It’s Valentine’s Day on Sunday when love is in the air and there’s a bunch of flowers in the vase and a box of chocolates for the telly.
But while the chocs are as traditional as a card with a heart, Scotland has been raising the sweet treat to a higher and much more sophisticated level.
When thinking of the food and drink that we have to offer, whisky, shortbread, and haggis immediately spring to mind.
One delicacy that doesn’t however, is chocolate. So you might be surprised to hear that there are over 60 companies across the country making and selling their own distinctive and elegant brands.
Far from having Willy Wonka style factories with kilt-clad Oompa-Loompas pouring out chocolate by the truckload, , Scottish producers tend to be small, artisan outlets, with careful craftsmen hand making their products sometimes even in their own home.
But they are anything but amateurs.
Take Perthshire’s Iain Burnett, known as ‘The Highland Chocolatier’.
He trained under master chocolatiers at Belgian, Swiss and French schools, while Stacy Hannah of Glasgow’s Sugar Wings, was an assistant for luxury London-based Rococo Chocolates before launching her own company.
And there is more to the humble chocolate bar than meets the eye in Scotland. Chocolate producers are inventive, pushing boundaries by creating adventurous flavours such as chilli lemongrass truffles courtesy of Cocoa Mountain in Durness and gin and tonic flavoured delights from Edinburgh’s Coco Chocolate.
And with gorgeous patterns and embellishments, it’s not just a delight on the tastebuds, but to look at too; most notably the cute edible transfers on Aberdeenshire’s Felicity’s Chocolates and the stunning patterns and geometric shapes from Sugar Wings.
And if you think that chocolate is a no-go if you’re watching your figure, think again. Some Scottish chocolate brands are turning it into a healthy superfood. You read that right, chocolate which is actually good (or at least not bad) for you... in moderation of course.
Stirling’s iQ Chocolate and Edinburgh’s Decadently Pure, whose offerings are made “bean to bar” and only contain natural ingredients, are free from dairy, wheat, gluten, soya, refined white sugar and anything artificial.
In a time where consumers are more aware than ever where ingredients come from, chocolatiers north of the border use small local producers to make their creations uniquely Scottish. In House Chocolates from Dumfries and Galloway produce chocolate flavoured with Hebridean sea salt, Sugar Wings has a heart shaped chocolate made with Heather Rose Gin from Strathearn Distillery in Perthshire, and Tobermory Chocolates on the Isle of Mull uses the nearby village’s malt whisky.
Ronnie Somerville, founder of Glasgow’s 5pm.co.uk, the daily deals booking website, believes that Scotland’s chocolate industry is worth celebrating, especially on Valentine’s Day.
He said: “At 5pm we love to champion Scottish food and drink and the treats created by the Scottish chocolatiers are a revelation. Scotland already has a tradition of artisan craft food producers who focus on high quality ingredients and Scottish chocolate creators are a reflection of that.
“This Valentine’s Day instead of reaching for a mass produced chocolate from a supermarket shelf, why not treat your loved one to high quality chocolate created by Scottish chocolatiers who pour their heart and soul into each delicious bite.”