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Chocolate: you know you want it

Studies repeatedly show that nine out of ten people say they like chocolate (of course, what they actually mean is they love chocolate) and the other one is lying. Food of the gods, nature’s antidepressant, and better than sex (according to my wife), there is literally nothing bad you can say about chocolate. And trust me, I’ve tried. I ended up with chocolate all over my face.

It tasted amazing.

From its not-very-humble origins as a sacred Mayan drink to its modern status as confectionery royalty, chocolate in all its forms is a cultural force to be reckoned with. Whether you like it black and bitter, smooth and milky, or delightfully white, the result is the same. Your blood pressure drops, your breathing slows, and the corners of your mouth lift. Let’s just say it’s no happy accident that it’s the gift of choice for the hopelessly infatuated every 14th February.

As purveyors of the finest chocolate fountain hire in London, it’s our mission to deliver this little slice of bliss to you and your guests at any kind of event. From weddings and birthdays to bar mitzvahs or corporate shindigs, we supply the rich, aromatic decadence, and your guests will be helplessly intoxicated – yet still safe to drive! Try doing that with a free bar… If you’ve ever dipped too many doughnuts in chocolate, you’ll know it’s impossible to fail a breath test (although you may get asked to leave your weight watchers group).

Compiled below for your entertainment and education are some choice chocolatey picks from our informative and indulgent blog. Read, learn and enjoy, and don’t forget to tell your friends. So next time you’re organising a party, celebration or event of any kind where you need to make an impeccable impression, you know where to find us. Happy snacking, and please, eat responsibly!

Click here for bookings and availability.

8 Weird uses for chocolate that will blow your mind
The world’s top ten chocolate consumers by country
6 tonnes of sheer bliss: the world’s largest chocolate bar
16 amazing facts that make chocolate taste even better
How Chocolate Is Made? From Bean To Bar
Chocolate – Can It Make You Smarter?
Valentine’s Day & Chocolate

8 Weird uses for chocolate that will blow your mind

Alright, get your mind out of the gutter – we’re not talking about those kind of mind-blowing uses for chocolate. This is a totally safe-for-work look at just how versatile and simply delicious our favourite food source actually is. From 17th century Aztecs to 21st century dentists, we’ve scoured the globe for the most original ways to use our substance of choice. So brew yourself a cup of the finest hot chocolate (marshmallows optional) and enjoy the ride.

1. Money doesn’t grow on trees y’know

Unless you’re a 17th century Aztec, in which case, if you can grow it, you can spend it! The humble cacoa bean has always been a highly prized commodity in South America, and archaology tells us that 100 cacoa beans could buy you a good turkey hen in the 1600s… I’ll just keep the chocolate if it’s ok with you.

2. Fake blood

Seriously, I’d become a vampire for this! If all blood was made of chocolate, the human race would be doomed. Apparently, legendary director Alfred Hitchcock used chocolate to make the fake blood for his piece-de-resistance Psycho. However he did it, it still scares the pants off me.

3. Chocolate that never goes out of Fashion

Just when you thought there was nothing new under the sun, allow me to introduce you to the concept of wearable chocolate. That’s right; visionary chocolatiers La Salon du Chocolat got together with a bunch of mavericks from the world of fashion design and put on a totally unique catwalk show. But the question on everyone’s lips: who got to eat the clothes at the end of the night?

4. Toothpaste

Ever thought that if you could brush your teeth with toothpaste, you would never actually make it to bed? I know I have. Well be warned, because that fantasy is about to become a reality. Toothpaste brand Theodent uses cocoa extract instead of flouride, and has demonstrated that it’s effective in keeping your teeth healthy, and even promotes the growth of new enamel.

5. Waterslide

Take 100ft of plastic sheeting, a steep grassy hill, an obscene amount of chocolate syrup, and a bunch of party-animals who don’t care how dirty their clothes are gonna get, and what do you have? The world’s first chocolate slip ‘n slide, courtesy of this bunch of nutters.

