It all started with a book and the 2008 financial crisis. At the time, Gemma was working as a seasonal ranger, but jobs were becoming increasingly hard to come by. Mehmet had just finished a PhD and was working in a climbing wall. A few years previously, Mehmet bought Gemma a book about truffle making and soon “these are so much better than those in the shops!” was a phrase we were starting to get used to.
Over dinner, one pivotal evening in January 2012, Alba Chocolate was born. We decided that Gemma should work full time on our new venture! The first year was full of product creation and testing and building up elements of the business. A year later and we were finally trading.
To begin with, everything was done out of our house in Edinburgh.
All our truffles are handmade using a minimum of ingredients. Our ingredients are always as fresh as possible. Our ever-popular Raspberry Truffles have only three ingredients: raspberries (which we turn into a fruit puree), fresh double cream and white chocolate. Our famous Salty Caramel has a few more, but we make the caramel by hand in our kitchen using water, sugar, lemon juice and salt: real ingredients for an amazing product.
To begin with, everything was done out of our house in Edinburgh. Environmental Health gave us advice and our kitchen was set to go. Our living room became our office and the spare room and corridor our stock room. Our first year of trading was mostly at Central Belt Farmer’s Markets. We continued to test our products and pricing at the markets and started to build a loyal following. Our attention to being Deliciously Ethical, our membership of 1% for the Planet with all our donations going to the John Muir Trust, and our membership of the Fairtrade organisation was beginning to resonate with our customers.
We definitely had a ‘What have we just done?’ moment
We soon reached the stage where Alba Chocolate took over our lives and, more problematically, our house. We had to make a very difficult decision: do we give up or do we really commit and get the business its own home?
Late in 2014, we moved to Speyside and collected the keys to our new house and to our kitchen. It wasn’t a kitchen yet, however, but an ex-joinery workshop. We definitely had a “What have we just done?” moment when we first walked through the door...
When you come to our kitchen you won’t see a surface we didn’t touch.
We stopped trading for over a year while we slowly converted our unit into our kitchen. You can see our story of this on Facebook. It was a fun process and we learned so much. We ended up doing everything ourselves, except the plumbing and electrics. We insulated and plasterboarded every wall, put in two new ceilings and tidied up the floor. When you come to our kitchen you won’t see a surface we didn’t touch.
Sweet dreams of a new life come true
19 March 2016: our first Open Day and our official relaunch. Alba Chocolate is back in business! Starting in a new location, it very much felt like a new business again. We had to discover the local market and get our name out.
In 2017 we started running our well-received Chocolate Making Workshops and in 2018 we introduced Chocolate Tastings. Both of these are ideal if you’re visiting the Cairngorms and it’s too wet, or you’re too tired, for outdoor activities. We now have a modest shop in our kitchen but, if you want to visit, make sure you check if we’re in first.
Will you become part of our story?
Things are getting more settled but we still feel the anxiety of being a young business. We feel on the cusp of everything working out, but we’re not there yet. There are still many things we need to figure out and we need more people to find out about us. Will you become part of our story? If you like what we do, and what we stand for, Like our Facebook page and interact with us. We’ll publish our upcoming events on Facebook and our website. Perhaps book a workshop, tasting or arrange a visit to our kitchen to get some Deliciously Ethical presents and goodies.