Herts’ best-kept secret
- Credit: Archant
Move over Willy Wonka – did you know that Hertfordshire has its very own chocolate factory? When I tell people about The Secret Truffletier, they are always very keen to visit, so although it is over in Woolmer Green, it isn’t far, and I think it is well worth the trip!
The Luder family have been making chocolate since the '60s and they make their very high end chocolates, bars, eggs, truffles and more for many well-known London stores and restaurants. Brothers Peter and Hans started the business and now daughters Nadine and Nina work alongside them. Peter trained in Switzerland as a chocolatier and as a patisserie chef (including at The Dorchester) and he makes some of the cakes that you will see in the café.
The shop is really inspiring, with beautiful displays and tables filled with chocolates and chocolate bars, interesting shapes, and at the moment, red velvet heart boxes of valentine chocolates (their packaging is very appealing and retro-gorgeous, with thick ribbons and glossy boxes). You can also buy Champagne or Prosecco truffles, white chocolate bars, salted caramel truffles and some more old-school favourites such as violet creams and dark chocolate dinner mints.
The family make the chocolate from bean to bar, and you can see sacks of the beans in the shop.
As Nadine explained: "The beans we use come from sustainable cocoa farms, including from the Ivory Coast and Ghana, and we use the Swiss method so our chocolate is conched for longer, so our chocolate has the same distinctive, creamy taste it has always had. We only use fresh raspberry puree in our truffles and bars, for example, as well as fresh cream from British farms."
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The Secret Truffletier has also just opened a new, larger café on the site, and they do an excellent range of hot chocolates (of course), including with vegan milks. They use a traditional Swiss recipe using 72 per cent dark chocolate so the hot chocolate is more traditional and not too sweet. You can buy pretty tins and bags of the drinking chocolate to take away. If you prefer, they also do a good range of teas and coffees, and when I went in there was a carrot cake and lovely shortbread biscuits. I chose Peter's own Sachertorte, which is the best I've tasted; very dark and rich and topped with their own truffles.
For the quality, the prices are surprisingly good, and you can buy just a couple of truffles from the counter if you like, a bag of chocolate buttons, or my favourite, a chocolate mouse. At Easter you will find rows of cheeky bunnies and ribbon-wrapped eggs. If you are a baker, look for their own chocolate spread which would be fab inside a cake, or on toast, if you prefer. They do a good range that is suitable for vegans, including rose thins and orange batons and they even do a no-added sugar orange chocolate.
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In the old café, you used to be able to watch the chocolates being made by the 'truffletiers' and there are plans to open up again so visitors can see the factory in action. You will also be able to book in for workshops. Nadine told me that she would love to do classes for adults and children, such as truffle rolling or making chocolate bars and lollipops, so take a look at their website www.thesecrettruffletier.co.uk for those. The shop and café is open every day, 9am-5pm, except Sunday.