6. Cheese

What do you mean you’ve never heard of chocolate cheese? Have you been living under a rock? Not being a believer in the concept I have to confess I’ve never tried Tesco’s own brand of ‘chocolate whirl’, but with its 59% stilton and 11% Belgian chocolate, I’m sure it’s positively delightful

7. Energy production

Did you know that your personal transportation vehicle of the future could be powered by chocolate? Turns out that a bacteria called Escherichia Coli will devour chocolate like it’s going out of fashion. And crucially, it produces hydrogen as a by-product. Of course, why anyone would feed chocolate to their car when they could eat it themselves is totally beyond me.

8. Postage stamps

Just like the song, we’ve saved the best for last. To commemorate the success of its country’s world famous chocolatiers, the Belgian post office produced limited edition stamps that smelled and tasted like chocolate. But this was no trick – each stamp contained no less than 40% cocoa product in its varnish. I wonder how many were ‘lost’ to hungry post office clerks?

Belgian stamp

fake blood

Chocolate coins

Cacao pod

The world’s top ten chocolate consumers by country

I know it’s not a competition, but if eating chocolate was an olympic event, I would definitely go into full time training for Rio next year. Although, given the tropical climate, we might be better off trying to get a spot in the winter games. Either way, we wouldn’t want a certain country (who shall remain nameless until the end of this article) to win a third gold medal, now would we? The figures in this league table don’t take into account the growing popularity of chocolate fountain hire in this country. Check back in 5 years, and we might just be the winners!

France: 9.3 lbs per person per year

Maybe it’s because chocolate was considered poisonous when first introduced into France that they’re is a lonely 10th on our list. I know that was some 400 years ago, but once an idea takes hold… Not to mention the French are known for their steadfastness. You may then be surprised to know that the Paris Faculty of Medicines later approved chocolate as a remedy for “women’s blues”. Shortly after, French Queen Anne (of Austria) declared it the Drink of France. Let’s just say they’ve got some catching up to do.

USA: 9.5 lbs per person per year

Despite hailing from the Americas, chocolate lacks the popularity you would expect it to enjoy on its native continent. Maybe it’s because they can’t resist pumping it so full of sugar that you can no longer taste the cocao. If you’ve ever had American chocolate, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Despite producing 80 million chocolate kisses each day, the Americans are sadly lacking behind their European competitors. 6/10 Could try harder.

Netherlands: 10.4 lbs per person per year

Aside from being sandwiched between two of the most famous chocolate producing countries in the world, the Netherlands is a surprise entry at number 8. The Dutch are remarkable for many things, but chocolate isn’t one of them – unless you count the festival of Sinterklass during which participants give one another giant chocolate letters. I’ll have a W please, Bob!

Australia: 10.8 lbs per person per year

Aside from hosting the world’s largest chocolate Easter egg, Australia has made almost no contribution to the world of chocolate. The only explanation we can think of for it being on this list is that collossal easter egg, which was 10 feet tall, and weighed 4,484 lbs. They probably had to eat it quickly before it melted in the sun…

Sweden: 11.9 lbs per person per year

Maybe it’s the cold, dark winters that have Swedes reaching for chocolate bars like they’re going out of fashion. Or maybe it’s just their incredibly sweet tooth. Did you know Sweden has a Cinnamon Bun Day, celebrated on 4th October? And on 25th March they eat creamy sponge cakes decorated with chocolate silhouettes of 15th Century King Gustav II Adolf. If you’re planning a holiday, these dates may come in handy!

Norway: 14.6 lbs per person per year

Boasting the most famous hot chocolate factory in the world, it’s no surprise that Norway is so high in the running here. The Norwegian chocolate factory Freia was the inspiration behind Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Legend also has it that chocolate from this very factory was one of the main sources of food taken by Roald Admundsen’s famous expedition to the South Pole in 1911.

UK & Ireland: 16.3 lbs per person per year

In joint third place, we are the bronze medallists in this chocolympics with our clover-leafed neighbours. With a chocolate industry worth almost £4 billion, it’s surprising that we’re not right at the top of this list. According to a survey by the Happy Egg Company, we Brits would choose a chocolate bar over a fancy foreign holiday! For a nation obsessed with chocolate, you should expect nothing else.

