Kala King runs her luxury hand-made chocolate business from her kitchen in the North York Moors. MAXINE GORDON reports

WHEN Kala King visited a cocoa plantation in Venezuela, little did she know that a few years later she’d be starting her own business selling handmade chocolates and patisserie in the heart of the North York Moors National Park.

“I was living in Venezuela with my husband and our daughter and had a busy career in the oil industry,” explains Kala, 52. “I’ve always loved chocolate so when some of my friends suggested a trip to a local cocoa plantation one weekend, I jumped at the chance. We were privileged to watch the entire process of seed to bean – it was a truly amazing experience. My passion for chocolate-making began right there.”

After moving to Hutton-le-Hole in the North York Moors, Kala took a chocolate-making class – and didn't look back. After further training, she launched her own business – Kala King Artisan Chocolate & Pastry. And in a new

venture she has launched an online shop – just in time to catch the Christmas market (kalaking.co.uk).

The move means people from outside North Yorkshire can now enjoy the fruits of her labour – and of her imagination.

Her chocolate collection features classic flavour combinations such as espresso, rum and raisin and salted caramel, but also some weird and wonderful duos such as beetroot with seeds, berries with balsamic and gin and lime.

Hours of work and artistry go into making the products, which use Belgian chocolate and hand-made fillings.

"I spend a whole day making all the ganache and purees and roasting all the nuts and seeds to make the praline," she said. It takes another two days to make and decorate the chocolates.

One of her favourites is the beetroot and seed. "I love beetroot. I buy mine from the organic farm just ten minutes from me. I roast the beetroot, puree it and sieve it until it is a smooth consistency and reduce it to a gel. Then I mix sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds and make it into a praline – and cover it all in a dark chocolate shell."

Another hit is the peanut butter maple chocolate for which she makes her own peanut butter. "I roast the raw peanuts with sea salt and blend it with sunflower oil to use as a ganache. That way I can contain its saltiness but also its sweetness."

Coming from Malaysia, she incorporates some eastern flavours into the mix too.

"I like to use the pandan leaf in my coconut chocolate. I puree it and take an extract to add a note of vanilla to the coconut ganache.

"I also use a lot of kalamansi, which is a citrus – between a lemon and an orange."

The chocolates are individual in design and look almost too good to eat. Kala says she enjoys putting the finishing touches to each one, which sometimes includes air-brushing and layering different colours of chocolate in the moulds to get a mottled effect.

She makes a range of vegan chocolates too. "I use coconut milk and vegan butter instead."

And there is a selection of gluten-free brownies for people to order as well.

Besides making chocolate, Kala runs workshops for up to eight people most weeks. The workshops cover chocolate-making as well as patisserie.

As part of her business, she makes desserts and special occasion cakes to order.

She set up eight years ago – after wanting to learn how to make chocolates so she could produce her own Christmas presents. "I wanted to make some Christmas boxes of chocolate so went on a workshop in Manchester, and I loved it. After that, I decided to train professionally."

Kala learned from the best in the industry. "I started my chocolate and patisserie training with Callebaut, home of the finest Belgian chocolate, and Cocoa Barry.

“I’ve since completed specific training to enable me to create chocolate centrepieces with Martin Chiffers, international pastry consultant, and Ruth Hinks, UK World Chocolate Master."

She is proud to be working in Yorkshire – and competing with some of the best chocolatiers around.

"I am my worst critic. I want to be able to taste the flavour, that is the most important part," she says. Her husband is her main tester. "If he says he can't taste anything then I have to make the flavours stronger!"

She added: "I did go to Harrod's foodhall's chocolate counter to compare it for my own sanity. I think my chocolates were better than some of them. I don't mean to sound arrogant but I was quite pleased with the results of my research – we don't get as much publicity up here in the north."

Will anyone dare give her chocolates at Christmas? "Yes," she says, with a laugh. "People will give me chocolate, but good chocolate so I can compare!"