Alison Hazell tells us why her business in Southborough is about more than just creating confectionary treats to take home…
For Tunbridge Wells locals and visitors with a keen interest in chocolate-making, Temper Temper is a go-to destination. Founded in 2007, this small, family-owned business in Southborough specialises in all things chocolate, giving guests the chance to make and temper their own.
“Our core business is kids’ parties, but we also do teambuilding events, and our ‘Chocktails’ evenings for adults, so we do different workshops for different people,” says proprietor Alison Hazell, who took the reins in 2013.
Offering a mixture of parties and workshops for both children and adults, Alison and her team bring a unique, immersive experience to the area, working with a variety of chocolate to create delicious treats for customers to enjoy and take home.
“For our parties, we use standard milk, white and dark chocolate, but if someone wants a really bitter chocolate, I’ll put that in the machine as well,” Alison explains. “We also do raw chocolate from scratch, but it’s an acquired taste. We use so much chocolate here, and buy in at least half a ton a month.”
But what exactly does it mean to ‘temper’ chocolate? In essence, tempering is the process of improving the hardness and elasticity through reheating and cooling; a delicate art and highly skilled craft, it’s one that requires patience and practice, but remains immeasurably popular with beginners.
“There are different ways of tempering, but it’s basically a heating and cooling process, and getting the crystals of the chocolate to be the same size,” continues Alison. “You can do or make anything with chocolate, as long as you get the tempering process right.”
For Alison, a class isn’t just about having fun, but also an opportunity to learn something new about the history of the world’s most beloved dairy indulgence. Indeed, Temper Temper’s courses have been known to open the conversation surrounding people’s misconceptions about chocolate, so that they can walk away with newfound knowledge and insight.
“We grow up learning that chocolate’s just chocolate, and something that’s made in a machine in a factory,” Alison considers. “When we have schools in, we always start by showing them what a cocoa pod looks like, so that they can see and touch it.
“There’s so much to learn, and we cover a lot with schools in particular, exploring everything from Fairtrade, to how the Aztecs and Mayans would use cocoa as currency, and the difference between chocolate and confectionary. Even the teachers will walk out having learned something, so it’s a nice thing to be able to impart.”
With Christmas and Easter invariably the busiest times of year, corporate functions are likewise catered for, as well as hen dos, birthdays, and even chocolate ‘pairing’ evenings for foodies. More recently, guest appearances from the likes of Alive with Flavour’s Jo Banks have helped to diversify the kitchen further, which is something that Alison certainly has her eye on doing more of.
“I’d like to make more of the space by utilising the kitchen as an educational place,” she reveals. “A big thing is letting people know we’re here; the space we have is affordable, and allows us to be competitive, but we don’t have the passing trade, so the intention is also to open a second site, with a coffee and chocolate shop attached.”
In a time when more and more people’s disposable income is being spent on experiences over material goods, Alison knows that what she has to offer is something truly special. And by not only educating her clients about tempering and chocolate-making, but also bringing people together for a shared moment in time, a ticket to this particular chocolate factory is worth its weight in gold.
“I love watching people’s faces – be it kids or adults – when they step back and see the finished product that they’ve made,” she concludes. “I enjoy sharing knowledge with people who want to learn something new and interesting. We have a good name and reputation, and once people have been, they’ll always come back, but we also want new people coming in.
“We all have everything we want these days, and live in an affluent area here, so people definitely want more experiences for their money. It’s about being with people you care about around a table, and doing something together that you’ll always remember.”