There's a whole new way to make a hot chocolate drink now - with the use of a Dunky Spoon. CARYS THOMAS meets a Gwent woman and finds out more.

INNOVATIVE flavoured chocolate spoons are the focus of Usk-based company Dunky Spoons which are stirred and melted to create chocolate drinks.

Clare Shephard, owner of Dunky Spoons, has been running the online chocolate company since 2011.

The mother of two has tried and tested flavours and currently has 20 different flavours available in both white and milk chocolate which include raspberry, coffee, mint, bubblegum, vanilla and chilli and lime.

The spoons are made from Belgian milk chocolate (49 per cent cocoa solids) and Belgian white chocolate which can be dunked into milk to create hot chocolate or the chocolate can be melted and blended with milk to create a unique milkshake.

Ms Shephard, 46, said: "I have a spoon called Dragon Froth which is a mint on white chocolate, Chilli Billy which is lime and chilli, Roman Raisin which is rum and raisin and Butterscotch Bob. I'm currently testing out some new flavours at the moment.

"I am thinking of developing a chilli and orange. A friend of mine wants me to make a chilli and orange one for her husbands birthday as he tasted those flavours abroad and raves about it. I try and be innovative with flavours and names. I will need to come up with a funny name to label it with."

Ms Shephard is head chocolatier at Dunky Spoons and previously ran her own chocolate shop in Monmouth called Mon Cacao Chocolatiers.

She said: "I've been doing it for quite a number of years now. I started about eight years ago in January 2006.

"I have always wanted to own a chocolate shop, not necessarily a chocolatiers. I had a small shop in Lydney but that wasn't big enough so I moved to the high street in Monmouth.

"I was based in Monmouth for about a year and a half and saw how the recession was going. So I choose the best product which sold well and decided to rebrand."

Dunky Spoons are now sold online and have been selling on ebay for the last three years.

She said: "I do miss my shop but it was hard work for a smaller return and online is the way businesses are going. In the last three years the business has evolved."

Ms Shephard applied to be on the BBC's Dragons Den and made it to the final stages last year.

She said: "It was a brilliant experience. I was gutted - I made it to the stage before you meet the dragons. The year I went on, there were too many food business so producers had to choose between us."

The chocolate for the spoons are moulded and put on wooden sticks before being placed at room temperature to cool.

Ms Shephard said: "It's quite low maintenance, there is no need for large fridges or ovens. It's quite easy to do really.

"The hard bit is the tempering process which is the skilled bit. The process involves taking the chocolate through a series of different temperatures.

"If you melt chocolate and put it in a mould, it will take ages to set. It's like the modules need to be frozen together enough so the product doesn't become squishy."

She added: "It's the same process used to temper metal but with chocolate. The chocolate needs to be tempered correctly for it to be brittle, snappy and glossy as it should be."

Ms Shephard is a self taught chocolatier and doesn't use a thermometer to assess the temperature but 'does it by ear'.

She said: "It's great that I have cold hands, they're perfect for handling chocolate. There's no need to put the chocolate in the fridge to set, just to leave it out.

"The old fashioned way is to pour the chocolate on a marble slab to cool it down. I put the bowl with the chocolate into a larger bowl with cold water and stir for about 15 minutes.

"The chocolate is ready to go in about an hour. The humidity of the room and the utensils you use will affect the tempering process.

"The chocolate should set quite quickly after the process - you have about six minutes to decorate before it is set completely. For a batch of about 50 spoons it would take me around an hour and a half to make, including decorating them."

The name Dunky Spoons for the company was quite obvious with Ms Shephards children labelling them as such when dunking in their hot chocolate.

Dunky Spoons have just launched a wedding favours service where the bride and groom can choose their own flavours and ribbons to decorate the spoons.

She said: "I've had quite a few orders for reception tables for weddings. Brides have wanted to use them instead of name cards with personal messages.

"They were quite popular from September as they're quite wintery products. I am planning on going to a few wedding fairs and to branch out this way."

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