Love chocolate but worried about the refined sugar and dairy? Charlotte Harding finds the answer in Ferring.
From the outside Brontie Ansell appeared to have the perfect lifestyle.
A career as a solicitor, getting to travel the world, a husband and two children, designer clothes and bags, and a Victorian home in Poet’s Corner in Worthing.
But Brontie was unhappy and knew something had to change.
“After I had my second daughter, I discharged myself from hospital and was back to work within five weeks taking her to Croatia and breastfeeding in between meetings,” she recalls.
“It was mental looking back but it is odd what becomes normal to you.
“My husband started to see I wasn’t happy. “We hardly saw one another, so we decided we needed to do something about it so we sold it all.”
From clothes to the two big 4x4s and the house, the pair sold everything clearing their debts and giving them a fresh start.
Renting a home in Ferring from a friend’s parents, Brontie and her husband invested in some asset bonds which helped while they saved up money for a deposit for a house, whichnine months later they bought in Ferring. Much of Brontie’s early career she says was driven by money and saw her embark on a law degree.
“I did work experience but I should’ve done more,” she explains.
“Being a solicitor isn’t suited to my personality as I am quite creative and love talking to people. I like fast results whereas in law everything moves at a snail’s pace and I was stuck to a desk. I quickly grew tired of it.
“I enjoyed my degree and did a Masters in law but in terms of the job it wasn’t for me.”
Fast forward to today and Brontie is now the director of her own business - Brontie & Co where she makes vegan artisan raw chocolate.
Launched in July 2015 her dad was the inspiration going into the food industry.
“He had coronary heart disease and was always a fiend for a Mars Bars, Kit Kats or chips.
“He was really bad,” she reveals.
“For Christmas 2014, I decided to make him a hamper of healthy treats. I went onto YouTube and found a recipe for raw untempered chocolate.
“I did protein balls and rye bread and he loved it all.
“I then made the chocolate for a writing group I went to and everyone started to ask me to make it for their family and friends.”
When she decided to launch the business she changed the recipe to tempered chocolate which means it has a longer shelf life of months rather than the days of untempered chocolate.
Initially selling on Etsy and farmers markets, Brontie started by making everything in her kitchen at home until her brother suggested moving to some garages near her home.
“We converted it into a factory so I have more space which we needed when we got on to Not On The High Street,” she says.
“It got in touch and once we got on there it just rocketed and the exposure meant we could hire staff.”
In the current range there are four hot chocolates including chilli and vanilla and five bars with flavours ranging from peppermint to vanilla, chilli to lime.
As well as being vegan, Brontie also doesn’t use refined sugar in her recipes instead opting for Sweet Freedom a 100 per cent natural fruit syrup.
Brontie gave up sugar two and half years ago.
“There are two camps, the one that says not even an apple should pass your lips and the other which cuts out refined sugar,” she says.
“I use coconut palm sugar, honey or agave.
“Before I would scoff a biscuit or a whole bar of chocolate because of the sugar craving but with my chocolate I just nibble away at it.”
Giving up both dairy and sugar, Brontie says wasn’t an overnight process. Instead she phased each out slowly.
“I think you are more likely to stick with it and it helps your taste buds adapt,” she says.
“I am not a strict vegan so I may have the odd egg or have a chocolate pastry but I don’t beat myself up about it. I just think you have to go with what works best for you.”
Most of the chocolate bars made by Brontie have between 12 to 14 per cent fruit syrup to 85 per cent cocoa.
Having made the lifestyle change and looking ahead Brontie says that on a happiness scale of one to ten her family is at eight or nine.
And her advice to others who may be at the lower end of the scale?
“If you aren’t 100 per cent happy make the change,” she says.
“It can be painful. It was for us.
“Selling that house made my children upset but it will get better and you will come out the other side.
“You just have to stick with it.
“I don’t regret it at all. We just love the life we have now.”
To see the full range or to buy some of Brontie’s chocolate, visit: www.brontieandco.com
Brontie & Co is also on social media:
Pictures: Jayne Sacco of Sacco & Sacco photography
This is in the April edition of etc Magazine, pick up your copy now.