Julie // Owner
A bewitching blend of creativity and passion fuels chocolatier’s success
For centuries, chocolate has possessed the power to tempt, delight, and stimulate, and nobody knows this better than award-winning chocolatier Julia Cunningham.
In late 2016, after spending more than two decades working for Sussex Police, she decided to take a leap of faith into a very different kind of career to launch her business, Truffle Witch. And Julia, who is also a reiki master and a qualified person-centred counsellor, hasn’t looked back – now, six years on, she is casting a decadent spell on chocolate-lovers across the country.
Every delectable item in her creative range of luxury confectionary is made by hand using the finest ingredients, and as the sole member of Truffle Witch, each one is a labour of love.
So how did this magical business begin? “To start with, it was just a hobby,” Julia explained. “I had some leftover Christmas pudding and happened to spot a recipe in a magazine for Christmas pudding truffles. I made them and they were absolutely disgusting!
“But it spurred me into making more of my own recipes, and I did some dabbling. People seemed to like them, so I handed in my notice for my job and that was it. I then moved in with my mum and kind of took over her kitchen! I’m registered with the council and have a five-star hygiene rating.
“Everything is handmade, I don’t use any machinery and I temper my chocolate by hand, and unlike a lot of companies I buy very few ‘pre-made’ things.”
Julia has experimented with all manner of imaginative concoctions, but her bestsellers tend to be old favourites, such as rose and violet truffles and fondant creams, and coffee creams. On the more adventurous side of the scale, another popular option is her chilli and tequila truffle.
And what is Julia’s personal favourite? “That’s a tough question as I love them all – if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t sell it,” she said, “but I would choose one of my chocolate bars as my overall favourite – it’s the white chocolate with pecan nuts and sea salt, the salt takes the edge off the sweetness.
“I also love amber chocolate, which is caramel, and tastes lovely. I don’t use palm oil, artificial sweeteners, or any low quality ingredients at all, so my products are as pure as possible.” The company’s packaging is eco-friendly, with biodegradable boxes, recyclable inserts and compostable bags.
As well as offering beautiful – and delicious – top quality novelties such as chocolate shoes and handbags, Truffle Witch specialises in bespoke chocolate creations. “I’ve had some really interesting commissions,” Julia explained, “from single gifts such as a chocolate shoe covered in paw prints for a dog lover, to a theatre that wanted a chocolate ‘award’ to give guests at a special dinner, so I designed a top hat featuring musical notes and the classic comedy/tragedy masks. At the moment, I’m producing 600 chocolate ‘Stargates’ for a comic con event. This job is never boring!”
One thing Julia won’t work with is modelling chocolate (because “it tastes horrible”) or anything that detracts from the tantalising flavour of her chocolate, such as edible glue.
Vegan foods are a growing market, and Truffle Witch caters for vegan customers too. “I’ve managed to find a good quality vegan chocolate that tastes really good, so now I’m experimenting with flavours,” Julia added.
Truffle Witch’s glowing reviews speak for themselves, and the brand is garnering even more attention since winning the LuxLife magazine award for Best Bespoke Truffle and Chocolate Confectionary Company South East England.
Like any responsible food business, Truffle Witch takes its labelling obligations very seriously. Julia says finding out about Allergen Checker was “quite fortuitous”.
“I’d been thinking for a while that I really needed to get my labels sorted because I’d been typing them all up and then printing them myself, which is really time consuming. And I also wanted something that was a bit more professional, but I didn’t want to go and get a whole batch print either with a professional print service because ingredients do change or I might decide to tweak a recipe. I didn’t want to waste money buying hundreds of labels that would end up in the bin.
“I became aware of Allergen Checker around the time that Natasha’s Law was introduced so I visited the website and thought ‘this is exactly what I need!’ And it has been such a great help because it’s just so quick to change my labels and print them off. I only need to print off one sheet at a time so if I change them at the worse I’m wasting one sheet, not an entire batch. Plus it looks so much more professional.
“Using Allergen Checker has reassured me that I’ve got everything right. I know it’s still based on the quality of the information that I input but it makes me double check everything so I’m less likely to make a mistake. For a box of mixed truffles, I actually have to produce a separate list of ingredients for each truffle, so that’s a lot of labels!
“I do find the system easy to use. Initially I needed a couple of chats with Mark as when I first started using it I struggled to get the template to fit the labels that I was using. But I was really impressed at how much Mark was prepared to put into it to get it right for me. And he got it right very quickly and I’ve not had any problems since it prints the template exactly as I need it.
“Another issue was I kept registering an ingredient incorrectly, so I emailed Mark and within 36 hours it was sorted. I feel completely confident that he understands what my issues are and that he can solve anything that crops up.”
Check out Truffle Witch here: