Chatting with Robyn & Ryan - Jostle Bakers
To celebrate the launch of our exclusive, & entirely, stonkingly GOOD, Easter Box - The "Don't Worry Be Hoppy" Box - we sat down with Robyn & Ryan from Jostle Bakers to chat about their journey, how it all started & most importantly, their delicious, mouth-watering chocolate.
Sharing many of the values we have at Good Liverpool, Robyn & Ryan knew when they started Jostle that they wanted to make a positive impact through every stage of their supply chain. By getting their chocolate from Menakao, they are supporting economic growth in Madagascar, where the cocoa is farmed and the chocolate is produced (by doing this they are generating 4-5 times more benefit for the local economy than Fair Trade Chocolate).
Hi Robyn & Ryan, thanks for chatting to us today, can you tell us all a little more about yourselves?
Jostle is Robyn and Ryan… we’re husband and wife and have been together for 13 years!(😱)
Since we’ve been together we’ve egged each other on to do anything other than “settle down”, and have lived a pretty nomadic lifestyle, we’ve lived in Derby, Birmingham, New Hampshire, Brisbane, Melbourne, London and now Robyn’s home - Liverpool. We’ve travelled together to central and South America, Australia and New Zealand, the USA, India and South East Asia and some of Europe. - It was on one of these trips that we discovered speciality coffee in 2014 in Burlington, Vermont. We fell in love with cafe culture and since then we have been working towards opening our own coffee shop and bakery. For the last 5 years we have both been working in some really great coffee shops in Birmingham, Australia and London, really some of the best coffee shops in the world - but it’s hard to say this without sounding like we’ve got big heads!
Tell us about Jostle, how did you start your craft?
Last year, before the stupid stupid COVID, we were weeks away from opening our own coffee shop and bakery. We had a solicitor, an accountant, and an agent all lined up, we even had the lease to sign - we were feeling very grown up! But then everything took a nosedive, luckily we hadn’t signed anything and we were able to change our plans. We’ve rolled with the punches and have taken the baking side of our business (in true COVID style) online! We deliver our brownies and cookies nationwide, from our coffee shop in the future!
Coming from our background in speciality coffee shops we’re a bit obsessive about quality, we’re those people who weigh our coffee and pick out the ‘bad beans’ - we’re like this with our baking too. Everything is tested and tweaked, we know what makes a truly great cake through our time working in coffee shops. We work really hard to develop our recipes to be creative and considered. We’re not just into making sugary treats - flavour, texture and balance are key to us. (And all our cakes happen to be vegan - because we are.)
What made you decide to go for this highly special chocolate rather than just any cheaper option?
We’re a bit obsessive about flavour, we blame coffee for this too! After we learned that good coffee doesn’t just taste of ‘coffee’ we fell down a bit of a rabbit hole and discovered that there was a world of flavours that we didn’t know about; we learned that good beer doesn’t just taste of ‘beer’, good wine doesn’t just taste of ‘wine’ and, if you try enough of the good stuff, good whiskey doesn’t just taste of ‘yuk!’.
Most importantly to Jostle - we also learned that good chocolate doesn’t just taste of chocolate. Chocolate can be fruity and juicy, and rich and intense and creamy, and citrusy and smooth and sharp, there can be hints of berries, of tropical fruits, of peach, of cherry, of butterscotch, of grapes … you get the point! Once we knew all of that, we had to use something really special in our baking.
We chose to use a chocolate from craft chocolate maker Menakao from Madagascar. We chose this chocolate as it added the rich intensity we were looking to add into our baking and also added real interest with natural hints of berries and citrus flavours (these flavours are not added to the chocolate but are inherent flavours in the Madagascan cocoa beans that Menakao use.)
"The great thing about buying really good quality craft chocolate is, it doesn’t just taste amazing, but it’s also much better for cocoa farmers."
How did you find Menakao?
We found Menakao through a company called Cocoa Runners. Cocoa Runners is owned by Spencer - a former regular customer of Ryan’s at a coffee shop in London. Spencer is a bit of a big deal in the craft chocolate world (he’s regularly on channel 4’s Sunday Brunch - the true sign of a real expert!) Cocoa Runners are purveyors of some of the worlds finest chocolates. Since Cocoa Runners was established in 2013, they’ve sampled over 6000 bars in their quest to find the world’s best chocolate. Each and every one of the bars they select have been crafted by a dedicated artisan craft chocolate maker.
Can you tell us more about the impact buying chocolate like this has back in Madagascar?
The great thing about buying really good quality craft chocolate is, it doesn’t just taste amazing (like nothing you’ve tasted before), but it’s also much better for cocoa farmers, as they are paid much more for their produce when there is a traceable or even direct relationship between grower and producer.
As of 2019, an estimated average price for fine cacao paid for by craft chocolate makers was around $5,300 USD per tonne. The market price paid by the larger manufacturers was $2,400 USD per tonne, the Fairtrade premium was + $200 (= $2,600 USD) per tonne.
That means craft chocolate makers are paying farmers more than double the amount for their beans than a bar of chocolate with a Fairtrade logo.
We see paying more as paying a fair price for a quality product.
Menekao know exactly where their cocoa comes from and the working conditions of the farmers. Their relationship with the farmers ensures that they source cocoa that is carefully grown, harvested, fermented and dried, ensuring a quality product. Menakao craft their chocolate in Madagascar, the same country where their cocoa is grown - they are true ‘Tree to bar’ chocolate makers. Only about 5% of the world’s chocolate is made in its country of origin.
By producing chocolate locally, Menakao generate about 4-5 times the benefit to the local Madagascan economy compared to Fair Trade chocolate.
Can you really tell the difference between Menakao chocolate and something you can just get in the shops?
Absolutely, we’re not here peddling magic beans. … well actually we are! Just like there are many varieties of apples with their own unique flavour, the same is true of cocoa beans and the way they have been processed can highlight their unique flavours. The average chocolate sold in a supermarket is made using a “one size fits all” approach to processing the cocoa beans. In craft chocolate the producers carefully develop the flavours in their chocolate, different varieties of cocoa beans are fermented, dried or roasted to varying degrees to fine tune the best possible flavour.
Once you try craft chocolate, normal chocolate will never taste as good, but it’s really worth it for all the great chocolate that’s out there! (And about those magic beans, we think they turned out pretty well for Jack, he got a massive bean stalk, a giant adventure and ended up with a pot of gold!)