Regular readers might remember that last year I had my first taster of Caithness Chocolate, and I wrote a little post about the flavours I tried! Now that we have settled into Caithness life for a little while, I felt the time was right to find out some more about these delicious treats from Ruth, the owner of Caithness Chocolate!
Ruth had a variety of jobs before forming Caithness Chocolate, including teaching English overseas for a number of years, and promoting STEM within the highlands of Scotland as a consultant. But, as time went on, she considered other career paths and recognising the quick continual growth of the food and drink industry within Scotland, settled on a life of chocolate making!
Ruth obviously had to undergo a lot of skill development in order to make high-quality chocolate confectionery and went straight to the top for her training – undertaking classes with the UK heat winner of the World Chocolate Masters – Ruth Hinks from Cocoa Black in Peebles (I had forgotten that I too had visited Cocoa Black for a hot chocolate once and it was amazing!). The classes taught key decorating techniques and essential processes such as tempering chocolate.
There was also the business side of things that Ruth had to get to grips with, and Business Gateway provided assistance in the form of accounting courses which were helpful for Ruth to get to grips with business basics. Ruth freely admits that this side of things is not her favourite, in fact, she describes admin as something which “eats away at my soul!” (which was particularly funny for me, as I am an administrator and quite enjoy admin 😊) and also self-promotion as something that she finds difficult. There’s also the age-old issue of additional delivery charges on some essential ingredients which incur costs for small businesses and add substantially to running costs.
But, there’s a lot that she loves about being her own boss and working with chocolate – the creative process of working out the best flavours and designs, keeping aware of food trends on platforms like Instagram, as well as working with other businesses on collaboration projects. An example of local collaboration is with the Caithness Broch Project where Ruth makes a chocolate broch (well named as a Brochlate!) for new members who support this project.
Ruth enjoys collaborating with many other businesses in Caithness, incorporating their flavours into her chocolates. Her Rock Rose Gin chocolate was a Great Taste award winner in 2015 and she also uses Caithness Honey, Old Pulteney, and Wolfburn whiskies in her Caithness Chocolate products.
When it comes to celebration days and festivals, like other makers and crafters, Ruth has to plan ahead when it comes to thinking of original ideas to sell.
There’s always an element of risk, as Ruth doesn’t know what will sell well until she tries, and it could take 20 different ideas before you get the one idea that is really popular. She enjoys coming up with new ideas, especially for seasonal and special days.
Her chocolates are works of art which almost look too good to eat! Ruth also loves using fruit, and a current favourite of hers is to stuff juicy Medjool dates with nuts and dipping in chocolate – which I can vouch are just delicious!
You can order Caithness Chocolate online, or if you are local to Caithness in the following stockists year round: JA Mackay in Thurso, Bord L’eau restaurant in Wick, Forse of Nature, The Gallery at John O’Groats, Dunnet Bay Distillers, Natural Retreats at John O’ Groats, The Pier in Lairg, and The River Bothy in Berriedale)
Thanks to Ruth for her time in assisting me to prepare this post, and for the delicious chocolates!