A Q&A With Ali Gower from Chocolate Tree Posted on 12 Oct 10:20

Chocolate Tree makes delicious premium organic craft chocolate in small batches - with a focus on ‘Bean to Bar’ single origin bars. Not only are these treats high-quality and very tasty, but Chocolate Tree carefully sources their cacao from sustainable farm co-ops in South America which aim to improve working conditions for farmers. 


Chocolate Tree’s founder, Ali Gower, came to Edinburgh to study mathematics but, as a lifelong baker, his love of chocolate won out! Ali and Friederike Gower started Chocolate Tree over 10 years ago - with humble beginnings selling hot chocolate, chocolate bars and cakes at music festivals. They then opened their shop in Edinburgh, and now they run their small batch chocolate factory in nearby East Lothian. We asked Ali a few questions about his experiences.


Favourite chocolate from childhood?

The real first cocoa experience I had was a dark chocolate black magic Easter egg, I must have been about 7. I remember taking bites from it and becoming excited, as it was unlike anything I’d had before. My favourite confectionery was a Lion Bar; I loved the chewy mouthful of chocolate, caramel and cereal.


How did you become a chocolatier?

We started ‘The Chocolate Tree’ as a mobile geodesic travelling chocolaterie & café that toured music festivals in the UK around 2005 to 2009. Friederike is an extraordinarily talented woman, and her love of baking cakes just got a bit carried away.


What is your favourite flavour combination?

Cacao & Sugar! Which of course makes dark chocolate, when we use really good cacao we can make extraordinary flavours from just those simple ingredients.


What is the most important element in the chocolate making process for you?

There are so many processes it’s hard to name one as the most important, but if I had to name one it would be the agricultural impact of the cacao at origin. What’s special about Chocolate Tree is we source cacao beans and ‘liqueur’ from organic producers in South and Central America, then transforming the beans and liquor into chocolate before using that chocolate to create our products. This means roasting the cacao, taking the husks off the beans, grinding them up with sugar and so on. All of that is of course challenging and important to get right, however the work done at origin by the producers is of more importance, they are under pressure to grow the cacao in the right conditions and also put it through a post harvest process which is crucial for flavour development.



How do you find inspiration for your ranges and products?

We are inspired by food trends. Being out in the wild is our biggest source of inspiration, when we can clear our heads and allow some thoughts to come through about what we could do next and what could work. Our family of 4 are all big foodies in general, and always trying new things at home.


What do you use to track and plan your work and product development?

We work ahead of the seasons, with team meetings and regular monthly meetings with our accountant which all help keep us on track for managing cash flow and seeing what allowance we can budget for each new product development.


What tip would you give to your younger self?

Follow your heart, don’t worry so much.


What do you like to do when you are not making chocolate?

Throughout the seasons we have different activities individually and as a family. Friederike has built a pottery studio in our home, and recently we tiled our kitchen using beautiful ornate tiles she made. We are big outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, I spearfish, free-dive and ride a fat-bike along the coastlines here in East Lothian, I have a passion for saunas and meditation.


What are you working on next?

The Easter egg we are working on is awesome! Friederike’s design is of a Pegasus. All our designs are made by Friederike, she hand draws them before they are sent to our designer for vectorising. For the Easter egg the Pegasus design has been sent on to a mould manufacturer in Germany who will send us back a 3D tessellated Easter egg mould. In the same way that our bean to bar chocolate is moulded into some of the same shapes we use on the packaging, people really like this bespoke and unique way we present our chocolate.


You can browse our Chocolate Tree range here