• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Rich and famous flock to chocolate mountain

Two graduates taste global success with their truffles ... made in an abandoned RAF camp in the Highlands By Mike Merritt

They may have it all, but it seems that in the quest to find the perfect chocolates, the world's rich and powerful will go to any extreme, including a trek to one of the most northerly villages in Scotland.

Loading article content

Cocoa Mountain, a luxury chocolate company in Durness in Sutherland can list the royal family, US senators, actors, Arab tycoons, super-rich Russians and Yoko Ono among its fans.

Only last week retired US Senator Daniel Boatwright came to the company's HQ personally to taste handmade truffles and order 50 boxes to be shipped over to California.

Wealthy Russian oligarchs are placing their orders by telephone, as are American bankers. Rich Middle Eastern tycoons from Dubai are emailing in their requirements. And Prince Charles is something of fan too, although he was snubbed by the firm for daring to suggest they tweak their recipes.

The prince wanted to marry his whisky Barrogill with a truffle produced by Cocoa Mountain for sale through his Mey Selections brand.

But the company, run by two Scottish university graduates, turned Charles down because they were asked to add preservatives to make their truffles have a longer shelf life.

Cocoa Mountain has customers in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, America, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Switzerland, France and Austria. It has even dispatched truffles to Australia for a wedding and to New Zealand.

The global success has taken Cocoa Mountain by surprise. The venture was started only two years ago by Paul Maden and James Findlay in an old Cold War camp-turned-craft-village.

Even the local village post office has been caught up in Cocoa Mountain's global operation. It's now sending out hundreds of boxed chocolate truffles all over the UK and the rest of the world.

The situation has echoes of the multi-Oscar nominated film Chocolat, about a couple who open a chocolate shop in a small French village, dispensing ancient cocoa remedies for the heart and soul.

Many of Cocoa Mountain's confections are health recipes, and natural aphrodiasics, the company claims.

But Maden and Findlay could not have picked a more unlikely location from which to build a chocolate empire. Just getting to Durness - population 351 - is hard enough. John Lennon used to holiday in the area and suffered a car crash on the area's single track roads with his wife Yoko Ono in 1969.

Earlier this year Cocoa Mountain sent a special box of truffles to the ex-Beatle's widow as a thank you for supporting the John Lennon Northern Lights Festival in Durness which won the Best New Festival at the UK Festival Awards 2007.

Maden, 40, experimented with around 100 truffles recipes before settling on the company's current range of 25. Cocoa Mountain grew out of Maden's chocolate-making hobby.

"Friends said I should do it professionally. I had spent a lot of time walking in the North Highlands and loved it. So chocolate seemed the perfect way to make the move happen," said Maden.

Together with Findlay, 35, they decided to leave the rat race of Glasgow behind for the wilderness of Durness.

The pair bought an old sergeant's mess in part of an old RAF Cold War camp which had not been occupied for 12 years.

"It was a complete gamble - but I'm glad we took it," said Maden.

They will have a stand at the BBC Good Food Show at SECC in Glasgow between October 30 to November 2.

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

PARCH1.826947