Germany: 17.4 lbs per person per year

Boasting the lowest rates of depression in Europe, Germany’s chocolate consumption may go some way to explaining why. When you eat as much as they do, it’s practically impossible to be depressed. Apparently up there with the Belgians and Swiss, the Germans make some of the finest chocolate in the world – and then keep it for themselves!

Switzerland: 19.8 lbs per person per year

Home to chocolate giants Nestle and Lindt, each citizen of Swtizerland is responsible for consuming a whopping 9kg of choc each year – that’s a lot of chocolate. Not only a renowned local delicacy, Swiss chocolate is also a major export industry, amounting to some 172,000 tonnes of the stuff in 2012 alone. That’s about equivalent to the amount of steel used to build the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. Thank God they save some for the rest of us, that’s all I can say.

chocolate crisps

Hershey's chocolate world

assorted chocolates

Freia chocolate factory, Norway

shelves of chocolate

6 tonnes of sheer bliss: the world’s largest chocolate bar

When the 100th anniversary of UK chocolate legends Thorntons was approaching, the management team asked staff for suggestions as to how they should mark the occasion. Plenty of great ideas were fielded, but one really grabbed their imagination. When stock controller Paul Bell suggested making the world’s biggest chocolate bar, they knew they were onto a winner. Personally, we think Mr Bell just wanted to order enough stock to reach his Christmas bonus in a single day, but what do we know?..

Better luck next time, USA

It may sound simple on the surface, but making the world’s largest chocolate bar is no easy task. Especially when the bar to beat weighed in at a whopping 5,443kg or 12,000lbs for the anti-metric among you. That’s a lot of chocolate. So while they didn’t keep the record for much longer than a few weeks, we tip our hat to Chicago-based World’s Finest Chocolate for a good effort. It just goes to show, not everything in the USA is biggest – or best!

Too big for the factory floor

So, to give you an idea of the scale of this mammoth bar, you should first know that it was so huge, they had to make it in the factory car park. First came the 4m x 4m x 30cm chocolate mould, swiftly followed by an inflatable marquee to house the project. Because the mould was outside the factory, it had to be filled by hand. So a small army of 50 employees and volunteers spent 10 long hours carrying buckets of sweet, melted milk chocolate out to the car park and filling the mould. They then had to wait 3 whole days for the bar to solidify and cool down.

If only Roy Castle were here

And so it came to pass, that on 7th October 2011, a chocolate bar using the same recipe as Thorntons standard milk chocolate bar became the Guiness World Record holder at 5,762.5kg. Containing 29 million calories as well as a metric butt-load of sugar, cocoa, milk and other stuff, it’s officially the biggest chocolate bar ever. At roughy the same weight as 2 adult elephants, you can understand why they needed a crane to turn it over so the mould could be removed. And to give you an idea of the scale of this thing, it’s the equivalent of 72,406 of Thorntons stadard 80g milk chocolate bars.

Here’s a video of how it all came together

What happened next?

So what’s the answer to the question that’s on everyone’s lips? Apart from where did everyone park their cars while this was going on? What happened to the supersized chocolate bar? Rumour has it that it was so enormous, they used axes to break it up into smaller, more manageable chunks. After that, they gave some to employees, and then sold pieces to the public in their chain of shops to raise money for charity. Eat your heart out, Belguim – when it comes to making chocolate, the UK is ready to take the crown.

Images from Thorntons

biggest choc bar

16 amazing facts that make chocolate taste even better

Chocolate. The Valentines day gift that never fails. Better than kissing, exercise or love they say. But how much do you really know about chocolate? One minute it’s bad for us, the next it’s good – so how can you be sure? Why exactly does it taste and feel so good? We don’t have all the answers unfortunately, but what we do have is a tasty list of chocolate facts to help you work up an appetite. Enjoy!

