Rosie Mullender heads to St Ives in Cornwall to find out what makes Co-op’s unique new Easter egg absolutely irresistible...
The sign of a great Easter egg is thick chocolate, a smooth, creamy taste and that lovely snap when you crack it open,’ grins Mark Brian, managing director of County Confectionery in St Ives.
He’s showing us what makes Co-op Irresistible Ecuadorian Milk Chocolate Pod the perfect present this Easter, and he can’t stop smiling. Perhaps it’s no surprise, but Mark’s passion for Easter eggs began when he was just a boy. ‘County has been making chocolate for over 25 years, and I used to work here after school and during the holidays,’ he explains. ‘At one point, I trained to be a pilot in New Zealand, but I couldn’t forget how much I’d loved working with chocolate. It was inevitable I’d end up back here in St Ives.’
As well as decades of expertise, creating an egg as excellent as the Pod has taken Mark and his team more than a year of careful tasting and testing. ‘We tried lots of chocolate made from single-origin cocoa beans before choosing Ecuadorian,’ Mark tells me. ‘Arriba cocoa beans are well known for their great quality and taste. They’re rich and smooth, with caramel notes, and make for a really delicious egg.’
As with all Co-op confectionery, the cocoa in the Pod is Fairtrade, which means the farmers who supply those cocoa beans work sustainably, are paid fairly and enjoy decent working conditions— so your tasty Easter egg is doing some good, as well. To make each Pod, melted chocolate is poured into unique moulds. They’re attached to a series of rotating arms, designed to coat the moulds evenly, which swoop gracefully through the air. The chocolate is chilled, to set, then each egg is hand-coated with an edible purple lustre. ‘Wearing soft cotton gloves, we apply alternate stripes of red and blue, which blend together to create a really striking purple shimmer,’ Mark explains. ‘This lustre really makes our eggs stand out from the rest, and customers love it.’
The Pod is paired with six gorgeous milk chocolate, gin and strawberry truffles — made from award-winning Co-op Irresistible Gin, of course. ‘As well as being great quality, it’s a gin that’s on-trend, versatile and tastes great with strawberry,’ Mark says. Alongside the Pod, the team has developed three other delicious Fairtrade Easter eggs for Co-op: Orange Chocolate Egg-splosion, Salted Caramel Brownie Egg-splosion and IrresistibleTriple Chocolate Artisan Egg with Chocolate Salted Caramel Truffles. This year, they’ll make 140,000 eggs for us, using an incredible 30 tonnes of chocolate. ‘This has to be the best job in the world!’ Mark grins.