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Life is sweet for husband-and-wife chocolatiers

From a purpose-built kitchen on the outskirts of York, a chocolate-loving couple have established Butterflies Chocolates, dedicated to producing handmade treats using only natural ingredients. For owners Claire and Bertie Bingham, chocolate is both a profession and a passion.

Many of us dream of giving up our day jobs and making a living doing what we’re passionate about. For most people it’s little more than a fantasy, but Claire and Bertie Bingham from Pocklington have made the dream a reality.

Both have always had a keen interest in chocolate making – Claire was given a chocolate cook book for Christmas when she was 13 – but it wasn’t until relatively recently that Butterflies became a full time venture.

Claire told Wine & Dine: ‘We set up the business as a part time operation back in 2009, working evenings and weekends around our full time jobs. We both worked in the science sector but we knew it wasn’t what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives. Quite quickly it went from a hobby, making chocolate for friends and family, to becoming so popular that we were turning work down and had to seriously think about dedicating ourselves to Butterflies full time.’

The decision wasn’t an easy one, and the pair gradually cut down their full time jobs to devote more time to being chocolatiers, focusing on using only the best natural ingredients and supporting local suppliers. In the years since making Butterflies their full time occupation, Claire and Bertie haven’t looked back. By their own admission, the hours are long and making the business their livelihood meant taking a real leap of faith, but the rewards they say, are worth it.

‘There are a number of chocolatiers in the Yorkshire region,’ Claire told us, ‘but we’re all just a little bit different. We like to think what sets Butterflies apart is firstly our commitment to using only all natural ingredients – we don’t use any artificial colourings or flavourings. Secondly, we don’t add any preservatives to extend the shelf-life of our creations, not even natural substances such as glucose syrup. This allows the beautiful flavours to stand out in their own right. We have also developed unique recipes such as our Aztec Spice, and absolutely everything is handmade, down to our praline and honeycomb. Our chocolate is sustainably sourced, and every ingredient we use, from spices to orange oil to pistachio, is completely natural.’

The Binghams’ passion for their trade is plain to see, and their backgrounds in food science and biochemistry have proved incredibly useful; tempering and crystal formations may not be the things most of us think about when tucking into a bar of chocolate, but to a chocolatier, they are vital components of the process. Certainly, chocolate-making is both an art and a science, and Claire and Bertie are, in their words, ‘proudly pedantic’ of getting it just right.

What was once their garage is now a professional kitchen and their two small children are always on hand to advise on flavours. Their firm favourites are vanilla and strawberry, but other mouth-watering, slightly more adventurous flavours include cardamom, ginger, raspberry and rose, and pink peppercorn.

An online shop opened in December, selling chocolate boxes, bars, honeycomb and hot chocolate. Butterflies are regular fixtures at Hovingham Village Market and the Malton Monthly Food Market, as well as at food festivals and wedding fairs across the wider York area. Claire and Bertie are passionate about selling directly to the public, and enjoy hearing feedback and ideas.

Several farm shops in the York area stock Butterflies chocolates, and Claire told us they are focusing on making their chocolates available in more retail outlets. The Binghams also offer chocolate-making workshops, demonstrations, talks and tastings. Such is their desire to share the world of the chocolatier with the public.

Making a living from your true passion in life is something that relatively few of us manage to do successfully, but it’s something that Claire and Bertie Bingham had both the resolve and bravery to attempt, and most would agree that Butterflies deserves to fly.

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