With Easter a more solitary celebration than usual this year and many family gatherings having to be postponed, it's exactly the right time to indulge in gorgeous eggs from Irish artisan producers, writes Katy McGuinness
Kasha Connolly's Hazel Mountain Chocolate in the beautiful Burren in Co Clare is a bean-to-bar chocolatier that has been at the forefront of a food and chocolate movement focused on simple, high-quality ingredients, sustainable sourcing, traditional processing and beautiful design.
Hazel Mountain's chocolate is made directly from cacao beans sourced from small farms and brought to the Burren where they undergo a month-long process that combines the beans with Irish dairy to turn them into Irish Milk Chocolate. Hazel Mountain's latest collaboration with Dublin-based illustrator Sally Caulwell is its Wild Atlantic egg, the design influenced by the landscape and nature of the west of Ireland. The Easter eggs feature the wild Atlantic sea crashing on the side and sit on a rocky base made with salted toasted almonds and bean-to-bar chocolate and are a celebration of the coming together of landscape, food culture and design.
BUY: Eggs are €25 and are available at hazelmountainchocolate.com
KOKO OF KINSALE
Located right on the harbour in Kinsale, Co Cork, on the Wild Atlantic Way, Frank Keane's Koko is a family-run shop that is also an artisan chocolatier producing hand-crafted chocolate eggs and chocolates in a variety of different flavours, many incorporating locally sourced ingredients including seaweed foraged on the shoreline, honey, and herbs grown in the Keane family's garden. Frank used to be a dealer in collectable ceramics and his artistic eye is evident in his creations - one hand-painted milk chocolate egg features an illustration of Kinsale's famous lighthouse, while others have the sheen of marble. There are also bunnies in both milk and white chocolate (€13), and cute dippy eggs (€6). It would be a shame not to order a box of Koko's chocolates for yourself if you are sending Easter eggs to friends or family - flavour combinations include gin and tonic with pink peppercorns; cardamom and honey; and seaweed, honey and ginger.
BUY: Hand-painted milk chocolate egg costs €24; kokokinsale.com.
BEAN AND GOOSE
Bean & Goose chocolate is made by sisters Natalie and Karen Keane at Last Tree Farm near Ferns in Co Wexford from high-quality, sustainably sourced, single origin chocolate. The sisters' handsome Irish Chocolate Hare - Giorria Eireannach in Irish - may already be familiar; this year he is joined by the company's namesake, the Bean Goose, a rare visitor to Irish shores and a symbol of everything silent, mysterious and beautiful about the Irish landscape. Also available are sharing slabs of milk chocolate for cracking, breaking and sharing together and various different origin bars including milk chocolate from Ecuador 40pc with Orange Blossom Hazelnuts & Minty Limes and limited edition Irish Sea Salted Caramel bars made using a unique mould using the topography of Last Tree Farm. Illustrations from Conor Nolan influenced by Irish landscapes are used in the packaging.
BUY: 120g Goose milk/dark Ecuador 40pc, Ecuador 62%, €13; beanandgoose.ie.
Proper Chocolate is Dublin's only bean-to-bar chocolate maker, transforming high-quality, ethically sourced cocoa beans into fine chocolate. Patrick and Kelli Marjolet hand-sort, roast, crack and winnow cocoa beans and then refine, conch, age, temper, mould and package their chocolate in Glasnevin. Their Milk Chocolate and Salted Caramel egg combines rich milk chocolate with their house-specialty blond salted caramel chocolate; three other varieties are available, two of which are Vegan (70pc dark with Achill Island Salt and 70pc dark with cocoa nibs).
BUY: Standard size (150g): Fully boxed €20/wrapped in compostable paper €17.
Easter eggs are available for delivery (last order for shipping is Monday, April 6 at Midnight) or "click and collect" through to April 11 on properchocolatecompany.com
Allison Roberts makes bean-to-bar chocolate for Exploding Tree in Clonakilty, Co Cork, bringing beans from West Africa to West Cork. Her Fairtrade Bunnies are made by hand and available in 75pc Dark, Oat Milk (Vegan) or Irish Milk Chocolate, with a goat's milk option also available. Allison combines hand-harvested cocoa beans from cooperative Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana, where trees are shade-grown to encourage biodiversity, with Indonesian coconut sugar in a six-step bean-to-bar process to make chocolate that is delicious, healthier and ethical. All bunnies are suitable for diabetics. The packaging is 100pc compostable and for online orders each bunny is packed into a sturdy box; Allison says that she cannot guarantee against breakage, but she hasn't had one break since she's started using the boxes and even if they do, they'll taste just as nice.
BUY: Fairtrade Bunnies from €4-€14.95; explodingtree.com
The revival of Teeling Whiskey in recent years is one of the great successes of modern Irish distilling, and the combination of the Dublin-made whiskey (with a hint of crème to soften) and Kerry-made chocolate by Colm Healy of Skelligs Chocolate in Ballinskelligs in this Teeling Whiskey Solid Egg is a sure-fire winner. Other flavours including Champagne and Strawberry, Mint, Honeycomb Marshmallow and Gin & Tonic are also available - sadly the Hazelnut Praline is already sold out. For those that really love their chocolate, the fact that these are solid eggs will be a source of great joy. The eggs are available in a relatively decorous 400g size and a whopping (and very generous) 1kg version, which might just see the recipient through to the other side of the current crisis.
BUY: 400g solid egg, €19.00 and 1kg solid egg, €35.00; skelligschocolate.com