  1. Since it contains no cocoa, white chocolate isn’t technically chocolate. Gutted? We are…
  2. Taken from the scientific name Theobroma Cacao, cocoa literally means ‘food of the gods’
  3. Research indicates that eating dark chocolate every day can reduce your risk of heart disease by a third. You can say goodbye to that apple-a-day!
  4. M&Ms were invented during WWII as a way for soldiers to enjoy chocolate without it melting
  5. Also invented during the war is the famous Nutella spread. It began life as an experimental way to make rationed chocolate go further by adding hazelnuts. Good job, we say!
  6. The world record for the largest bar of chocolate is held by English chocolatiers Thorntons for their super-sized bar weighing 5,792Kg. Don’t eat it all at once, eh?
  7. For around 90% of its history, chocolate has been consumed as a drink. It wasn’t until 1847 that Joseph Fry discovered that you could make it solid by adding cacao butter.
  8. The ancient Aztecs are known to have prized chocolate very highly. So much so, that you could buy a slave for 100 cocoa beans.
  9. To grow enough pods to make half a kilo of cocoa – enough for about 10 bars of chocolate – takes one tree nearly a whole year.
  10. Chocolate contains caffeine. And sometimes more than you think, with certain dark chocolates containing as much per pound as Coca Cola.
  11. The most expensive bar of chocolate ever sold was during an auction in 2001, when a 100 year old bar of Cadbury’s chocolate went under the hammer for a whopping $687
  12. The mere smell of chocolate increases theta wave activity in the brain, which triggers relaxation
  13. A 2013 experiment in a book shop demonstrated that the smell of chocolate made customers 40% more likely to buy romance or cookery titles, and 22% more likely to buy any other kind of book
  14. Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants which are known to help reduce blood pressure
  15. Enough Toblerones are sold each year that if you laid them end to end they would reach around the equator
  16. 15% of 15-24 year olds claim that a life without chocolate isn’t worth living!

So now you know all that’s worth knowing about your favourite food, why not share this article with your friends before treating yourself to a nice guilt-free square or two of your favourite chocolate.

Chocolate Facts!

How Chocolate Is Made? From Bean To Bar

Have you ever wondered how chocolate actually comes to be? It’s actually the result of a very interesting process from bean to bar…

Choco-1

1. As we know, chocolate comes from the cocoa bean. A lesser-known fact is that the cocoa bean comes from the cocoa pod, which comes from the cacao tree. The cocoa pods are harvested from the tree and once on the ground, split and scraped until all of the cocoa beans have been extracted. This is the raw material of chocolate, and this is what gets sent to the processing plant.

choc-2

2. Depending on how organic (or expensive) the chocolate is going to be, some chocolatiers prefer to use cocoa beans which have been naturally dried by the heat of the sun for up to a week. Once at the factory and sorted for any twigs, branches and leaves; the cocoa beans are roasted in large ovens much like coffee beans are. The roasting has a big say in how the chocolate will taste, with a range of temperatures and times stretching from 210-290F and half hour to two hours.

choc-3

3. Once roasted, the beans are crushed to remove the ‘nib.’ Think of this as the same process as you would remove the shell from a nut, casting aside the shell and being left with the nut, or ‘nib’ of the cocoa bean. These nibs are the first part of the process where you would be able to recognise a chocolatey taste, but you’d also be left with a very bitter tongue. Some more refinement is needed!

4. The nibs are now milled, crushed and ground until they’ve liquefied into a paste which is called cocoa liquor. Still very bitter, this needs to be mixed with a number of things which change depending upon the chocolatier. If they were to be making dark chocolate, they would maintain 70% of the mixture to be cocoa. For milk chocolate, 40% would have to remain as cocoa liquor and for white chocolate, 33% would be kept and mixed with a number of other ingredients. Sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla and milk are popular choices and after these have all been combined, you’d be left with something very close to chocolate. But not quite…

5. To smoothen out the texture of the mixture, steel rollers are used to crush any remaining grains of sugar, nibs or other hard ingredients. Once refined, the mixture is ‘conched’ which involves further kneading, smoothing and heating to produce the highest quality and texture of chocolate. The highest quality chocolate can sometimes be continually conched for weeks!

6. Tempering comes next, which involves the stirring, cooling and heating the mixture; repeatedly. Once this has been achieved, it’s ready for moulds and to finally become your chocolate bar, your Easter Egg or the flow of your chocolate fountain!

choc-4

Chocolate – Can It Make You Smarter?

