Indie Oxford Interview: Linden Chocolate Lab
This week we catch up with Yatir and Nitzan, owners and founders of Linden Chocolate Lab, who tell us all about their awesome business! From how it all began to what makes their product so different, plus their other favourite Oxford indies!
How did you fall in love with making chocolate?
Chocolate making was something that has been always deemed impossible. We can bake cakes, we can roll truffles, but making chocolate? That belongs to the heavy industry, doesn’t it? The ability to make the finest chocolate in your own kitchen according to your recipe has absolutely amazed us over and over again. When we dive into this world, we realized how complex the process is and how we can play with different ingredients and create dozens of different flavours. The curiosity to understand more as well as reinvent the ‘boring’ chocolate industry is what keeps us going for almost four years.
Tell me about the ethos behind Linden Chocolate Lab.
Linden Chocolate Lab started more than three years ago as Linden Artisan chocolate. Linden stands for the family name. We rebranded it by adding the ‘Lab’, which is resonates with the vibe of Oxford, our story as PhD students, and our belief that chocolate is science. Our attitude consists of two pillars; the first, we will always keep the sugar levels low and use only natural ingredients, secondly, the flavours will be interesting and unique. The last thing but not the least important is to make the chocolate approachable to everyone, price-wise.
Where do source your ingredients?
Fair trade and create social impact are very important to us. Our cacao mass comes from Casa Luker, which is a family-run company based in Columbia. They support educational programs among their community, direct trade from the local farmers, committed to the environment and so forth. When we grow bigger, we want to trade the beans directly from the farmers. The rest of the ingredients come from different manufacturers but mainly supply through a distributer.
Where do you find inspiration for your flavours?
Literally everywhere. Seriously, we open our eyes and look around. We pay attention to what we drink, e.g. chai, earl grey tea, irish cream, mulled wine, gin, coffee, beer etc. The interesting ingredients we come across with, like pink pepper, maple, etc. How to match different ingredients/flavours for more interesting combinations, dates and mango, caramel and coffee, vanilla and maple, hazelnuts and cardamom, etc. And other bizarre combinations that cross through our minds. From our personal experience we can tell you that there are failures, but there are also great successes.
How would you describe your chocolate?
That’s a tough one.
We all grew up on three basic types of chocolate, i.e. dark, milk, white. The white and milk were both sweet and the dark could vary according to personal taste. Consequently, we would describe it as myth-busting.
Every person has some ‘prejudice’ about chocolate, could be bitter, sweet, satisfies craving etc. We are happy to challenge what people thing about chocolate and how they perceive chocolate.
How have you found working together as a couple?
Hahaha thought this might come! Well, it is challenging but also amazing. At the beginning it was a bit hard because we both did everything and didn’t split responsibilities, which wasn’t good and caused some tensions, but luckily after few weeks we changed it and now each one of us is responsible for some parts of the business which works great for us! We consult a lot and support each other so overall it is a very powerful experience as a couple. We always say it’s like raising a child together, really.
What aspect of the business are you most proud of?
When we hear people mumbling ‘Oh Wow!’, ‘that’s different’, ‘that’s not what I’d expected’, that makes us proud and happy and we know that years of efforts have bared fruits.
What is the most frustrating part of what you do?
Sometimes when we mold the chocolate we see that the bars don’t look as beautiful as we want them to look and decide not to sell them. It is really frustrating because it takes 72-96 hours to make every batch and at the end you want the result to be perfect and sometimes it isn’t. The thing is that the taste will still be great but if the bars don’t look very good we obviously don’t want costumers to have them.
What does making mean to you? (Connection to food?)
According to our view, Chocolate making is the highest degree of art and creativity one can achieve. The beauty about chocolate making is that it has a few basic rules that leave a wide area for self-exploring. The amount of ingredients nowadays is innumerable, so in order to make chocolate you need to choose a theme and then make a wise selection of the ingredients – put it simply, it’s about creating new things.
Lastly, tell me about your favourite Oxfordshire indies?
Oh wow, there are many, so we do apologize for not mentioning all of our favourites. The Missing Bean and TOAD, for their amazing quality products and inspiring growth stories. Tap social as they have the coolest place in town and they inspire us with their social mission. And last, the orange bakery, we are in awe for the splendid breads they make, that’s the perfect example for really talented young lady that learns the art of bread-making from scratch.
You can find out more about Linden Chocolate Lab here.