Husband and wife team put Manchester on the luxury chocolate map

Éponine, the Manchester-based chocolatiers, have received an incredible 9 new awards at the 2018 Academy of Chocolate Awards.

Husband and wife team, Chris & Natalie Sibthorp, have been handcrafting some of the UK’s finest, luxury chocolates for the past 3 years and have picked up an impressive 30 awards along the way. Each piece is a handmade work of art, made using some of the best chocolate and ingredients in the world.

2018 is shaping up to be another successful year for couple, with their chocolate bonbons receiving 9 new awards from one of the most prestigious international chocolate institutions – the Academy of Chocolate.

In 2016, the Academy named Éponine the Rising Star of the chocolate world, and they have gone on to become one of the most highly awarded chocolatiers in the UK. Their awards haul this year included an incredible 3 Gold awards out of only 11 Golds awarded to chocolate bonbons worldwide.

Their Gold-winning creations included a ganache infused with yuzu (a fragrant Japanese citrus fruit), along with 2 pure dark chocolate truffles made with single-origin chocolates from Honduras and Guatemala. To elevate plain truffles to Gold winning heights, Éponine’s head chocolatier, Chris, spent over 6 months selecting the very best chocolates and developing a new style of ganache to bring out the unique flavours of cocoas grown in different regions.

Chris Sibthorp, Head Chocolatier & co-owner of Éponine said “When we talk about quality chocolate, we always talk about origin – where the beans are grown, why this is so important, and how much the taste can change from region to region. We wanted to highlight this with a range of single-origin bonbons, but traditional ganache recipes can often mask the unique characteristics of the chocolate.

“We spent a lot of time reworking our recipes from the ground up to reduce this as much as possible. The result is a truffle with a beautiful texture and incredibly pure chocolate flavour that really shows off the wonderful chocolate couvertures that we’ve used.”

5 Silvers and 1 Bronze also went to other bonbons in Éponine’s range, with every chocolate they entered receiving an award. Flavours included classics such as raspberry with Madagascan dark chocolate and a praline layered with biscuit and caramel, alongside some more unusual combinations that showcase Éponine’s flair for innovation: Earl Grey Tea with Blueberry, Caramelised Mango with Chilli & Lime, and a 3 layered white chocolate bonbon filled with a reconstructed strawberry cheesecake.

Competition this year was tougher than ever, with the awards receiving a record-breaking 1,200 entries from over 45 different countries. There was also a significant increase in chocolate made by smaller producers, reflecting a growing awareness and demand for high quality, sustainable and well-crafted chocolate.

Judging took place earlier this year at Westminster Kingsway College in London, where industry experts took part in 15 days of intense tasting, deliberating over key criteria including flavour, aroma, appearance, texture and finish. Judges included leading chocolate professionals, food & drink journalists, and some of the UK’s most prominent food writers and chocolate bloggers.

The awards will be presented at a glittering ceremony held at Claridge’s Hotel in London this July, along with a number of special achievement awards including the Golden Bonbon for best chocolate truffle and Golden Bean for best bean to bar chocolate.

Holding 3 out of only 11 Gold awards in the chocolate truffle category, Éponine have their fingers crossed for even more good news later in the year, but they aren’t counting their chickens just yet.

On their chances, Natalie Sibthorp, Manager & co-owner of Éponine said “We can always hope! I’d like to think that we are in with a chance, but each year the competition gets bigger and the quality gets higher and higher. Through the Academy, we’ve met chocolatiers from the UK, Europe, even America, all of whom are doing amazing work. For 2 self-taught chocolatiers from Manchester to even be considered alongside these other companies is already a huge privilege, so to win best bonbon of the year would be amazing.”