We’re always excited by any studies that show the health benefits of chocolate. The obvious ones everybody knows; it tastes great, smells great, looks great and makes us feel great. But, as we touched upon in our Valentine’s Day blog post last week, chocolate has some more surprising and lesser-known characteristics. Now, it appears that chocolate can be directly linked to intelligence.

Franz Messerli, a professor at Columbia University, recently undertook studies to determine the correlation between cocoa and intellect.

Compiling his findings into a scatter graph of Nobel Laureates per 10 million in population against the chocolate consumption per kilogram per year; the picture painted was striking. One thing we all know is that Swiss Chocolate is up there with the best, one thing we might not have known until now is that the Swiss are also a remarkably gifted people as a nation. Sitting pretty at the top of the graph, the Swiss have both the highest number of Nobel Laureates and most chocolate consumed per capita.

Sweden come in at a very close second in number of Nobel winners, but consume far less chocolate. Whilst this threatens to debunk the theory, remember that the Nobel prize is evaluated in Sweden! Perhaps there’s a little home advantage. Switzerland is by no means the exception to the rule, with Denmark, Austria, Norway and the United Kingdom (go London!) all boasting around 20 Nobel Laureates per 10 million and a common consumption of more than 7kg per year per capita.

Numbers and statistics are great to look at, but they don’t tell the whole story. There is science behind this claim, with a drop in cognitive performance being significantly slowed or reversed when treated with the ‘flavanol’ or ‘flavonoid’ substance. A common sign of dementia and ageing, cognitive performance responds dramatically to the high flavonol content of cocoa, and therefore chocolate! The University of Oslo also found that, behind wine, chocolate was most influential in increasing cognitive brain function in the elderly.

Needless to say, we’re accepting chocolate fountain hire bookings for all Universities, Academies and Thinktanks throughout London in 2013…

Chocolate Nobel Graph

Valentine’s Day & Chocolate

As a chocolate fountain hire company, we’re often asked why chocolate is so popular around Valentine’s Day. As synonymous as roses and love; chocolate and Valentine’s Day are undeniably the perfect partnership. Whether it’s for a quiet night in with a film, or to complement the end of a romantic dinner out; chocolate on February 14th has been a tradition for centuries.

Referred to as “the food of the Gods” since the Aztec era, chocolate was long believed to be an aphrodisiac mighty rulers and leaders. Finding chocolate in the newly discovered Americas, Christopher Columbus shipped crates back as a tribute to the Queen of Spain; alongside gold and jewels. Chocolate became an expensive trinket of the rich and powerful, but in time it filtered down to the common man.

In the nineteenth century a village in Birmingham became the setting for the first major chocolate distributor outside of London. John and Benjamin Cadbury established their factory in Bourneville and in 1861, the younger Richard Cadbury packaged his world famous chocolate in a heart-shaped presentation box. An instant success, Valentine’s Day became tantamount with chocolate.

But why is chocolate so associated with love? The much debated study of cocoa has yielded some very interesting results. Phenylethylamine is a chemical present in chocolate, has been attributed to causing outbursts of excitement, pleasure and attraction. It seems that the Aztec King’s theory about chocolate being an aphrodisiac could be closer to the truth than we suspect.

Along with boosting your energy and libido, chocolate has also been speculated to give profound feelings of pleasure beyond that of life changing events. Studies at Cambridge University showed that human brains were more strongly affected by chocolate than they are by music, love or money. But it’s not just eating the chocolate which causes the effect; even the scent of freshly melted milk chocolate can set your mind off in excitement and wonder. We would know, every time we fire up one of our chocolate fountains we’re almost too distracted to carry on!

Forget science, we all have a natural knowledge that chocolate is a feel good food. There’s nothing like curling up on the sofa with a bar of your favourite chocolate, it’s an instant improvement to any day. Perhaps the link between Valentine’s Day and chocolate hasn’t got anything to do with science, chemicals or thousand year old traditions. Perhaps it’s just human nature.

Valentines Heart