Meet the Producers: Pump Street Bakery
Co-founder Joanna Brennan talks us through the move into luxury, handcrafted chocolate and how principle and taste remain at the forefront of productionRead more
Our Meet the Producers series is a testament to the skilled artisan makers behind Liberty’s delectable food and drink offering. Each month, we’ll spotlight a different British brand, giving you the chance to get acquainted with some of the finest micro-producers this nation has to offer.
Founded by father and daughter duo Chris and Joanna Brennan, Pump Street Bakery began life making fine bread and pastries before turning its attention to the production of small-bath, single-origin chocolate. Working with farms and co-operatives to source the best quality ingredients, their bean-to-bar process coaxes unique aromas from every bean, creating fine bars, each with a distinct flavour profile.
Can you tell us a bit about Pump Street Bakery and how it all began?
Pump Street was born out of my father's obsession with baking sourdough bread in his retirement and my passion for food and hospitality. We started small; we took a market stall selling bread and pastries once a week at Orford's Country Market. It was a great way to learn to produce a little more and to also test the appetite for real bread. Although when we did it, we didn't have a vision of opening a bakery, it became clear after a few months that the demand was there, as we were consistently selling out after an hour! It was so cheering at the time to think that small bakeries would return to rural England - something that was rare at the time but has happened increasingly over the past ten years.
The food community in Suffolk is vibrant and forward thinking while being rooted in tradition and the local landscape.
Where are you based?
We’re based in Suffolk. You’ll find our intimate bakery in the small coastal village of Orford and we bake our fresh bread and pastries daily just down the road at our bakehouse. Our chocolate factory, where we make all our craft chocolate bars, is housed in an old military vehicle record-keeping building at Bentwaters Parks in Rendlesham (a few of miles from our bakehouse).
Starting out as a bakery, what was behind your decision to go into chocolate?
Chris' (my father and co-founder) dedication to learning new things and his thirst for knowledge mean that he is always seeking out the next frontier. To make outstanding bread and chocolate, you need the highest quality ingredients and obsessive attention to detail, and this is at the centre of what we do.
Where do you source your ingredients from?
We buy our cocoa beans directly from small farms around the world. We spent years researching, trialing and making test batches of chocolate before buying beans and working with the farms. We wouldn’t be able to make the incredible chocolate we do without the dedicated work of our farmers that grow, harvest and process the cacao. We’ve built relationships through sustained direct trade with them.
What does your production team look like?
Our full team is just over 40 - that includes seven people in the bread and pastry teams, and four full time chocolate makers, but I'd say every team member is essential so would count everyone as key to making the bread, pastries and chocolate. Everyone in the shop, in packaging and fulfilment, delivery drivers, office team - they all contribute so much.
The best quality, traceable cocoa beans and sugar are the essential building blocks of every chocolate we make.
Can you talk us through your bean-to-bar production process?
It’s essentially a seven-step process to turn hard-shelled cocoa beans into smooth chocolate. First, we thoroughly research and make test batches before buying the single farm beans we use. We then hand-sort to select only perfect beans. Different roast times and temperature are used to bring out the best qualities of the different origins we work with. Beans are then broken into nibs and husks and the crisp shells are winnowed away. Grinding and conching is a 3-5 day process; a long, deep grind and a constant stirring to release and develop the flavours. The chocolate is quietly left to mature for over thirty days, allowing the flavours to meld together. Tempering and pouring is the final precise process of heating and cooling to stabilize chocolate crystals and to give a crisp snap and shiny finish.
What does it mean to be a small batch producer?
Small batch chocolate is all about the flavour and process, we hand sort and treat our cocoa beans with respect at every stage of the process to obtain the best possible flavour. We don’t cut any corners, or use any superfluous ingredients; the best quality, traceable cocoa beans and sugar are the essential building blocks of every chocolate we make.
How does your brand philosophy reflect sustainable practice?
At Pump Street we’re continually making changes at every level to reduce our environmental footprint and encourage our suppliers and customers to do the same. From working directly with our farmers in sourcing the best beans grown with minimal intervention and best care for the land, soil and ecosystem, to adopting plastic-free compostable packaging, we are continually trying to evolve and keep up with best practice in sustainability.
How do you come up with your flavours?
At the forefront of our product development are the origins themselves. Our number one focus is to showcase the bean characters and flavour profiles of the beans from the various farms we work with. The only other element we introduce is products that we make ourselves in our bakery, making unique, bakery inspired bars, and bringing the business full circle, back to the beginning.
Lastly, why did you choose to stock at Liberty?
We have worked with liberty for years now and it's a relationship that has, and will always be so important to us. We love that we’re stocked in such a renowned British institution and destination that showcases the best of British craft and craftspeople.