Celine is one half of Conspiracy Chocolate, a local bean-to-bar chocolate production house. Their bars are accidentally vegan and combine the Swiss way of making chocolate and the spices of the Mediterranean – a reflection of her and her partner’s background.
We caught up with Celine to find out more about her entrepreneurship and her thoughts on creativity.
So Celine, what is Conspiracy Chocolate about?
We make bean-to-bar chocolate handcrafted in Hong Kong. Conspiracy Chocolate is born from a passion for the culinary arts. The conspiracy started with a desire to combine chocolate with herbs and spices traditionally found in cooking.
How did you get started with Conspiracy Chocolate?
We started experimenting with chocolate by melting dark chocolate and infusing some spices into it. We soon realised we needed to learn a lot more about chocolate and went on a discovery of the bean-to-bar world. From there is took us about 8 months to learn and refine the process and develop our own recipe.
Why bean to bar?
Bean-to-bar appealed to us because it is the concept of slowing down the production process and deconstruct it to make a chocolate that is tastier and healthier. In the same line as the craft beer movement and the renaissance of sourdough bread, chocolate is living a rediscovery for the ancient way of making it. In bean-to-bar, the cacao takes the centre stage, this is why the cacao’s origin and the time it takes to process it is so valued. The aim is to bring the most delicate flavours out of the cacao beans to make the most delicious chocolate possible.
What let you know that you were on the right track?
I think the feedback from people tasting our chocolate is what fuelled us to continue. We also made sure to listen to our customers and friends to improve our chocolate and processes. We also got some shops reaching out to us to explore cooperation or selling and this was also a big validation.
Did you face any setbacks? What were they?
We didn’t know how to start and had to learn some basic business skills such as importing cacao, finance and marketing. We were lucky to find that people around us were really willing to help!
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
We had a slowdown in orders from shops but we saw an increase in online sales. Seems like people are looking for healthy snacks when they work from home.
What’s the best flavour you’ve come up with? How about the weirdest?
The flavour development process is our favourite part because we get to be really creative. Thinking about flavour pairings and how to put it into chocolate often keeps us awake at night. I can’t really give you the best flavour because it changes, but I particularly enjoy our newest release Chai because the warm spices go really well with our earthy and nutty chocolate. Otherwise I think Kashmiri is really interesting because of a back note of saffron. Our weirdest flavour was probably a CNY flavour we made with soy sauce-soaked sesame seeds and tangerine peel. It was weird but actually delicious.
Conspiracy Chocolate has super funky branding. Where did the inspiration for that come about?
We had in mind a packaging that looked different with some animals and plants but it is truly when we met our designer and friend Alison that the vision came to life. She met us over breakfast, Amit made us a mind-blowing Shakshuka and I think the food inspired her because she came back with the beautiful design we have now and we fell in love.
What do you wish someone told you before you started Conspiracy Chocolate?
There is never only one solution to a problem. If you have the right intention and the ultimate goal in mind, you’ll find the way.
How did you grow your business?
It’s a constant struggle between upgrading production capacity with time and machine, and growing sales. Looking back it is funny to think that we started with a rolling pin and a hairdryer! We still have a lot to grow in terms of production, especially since it is the two of us making it all!
What’s next for Conspiracy Chocolate?
We want to grow to every area in HK and develop some fun partnerships because we think that local brands can really help each other out!
(Krystal's note: I totally agree!)
What’s your favourite thing about living in Hong Kong?
The fact that you can be in a city, a mountain and a beach all on the same day.
Are there any local businesses you would like to shout out?
Our friends Impact Berry, they do an awesome and responsible coffee. Miam Bakery for their funky sourdough, A Kissing Tree for their fresh, beautiful and delicious berries and our friends and partners Heavens Please for their high-quality CBD product
You can find Conspiracy Chocolate online or in a few select stores.