Folly couple brings taste, passion, and knowledge to chocolate with Cocoa Academic
By Lorne Chambers | Editor
Do you know the difference in chocolate and candy? How about cocoa or cacao? Or the difference between a chocolatier and a chocolate maker? These are just a few things you’ll learn if you attend a Cocoa Academic class led by Folly Beach chocolatier Bethany Nunn. She and fiancé John Moore have created a multifaceted chocolate company that not only creates artisan chocolate bars and chocolate teas, but also offers chocolate tastings, chocolate classes, and private chocolate parties.
Since launching Cocoa Academic in 2016, the Folly Beach couple has grown the business significantly and emerged as leaders in the “Bean to Bar” movement in South Carolina. Bean to Bar essentially means that Nunn and Moore buy high quality ethically-sourced cocoa beans from all around the world and use them to make their chocolates from scratch.
Speaking of the beans, when they come in Nunn hand-sorts each bean to make sure there are no foreign objects and that each bean is of acceptable quality to make the best chocolate possible. “It’s my least favorite thing to do in making chocolate. “I’m usually in a bad mood on those days,” she admits.
Nunn literally starts with cocoa beans and from there creates delicious single-origin and gourmet flavored chocolate bars, such as Southern Salted Pecan, Spicy Aztec, Pink Sea Salt & Thyme, and Coconut and Cardamom. This month Cocoa Academic will be releasing a spicy Carolina Reaper bar that uses fresh reaper peppers that were grown and harvested on nearby Johns Island.
Despite all the creative concoctions Cocoa Academic offers, the dark chocolate single-origin bars, such as the 75 percent Peruvian chocolate and the 85 percent Ecuadorian chocolate, remain among their top sellers, according to Nunn. But hands down the best seller overall is the Folly Beach bar, of course. It’s a dark chocolate bar with crushed wheat cookie and sea salt.
“When you bite into it you can see sea and sand,” says Moore, who himself has spent more than 20 years in the food and beverage industry, ranging from restaurant and hotel management, event operations, and restaurant recruitment. His in-depth knowledge of operations provides a strong foundation for Cocoa Academic, while Nunn’s knowledge, artistry, and passion fuel the creative side of the business.
Originally from Scotland, Nunn has been in the chocolate business for the last decade. Half of that time was spent as a chocolate maker and the other half as a chocolatier. Ok, so to answer one of the question posed at the top of the article — a chocolatier is someone who makes chocolate confections while a chocolate maker is someone who sources and roasts cocoa beans and then grinds them into chocolate. She currently is technically both.
Nunn started as a chocolate & French patisserie apprentice in the Scottish borders and then went on to get her qualification in patisserie and confectionery from Edinburgh’s Telford College.
Over several years Nunn has worked along side and trained top chefs in the art of Chocolatiering. She’s taught classes to thousands of people including Patisserie students from Le Cordon Bleu during her time working in London.
Nunn is clearly passionate about chocolate. “I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate, maybe too much. I’ve probably eaten chocolate every day for the last 10 years,” she says to a group at one of her Cocoa Academy tastings, which are held at their commissary kitchen space off of Rivers Avenue in North Charleston.
With tastings and classes, Cocoa Academy lives up to its name. Nunn is just as passionate about educating people about chocolate as she is about making it. The tastings are held once a month and are a crash course in chocolate. Over the course of 90 minutes, you will taste 25 different chocolates and leave with a better understanding of the process “from bean to bar” and with a better pallet for identifying flavors within different types of beans, including floral, earthy, dairy, fruity, nutty, and chocolaty.
“There are over 600 flavor notes when it comes to chocolate. That’s more than wine. It is very complex,” says Nunn, who adds that like wine, there are good harvest years and bad harvest years for cocoa beans.
Nunn aims for zero waste with the cocoa bean. She takes the husks of the bean that falls off once it’s roasted and sorted and makes a chocolate tea out of them. The tea is mild and chocolaty and a nice way to cap off the day, she says. Also, at the end of 2017 Cocoa Academic began its Every Bag Buys a Meal project. For every serving of cocoa tea they sell, they donate one meal to the Lowcountry Food Bank. So far to date, they have donated more than 5,000 meals for people within the community.
You can buy Cocoa Academic bars and teas online at www.cocoaacademic.com On Folly you can find Cocoa Academic chocolate bars at Bert’s Market, Crosby’s Seafood, and Treasure Island beach store as well as a handful of other places around Charleston. They can also often be found at various Lowcountry farmers markets, including the Folly Beach Farmers Market when in season.