Small producers with big ideas
Helen and Simon Pattinson are the man-and-wife team behind Montezuma’s award-winning chocolate. Here, Helen explains how they went from desk jobs to chocolate shops without ever losing sight of what it means to be green.
How it began
We were formerly lawyers at a leading London law firm, practicing employment and shipping law. Having agreed that “there has to be more to life than this”, we packed in our jobs, sold our house and set off on a backpacking exploration around South America. On this journey, we found inspiration in the Argentinian lake district, where we discovered a thriving chocolate industry. We resolved to bring the product quality that we found there to the UK, whilst adding our own unique twist to the chocolate eating experience.
The ups and downs still happen but less so now we are nine years down the line. The most difficult thing was finding landlords willing to let us take a lease on their shop; we finally did this after sending letters to every shop on the streets we liked in Brighton. We amazed ourselves by breaking even in the first year and then went on to open several more stores. The business has grown more recently by the expansion of our business sales to other retailers such as House of Fraser, Waitrose and more than 2000 independent delicatessens and farm shops. This is a great way to expand our business using the retail presence of other like-minded businesses.
It’s easy being green
Being green is the only option as far as we’re concerned. It makes commercial sense generally not to have excessive packaging and to source good suppliers of print and packaging in the UK rather than from the Far East. All of our green measures such as night-time deliveries, re-using cardboard boxes, recycling hot water and cutting our fuel use also benefit us financially so there is no great hardship in doing this. I wish more businesses could see this. Sometimes, it takes more effort but this is worth it both commercially and environmentally.
Day to day
Simon is responsible for driving the creativity of the business but takes his inspiration from plenty of different sources including customer and staff suggestions as well as flavour inspiration from our travels and by keeping an eye on the interesting ingredients coming on to the market.
Our great loves
I have two favourite chocolates depending on my mood! For a rich simple chocolate, I would always go for the
which is an organic milk chocolate boasting a whopping 54% cocoa solids. It is so rich and chocolatey that you only need a couple of pieces – in theory! And my favourite truffle is the
, a milk chocolate truffle with essential oils of geranium and sweet orange – a real masterpiece that is reminiscent of sherbet dips. Simon always goes for the darker chocolates and loves the
We have a link with
, a fantastic charity based near us in Chichester but carrying out work all over the world. It exists to help the most marginalised and vulnerable children such as those orphaned by the Tsunami in Indonesia and the victims of the military dictatorship in Burma. Although we choose a different charity every year, we have been working with COTE for about three years now as we really like what they do. We don’t have a massive budget so we try to hold events which use the chocolate to raise money such as Easter egg hunts and children’s chocolate-making days. Our latest project is to ask for a 5p donation for every carrier bag (paper of course!) used in our shops. We believe this will raise around £10k per year.
Montezuma’s has shops in Brighton, Chichester, Kingston-upon-Thames, London’s Spitalfields and Winchester. You can also order