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It is time for a feedback page...!

It has been years l wanted to create a page sharing some of the feedback some of you have sent me about the chocolate. What a joy it is to take some time and make it happen! l have even been sent some pictures by some of you, like this photo above of the Ile-de-Re caramel in Taiwan. Your feedback always makes me very happy, thank you for sharing your comments about the chocolate, and telling me what your friends and family think of it. l have had very little negative feedback over the years, but l will share what l have got with you on this blog page that nobody will see except you. The most memorable negative feedback came when making a special batch of stem ginger coated chocolates for a regular market customer, and for it l made my own stem ginger, as well as buying a jar from Morrissons (my closest supermarket, not my favourite choice) and coated them for her. Her feedback was mifting: she didn't like the ginger stem l had made myself because it was too hard: it wasn't as soft at the supermarket one which she really liked and asked me where l bought it from. She carried on commenting on the ginger chocolates, and said one of the problems with them was that when she took the chocolate out from the petit-four case it was dropped in at the time of dipping, there were lots of chocolate crumbs that fell on her skirt, and as she bit into it more thin bits of chocolates fell to the floor! She looked really annoyed when she was telling me that.

Now, l can take criticism on my own stem ginger. It was Christmas time, l was in a rush, I bought non-organic large ginger at the shop and it has more fiber and is harder, didn't have much time to unveil the perfect recipe for making soft stem ginger, so it wasn't perfect.

However, as l replied to her about the crumbs, there is no way when dipping by hand, that us artisans can avoid drops of chocolate falling from the dipping fork to the side of the petit-four case! Some dipped chocolates are of course less messy than others, but you will notice if you have purchased some of my dipped chocolates or dipped prunes, that often there is thin chocolate above the chocolate itself, and yes, it makes crumbs that can fly everywhere. It is chocolate. It is liquid, then it sets. Watch your skirt. Needless to say, l wasn't able to say quite what l thought to this lady after having gone out of my way to make her something l hadn't made for any other customers, but l stepped back from trying to please people. This was an excellent lesson and taught me a few things:

1) try to be careful when dipping, develop an art of making less mess if you can even though it is near to impossible

2) Watch out for this lady and any special orders should be said "no" to then considering, (as it was, she never came back all through Covid, and when she came back she was seemingly very pleased to see me, maybe she thought l had forgotten the ginger incident)

3) Never do anything bespoke during busy chocolate times for any customer, whoever they are (that means October, November, December, February, March) unless they pay you hundreds of pounds. (this isn't a hint) 3) Watch out who you do favours for. Do they have a habit of looking at your through slits in their piercing eyes, whilst lowering their head yet have a semi-smile on their faces? Are they extremely picky and particular when asking for what they want to the point of (you know yourself) turning their back on you when you present them with the finished product? Do they promise lots of wonders and act in an overly excited way and you never see them again? They may be hiding something, going to become a potential problem at later date, or have bipolar mental condition and won't pay you when you present them with the goods. Watch out! It was a useful lesson. Here are more negative feedback bits, because l also like negative feedback, some make me question my chocolate making skills and maybe improve if l feel it is right, and other negative feedback just make me laugh, so it is all good.

"Your Rum and raisin Easter egg had way too much rum in it, l felt drunk after eating it"(said a gentleman at Ludlow who had another stall and never ate chocolate but bought an egg for his daughter) " The ginger ganache Easter egg had plenty of fresh ginger in, but my husband thought there wasn't enough." "The lemon in your hazelnut, lemon and coriander praline overpowered the other flavours" (oddly, l thought there wasn't enough lemon and the coriander was the strongest flavour, l should have asked someone else...) l replied to this one, that my ganaches always change as l don't follow a recipe, but make it up as l go along, and the praline next Christmas will be different than the one at Easter. l will try it with more lemon next time. "Your coffee, date and hazelnut chocolate has too much coffee in it, and the bars are too thick, you should do them thinner" (from my brother in France). After a little talk, l found out that the gentleman doesn't like coffee in any other form but in a cup with some hot water in it. None of his family liked any of the chocolate. (they are French, they like traditional things, my chocolate was too exotic for them) Regarding the thickness of the bars, l pleaded non-guilty and told him that other than them being sometimes challenging to break, l had had no complaints in 13 years of business on the thickness and that my customers (bless you all) enjoyed them as they were. l haven't sent him any chocolate since, but keep sending some to my sister and other family members who love them and are full of compliments. (family compliments = happy chocolatier = family more likely to be sent gifts of chocolate) "Your Easter eggs with chocolates in was too messy to open, the chocolates fell everywhere, you should find a way to present them neatly like they do in Fortnum and Mason" This was a comment in 2016 when l used to make easter eggs with chocolates in, from a market customer who doesn't buy chocolate any longer. He used to buy a lot regularly when l started, then one day his wife came and looked at me funny (up and down), and said: "We have plenty of chocolate in the cupboard, he takes ages to eat it so we don't need any this month". l never saw the gentleman in question after that, (well, l saw him, but he didn't come to the stall) but his wife comes once a year at the xmas Kington fair and asks the same question: "Have you got your rum raisin, pumpkin seed and brazil nut brittle with dark chocolate?" and every year l tell her:"No, l haven't had time to make it this year". l should really reply "No, but l am sure you have plenty of chocolate in your cupboard". Nut brittle is ok, it is low on my list of things l enjoy making. Plus, l shouldn't be mean, but since they never buy anything, l don't see why l should make some just for them - other customers would buy it, but l rather do other things! "Your chocolate prunes are too big, you want to make them smaller" and "You should make honeycomb, it is cheap and people love it" from: my landlords, who don't understand why l am not just making cheap chocolate and selling it cheap and making loads of it as cheap as l can and go into competition with Cadbury's. l was very surprised at the comment about the prunes being too big, since a good quality Agen prune is large anyway, and when filled and dipped, it becomes even larger. As both my landlords have very particular tastes, l did take no notice. A mini-prune has been seen in some boxes last year, but only because the large ones didn't fit with the assortments. l won't comment about the honeycomb, l am not interested in sugar loaded products except for the odd sugar-loaded product like a fondant, or the caramel which l tried to terminate before l heard from Annalisa she wanted to review it in her column....

Actually, l do remember a couple of customers at the local Kington market who used to buy regularly, and one day they came without a smile, and said: "This is the second fruit and nut milk tablette we buy, and twice the bar has been all white and crumbly!". l asked them to return the bar to me or at least take a photo, but they had eaten it all so were unable to show me proof of what was happening. l had asked them if they had left it in a warm car, or in a warm place, and they had muttered something which l couldn't understand . When l got home, l did open a few tablettes from the same batch, to find they were perfectly tempered and didn't look at all white. The next time l saw them, l offered them a free large tablette after having said it sounded like the bar had melted then set again, they thanked me, but they haven't been back to buy any chocolate since. l will never know what happened! They must still be upset and unable to talk about it. If you have anything wrong with your chocolate, before eating it all and then complaining, please take a photo or send it back to me! Ta.

This is it for the negative feedback and if l remember any more l will update this post. l have been very lucky and got hardly any negative feedback over those years in trading with chocolate.

In the meantime, have a look at my new feedback page to see what some of you have said! l would have put more if l had kept it but l hadn't thought about keeping the emails when customers wrote to say lovely things. Now, if one of you recognises themselves in the feedback and think this is way too personal and you aren't happy l posted your comments, please tell me and l will remove it straight away. l have had a couple of letters from Her Majesty but as it was only a thank-you letter, l didn't bother putting it on the feedback page. It was very nice to get acknowledgement from Her ladies-in-waiting. What l wanted to know, was, did someone get to try the chocolate? Or did they get sent to the lab straight away? l will never know. Thank you for reading and for your time! Time is very precious, it is our true richness! To a happy, peaceful July to you, your loved ones and the multiple Universes! Alexandra

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