Armed with ideas, willpower and a discerning palette, Amelia Rope went from being an aromatherapist to one of London’s finest chocolatiers in just a couple of years. Her pioneering flavour combinations like lemon and sea salt and chocolate covered rose petals shook up the industry, winning adoring fans. Here, the entrepreneur shares her inspirational journey, and the story behind her ethically sourced ingredients.
When did your passion for chocolate begin?
I’ve always loved chocolate. As a child, my father bought my grandmother a box of Prestat chocolate and I’d be begging, ‘give me one!’ That was my first experience of quality chocolate. On a whim, I applied to be on MasterChef and ended up appearing twice. Before the second time, I went on various courses, one of which was with Valrhona, the luxury French chocolatier. It opened my mind to good quality chocolate and how it’s created.
Was appearing on MasterChef the catalyst for starting your business?
The first time I appeared, presenter and chef, John Torode came to me backstage and said ‘What you have in your head is unique. I don’t know where you get it from, it’s not in any cookery book, you need to go and get trained to do it.’ I went back to my job, but it resonated in my mind and I thought perhaps I have got something. I was making truffles at home using mint from my mother’s garden and honey from a Tuscan monastery. A food magazine editor said; ‘You’re the next Juliet Binoche!’ I then spent three months trying to crystalise rose petals and dip them in chocolate. They got picked up by Stella magazine and then countless TV shows. This helped launched my chocolate into public consciousness.
And your career tipping point?
This was my first chocolate bar in 2009. My friend who runs a large furniture company placed an order for 1,000 bars, which were then sent out with each order. I hand-foiled and signed each one myself and delivered them to him. I then launched my milk bar called Pale, which Selfridges picked up, so I knew I had a market for my product.
What are your signature flavours?
Italian Lemon and Sea Salt, Peruvian Lime and Sea Salt, Hazelnut and Sea Salt, Honeycomb and Sea Salt, Moroccan Rose. I was the first person to really play with flavours and sea salt in the UK. And now it’s everywhere! I launched a bar last year with quinoa puffs. It’s a really interesting bar – they’re very tiny, and they just give a slightly chewy, maltiness to the chocolate. I’m now using 100% Colombian chocolate, so I want to try and use ingredients that are associated with Colombia.
What’s so unique about Colombian chocolate?
Colombian chocolate has its own unique flavour – it’s fascinating. Madagascan has a very strong citrusy berry type, and Colombian is really malty. The vanilla, the soya lecithin, and the cocoa is all 100% Colombian. Therefore, my social impact, which is really important to me, is maximising the revenue for a developing country. I’m helping vanilla farmers. I’m helping soya farmers. I’m also helping farmers who were involved in the cocaine industry to now grow cocoa because its much safer for their families.
How do you stay inspired by exotic flavours when living in London?
I explore places and museums as well as watch what people are buying. I also make sure I have a plane ticket booked somewhere to be truly inspired.
There’s been a global explosion of artisanal chocolatiers who are doing adventurous things recently, why do you think it’s become such a big trend?
I think the younger generation have an obsession with food, particularly with photos and Instagram. There is a lot of momentum in the food industry in general. I think some of the bigger brands that were successful are now backing upcoming people too. People have so much choice, and they want to explore choice.
In terms of indulging in your passions outside of chocolate, what are your favourite London shops and why?
I love Paul Smith for British quirkiness, phenomenal quality and design. Jerome Dreyfuss for a serious treat of a handbag, and Maitre Choux patisserie on Dean Street – eclairs are my weak spot.
Where would you say is the best coffee in London?
That’s a tough one as there are now a lot of good coffee shops. Local to me I would say Tom Tom, Elizabeth Street SW1.
What was the last play you saw in London and where?
Boudica at The Globe, it was completely compelling.
What sums up London for you in five words?
Fast-paced, eclectic, contemporary, traditional and fun.