitomizes what Paul is all about.

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‘I have chucked all my passions in there so not only food and chocolate but interesting flavours, travel and design, the concept of discovery. I always wanted the opportunity to give something back and do something good. Syria is a country that gets nothing but bad press. It seems like a beautiful country steeped in so much history and culture which is gone forever.’

10% of all profits from the Syria chocolate go to the Syrian Humanitarian Appeal, an extremely worthy cause. The wrapper is decorated with the mystical whirling dervishes that are synonymous with Turkey and I can’t help but think of Turkish delight.

‘I wanted to do a really dark chocolate, the rose cuts through that and compliments it very nicely.’ Paul is absolutely right, the rose adds a rich flowery aroma which creates an extremely delicious twist on Turkish delight chocolate but without the cloying sweetness which leaves you with a pure dark and unadulterated chocolate experience.

From the evocative packaging on the Syria chocolate you can see how Paul’s skills as a web designer helped him create the unique chocolate wrappers, which are synonymous with his brand. Iconic visuals that transport you straight to the land they are inspired from.

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What would Paul advise aspiring foodie entrepreneurs? ‘Passion is key; you have to be able to stick at it. The passion is more important than being professionally trained. I would recommend that you have a separate income stream so you don’t have to compromise your brand. But you have to put yourself in it to experience it.’

In 2015 Paul will be expanding his range of products and flavours. As well as ordering from the Cocoa Hernando website, the chocolate is available at Selfridges in the UK.