Cocoa Hernando is an exciting new chocolate company inspired by the aromatic spices of diverse world cultures. We took some time to speak with Paul Tomlinson, the company’s founder, to learn a bit more about Cocoa Hernando’s inception, development and goals for the future.
What strikes me about Cocoa Hernando is the passion that seems to be invested in it. Can you talk a bit about how it was born?
Thank you – Cocoa Hernando has become my dream business, enabling me to involve so many of my passions, and I’m very glad that the enthusiasm shines through!
The business itself was inspired by an amazing train journey across Southern India several years ago, where I spent much of my time staring at the beguiling landscapes and having warm conversations with fellow passengers, when I was handed my first ever cup of steaming aromatic masala chai. This wonderful blend of spices blew my mind and soon made me wonder how these flavors would combine with my favorite food, chocolate. Subsequently, I loved the idea of connecting chocolate with the most exciting flavors and places from around the world.
The chai was obviously a given, however I decided on the other combinations because they were original and interesting flavors and twists on some of my favorite additions to chocolate. I then researched the countries associated with these flavors.
Can you explain the process of developing the flavors once you had established their geographical focus?
Developing the flavors actually came first and I spent a great deal of time at home experimenting with a whole range of flavors, looking for combinations which truly excited me – it’s a very enjoyable task! As is finding a geographical focus, where I would research the countries of my flavors and discover more unusual landmarks which we thought could work wonderfully on the chocolate wrappers.
The packaging itself is a work of art. Who is responsible for its design? Can you talk a bit about the development of these illustrations?
Thank you so much. Design is another passion of mine and I especially love the stunning styles associated with travel from the first half of the 20th century, which we’ve tried to emulate on the packaging. All the graphic design, location sourcing and concepts are done by ourselves, but we then send meticulous briefs over to illustrator Rui Ricardo to work his magic for the front of the wrapper.
Has travel always been a part of your life?
I’ve always loved to travel, but it was probably a six month trip across the United States after leaving university which really started my obsession. I’d love to spend much more of my time traveling the world, however Cocoa Hernando feels like the next best thing.
What is your favorite destination and why?
It would have to be India, where all my romantic notions of the country came true. The wonderful people, landscapes, wildlife and food combined with the sensory overload of color, sounds and smells made for an incredible experience. I can’t wait to go back!
What has been the most challenging part of starting your business?
Like many people say, the hardest part has actually been the notion of starting the business itself. I neither had experience of creating a business properly before or working professionally with retail or food. I was entering the unknown on a huge level and it sometimes pushed me to my limits. Creating a business for the first time is not for the faint-hearted!
What has been the most enjoyable part?
I’ve absolutely loved every minute of the creative part of starting Cocoa Hernando – from flavor experimentation to researching and designing to going out and selling to people with my old suitcases. It’s been a wonderful journey so far!
Are there any new flavors on the horizon?
Indeed! I’m always on the lookout, but we’re currently working on the next collection which is coming together nicely and will hopefully be launched early next year – I can’t wait to reveal all. Although I can rule out Tree Tomatoes, which I just had for my breakfast.
What is your vision for the future of Cocoa Hernando?
I’d like Cocoa Hernando to become the most exciting chocolate brand around. I’m also hoping the business will lead to lots of wonderful products and adventures and maybe even a bit of travel too!