Head a couple of avenues up from us in Sneinton Market and you’ll find Luisa’s Vegan Chocolates, the beloved bean-to-bar chocolatiers putting real heart - and ethics - into every batch they make. We stop by to catch up with Luisa Vicinanza-Bedi, the brains behind it all…
For those who don’t know, what makes Luisa’s Vegan Chocolates so special?
Our chocolate is single origin, which means we work with farmers directly to bring cocoa from all around the world. We know exactly where our beans come from, and make sure we’re following the right protocols, using natural farming processes, and producing the best quality products we can. It’s very much like a fine coffee; the flavour is coming from the quality of these beans. It’s super premium cocoa - very different to what you usually find in shops.
Why is being a bean-to-bar company important?
Mass-produced cacao is problematic. Land is regularly destroyed in the process, there are often children involved in the labour. I could talk for ages about the political and environmental challenges involved in that - but we make sure our chocolate is free from all of them. We’ve grown up on just having chocolate available in shops, but a lot of people don’t know about the whole journey from seed to flower to bean to chocolate, so when people stop by our shop or visit our website, they can learn about the entire process.
Have you visited any of the farms yourself?
I went over to Colombia just before the pandemic, which I absolutely loved. That was part of a female empowerment project with the University of Nottingham - Cocoa Against Cocaine - which helped to ensure farmers got the right price for cocoa, and could take ownership of their land to produce a better-quality crop. We featured in BBC News as part of that, and I’m hopefully going back over there again soon.
You’re based right around the corner from us in Sneinton Avenues. Why did you want to set up a physical store here?
I couldn’t work in a soulless environment; I want to meet customers. That’s the key to this whole thing, for me. It’s quite special that people can come and see how passionate we are about what we do, learn a little bit about the process, and try new flavours. We can name every farm where our chocolate is from, and the farmers that made the beans. Each bar has its own story - and we love telling customers about them.
You’ve just opened a new second unit. Why was now the right time to expand?
We opened that to help separate the process of stocking and roasting the beans to actually making the chocolate. The new spot is where we roast Thursday to Sunday, and customers can come and see the process for themselves. It’s always lovely when people walk by and watch the beans churning away, and stop to find out more.
It’s coming up to Easter, and you have a special range to celebrate. Tell us a bit about that…
We have Luigi the Bunny, who’s really lovely, and our Easter egg has been named as one of the best by The Guardian. I have an art and textiles background, so I love to bring those elements into my work with intricate and unique designs. I had lots of people ask if we could do bits for Easter in the past, so we started doing some just before COVID, and it’s been really fun to offer something different. They’re really popular - we’ve sent some as far as Seattle!
I’ll finish with the big question - what’s your favourite chocolate?
Lots of customers ask me that, and I’d say it’s my 92%, which we won the Gold Academy of Chocolate Award for. I had to go to Claridge’s in London to accept it, and I had such imposter syndrome. I gave the most horrendous speech ever. I think I just went up and shouted, “Farmers! Farmers! Farmers!” It was awful. But the chocolate is really good!
Find Luisa’s Vegan Chocolates on Avenue A of Sneinton Market, or check out their full selection online
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