With over 15 years of experience, including as Head Chocolatier for Rococo Chocolate in London, Karen Waller is making it her mission to surpise and delight with a vegan chocolate shop to rival any dairy-filled chocolaterie!
Tempt opened it´s doors earlier this year, in a distinguished backstreet of York. Since it´s inauguration it has been offering mindblowing and mouthwatering chocolate treats that are not only totally plant-based but truly ethically sourced (hint: that´s how we´re connected!)
What's your background?
It’s hard to gain a professional training in chocolate in the UK, so my skills have been learned in several different companies. But the artisanal skills I use at the moment at Tempt are mostly self-taught. I have a great love for, and interest in the chocolate industry and many of the people in it. I judge for the Academy of Chocolate every year.
How did Tempt come about?
Tempt was a result of several things coming together. I’d been frustrated with the lack of ethics in company after company, in fact I was at a point of quitting the industry. Then I realised I have such a valuable skill set - why was I using those skills to work for people whose ethics are opposed to mine? So rather than changing career, I decided I should try to do it my way first - making great ethical vegan chocolate with the best ingredients I can afford.
At the end of last year, I ran a couple of trial recipes using oats and cashew nuts to make both White and Milk chocolate. They were better than anything I could buy from any supplier and at any price-point, so it meant it was possible.
Tempt is, in a way, an attempt to create a little bubble for myself. It´s a place where I wake up and know that I’m doing my best not to hurt anyone or anything with what I do. It’s about avoiding exploiting animals, but equally it’s also people and the environment. It´s bringing everything together in a way that represents both myself and my passion for what I do in vegan chocolate I am proud of!
What does being vegan mean to you?
Being vegan to me is about caring about all creatures. It’s not about never making a mistake, or being perfect, but it’s about trying the best that you can.
I’ve tried as hard as possible to make everything vegan - from the paint on the walls, through to packaging and labels. It’s quite unbelievable how many places animal products turn up once you look into it.
But it’s also about more than that - my sourcing is also as ethical and as eco as I can afford to be. It costs money, but if I can’t make it work that way, I’d rather not do it at all.
What's been the general response to a vegan chocolate shop?
Great! Obviously a lot of vegans who come to find us are incredibly excited - and often overwhelmed by the choice that they’re not used to having!
I already have some loyal customers - many who aren’t vegan or dairy-free, but who are just trying to make a few small steps for the environment, and yet more who just really like great chocolate. And that’s sort of the point of this - to prove that dairy just isn’t needed and won’t be missed.
What have been the biggest challenges of setting up your own business?
Cash-flow! I’m pretty much going it alone, with savings and a loan. Some people called me brave and some people called me crazy for starting up a vegan and ethical chocolaterie at all, let alone in a pandemic. But I don’t see it like that.
And the biggest successes?
Every time a customer tells me that they’ve enjoyed something - in person or on social media. It genuinely makes me so happy and helps to give me the energy to keep going. When a non-vegan tells me they can’t tell the difference between my Milkt chocolate and dairy chocolate, or a person who hasn’t had dairy in a decade gets emotional over a vegan chocolate orange slice - that’s quite something to have achieved and makes it all worth it.
Why did you choose to source cashews from us?
I was so relieved when I found Liberation! After so long in the chocolate industry, I’m acutely aware of the ethics of sourcing cocoa, and also of the challenges in achieving ethical sourcing. Things are often not as simple as they might first seem. I’ve met people from many countries and many stages in the supply chain, and I know how responsible sourcing changes lives.
I was aware that cashews can be just as controversial as cocoa, and can actually be worse for the physical health of the workers. I needed cashews as an important ingredient in both my White and Milkt chocolate, but was struggling to find any with any sort of ethical status.
When I came across Liberation and your story and sourcing, I knew it would be ok. I’d found nuts that wouldn’t carry the risk of the terrible workplace conditions I was aware of! The cashews I buy are both organic and fair-trade. Price is important to sustainable farming, but so is consistent demand so people can plan and live with some kind of security.
Where else do you source your ingredients from?
Sourcing ethically, sourcing locally, and supporting other small businesses takes time and effort, but it’s worth it.
The majority of my dark chocolate is from Chocolat Madagascar and are processed in Madagascar itself. This gives a Raise-trade product which means skilled jobs are created in the country rather than just shipping a raw commodity.
I ship in organic Piedmont Hazelnuts from a company I know in Italy too. I’m confident there are no questionable labour practices in operation at source.
I’m also passionate about supporting local, and creating supportive, sustainable circular economies. I source local organic oats directly from Stringers farm just a few miles away from the chocolaterie.
I also recently discovered Yorkshire has its own sea salt, A great company, Whitby sea salt, use solar and wind energy to dry the salt.
Where do you find inspiration for all your creations? How do you decide what you are going to make next?!
I’ve always loved making things, and I’ve never struggled for inspiration.
A great chocolaterie has to have some consistent classics . We always have things like Orangettes that we make from scratch with organic oranges from our local supplier. The bonbons are really the main thing thing that changes. I’m going to change the collection every 3 months, so the inspiration will largely be seasonally-inspired.
You also are clearly a big advocate of supporting other small businesses.
When I saw Beau’s Gelato I instantly wanted their ice cream in the chocolaterie. I’ve had a million things to do, so it went on the back-burner, but it’s my next thing to do. The fact they aim to be as clean-label as I do, combined with their ethics by sourcing their cashews from Liberation means they’re ideal for me. There are already some good vegan ice creams, but they’re often packed with a lot of different ingredients. I believe that Beau’s will be at the forefront of a natural evolution in plant-based ice cream in the same way that Tempt is with chocolate.
Tell us something surprising about chocolate?
The cocoa from different coloured pods from the same tree can taste and feel totally different!