The Academy of Chocolate names 2020 award winners from around the world

Dozens of accolades have been confirmed by the UK’s Academy of Chocolate for its annual honours recognising creativity, quality and invention from artisan confectionery producers from around the world, writes Neill Barston.

Confectionery Production had previously been among the judges of the annual industry showcase, but amid the ongoing pandemic, the organisers selected a panel of sector professionals to rate the entries – who would have ordinarily received their honours at a live presentation in central London. 

But the coronavirus crisis delayed judging which saw results collated through in person and remote assessments over the past two months. The academy noted, the 47 ‘gold’ accreditations have marked a significant increase from previous years, signalling a major shift in the quality of bean to bar production in particular.  

Among the many winners for 2020’s contest was last year’s US-based Golden Bean winner Castronovo Chocolate, received a gold accolade for its Colombian Dark Milk variety (70% dark), and also its Maya Mountain, Belize variant (70% dark).

Within the tree to bar category, Chocolat Madagascar, Ambohimena 100% emerged victorious, while for the Tree to bar milk entrants, Baiani Chocolates, Baiani 57% dark milk, while Åkessons’s Organic claimed gold for its 75% criollo cacao, Bejofo Estate, Madagascar in the dark bar under 90% section.

For the fruit spice and infusion category, La Feve by Pavel Pavlov, Sea Buckthorn Honey claimed the honours, with UK brand York Cocoa Works also being among the accolades, gaining a bronze in the category for its chocolate orange.

While many of the entrants were smaller industries, there were entries from brands, with the UK’s Prestat Chocolates gaining a commendation for its entry of a dark bar with raspberry (62%), and Hotel Chocolat gaining a bronze award for its Blood Orange Hot Chocolate, among many other entrants.

As the academy noted, the awards have seen the emergence of newcomers to the chocolate world, from Glasgow-based micro-batch producer Bare Bones to Elena Tikhonovich in Belarus and Chocolala OÜ in Estonia, alongside strong growth in quality of previous entrants such as Auro from the Philippines. 

There were further appearances from established brands, among them other previous Golden Bean winners, Åkessons, Chocolat Madagascar and Qantu, that returned with new and improved products.  Previous rising stars such as Desbarres, Fjåk and Metiisto (from Canada, Norway and New Zealand) have also performed strongly.  

The newly awarded bars have seen a rise in the use of Indian cacao, notably from the Idukki region of Kerala, with its ideal cacao growing conditions. Ecuadorean, Madagascan and Peruvian cacao continues to shine, often inspiring great social enterprise partnerships.  

Flavour profiles which feature heavily this year are classics such as coffee or rum, while the awards have seen continued experimentation and use of less usual ingredients such as chanterelle mushrooms, black garlic and shrimp curry.

Sara Jayne Stanes OBE, founder, Academy of Chocolate (pictured), welcomed the diversity of entries, which had been delivered despite pandemic conditions, with initial judging for the competition starting near the beginning of the year.

She said: “Having started the Awards with some of my fellow judges back in 2005 with a handful of products from Europe, I could not be more inspired to have so many exceptional chocolates – and I mean exceptional – among our winners this year. And the movement is truly global. I hope that the Academy of Chocolate and its endeavours have had a hand in this evolution.”

There will be a further announcement for special awards, but the full list of winners can be found here.

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