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Chocolate with a Bajan twist


Chocolate with a Bajan twist

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When one of Mellissa Batson’s best friends was getting married in March last year she didn’t want the run of the mill wedding favours – she wanted something different.

The owner of Jem’s Gourmet Chocolates told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY that she did not like baking and opted to make some sweet treats for the guests.

So she did her research, made some mistakes along the way and this was her entry into the world of chocolate making.

“Based on the feedback I got from there, because persons would have eaten the chocolates at the wedding, I said I can go on to make chocolates,” Batson said.

That was not the first time she dabbled with chocolates, though. Before that she made and sold chocolate-covered strawberries to raise awareness about breast cancer. She also said that it goes back to her childhood and the things that she liked.

“Every Christmas when we got up everybody would look for toys or books but I always looked for chocolates because for me that’s what Christmas was all about, the sweets and the chocolates,” she said.

It is not an easy thing to do either, she admitted, particularly tempering the chocolate, but she opted to do this over baking as she wanted a niche that was not saturated like baking.

“There’s a science behind making chocolate and I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing before I put it out there for persons to have, as your first impression is the lasting impression and I wanted to make sure it was done correctly.”

Batson’s offerings included fillings and combinations such as very berry, a mixture of berries, caramel kiss, pecan caramel, and curry coconut. She also adds seasonal fruits such as Bajan cherry, flavoured oils and powders. She also uses a ganache and adds her flavourings, such as mango puree, to that.

She said that she likes to go as tropical as possible and her long term goal is to export her product.

Batson emphasised that because her products are gourmet there are no added preservatives or additives. She might add some sugar, she said, but that is all. This is also the reason the shelf life is shorter than the other chocolates that are popular.

When her children are older, Batson said her intention is to become certified as this would add credibility to her business and the products. If she could, she would enrol in courses offered in the United States or England or maybe France, but she did not rule out doing a course in Barbados if one is offered.

Describing chocolates as seasonal, the businesswoman said that for now her marketing avenues are limited to social media Facebook and Instagram. She noted that the window for sales is between Halloween and Mother’s Day, after which sales dwindle. In the down period she offers workshops for those people who are interested, offering lessons in areas such as no-bake desserts and edible fruit arrangements.

“The ultimate aim for me is to get into certain outlets where I can manufacture and have it in outlets where persons can come, see and purchase from there. It is also to get into some hotels, to get into the wedding arena where persons can use the chocolates for favours as well as wedding and baby showers.

“The long-term [plan] is actually to export because there are certain flavours that you can get in Barbados that you obviously can’t get from the gourmet chocolates elsewhere….I’m looking at flavours that are unique to Barbados that I can encase in chocolate,” Batson said. (Green Bananas Media.)